CSJ Stands in Solidarity with Rentboy, and Statement Round-Up
Sex work is a fact of life — it has been, it is and it will be as long as human beings are around.
– Russell Roybal, Deputy Executive Director of National LGBTQ Task Force
The Center for Sexual Justice stands with many LGBTQ and criminal justice organizations in condemning the raid on Rentboy. It violates the basic tenets of sexual freedom among consenting adults, promotes deeply ingrained homophobia and perceptions of deviance among gay men, creates a dangerous environment for sex workers, perpetuates a criminal justice system that’s waging a war on sex, augments counterproductive sex offender registries, and fuels mass incarceration.
Last week’s raid on Rentboy.com, which the Woodhull Alliance condemns, “sets a dangerous precedent and no website will be safe if the government can shut it down based purely on objection to its content.” It is the latest case in “a disturbing trend of receding civil liberties and sex-shaming. Worldwide, the freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly are being slowly stripped away, while mainstream LGBT movements remain almost singularly focused on same-sex marriage sometimes at the cost of a more progressive sexual rights agenda.” In doing so it conveys “a clear and troubling message that the country is less invested in addressing systemic issues of racial, economic, and anti-LGBT injustice.”
Many sex-worker advocates agree that the criminalization of sex work fosters violence, stigma, and marginalization and endangers sex workers, compromises public health, and infringes on human rights. Like other outspoken critics of the raid, “SWOP-USA stands against attempts to forcibly eradicate the sex industry and advocates for the health and safety of all people in the sex industry. [They] condemn this abuse and intimidation by law enforcement, which will make our communities, friends, and families more vulnerable to violence and exploitation.” The “wording of the federal complaint against [Rentboy.com]–as well as the naive and puritanical mindset” is the catalyst needed for change.
Organizers of a rally to take place on September 3 at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn are “outraged at this latest example of the abuse and selective prosecution of sex workers. [They] are sick and tired of this misuse of government time and money to persecute members of the sex industry. This unrelenting harassment and persecution endangers the health and safety of these workers and their clients, and disproportionately targets the poor and people of color.”
The fact of the matter is that “no one’s life has been improved by the raid on Rentboy, and thousands of lives— a great many of them LGBTQ—are ruined by the criminalization of sex work every day.” Planners for a rally to be held in LA on September 5 reiterate that,” sex workers are targets of violence from not only predators that know they can get away with harming us, but also from police who should be protecting us.” As the ACLU articulates, “the raid on Rentboy.com is a stark reminder of the urgent fights so many are still waging and have waged since the inception of our modern LGBT rights movement.” The Free Speech Coalition says it best, “no matter what the tactic, the goal is the same – push us into the shadows and silence our voices.” Muffling our voices is particularly risky as, and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects agrees, “Sex workers need to be able to communicate openly with clients and managers without constantly fearing arrest police harassment or worse.”
Otherwise, the end result, as Lambda Legal notes, is that “many members of LGBTQ communities and those who care about them are left to question how our government chooses to deploy resources, in the face of our need to be protected and served.” The Anti-Violence Project feels that the persecution of Rentboy.com, and the “stigma of online hook-ups generally, perpetuate a narrative that the LGBT communities, and in particular gay men, are deviant and undeserving of support.”
Instead, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, “strongly recommends that the federal government adopt a strategy aimed at providing essential supports – education, jobs, housing – to LGBT youth and adults who have been marginalized by these serious harms.”
This statement round-up was written by David Booth.