The XX Factor

How Easy Is It To Get Someone Raped?

Last month, a Wyoming man ventured onto and, posing as his ex-girlfriend, posted an ad that began, “Need a real aggressive man with no concern for women.” A few days later, his ex-girlfriend spotted it and immediately alerted authorities as well as Craigslist. The ad was taken down, but it was too late-another 26-year-old Wyoming man, Ty McDowell, had already spotted it and was in talks via instant messenger with the woman’s ex-boyfriend, who provided him with her address and reiterated that she wanted “humiliation, physical abuse, sexual abuse.” A week later, McDowell broke into the woman’s house, said “I’ll show you aggressive” and raped her at knifepoint.

This isn’t the first time Craigslist has come under fire for facilitating crimes. Last spring, Philip Markoff, the clean-cut Boston University medical student/serial killer used Craiglist to lure women to hotel rooms. In 2007, a 19-year-old Minneapolis man posted an ad seeking a babysitter , and when a 24-year-old woman showed up for the job, she was murdered.

The Wyoming case is once again sparking debate about Internet censorship. Current law dictates that site owners are not responsible for their user’s actions. As M. Ryan Calo, a Stanford Law fellow, puts it in the L.A. Times : “Craigslist is like a hotel with millions of rooms, but it doesn’t have the ability to figure out what’s happening in those rooms.” But some in favor of imposing stricter regulations are speaking out-Steve Patterson, a spokesman for an Illinois sherrif’s department that accused Craigslist of running a “blatant Internet brothel,” argues that by not monitoring the listings thoroughly Craigslist creates a specific place for criminal activity to take place.”

Both men involved in the rape have been arrested and charged. The woman’s ex-boyfriend has been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault, and McDowell is charged with first-degree sexual assault. He contends that he believed he was acting out a rape fantasy, not committing rape.