Last week, the offices of Rentboy.com, the online escort advertising directory, were raided in New York by the Department of Homeland Security. Its staff of seven, from the CEO to the social media manager were arrested, some in their own homes. Their bank accounts were frozen. Their website was seized. A business that provided an advertising platform for thousands of escorts’ livelihoods was eliminated overnight. This was not only a violation of the free speech rights for site owner Jeffrey Hurant, but also for those men who advertised on the site.
Unfortunately, we in the adult industry have plenty of experience with these raids. From our inception as a legal business in the late 60s, adult film makers and workers have been surveilled, censored, raided and harassed by law enforcement units from vice squads to the FBI. In the past few years, adult performers, producers and service providers have protested as their bank accounts were shut down, their health records subpoenaed and their right-to-work violated by misguided moralists. No matter what the tactic, the goal is the same – push us into the shadows and silence our voices.
Our industry is diverse; many of us have different needs and concerns. Time after time, this has been used to divide us; performers against providers, producers against performers, straight against gay. However, it is clear that if we do not unify in the face of these assaults, the industry we have all worked so hard to build will crumble. Instead, our differences should be our strength – our unity in the face of censorship, our secret to survival. At times like these, it is more important than ever that we amplify each others voices and come to each others defenses, even when it means a risks to ourselves.
Jeffrey Hurant was not a member of the Free Speech Coalition. However, we stand in solidarity with anyone who find themselves targets of government censorship. With his assets seized, Jeffrey is incapable of mounting even a basic a legal defense.
We ask that our industry support Jeffrey and his staff by donating to this fund. And should pleas to justice and empathy not be enough, remember this: Every time the government successfully silences one of us, it is easier for them to silence the next.
You can read more about Jeffrey’s case and donate at RentBoyFund.org.