Craig’s List: An Internet Forum, or a Playground for Rapists?

12 01 2010

Ty McDowell, Craig's List Rapist

I stumbled upon a pretty disturbing story this morning that raises some interesting questions about Craig’s List.

Last month, Jebidiah Stipe of Carbon, Wyoming, posted a Craig’s List personal ad with a picture of his ex-girlfriend that read, “Need a real aggressive man with no concern for women.” His ex-girlfriend saw the ad and called the sheriff’s office as well as the Craig’s List headquarters, who promptly removed the ad.

Unfortunately, 26-year-old Ty McDowell had already seen the ad and began to exchange instant messages with Stipe, who was posing as his ex-girlfriend.  Stipe told McDowell over IM that the woman was looking for “humiliation, phsyical abuse, and sexual abuse,” and gave McDowell her home address.  A week later, McDowell then broke into her house and raped her at knife-point, later telling detectives that he simply “thought he was fulfilling her rape fantasy.”

Considering the recent string of Craig’s List related crimes– the 22-year-old med student who used the site to lure girls into hotel rooms and then murder them, the Long Island mother who posted an ad seeking sex and the directed men to her daughter’s 9-year-old rival– Craig’s List is receiving a lot of flack for being a “blatant internet brothel” that facilitates violent crimes.

I am torn as to whether Craig’s List is partly to blame for these crimes.  On the one hand, any popular, well-trusted website that purports to be legitimate, but fails to monitor and regulate the highly sexualized personal ads that are anonymously posted on it, is just asking for trouble.  Whether it would help to regulate these ads or to remove the personal ad portion of the website altogether, who knows?  But the rapes and murders are generating really bad publicity for Craig’s List, so one would think that they would do something to try to curb people’s abuse of their forum.

On the other hand, creeps will always find a way to be creepy, whether on Craig’s List or otherwise.  Craig’s List itself is not the problem– it’s asshats like Jebidiah Joker who sit in a cornfield all day smoking meth and dreaming up ways to get their ex-girlfriends raped.  It’s toolbags like Ty McRapist, who honestly thought a girl he’d never met wanted him to break into her house and sexually assault her at knife-point.

If Craig’s List didn’t exist, Jebidiah Jockstrap probably would have raped the girl himself, or put up an ad in the local Pennysaver, or e-mailed that guy he bought whippets from two weeks ago and asked him to poke around the ghetto for anyone who might be interested in raping his ex for kicks.

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t shoot the messenger.  I mean, it would be no skin off my back if Craig’s List got rid of its dumb personal ads, but I have a feeling it would kill the social prospects of a lot of individuals, and why punish them because of a few creeps that would have committed similar crimes either way?

What do you guys think?

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13 responses

12 01 2010
Damion

Normal people only use craigslist to buy and sell furniture or services. They should remove the personal ads section. That is the weirdest/creepiest story ever.

12 01 2010
Geof

Craigslist is not the problem. Removing personals or monitoring by craigslist just ignores or skirts the fundamental issue.
My worry is that certain men are going to become rapists when society, or portions of it, represses sexuality. Is there a society on Earth that has managed to eradicate rape? Pretty sure answer is no. Certainly, some have done a better job than others in controlling it, while others have condoned it.
My speculation is that some or all sexual dysfunction (inclination, not boner/headache issues) may the results of a learning disorder, and like other learning disorders, is treatable or even preventable, the earlier the better.
It might help us if we could bring sexuality further into the public sphere so that good behaviors could be modeled and bad ones shaped. Leaving the modeling to parents or for-profit media doesn’t seem to be working.
For people like Stipe and McDowell, who most likely had some mix of screwed-up childhood and genes that push them towards violence, there is no good model for behavior that they feel obligated to follow. Society has a moral obligation to figure out how to provide a model for everyone, but especially the sociopaths we see here. A tough nut to crack, to be sure.

12 01 2010
districtramblings

Geof-
Do you mean to say sexual dysfunction (of the non-physical sort) is a learning disorder, or a learned disorder? I might lean toward the latter, and I agree with you that the way American society represses sexuality may be partly to blame.

It’s like priest syndrome, where a man promises to never have sex again and then suddenly finds his repressed sexuality oozing out in creepy, pedophiliac ways.

I don’t know if I agree with you that these guys had genes that naturally pushed them towards violence– I feel like that’s an excuse that bad parents use to explain away their misbehaving progeny.

12 01 2010
Geof

Great question. More at learned disorder. My bad.

My general stance on genetic determinism is that we are born one way, which may nudge us in a direction, but then spend a couple decades reacting to our environment. So, when I say genes did it, I mean piled on top of a crap childhood.

12 01 2010
bros

I fully disagree that rape is some kind of learning disorder. people have different education systems, systems of thought, cultural paradigms, ways of making sense of the world that dont package neatly into our western ideas of learning and the various ways in which our ‘learning’ as it were, can go wrong or are deviant from the norm. Rape exists everywhere, as you said, but our kind of learning doesnt, nor are things that would be learning disorders here expressed as such elsewhere. but yet rape exists. I tend to think it is more contextual and situational rather than genetic. cultural rather than systemic (in the neuro sense), given that there are certain highly predictable situations or contexts in which the liklihood of rape goes up, even for some men who have never expressed violence or anything resembling rape in their lives (US soldiers raping iraqis as one example, the Congo being another example, Vietnam, etc). There is obviously a distinction between war time rape and ‘random’ isolated acts of it, but I think this speaks more to my point that rape is more social and structural rather than neurological or something you can teach your way out of. all these soldiers know it is wrong to rape, have been taught as such, and have exhibited non-raping behavior for their whole lives. yet, in a wartime situation, the behavior expresses itself. either this is a long dormant learning disability, which sounds completely silly, or something else is at work here.

12 01 2010
bros

I also neglected to mention that raping behavior, esp. in war environments is deployed as strategic action -sudan and the congo again. so this would also go against the theory that its a learning disorder. in cases such as these, its a tactical skill, however sick a skill it is.

12 01 2010
Geof

Geof says: learned disorder: society doesn’t teach us well enough not to rape to fulfill our desires of power, control, sexual fulfillment, etc. (genetics is my back-up argument, since its overwhelmingly men who perpetrate the crime)

Bros: Not learning. Arises out of conflicts in social structure of a certain type? Are you making a genetic argument or structural-functionalist one?

12 01 2010
bros

structural functionalist

13 01 2010
Geof

Wouldn’t the common denominator be the genes in the soldiers? Certainly that is what is reacting to the similar situations. The situation itself has no agency, although may be acting as a catalyst. Maybe I don’t understand strutfunc?

13 01 2010
bros

im wasnt trying to make a clean structural functionalist argument-i think I am arguing more for a collective unconscious theory of rape.

13 01 2010
Geof

by “collective unconscious” this do you mean something that exists outside of individual human minds? or do you mean the reaction of individuals to a group (like other soldiers) or external social structure (like military/war conditions)? i’m still trying to figure out where you think genes might fit in.

13 01 2010
bros

i dont like genetics as an explanation for this. i think my idea that rape exists as a potential simmering beneath the surface of every society, probably as an instinct (if you want to call that genetic, you can, but i dont want to). you want to say rape is something learned, the result of a bad childhood and repressed sexuality with a splash of genetic predisposition. im not sure thats wrong, but i think rape is something the collective unconscious already knows. it pre-exists learning. now of course, it might appear that i am arguing for a 100% genetic theory of rape. who knows.

6 07 2011
Hekavenda

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