Prior to March of 2018, Craigslist was a go-to location for people looking for discrete, anonymous hookups and casual dating. The site’s simple interface and powerful search features made it popular both with people posting hookup ads and those perusing them.
That all changed when Congress passed the FOSTA-SESTA package. This legislation, composed of two bills, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, was passed to help shut down illegal sex trafficking operations. A noble aim to be sure.
The legislation had unintended consequences, however, driven by its refutation of the “safe harbor rule”, a longstanding internet protection. Safe harbor was first formulated in section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
It states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In short, this means that no service provider can be held liable for speech published by someone else using their platform.
This was a problem for services like Craigslist because now they could be held criminally and civilly liable if someone were to use their site to solicit prostitution, engage in sex trafficking, or any other illegal act. This rendered their personals section a major liability, and so they begrudgingly shut it down.
With Craigslist Personals a Thing of the Past, What Can Former Users Do?
It’s hard to understand what a loss is was when Craigslist took its personals service offline. Its userbase was extremely high, leading to a thriving “marketplace” for casual sex and dating. Plus it offered anonymity in a number of ways.
For one, you could post ads without opening an account, which meant only your email address connected you to your posting. If you used an anonymous email address, your anonymity was virtually guaranteed.
Also, Craigslist was a website, which meant you could place and check ads without having to install an app on your phone. If anyone happened to notice the app’s icon on your device it would be fairly clear what you were up to.
For all of its simplicity, the service just worked, and it worked well. So what can users turn to now that it’s gone? Here are ten services that perform many of the same functions.
1. Adult Friend Finder
Adult Friend Finder is an excellent alternative to Craigslist. You can join for free to start looking through all of the available profiles in your area. The site is extremely well-designed with a strong userbase. That means whatever your specific interest, you’re sure to find other people interested in joining you.
Like Craigslist, the service is geographically-based, so you can find sex partners whether you’re at home or on the road. Once you’ve found a match, you can chat, exchange sexy photos or videos, and, if you’re feeling bold, get naked on a two-way webcam. You’ll “get to know” your partners fully before you ever even meet.
Creating a profile takes less than five minutes, and it can be as anonymous or detailed as you like. Include photos, or don’t. Talk about yourself, or don’t. You’re in control.
A free account is enough to get you started but to really take advantage of what Adult Friend Finder has to offer you need a paid account. Paid members can send and reply to private emails, add fully-nude photos, enjoy more detailed search parameters, send voice messages, and enter the service’s many chat rooms.
Adult Friend Finder is a premium service, and so you can expect to find quality users and no BS. Just real sex with real people.
2. Ashley Madison
That Ashley Madison? Yes, that one. The service that suffered a major data breach in 2015, leaking the personal details of thousands of people using the service to find extramarital affairs. It was a mess. But it’s in the past. The service has revamped its data collection practices and upped their security to avoid another incident. It’s now considered safe. And the fact that, as of August 2019, the service already had 32 million users again, a lot of people feel comfortable with the risk.
It’s clear that the service takes privacy and anonymity very seriously. You’re never required to lin your account to any of your public social media accounts. All that’s required is a private email address. In that way, the service is very similar to the way Craigslist personals worked.
Photos can be as revealing or as cloaked as you like. You can upload photos and use built-in blurring and masking tools to hide your identity. The service goes to great lengths to let you reveal only what you want throughout your experience.
The site prides itself on being a destination for all sorts of people — all ages and all walks of life. Single, married, “it’s complicated”, and “it’s crazy complicated” all find a home on Ashley Madison.
Seeking Arrangement, or Seeking, offers a very specific service, matching intelligent, well-traveled men of wealth and influence with sophisticated women who are interested in relationships on their terms, with a side of the good life.
You might assume that means they match rich guys with gold diggers, but the service is quick to put that notion to rest. Gold diggers, they say, aren’t welcome. The women on Seeking aren’t after cash. They’re after meaningful, fun, relationships with well-healed, worldly men that can provide an adventurous life that few get to experience.
It’s also not about domineering men that feel they can have their way with women because they “own” them. These are men of means looking for no-strings-attached relationships with beautiful women interested in enjoying them, and their money.
The service stresses repeatedly that Seeking relationships are mutually beneficial, fulfilling, relaxed, and groovy. Both parties are in control and both get what they’re looking for.
Of course, if you’re a man that doesn’t have stacks of cash, this service isn’t for you. If you’re a woman that’s interested in taking wealthy men for a ride so that you can secure a generous divorce settlement, they would prefer you stayed home.
Yumi is a dating app that takes anonymity to its absolute extreme. Users aren’t required to enter any personal information at all, so not only will other users never know who you are, neither will Yumi. Former Craiglist users that valued the anonymity the service provided above all else will appreciate Yumi. If you don’t want anyone to know who you are, ever, you can do that. Of course, if you want sex you’re eventually going to have to get personal.
Beyond the promise of total secrecy, Yumi adds gamification to anonymous hookups. In each session, you’re presented with four cards. Half are local matches and half aren’t. The fun comes in when you start flipping cards, trying to locate a match. This creates a unique experience that’s unlike anything you’ve tried before.
Yumi takes the anonymity of Craigslist, adds a dash of fun, and turns it into a must-try app for the sexually adventurous.
Grindr is a sexual hookup app designed for gay men. Grindr uses the geolocation feature on users’ cellphones to find others nearby. When you open up the app you’ll be presented with a volume of men also looking for sex in your area.
There are two ways to contact people. You can send them a message, or you can “tap”. Taps are a good way to start a conversation by showing initial interest. Tapping a member’s profile sends an emoticon. You can choose whether to send “looking”, “friendly”, or “hot”, depending on the level of engagement you’re interested in.
It’s important to note that anonymity is limited. When you sign up for an account they don’t require email verification, but you have to upload a photo that must be approved by Grindr’s staff. You also have to provide your age, birthday and gender identity in order to complete the process.
Beyond that, you’re free to share as little or as much about yourself as you like, though Grindr makes it clear that you’re more likely to have luck the more information you provide. It’s also important to note that the app can be used for free, forever, but a paid account gets rid of the ads, allows you more matches, and gives unlimited blocks and favorites, among other things.
For those nervous about having an app on their phone, Grindr offers what they call their “discrete app icon”. It lets you configure exactly how the app will show up on your phone.
6. Be Naughty
Be Naughty is primarily a web-based service. They do offer a mobile version, but it’s hobbled compared to the website. Which is fine because most members are only interested in the desktop experience.
You’ll need to provide an email address, but as we’ve said before, a separate email address created specifically for this purpose will do. Beyond that, you’re free to share as much as you like. Interestingly, many users opt to share very little. This is good for anonymity, but it makes it hard to qualify the value of a given profile.
There’s a good ratio of men to women, and you can certainly find quality hookups in your area. However, if you like the site and want to use it with any regularity, you’ll want to upgrade to a paid account. Free accounts are severely limited, particularly for men. Women can send messages with a free account, but men can’t. That makes a free account for men almost unusable.
Happn takes a novel approach to casual dating and hookups. It operates on the premises that you might pass that perfect person on the street and never know it. With their app, you have the chance to find out.
Once you’ve installed happn on your cellphone, it monitors wherever you go. Whenever you pass another happn user they’ll appear in your timeline. You can also check the happn MAP to see exactly where you passed each other.
Later you can read through their profile and “like” them if you’re interested in chatting. If they like you back you’ve found a “crush” and you can start a conversation. This mutual liking feature assures users that they’ll never be contacted without their consent.
Happn can certainly be used for casual hookups, but it’s equally useful for dating and relationships. It’s up to each user to decide what they want out of the app. And sometimes the results may surprise you!
8. Fuck Book
Fuck Book’s name leaves little to the imagination. You know exactly what people are looking for — anonymous sex with strangers. And while it’s possible to find it, the service doesn’t live up to its promising title. We include it here because it’s certainly a replacement for Craigslist, but we want to be clear with what you can expect.
Profiles are easy to create and don’t require email verification. Unfortunately, that’s the only easy part of using the site. Its search feature is fairly limited, and it’s often hard to tell legitimate profiles from fake ones — and there are plenty of those. The site exercises very little control over the quality of their accounts, so it’s easy for scammers to run amok.
It’s also very difficult to use the site with a free account, so if you want any chance of finding a hookup, you’ll have to pay. But you shouldn’t. There are many better services available.
Mixxxer makes it clear that dating isn’t something they support. The app is designed specifically for casual one night stands and anonymous hookups.
The app is GPS-enabled, so wherever you are you can see available singles, couples, and other swingers nearby. Simply swipe through nearby users and message the ones you’re interested in.
Sexually-explicit photos are not only allowed — they’re encouraged. Mixxxer users can share as much as they want and use the optional masking features to block their identities.
If you have no interest in relationships, and think that dating is a waste of time, get Mixxxer.
10. Cougar Life
Cougar Life brings modern, mature women together with the younger men that want like what experience and confidence can bring to a relationship. While casual hookups are certainly possible, dating and relationships are just as likely.
Because Cougar Life is closer to a dating service than a casual sex site, anonymity isn’t nearly as important. It’s expected that you’ll share personal details to help bring compatible matches together. But if you just want to meet younger men or older women near you, the GPS feature shows you compatible people nearby.
You can exchange photos, messages, and gifts, and arrange to meet, all through the app. For those that like an age gap in their partners, Cougar Life is a great choice.