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Roommates with benefits: Ads offer free rent in exchange for sex
HOUSTON - by Scott Noll/KHOU 11 News and www.khou.com
The online ads promise free rent. But the KHOU 11 News I-Team discovered that "free" comes with quite a price tag when it comes to "roommates with benefits."
The I-Team sat down with a Houston-area man behind a pair of ads on Craigslist looking for a roommate in a "friends with benefits" situation.
"What does that mean to you?" the I-Team asked the man who asked his name not be used.
"Well, it means somebody who would be willing to be a sexual partner with you," the man explained. "It's all about the sex."
In exchange, he promises free rent.
"Go for a roll in the hay," the man said. "Get up and go on with our lives. That's all."
But is it legal?
"Some of these may violate the law," explained KHOU 11 News Legal Analyst Gerald Treece.
He reviewed some of the nearly one dozen Craigslist ads from the Houston area looking for potential renters with benefits.
"Some of them just get right up and say, 'I want sex for this room,' and that's no different than a solicitation for prostitution," explained Treece.
But even when the offer isn't as clear, our sister station in Denver found the would-be landlords' expectations were the same.
"I was looking for someone to actually sleep with me in my bed," one man told KUSA.
"Sex," said another man when asked to clarify what he expected from a roommate with benefits.
But the commander of the Houston Police Department's Vice Division says stopping the practice isn't as easy as rounding up and arresting the men and women behind the on-line ads.
"We can't just throw people in jail for no reason because they may be engaging in some sort of conduct we don't like," said Capt. Charles Dunn. "These people may not understand that they're crossing the line."
That includes the man the I-Team spoke with.
"I never thought of it that way," he admitted. "I kind of thought maybe there will be somebody out there who could kind of use some help, and maybe I could help them in some small way and they help me in return."
But Treece warns there may be real dangers with these situations.
"It's like swimming in a pool that may have sharks in it," he said.. "You've got to really be careful on both sides. The guys have to be careful of what women are responding to this, and the women likewise."
Police agree it's a situation that may sound good, but turn dangerous.
"I've seen a lot of victims of human trafficking, victims of the pimps on the street that the thought same thing (that it was a good situation) when they entered into that relationship.," said Capt. Dunn. "Unfortunately, it turned physical, it turned violent and the next thing you knew, they were being held against their will."
But the man making the offer said that's the last thing he wants.
"Nobody has to agree to it," the man said. "I don't force anybody."
In the first month, he says he's received three responses to his offer, but has yet to find a good fit.
At least not yet.
"What would you say to people who says 'this sounds disgusting, this sounds reprehensible?" The I-Team asked the man.
"It is reprehensible," the man said. "It's not the right thing to be doing."
"So why do it?" The I-Team asked him.
"Because I've chosen to do it," the man said. "I want to do it."