Justin Bond: RentBoy raid is about “workers’ rights,” “sex phobia,” “public shaming”

Justin Vivian Bond

Justin Vivian Bond Photograph by David Kimelman

Justin Vivian Bond Photograph by David Kimelman

Justin Vivian Bond

“I think that to many in our community this feels like a throwback to when the police raided gay bars in the 50s and 60s. Despite the salaciousness of the language in the complaint I don’t think the charges will stick because basically the site provides a forum for people to meet and make personal arrangements on their own. Rentboy.com may be a provocative title but sexy, fun language is not illegal. This invasion of a consensual hook-up site which is run for and by members of the LGBT community feels like a real slap in the face after gentrification, and the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations drove so many NYC gay bars out of business and forced people to meet online instead of in person.

“Also, if the people who register with Rentboy.com are trading sexual encounters for money they are doing so on their own terms, with agency, and presumably without being coerced by outside forces other than the need to earn a living in a difficult economic climate. Sex workers in our culture need to be protected, respected and applauded not harassed and shamed.

“Because of this raid 1,000s of independent workers worldwide will not be able to pay their rent this month and they are concerned about what this means for their safety and legal protection. There is a movement happening and many organizations creating Know Your Rights seminars this week. This is about workers’ rights–labor rights and equal protections for all kinds of workers without basic access to legal and healthcare support because they are deemed criminals or denied access to banking, housing or Facebook, in all sectors of the Adult industry, not just escorts. It’s about sex phobia and public shaming. Sex workers are strong and have organizations like Urban Justice Center and SWOP Sex Workers Outreach Project whom you might want to reach out to.

“Mainly, I feel that this is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of mainstream patriarchal culture and the government. Queer people are now invited to join in the systems of oppression -i.e. the military and marriage- that straight people have supported and engaged in for years but when it comes to freedom of choice as to what to do with our bodies women and the LGBT Community are still being exploited by the government and power hungry individuals for the purposes of financial gain and career advancement. I mean, is this really a “Homeland Security Issue?” I don’t think so. A gay man in Brooklyn who happens to have a “rimchair” is hardly the equivalent of someone on a commuter train with an AK-47. Years of undercover work and untold amounts of city and federal taxpayer dollars were spent on this this undercover sting operation and who was being harmed? Nobody.”

— Justin Vivian Bond, in a statement to the New York Times on the recent raid of Rentboy.com’s New York offices

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