Photography

Casual Encounters

DUNCAN CAIRNS-BRENNER

For many years—before Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Grindr, Match, OKCupid, Gaydar and other online dating and hookup sites and apps—one of the most popular places online to seek out casual sex was the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist.com, where people posted personal ads seeking all manner of encounters and relationships. Posting was anonymous, oversight was minimal and thousands of postings went live daily across North America.

From 2014 to 2018, the Vancouver photographer Duncan Cairns-Brenner contacted people in British Columbia who posted these ads and photographed them before, during and after their encounters, as well as the locations and surrounding areas of where the encounters took place. “The ads ranged widely,” Cairns-Brenner says. “Some were vulgar, some were funny, others surprisingly heartfelt or sad. But every ad was posted by a real person, wanting to connect with someone else. These people were sending their most intimate sexual desires into the ether and hoping for a reply.”

In April of 2018, the United States Congress passed bill HR 1865, which subjected websites to criminal and civil liability in the event they are used for unlawful activity related to prostitution and sex trafficking. Craigslist shut down all of their personal ad listings, including Casual Encounters, shortly after the bill was passed.

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