The feds and local New York law enforcement raided the offices of Rentboy.com Aug. 25 in a high-profile police action that has much of the LGBT activist hive mind in a lather — including some LGBT non-profits which are climbing on-board for the cause:
Following the arrests of Rentboy.com chief executive and several employees Aug. 25, national LGBT organizations have called attention to the decriminalization of sex work.
Rentboy.com started in 1997 and allows male escorts to advertise themselves for a fee. Federal authorities seized the website and business and personal assets of seven current and former company executives of Rentboy.com, self-described as the largest male-escort website, for “conspiring to violate the Travel Act by promoting prostitution,” and have deemed it an “Internet brothel.”
CEO of Rentboy.com Jeffrey Hurant, 50, defended his company telling the media, “I don’t think that we do anything to promote prostitution. I think we do good things for good people, and we bring good people together.”
Hurant sounds more like he’s been hawking the feel-good security of life insurance plans than someone who ran a brazenly cheeky escort web site off which he made millions.
HIs dubious assertion about not “doing anything to promote prostitution” must come as a surprise to those who attended his company’s annual escort awards show “The Hookies” — along with the many other Rentboy parties, cruises and meet-and-greets that were marketed by the site over the course of a year.
He makes them sound like Boy Scouts meetings — only with drug abuse and scouts who steal your wallet when you’re not looking.
Despite that fact, the heart-rending stories have spilled forth on the internet of escorts whose life-long dreams for their profits seem to revolve much of the time toward the equivalent of saving money to open a string of orphanages in rural South America.
A few of the stories do tug at your heart strings, such as this one from Huffpost Gay Voices, which the web site promoted with the headline “The Unexpected And Powerful Story Of A Sex Worker Affected By The Rentboy Raid.”
In an effort to elevate this conversation, a video editor for Cockyboys.com and nightlife personality Andy Boyce directed, shot and edited this video about Cockyboy model and sex worker Rob Yaeger.
Yaeger’s story is powerful and emotional, as he uses the resources he makes through the sex work industry to care for his disabled partner of 16 years.
“I think it’s important that people see this film because it provides the viewer a personal story that shows the benefits of sex work in the face of so much intolerance from society’s outdated sense of morality,” Boyce told The Huffington Post.
“I think society is quick to judge escorting as not a ‘real job’ because they are uncomfortable with sex or they think it is purely exploitative. Although non-consensual sex work is completely wrong and should be persecuted [sic], the fact that Rentboy was shut down when it was a consensual platform makes it completely injustice [sic], in my opinion. By taking away a consensual platform for sex workers to conduct business, many are forced to resort to more unsafe methods of obtaining clients. The government needs to realize that not only is sex work a legitimate occupation, but also an occupation that can help people positively.”
Boyce’s assertions aren’t outrageous , although let’s not forget that some of the models on the for-profit Cockyboys.com also advertised on the for-profit Rentboy.com. (The porn industry feeds off prostitution and vice-versa.) So the entire thing sounds like a bit of a, if you’ll pardon the expression, circle jerk.
I’m not sure how “unexpected” Cockyboy model Yeager’s entire sad story should be.
If common tales are to be believed, people don’t become male
hookers because Harvard or Stanford did not grant them undergraduate admission and their hopes of becoming a quant on Wall Street were dashed.
Stories of people in desperate situations who turn to prostitution because they feel they have no alternative are not only expected, they seem to be the norm. Along with the likelihood of being a victim of a crime you feel you cannot report to the police.
As for Yeager’s situation with his sick partner, it is genuinely sad.
As someone who has helped to care for chronically ill people, I feel for Yeager and his partner. But throwing up our hands and saying, “Well, we’ve hit a wall. We all have to become hookers to make ends meet” seems more like an admission of defeat than it does a worthwhile additional political cause for a severely underfunded LGBT political movement.
I’d rather that we concentrate our already scarce resources on things that truly make the most lives better for the buck: job protections, the prosecution and prevention of hate crimes, activism around HIV and funding for breast, cervical and ovarian cancer care and research. We need to make sure the promise of the Supreme Court’s Obergfell same-sex marriage decision does not diminish or die the slow death of a thousand cuts that will surely come from legislative and judicial challenges strategically started by a well-funded right-wing legal machine.
We have an entire generation of LGBT activists who are reaching or past retirement age. These are the people who built this movement, who laid the foundations that made possible all the progress we now enjoy. Many are single or widowed, estranged from families, and poor because they devoted their lives to low-paid or volunteer LGBT activism, and they face the real possibility of being homeless. Many are being forced into government-funded institutions where they can face homophobic elder abuse and are being forced back into the closet for personal protection. Confronting those issues will be a massive undertaking.
I don’t want to give the impression that I am without logic or compassion for the sex workers themselves. Trans sex workers are being killed in alarming numbers because they are backed into a corner into work they turn to only because being trans limits for them so many other healthier, less dangerous options for making a living.
But the sex workers were not the targets of the Rentboy raid. The pimps who were getting rich off the business were.
There are are plenty of places left online where sex workers can meet potential clients. Rentboy was not the only game in town. Assertions by some that Craigslist and Cruisingforsex.com are inherently more dangerous — none of them seem outwardly concerned with policing customers or escorts for bad behavior — seem dubious.
Sex work is not a noble calling undertaken primarily by cultural anarchists and sexual bohemians voluntarily living authentic lives that fly in the face of the materialistic, corporatist zeitgeist of our times. I know some of those exist because I’ve spoken with, and written about, some of them over the years.
If you listen to those people tell stories, they tell tales that are often funny and touching in the ways some clients can be total freaks or just lonely, lost souls wanting some time with good-looking men who will not treat them like they are invisible. They may not be the most emotionally healthy relationships on earth, but I don’t think they should be a primary focus for law enforcement.
But the other stories — the ones about widespread sketchiness, drug abuse, loneliness, criminality, theft, assaults, homelessness, mental illness, wildly fluctuating incomes and long nights chasing phantom or no-show tricks — those are the norm.
(To be fair, some say these are all stereotypes — ones based in fact, I suspect. But some articles such as this one on the Nerve web site, present information that claims to prove otherwise. But the Nerve “study” was of only 40 sex workers in places like bars filling out self-reported behavioral surveys. Not the most reliable sample size nor methodologies, suggesting that the Journal of Sex Research, where it was published, is not exactly the New England Journal of Medicine.)
I want to work toward a society that is economically fair and socially tolerant so that people are not forced into sex work and only choose it because they are crazy, loveable pigs who will only be on non-stop sling tours anyway, so why not make money in the process?
Only when we are approaching those worthy goals will we have the luxury of fighting for the rights of rich pimps along with those of the genetically blessed and well-compensated elite escort few who manage to remain level-headed enough to start a viable business with their profits or put themselves through college or graduate school.
- Source: Party for arrested CEO of Rentboy.com postponed = Page Six
- Source: PrideSource – National LGBT Orgs Respond To Rentboy.com Arrests
- Source: Op-ed: The Real Ramifications of the Rentboy Raid – The Advocate
- Source: The Unexpected And Powerful Story Of A Sex Worker Affected By The Rentboy Raid – Huffpost Gay Voices