While the racists supremacists rally the streets and domestic terrorism raises in the Land of the Free, while tribalistic nationalism spreads throughout Europe, Rentmen surrenders to moralist pressure and unfair regulation without using its relative advantage to fight for decriminalization.
Once upon a time it was Rentboy pushing for decriminalization
After years of progress and advance in the acceptance of alternative lifestyles, the fall of Rentboy represents a point of inflection that has sent waves of alarm throughout the industry.
Rentboy was once the leading website to advertise male escorting services. Not only it would provide a way to connect providers and clients, but also foster the education and safety of the professionals. They organized the International Escorts Award annually, and promoted a touring event called Hustlaball. Perhaps that was their mistake. Riding on self confidence, openly promoting a popular but illegal activity may have been the cause for their demise.
We will never know what was the real cause that triggered the raid on August 25, 2015. Being in the USA, there is never a shortage of conspiracy theories. Some blame it on a wave of prudish conservative reaction. Others believe it was snitching by market competitors. Some allege a member of the Catholic clergy needed his sins forgotten before the visit of the Pope in 2015. Many whisper about money laundering. We will never know why a service that openly operated for almost two decades became a priority for the DHS in the after 9/11 age.
What we do know is that the raid was indicted by the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; and enacted by the Department of Homeland Security and the New York City Police Department. Rentboy’s CEO and 6 employees were accused of promoting prostitution and the website was shut down. Last year, the former CEO pleaded guilty, and finally a judge from Brooklyn sentenced him to six months in prison.
A wave of cautious panic
The 2015 raid send a wave of reactions throughout the industry. Rentboy had reached such a dimension that pretty much everyone involved in any way with the activity had their records saved somewhere in a now confiscated server.
Panicky rumors about the administration going after professionals and clients with CCs stored in the Rentboy’s system spread all over the country. Competitors like Adam4Adam, Backpage, Rentmen, and Men4RentNow, modified their policies softening explicit language and erasing direct or explicit references to escorting. Daddy’s Reviews started editing the reports submitted by clients. Some professionals withdrew from public advertising, afraid of being the next target of he authorities.
The fall of the biggest player in the industry shook the activity and effected a redeployment of its players. One of the most benefited by the earthquake was Rentmen.
In Dutch We Trust
Rentmen became the leading networking resource in the industry. As different to Rentboy, the owning company is located in the Netherlands, out of reach of American regulations. Many look at this fact as a guarantee for safety and the hope for a last shelter.
However, Rentmen never showed the commitment to community building and promotion of the activity that Rentboy had deployed. Not only that, soon they also started to mellow their website according to the requirements of Moralist America. First they cut access to key portions of data to everyone accessing their servers from USA territory.
Last week, they censored the rates and eliminated every mention of escorting from their logos and webpage designs. The euphemism is now “porn stars/male performers”. Let’s hope the step back is now over.
The two steps forward: decriminalization
It would not be realistic to expect that a company based in the Netherlands would sacrifice or risk their profit to serve our community needs or to challenge unjust and discriminatory regulations. Still, it is disappointing. They are not taking advantage of their safer legal situation to become a player in the fight for decriminalization.
We must be prepared to jump on the wave of the next progressive reaction after the ongoing conservative backlash. There is no other solution than decriminalization. There is no other path to security for professionals and clients.
We must shake out of the system the ability of the state to determine what two (or more) consenting adults do with their bodies and their time. We must discuss and develop a set of regulations and public policy that protect professionals and clients privacy, health, and rights; and at the same time fight against exploitation, abuse, and discrimination.
We should start by avoiding euphemisms. We have a saying in Spanish “al pan, pan; y al vino, vino”. “Prostitute” and “whore” should not be insulting words but descriptives that any sex worker could proudly include in his/her resume. Male Prostitutes are not Escorts, Porn Stars, Masseurs, or Delivery Boys.
If I was living in Amsterdam I would have the balls to do it. Living in DC, I am waiting for the next swing of History, just in case there is a world left after Trump.
Hasta la próxima pinga, amigos!