The Free Speech Coaltion, the trade association of the adult industry, issued the following statement about the sentencing of Jeffrey Hurant, former owner of Rentboy.com.
While we’re glad the judge resisted more extreme sentencing, Jeffrey Hurant never should have been arrested in the first place. Hurant was a responsible, ethical businessman whose only real crime was challenging outdated notions about sex work. He not only provided a safe, public platform for an otherwise marginalized group of workers, he was a passionate supporter of both the LGBTQ community and sex worker rights. Like Amnesty International and many others, the FSC calls for the decriminalization of sex work, and an end to the harassment of consenting adults working in the industry.
FSC first spoke out against the prosecution of Rentboy in 2015, saying an FBI raid, in which seven employees were arrested and all assets seized, 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 …
“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.”
We later joined five members of the New York City Council, and numerous LGBTQ, anti-trafficking and sex worker rights groups, in calling for the prosecutor to drop the charges, arguing that the prosecution had nothing to do with protecting sex workers..
“Could Hurant’s true offense have been that he provided a clean, safe, and legal way for escorts and masseurs to connect with clients?,” we wrote at the time. “That he ran an upstanding business, built a loyal community empowering its members and didn’t hide? That he spoke up for the rights of his advertisers, and supported his community? Those are the actions that really inflame the moralists, because they conflict with their long-held ideological view of sex work as tawdry, disgraceful and dangerous.”
We have been in touch with Jeffrey through the process, and we are relieved, as he is, to see this Kafkaesque drama come to an end. Jeffrey Hurant will serve the time, and hopefully be able to move forward with his life. However, the business that he built, and the community he supported, will never be the same.