Desperate housewives struggling to make ends meet in the coronavirus lockdown are selling sex online to survive.

In the past two weeks, more than 60 explicit adverts have been posted on the buying and selling site Craigslist by women and men in Oxfordshire ‘looking to have some fun’ and ‘desperately trying to make some extra money’.

An investigation by the Oxford Mail can now reveal the seedy ‘underworld’ of the county still ticking during coronavirus lockdown.

Oxford Mail:

One Oxford man, who was not named, admitted paying a married Witney woman £1,200 in the past month to make two sex movies. Although he admitted to feeling guilty about preying on people who might be struggling, he also said it was unlikely anybody could earn such a sum legally at this time.

Other sellers say Craigslist has long been a marketplace for sex workers, with the ‘anonymity’ factor making it a convenient platform.

Among the adverts listed, only a few were for genuine legal items for sale. Others hidden under categories like ‘community’, ‘services’ and ‘temp jobs’ included ‘social distancing isolation fun on daily exercise’ near the A40, ‘entertainment’ near the Eastern Bypass, a ‘work from home PA’ near Christ Church Meadow, and an undisclosed offer ‘ideal for students who need money during lockdown’ near University Parks.

Oxford Mail:

Among the 60 ads uncovered, were offers of naked help around the house, ‘perfect for younger students who need to supplement income’ and a ‘naughty meet up during this isolating and bored time’ near Chinnor Road.

One listing even posed as a ‘genuine’ research group offering £50 to women who do not mind having their breasts photographed and ‘examined’ – in the name of ‘science’.

Oxford Mail:

One man, selling ‘private video shoots’ in Oxford city centre, wanted to remain anonymous but said ‘sex sells’.

He said: “I’ve certainly noticed a significant increase in responses and replies – overwhelmingly they are down to the financial strains many people are currently under.

“My ads are aimed at housewives and they certainly wouldn’t be interested in doing it for £50 but can be persuaded to model for £500 or more.

“Most of my replies come from divorced mature ladies, or married in some cases, all looking for extra cash privately. Those types can earn £700-plus if they are willing to do 'contact' [sex] shoots.”

He added: “Obviously there is an argument regarding taking advantage of their financial situation, but where else are they going to earn that amount for 60 minutes work? I’ve had a housewife twice this month who has earned £1,200 off me for a total of two hours work.

“Sex sells and always has, but at times like these there are more women, and of a broader range, who are offering to partake for a given fee."

Under UK law, people are legally allowed to pay for sex if the seller is over 18 and has not been forced into prostitution – but there are still restrictions on how this can be done with bans on kerb crawling, keeping a brothel and advertising sex in public places.

There are also policies on Craigslist and users can be reported if they are caught breaking the rules.

The man offering to make videos added: “Ads on Gumtree tend to get swallowed up amongst the escorts and I’ve had a far better ratio of hits on Craigslist than anywhere else. The downside is that it can be flagged, but you can always squeeze a through few.”

Oxford Mail:

A Witney man who admitted to trying to procure women for explicit exchanges online, said he had noticed a sharp increase in the amount of adverts offering sex for sale.

He said: “I’ve noticed a huge increase in certain types of ads during lockdown – mainly virtual services and photos and videos for money. A lot of people are saying it's because they are struggling financially in the current climate.

“Craigslist historically has been used for personal ads. There’s almost a dark underworld to the site and I think a lot of people feel more anonymous there.”

Another man, who wanted to simply go by the name of Justin, attributed the increase in selling sex online to boredom during lockdown.

He said: “These are really frustrating times for all those outside of monogamy and I include myself in that bracket. Craigslist seems to attract ads and more responses of a genuine nature.”

Oxford Mail:

Another man, Neil, who wanted ‘fun’ in Thame, said replying to the adverts was a "full time job".

He said: “I’ve been amazed at the response I’ve had. I’ve not advertised anywhere else – no need to. I’m struggling to handle any more responses from women and the occasional male.

“I’m definitely not bored at the moment. It’s a full-time job replying to them all.”

Oxford East and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said it was disappointing that people had turned to sex work during the crisis.

She said: “It is such a shame that people have felt pressured to turn to this way of making money because they are not getting enough support from the Government.

"People should not be put in this position in the first place and we cannot allow these individuals to be falling through the cracks during this crisis. The safety and security of people on low incomes needs to come first.”

Thames Valley Police said it was working with sex workers and offering them 'safety packs' with leaflets about groups where they can still get help.

Detective Inspector Rachel Taylor from the force's Protecting Vulnerable People department, said: “The Thames Valley picture reflects the national picture during the current restrictions, in that sex working is still going on and face-to-face contacts are also still happening, albeit on a reduced scale.

“During the current restrictions, our priorities are around safeguarding and not enforcement, however, should we need to take enforcement action, we will do so."

Craigslist failed to respond to a request for a comment.