IF hook-up apps are currently the “mainstream” way to find love in the digital age, then classified advertisements websites would definitely be the underground version.

A quick look into the “personals” section at the local version of an international classifieds website revealed plenty of ads for transgender escort services and a variety of sexual encounters.

James (not his real name), for example, uses the site to find men to have threesomes with him and his fiancee.

The 29-year-old realised he was bisexual three years ago.

“I was very shy about my sexuality, and because of that, I was very quiet among other people.”

Then he stumbled onto classifieds websites, and posted a personal ad saying he wanted to explore “interesting stuff”.

A man responded to it, and they had their first sexual encounter.

James continued using the service even after he had a girlfriend, with whom he would have threesomes on a weekly basis with men found through ads posted on the website.

“My ex-girlfriend was not the conservative type, so I pushed her to try it,” said James, who added that the site is the only platform he knows of in Malaysia where he can find other men who practise BDSM.

While most classifieds websites around the world have plenty of ads for housing, jobs, second-hand goods, services and events, the personals sections are normally pretty seedy.

In fact, critics have often complained that they promote prostitution, and in some cases, child sex trafficking.

Craigslist, probably the world’s largest classifieds website, even had an “adults services” section in the United States, which was closed down in 2010 after years of criticism.

Although the terms of use on most classifieds websites prohibit child pornography, obscene posts and solicitation, that hasn’t stopped people from trying their luck.

Faking it #2

I first started using classifieds websites to sell some books when I was studying in the United States, and it was easy to see why so many people used it.

You don’t need to register for an account, and you get to keep your anonymity as the site generates a random email for buyers and sellers to communicate with.

But to truly understand how it worked here in Malaysia, especially in terms of posting a “personals” ad, I pretended to be a lonely girl looking for company, posting a simple two-line ad under the “casual encounters” category.
Within an hour, I had over 30 emails in my inbox.

Over the next three days, that number hit 135.

Steamy side: The 'personals'section in most classifieds websites are usually full of escort services and ads for sexual encounters - including in Malaysia.

Steamy side: The ‘personals’section in most classifieds websites are usually full of escort services and ads for sexual encounters – including in Malaysia.

Two weeks later, and the emails are still coming in.

While I was shocked by how explicit some of the photos attached to the emails were, but there were some guys who did try the more old-fashioned, romantic pick-up line approach.

The majority of them, however, would ask for a meet-up, and start describing how skilful they were in bed.

Definitely not my idea of romance.

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