AS I PUSHED open the door a man called my name.
Marc was tucked away in the corner, clutching a whisky with his tummy resting on the table.
But this wasn’t a blind date. I was meeting a “landlord”, who believed I would sleep with him in exchange for a roof over my head.
Within minutes Marc, who claimed he was a 49-year-old businessman, was slapping my bum and asking me to undo my shirt.
“You’d be my lover, my plaything,” he said, eyeing me up and down. “I want someone to cook, look after the house and have adult fun with me.”
He said: “I’ve had this arrangement with various girls over the years and it’s always worked well. One even stayed for six months.”
Luckily for me, this was for an investigative report I wrote for Cosmopolitanmagazine, but for other women these meetings are a reality.
More and more females in desperate situations are turning to listings website Craigslist to exchange sex for a place to live.
While soliciting sex on a public forum is illegal, these listings slip through the net on a regular basis — and the police have neither the time nor the resources to investigate them.
Recently I met a woman in her early thirties, who had lost her job and was on the verge of homelessness.
She confided that the only reason she wasn’t living on the streets was because she had met a “landlord” through Craigslist.
He offered free accommodation in exchange for sex and completing household chores.
As part of her tenancy in his flat in London, she was required to share a bed with him every night.
This alone is horrifying.
Yet she described herself as “lucky”. She rationalised the situation, saying he seemed to be a nice guy and added: “He’s even helping me to rewrite my CV”. Sussex Police recently issued a statement urging victims of these sex-for-rent deals to come forward, as there are grounds for landlords to face up to seven years in prison.
A woman may initially agree to her landlord’s terms out of sheer desperation, then find herself trapped — not only economically, but mentally and physically too — and pressurised into sexual acts.
To get an insight into these landlords (most of the ads are posted by men seeking females) I had arranged to meet one under the guise of being a prospective tenant.
During our meeting at a pub in Notting Hill, West London, Marc received a call from his company.
I took note of the name and searched it later, which uncovered that his real name wasn’t Marc and he wasn’t actually 49, but 51.
He told me he was “dominant and looking for a submissive woman to move in”.
He then commanded: “Stand up. Let me see your body.” He then spun me round, inhaled deeply and smacked my left buttock.
Next came the questions. Nothing about references from previous landlords, or deposits … just an inquisition into my sexual past and preferences and whether or not I had tattoos.
Then the clincher — a request for me to undo my shirt so that he could see my nipples. It was at this point I fled back to my office.
Lack of regulation makes it easy to post these adverts.
Posing as a 40-year-old man I tried to post several on the main three sites young women use to househunt.
Only SpareRoom refused to allow the post to go live.
Gemma Allen-Muncey, operations manager, explained that this is because they have “a human team to screen each advert”.
She said: “It would be totally irresponsible for us to allow adverts like these to get the go-ahead, they put women in danger.” Gumtree removed my post after a few days, but Craigslist didn’t bat an eyelid — and did not respond to requests for a comment.
A few days ago I returned to Craigslist to see whether things had improved. They hadn’t
One ad read: “Temporary room for a teen girl. Looking for a girl to come around who needs to escape from her home life.”
I quizzed the poster by email. He said he was in his forties and was offering the space because he had “a difficult upbringing too and knows what it’s like”.
He offered to take me under his wing and “make me feel better”.
Proving that despite the subject of sex for rent infiltrating the public’s consciousness, the problem is still alive and kicking.
What the law says
SOLICITING sex on a public forum is illegal but listings slip through the net because police rarely have the resources to investigate. Hove MP Peter Kyle recently pledged to force website operators to ban “exploitative” advertisements and for the landlords who post them to be prosecuted. Justice Secretary David Lidington confirmed earlier this year that ads offering sex for rent breach the Sexual Offences Act 2003, as the individual’s freedom of choice could be undermined. The Act states that consent to sex can only be given when a person has the freedom and capacity to make that choice — and this extends to economic freedom.