People are always leery to throw around the word “prostitution” when it comes to soliciting adult services. Many ads on Craigslist and Backpage actually constitute the act of prostitution even though they are simply advertising for sensual or erotic massages. Below, we take a look at the legality of some of the advertisements for companionship on Craigslist and Backpage.
We’ll start with Backpage. We’ve blogged time and time again about how frequently cops in Minnesota turn to Backpage for sting operations. A quick Google search of “Backpage sting Minnesota” turns up results for operations in Burnsville, Hopkins, Fridley, Hastings and Coon Rapids.
Under their “Adult” section, Backpage lists numerous categories, including:
- Body Rubs
- Strippers & Strip Clubs
- Dom & Fetish
- Phone & Websites
- Adult Jobs
Regardless of which category you choose, odds are you’ll find a list of entertainers willing to do just that a specific fee. The area we’ll focus on today is erotic massages under the body rub category, because many people believe offering or receiving an erotic massage is legal. Oftentimes more than just a massage is implied, but for obvious reasons, nothing is said directly. You can call it “erotic massage” all you want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t prostitution.
See, in Minnesota, prostitution is defined as hiring or being hired to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact. This means you are committing prostitution even if no penetration occurs. Even those people who simply want to enjoy or offer a topless massage need to be careful the encounter doesn’t become one of prostitution.
Defining Sexual Contact
Sexual contact can be a rather ambiguous term, so the state of Minnesota took it upon themselves to define the phrase. Sexual contact occurs when there is:
- Intentional touching by an individual of a prostitute or erotic masseuse’s intimate parts; or
- Intentional touching by a prostitute or erotic masseuse of an individual’s private parts.
The definition goes a little bit further, saying sexual contact has been committed if it can be reasonably construed that the touching was done for the purpose of satisfying a sexual impulse.
Cops on Craigslist
Craigslist is not as blatantly obvious in offering adult services, mainly because the site removed it’s “Adult” section in 2010 after many complaints and allegations that they were operating, at least partially, like a pimp by creating a middleman through which clients and “entertainers” could discuss prices and locations.
Now, Craigslist allows certain adult advertisements to be listed under the “Personals” section. Craigslist says they will remove any posts the violate state and federal laws, but if you peruse the site you’ll find numerous advertisements similar to those on Backpage. And just like Backpage, cops use Craigslist to bait individuals into purchasing illegal services.
Despite others claiming to know a way around the system, there’s no perfect guide to figuring out whether or not the person you’re talking to through Craigslist or Backpage is a cop. You may have true intentions when you say you’re simply looking for companionship or a massage, but prosecutors aren’t likely to see it that way if the situation develops into something more intimate.