In August, the Department of Homeland Security raided and arrested the staff of Rentboy.com, a website that for nearly 20 years helped men across the world connect with male escorts.
The arrests were just the latest in federal and local government efforts to try to end the existence of prostitution and sex work. Typically when discussing female sex workers, government officials are quick to lay claims of human trafficking and to suggest that women’s participation in prostitution is largely non-consensual. That didn’t happen here. There was no suggestion that anybody was being harmed at all or forced . Rather, the defendants were accused of violating federal law simply by facilitating prostitution across state and international lines. It didn’t matter whether anybody was actually harmed.
In the wake of the bust, several escorts who advertised their services on the site have come forward in the media to openly defend the services they provide to their clients. Much more quiet, for obvious reasons, were the actual Rentboy.com customers. With the current anti-prostitution hysteria pushing toward punishing Johns rather than sex workers, the customers have a lot to lose.
Nevertheless, one customer of Rentboy.com contacted Reason, interested in talking about why he turns to escorts for erotic fulfillment. In a 40-minute phone interview he spoke about his experiences with escorts and why his difficult personal background made them necessary.
To protect this customer’s identity, we will be referring to him simply as Tom (not his real name). Tom is 31, lives in a major metropolitan area, and has an advanced education. Any other names mentioned in the interview have also been changed to protect their identities.
Reason: How long have you been using escorts?
Tom: Consistently for about a little bit over a year—about a year and six months. That’s not my first hiring experience. My first hiring experience was when I was 20.
Reason: So that’s a pretty young age. Why did you turn to escorts at such a young age?
Tom: It took me a very, very long time to come out to anyone. I didn’t come out to myself until I was like 17. I didn’t come out to my parents until I was 19, specifically because I didn’t want to be put it into reparative therapy.