FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Katie Bloomquist, Vice President, SWOP USA– firstname.lastname@example.org
FORMER CEO OF RENTBOY, JEFF HURANT, HAS BEEN SENTENCED TO 6 MONTHS IN PRISON AND $7500 FINE – DESPITE JUDGE ACKNOWLEDGING RENTBOY CEO AS “DOING GOOD WORK” FOR LGBTQI+ AND SEX WORK COMMUNITIES
The Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA, an organization led by sex workers and individuals who work closely with sex worker communities, denounces this sentence as part of an unjust political climate that targets the few remaining online adult industry spaces. In doing so, the safety and security of sex workers (who are overwhelmingly LGBTQ+ individuals) is threatened even further.
Prosecutors in this case reportedly wanted Mr. Hurant to serve prison time to “deter operators of other escort services,” while Mr. Hurant explicitly stated “I disagree with the law I violated….my company mitigated many of the dangers of sex work.”
A 2015 study in The Journal of Sex Research found that sex workers who use websites to advertise their services, like Rent Boy, face “minimal” violence. Online escort services serve an important purpose for sex workers – they connect workers with clients, and help keep sex workers safe. Online services also allow sex workers to screen clients before a meeting and establish their boundaries, while shielding sex workers from police abuse and violence.
Wanting to deter operators of this service is wanting to keep sex work “underground” and in the streets – where sex workers have less power in their relationship to clients, and where sex workers are at greater risk of arrest and police violence. Sex workers who do need support are often unable to connect with social services – Rentboy, like other websites such as MyRedBook.Com and Backpage, helped close this gap.
Homeland Security’s involvement in the takedown of Rentboy and subsequent punishment of Mr. Hurant is another example of state-sanctioned violence against the sex work community and our families. Shutting escort sites down and punishing those who dare to attempt to make sex work safer serves to push sex workers further into the shadows and cuts sex workers off from social services, as well as increases vulnerability to violence.
Mr. Hurant wrote that sex workers have thanked him for “providing what they viewed as an important service that promoted the safety, self-determination and self-esteem of people participating in a business that is fraught with peril and stigma.”
We thank him as well, and hope he continues to fight for the rights of sex workers and the decriminalization and destigmatization of sex work.