August 25 is a day that sent shock waves through parts of the LGBT community–the day of the federal raid on the offices of RentBoy.com in New York. In case you didn’t know, RentBoy is a global male escort service with over 10,500 workers.
The Federales are out to protect all of us from the likes of these . . . . . people. Here’s what acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie said, “Rentboy.com attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this Internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution.”
Prostitution is illegal. Yes. But should it be? And why go after RentBoy? And why does this raid seem to have had more news coverage than similar raids on online services that provide the escort and sexual services of women? Is it because the lives of women sex workers actually matter less?
Bottom line for me is pretty simple. We have to stop criminalizing sex among adults. Protect children of course–throw the book at those who sexually abuse children (and also get help for them). And prosecute rape and sexual abuse. But consenting adults?
Why can’t adults make their own choices about sex? Sex workers want to earn money, and they are willing to share their bodies with customers. Customers want sex, and are willing to share their funds and their bodies with workers to get it.
Other than the fact that folks take their clothes off–presumably–and touch each other in intimate places, this doesn’t seem all that different to me than going to your local florist to buy flowers or the Safeway to buy bread.
Why do we think we need laws to punish those who offer sex for pay (and rarely punish those who seek it)? Who does it protect? And has it ever really worked? Has sex for pay ever been stopped? Or is this just a shaming device that helps keep some folks in line? And also keeps the sex workers hiding out? And what about the “Christian” ministers and others who rail against homosexuality and then hire . . . . rent boys? Is it possible that decriminalization would help overcome some of the hypocrisy? Maybe then these religious types could enjoy sex the way God creates it…..not to be a nasty secret but instead an occasion of joy.
Indeed, many believe that if we decriminalized sex work, we could more effectively communicate to workers about safer sex and other health concerns, as well as potentially help them gain education and advancement. We might even put some mean and nasty pimps out of business, and put a dent in organized crime.
In other words, if we understood that these men and women are workers, often supporting families not to mention elderly parents, etc., we could treat them with dignity. Perhaps then they could become more productive citizens, which would be good for all of us.
I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know what legal defense would work to toss this case out of court–sadly, under our system there may not be one. These workers could be cast back to local pimps and others to keep going, which is potentially far more harmful for them than working for RentBoy.com. If I were the judge in the case, I would be looking pretty hard to see if I could find a statute or constitutional principle on which I could ground a decision to dismiss.
To me, its about worker’s rights, which should always be protected, and the joy of sex–which should never be illegal.