Authorities carried out a major prostitution sting targeting a website in Manhattan Tuesday morning, raiding the company headquarters and arresting seven people accused of selling sex and laundering money. The CEO of Rentboy.com, Jeffrey Hurant, and six other employees were taken into custody at their homes across New York City, and bank accounts and millions of dollars were seized. The company, which billed itself as the world's largest male escort service, is located at a walk-up on West 14th Street, off Fifth Avenue, with no signage. Boxes of documents and computers were also seized. It was a Homeland Security bust carried out with help from the NYPD. Authorities said the site operated as a male prostitution ring, cutting out the middle man.
The middle man they're talking about? Pimps. And you know what pimps are, right? They're those violent and exploitative monsters that anti-sex-work activists and law enforcement officials insist they're trying to protect sex workers from. So the anti-sex-work logic goes like this: Pimps are terrible! Sites like Rentboy.com put pimps out of business! We have to shut down those sites!
Rentboy.com is offline and presumably prosecutors have access to the email addresses, phone numbers, and the credit card information of tens of thousands of Rentboy.com customers—sex workers and their clients. Will they prosecute the men who advertised their services at Rentboy.com? And, more importantly, will they prosecute their clients? According to anti-sex-work activists and prosecutors, sex workers are the victims and their clients, the men who pay them for sex, are the criminals. The unworkable, unjust "Swedish model" approach to snuffing out sex work—which is never going to happen—is backed by anti-sex-work activists and prosecutors. And the Swedish model is built on "attacking demand," i.e. arresting and prosecuting clients, not sex workers. (But the Swedish model results in the endless harassment of sex workers.) If the cops/feds do that—if law enforcement officials in New York and other states start rounding up people who booked time with escorts via Rentboy.com—it's going to make the Ashley Madison hack look like an opaque subtweet. Scores of Republican politicians, evangelical Christians, and Duggars will be outed if the cops/feds go after the men who booked time with escorts via Rentboy.com. (And I'm betting they don't go after the clients for just that reason.)
And since when did it become the Department of Homeland Security's job to protect gay and bi men from buying and selling blowjobs?
UPDATE: A reader let me know that men (and women!) who met escorts on Rentboy.com don't have much to worry about...
I just thought I'd share some info (on a no-names, not-for-attribution basis) some relevant info about being a client who has used rentboy.com to find escorts.
1. Unlike other sites, clients don't have to register to use the site. You just browse ads and then call or text the advertisers. (Some other sites will only allow you to see contact info if you've registered — RB was not like that.)
2. You can use a message feature on the site to send an email to an advertiser, which would require you to provide an email address. But I doubt many people use it. (Many advertisers explicitly ask clients not to use it because it's not fast or reliable,)
3. The site does not handle payments between clients and escorts.
4. The site does have an affiliated porn site, which presumably does require registration and payment.
So the site shouldn't have had much info from site clients for the Feds to seize, other than IP addresses. To the extent the site had individual info other than from advertisers, it's much more likely it was because those people purchased porn. As a client, I'm not worried about any repercussions from this raid.
Obviously, I worry a lot about the escorts who advertise on the site. There are undoubtedly sex workers who are victimized, but these guys are not them. They are adults and free agents. Even if they aren't harassed by law enforcement, this raid is undoubtedly interfering with their ability to find clients and support themselves.
Anyway, I thought this info might be of interest to you.