Gay Escort Website Charged for Promoting Prostitution

In August 2015, the New York offices of infamous gay escort website Rentboy were raided as part of a major prostitution sting, whereby the chief executive and several employees were arrested. 13 months later –this week– CEO Jeffrey Hurant pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution in a federal case that incited accusations of anti-gay bias, and faces up to 21 months in prison. He will be sentenced on February 2.

Rentboy.com was founded in 1996 and was known as the largest online m4m escort website in the US. Among the website were escorts’ profiles listing various sexual services and fees; escorts advertised their interests from “vanilla” (clean-cut) to “leather” to fetish RPGs. The company was leading the industry for nearly two decades and was known for its transparency (what’s in a name), pool parties, and their annual awards show for escorts called the Hookies.

In earlier interviews, Hurant stated “there is no place on this website where somebody says I’ll have sex for money because that is against the law,” however he advocated, “to keep the oldest profession in the world up to date with all the latest technology.” Reportedly the raid was prompted by the launch of Rentboy’s Cash4Class scholarship last month. Gay activist Bill Dobbs responded with outrage to the arrest, “It’s wasteful prosecution,” he said. “It’s the war on sex. It feels like it’s something out of the 1950s.”

Prosecutors had alleged that Rentboy was the equivalent of an online brothel, and that the escorts were actually prostitutes. Part of their proof was the explicit ads, attribute listing and price options ranging from $150 an hour to $3.500 for a weekend. This leads us to questioning why Rentboy was targeted over other (straight) escort websites.

Sources: NY Times, ABC

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