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What is the Obama Justice Department Doing Harassing Gay Men For Having Sex?

August 29, 2015 in Blogs

By Tara Burns, AlterNet

Lots of questions remain unanswered.

On Tuesday, federal agents swarmed the headquarters of Rentboy.com, a website that offered advertising to male escorts, and arrested seven employees. The action seems to be unprecedented – federal attention has thus far focused only on female sex workers, painting them all as helpless victims in need of arrest. Rentboy, however, openly operated and flourished on the Internet for the last eight years, expanding to offer a much different experience for advertisers than websites for female escorts, which have operated under constant shutdowns. 

The ways that male and female escorts are framed and prosecuted have created two distinct worlds of Internet escorting. Female escorts have gone from advertising on Big Doggy to Craigslist to ECCIE to Backpage, along with dozens of other regional outlets. Even the major sites are shut down or lose their payment processing every few years, causing them to take preventative measures such as limiting advertisements to 200 words, banning words that seem pretty innocuous, such as “brain” or “selective,” or retaining escort IDs for – some worry – police or hackers to find. Rentboy, conversely, sounds like an escort utopia.

“There was always a sense of community when we’d do the large events like Black Party, Hustlaball, etc.  They even had a Christmas party where rent boys could go for an open bar in NYC the few years I was there,” said Danny Cruz, who advertised on Rentboy for seven years and is currently the Interim Director for SWOP Los Angeles. Cruz explained that the website offered scholarships to members of the community who were in school and had classes on subjects ranging from doing taxes to staying safe.  Advertisers could get free credit toward their advertisements by pitching in at events or taking in-person classes.

On the other hand, male escorts don’t have screening and verification tools for new clients, such as blacklists, that abound for female escorts. 

The Rentboy bust came just weeks after Amnesty International’s decision to support the human rights of sex workers by advocating the decriminalization of every aspect of consensual adult sex workers. Lambda Legal …read more


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