Before dating apps and social media, Craigslist was home to one of the first dating classifieds on the web. The “personal ads” section was full of hot, kinky, and strange ads that even contained nude photos and explicit text. However, people also used this section to find the love of their lives. Keep reading to find out about love and sex online and learn how Craigslist changed personal ads forever!

The Origins of Personal Ads

Although personal ads are no longer available on Craigslist, the world’s most famous classifieds portal has had a monumental impact on online dating and hookups.

Interestingly, personal ads for companionship, sex, prostitution, and intimate encounters were first printed in newspapers way back in the 1700s. This practice is pretty much forgotten by now. Facebook, OKCupid, Tinder, along with numerous other online portals and apps, have managed to replace it.

However, in the past, personal ads were an early way of finding casual encounters, one-night stands, and romantic dates. They offered people an effective way to connect with someone, especially if they weren’t lucky enough to get dates in their daily lives. And by the 20th century, entire magazines were dedicated only to dating ads. With a subscription, people could even add printed photos to their ads. They could also describe their interests, hobbies, and sexual preferences.

In fact, a magazine called “The Link” was a key medium for the British gay scene at the start of the century. Many lesbian and gay people used this magazine to find dates and remain anonymous. Nowadays, you can still find some personal ads in publications like the “New York” and “London Review of Books.” However, while printed ads were an important stepping stone, the internet truly managed to transform the world of dating as we know it.

Personal Ads Went Digital With Craigslist

By 1995, dating ads started to pop up on the newly launched Craigslist. Over the years, the site has entertained us with ridiculous descriptions of kinky, freaky, and even disturbing dating ads.

The website had a “personals” section which allowed you to post in a wide range of categories. They included “casual encounters,” “romance/dating,” and “strictly platonic.” This was a big step from printed ads since anyone with a connection could now find what they were looking for. The “personals” category didn’t require a subscription, and people could browse through it anonymously.

How to Make a Platonic Friendship Work? Find out here.

Also, the “casual encounters” section was full of explicit posts from strangers. People were able to browse nude photos in ads that were seeking no-strings-attached fun. The site even spawned some common sex lingo that we use today such as “BB,” “BBW,” “str8,” etc. Plus, the Craigslist personal ad section provided an invaluable space for the LGBT community. And it wasn’t just for dirty hookups with an ex-stripper or two. Thousands of people married their spouse after meeting them on Craigslist.

Unfortunately, the site no longer allows personal ads. Since the platform didn’t require a paid membership, and since everyone was anonymous, it was sort of a hotbed for criminal activity. In 2018, the personal ad section was banned due to a bill targeted at fighting online sex trafficking.

Seek and You Shall Find

As mentioned, personalized ads were organized in several sections before this feature was removed. However, there were tons of additional categories for finding love. Some included “misc romance,” “women seeking women,” “women seeking men,” “men seeking men,” “rants and raves,” and more. Additionally, Craigslist had (and still has) an incredibly effective search engine that allowed people to browse through local and national results. Plus, by searching locally, you were able to quickly find a match that was in your area.

All in all, Craigslist dating ads offered something for everyone. Aside from casual dating, hookups, marriage adds, it was also full of classified ads for sex workers, erotic massage services, dominatrices, and similar.

Even though the section was shut down recently, it’s still possible to find some personal ads through the “missed connections” category. Additionally, there are some sites like Craigslist that are very similar. Some replacements for Craigslist personals that you could try are Adult Search or Bedpage. Of course, classifieds are no longer as popular for dating. Much of it has transitioned to social media and dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Match, and others.

Speaking of dating apps, you better read how dating apps can affect your mental health.

Craigslist Success Stories

Like we’ve said, Craigslist had a superb search function that allowed people to quickly find and contact their matches. It was incredibly easy for people to find a match in their city and beyond. Moreover, it was also a bit safer and not as messy as it is today. With other personal ad sites and apps, there’s a chance that you could encounter hundreds of frauds.

When it comes to success stories, you can read hundreds of accounts by people who’ve used Craigslist. A lot of people have met their perfect match or a casual sex partner on the site. However, others have also had negative experiences. Back when the personal ads category was still available, people were generally advised to be careful. Not revealing too much information about yourself was a very effective way to stay safe. Additionally, the shadiest CL personals had much in common with potentially fraudulent ads that you can find online today.


Sadly, chances are that you won’t be able to find a date or a hot hookup on Craigslist anymore. However, there are many alternatives, and you shouldn’t give up because you may be able to find exactly what you’re looking for! Good luck!