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In adult biz, court of public opinion rules: The Cambria List Re-Visited

from – Friday night just after 11 p.m., local Craigslist users began fretting about the missing “Adult Services” ad section.

“Just wondering where Adult Services was on the CL homepage it now says ‘Censored,’” one person wrote. “Also Adult Gigs is gone.”

Questions remain as to whether the new “Censored” link represents a permanent removal of the section. Regardless, it’s apparently a pointed statement directed toward law enforcement officials and the sex-slave-abolition movement that has targeted Craigslist’s erotic advertising.

In an Aug. 24 news release, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced he had joined 16 other state attorneys general in a letter demanding that Craigslist “immediately take down” the Adult Services section due to “continued prostitution advertisements and concern about reported sex trafficking of children.”

“The increasingly sharp public criticism of Craigslist’s Adult Services section reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution—including ads trafficking children—are rampant on it,” Cordray said. “In our view, the company should take immediate action to end the misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads.”

Craigslist has so far refused any comment on the self-censorship.

In the aftermath of the change, The Other Paper’s classified ad department reported a small spike in erotic ad sales from escorts, who cited the Craigslist ban as their impetus for placing ads in print. Escort ads also appear in the print edition of The Columbus Dispatch.

Online sites like function exclusively as clearinghouses for erotic-service ads—similar to CL’s old Adult Services section, but with more pictures, service rates and booking information. also features a detailed erotic-services section.

TOP first covered the issue in 2008, when the Ohio AG’s Office pressured Craigslist into an agreement to police, if not remove, the Adult Services section. The story, titled “Sex for Sale,” quoted sex-pub editors, alt-press leaders and state legal and law enforcement officials on the campaigns that have been launched against legal adult ad content in print and on the Internet in recent years.

“This is a moral battle” being waged against sex workers, Will Rockwell, editor of New York’s Spread magazine—a print and online publication that covers the sex industry—told The Other Paper in 2008.

Court challenges seeking to force Craigslist to remove its erotic-services section have so far been rejected in low-level federal courts.

Craigslist’s move is similar to the self-censoring that the mainstream porn industry engaged in during the early years of the digital porn boom, which coincided with the arrival of the Bush administration’s morally conservative Justice Department. The PBS Frontline documentary American Porn is a great primer for anyone interested in the development of the adult-entertainment industry and obscenity laws in late 20th and early 21st century America.

The “Cambria List,” which can be viewed at, is a list of suggestions for contemporary pornographers wishing to pass the community-standards test should they be tried for obscenity. The list was written in the early 2000s by Paul Cambria [pictured], council for Hustler and other major adult-industry distributors.

Among other suggestions, the list advised against the use of the following, particularly on publication covers (visit the MA blog at for the complete list):

No shots with appearance of pain or degradation

No coffins

No blindfolds

No wax dripping

No bondage-type toys or gear unless very light

No transsexuals

No forced sex, rape themes, etc.

Cambria’s obscenity guidelines make mainstream adult entertainment seem quite vanilla in comparison to the extreme fetish-saturated content produced by indie pornographers who populate free file-sharing pornographic websites.

So how does porn obscenity tie in with Craigslist’s self-censorship? The attorneys general campaign against Craigslist’s Adult Services ads is based on the argument that the site facilitates the sex trafficking of unwilling women and minors.

One logical extension of that argument is that some of these unwilling prostitutes might end up in the more vile material in wide circulation on free porn-sharing sites. And if it’s possible for sex slaves to end up in coerced underground vids posted on heavily trafficked user-generated XXX share sites, why stop with censoring Craigslist?

This is one question likely to arise out of the Craigslist controversy as it unfolds.


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