[8/26/2015] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Danny Cruz SWOP-USA
844-796-7722 (ext 1) 877-776-2004 (ext 5)
Male Sex Workers Condemn Raid on RentBoy.com
On Tuesday, federal police in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security raided Rentboy, a male escort advertising website, arresting the CEO and 6 employees.
This shutdown comes just two weeks after Amnesty International voted to adopt a policy in favor of decriminalizing consensual adult sex work. Several global and national Human Rights and Harm Reduction organizations including UN AIDS, UN Women, The World Health Organization have also have also advocated for decriminalization of consensual sex work in the past. This week, in a joint statement, LGBTQ rights organizations Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Center for Transgender Equality echoed and amplified Amnesty’s call in their own public announcement on the issue.
Sex workers & the LGBTQ community have been advocating for decades that criminalization and policing of the sex trade and those profiled put communities at risk of violence and exploitation. Laws against the sex trade have always been used to police the bodies of marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ and communities of color. When sex workers are prosecuted under these laws, it can become harder for them to find mainstream work because of their criminal record. The closure of Rentboy is the latest in a long history of abuses of people in the sex trade that puts these communities in more vulnerable and sometimes dangerous positions.
Rentboy was one of few websites male adult workers could use to find clients. Rather than the “worldwide prostitution ring” news articles have called it, Rentboy provided an opportunity for many to find economic security. Rentboy.com also helped form HOOK Online, a resource for men in the adult industry. This resource provides safety tips, an opportunity for a college fund, some legal advice and a way for adult male service providers to exchange ideas and keep each other safe from violence.
Several in the LGBT male sex work community spoke out against the closure of Rentboy.com:
“Rentboy has been a major component of the male sex worker community for years. It really brought male sex workers together. They even just recently started an escort scholarship fund. It’s sad that Homeland Security is spending time and money on bringing down an escort site where adults voluntarily post ads and hire consenting companions.”
– Derrick Hanson, Rentboy’s Mr. San Francisco 2011
“Rentboy.com is more than just an ad site for adult entertainers. They put a lot of time, effort and resources into harm reduction and learning about rights and resources. I’ve advertised with them for 7 years. Thanks to rentboy, I’ve had a roof over my head and food in my belly because of work I consensually chose.”
-Danny Cruz, cis male sex worker and activist, Los Angeles
“I took up streetwork because I was unable to meet my basic living expenses through online advertising alone – after Rentboy, what next?”
– Timoshka Yakov, a trans male sex worker
“The Rentboy office raid greatly affects my ability to work safely and further enforces the stigma that already surrounds sex work in this country.”
-Israel, cis male sex worker, Seattle
“As a queer and trans person who is denied job opportunities because of my trans status, this industry has given me the opportunity to feed and help myself. I take several precautions to be safe, but at this point I don’t know how I can move forward in this safely. This community of sex workers is my family.”
-Viktor Belmont, trans male sex worker and activist, San Francisco
“The money has gone from being reinvested in our communities and from generating income for gay, bi, and trans men trying to make a living to being seized by law enforcement, while cutting off a critical income option for so many. With Rentboy gone, independent sex workers will need to take unacceptable risks to meet basic needs.”
– Alex S. Morgan, Trans male sex workers’ rights advocate
“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse and these arrests are a perfect illustration of that”
-Govind Archarya, Deputy Treasurer, Amnesty International USA
As advocates for the human rights of sex workers, SWOP-USA stands against attempts to forcibly eradicate the sex industry and advocate for the health and safety of all people in the sex industry. We condemn this abuse and intimidation by law enforcement, which will make our communities, friends, and families more vulnerable to violence and exploitation.