Game Over?

Six Questions About Homeland Security’s Attack On Rentboy


By now, you’d have to live under a rock not to have heard about the feds bizarre Rentboy raid. There is undoubtedly much more than meets the eye to this developing story. But even at this early stage, there are lots of unanswered questions.

Perhaps most importantly, what on earth were the feds thinking? In a time of clerk’s refusing to issue marriage licenses, terrorist plotting, and violent racists running around one would think they have better things to do with their time.

Here are six puzzles…

1. Jurisdiction

The Department of Homeland Security is behind the investigation and prosecution. This is unexpected – and a bit strange. Typically the federal government does not involve itself with the investigation, much less prosecution of, prostitution and/or pandering (pimping). These matters are usually left up to state or local law enforcement authorities. Why is DHS involved? The fact that DHS has gotten involved suggests Rentboy perhaps attracted the attention of immigration authorities. Perhaps a Rentboy employee – or advertiser – had an immigration issue. Or perhaps DHS has finally figured out that with the newfound ability of gays to marry — the mail order bride business is now open to imported dudes — in addition to busty Ukrainian blondes? Is this ICE’s new and more compelling reason for the sudden policing of commercial escort sites for potential immigration fraud?

Related: A Rentboy Explains How His Life Has Been Changed

2. Timing

Everyone has heard about what’s going on with Ashley Madison. Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. Where there’s prostitution — there’s blackmail. In a presidential election cycle, the politically ambitious within DHS, the Department of Justice, the Obama Administration and the Democratic party could all have a field day with a list of people who regularly log into Rentboy: J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy. The list goes on and on. J/K. But this much is a sure bet — there are probably lots of closeted bigwigs — GOP Congressmen and officials, Catholic bishops, TV ministers and CEOs come to mind – who may be developing a serious PR problem in the not-too-distant future. (Assuming they registered for the site with their email.)

3. Scope

Will it just be Rentboy? Or are there a few more shoes to drop ? Is this just an isolated power grab or publicity stunt by a few rogue agents or prosecutors? Or is this the first salvo in a broad and concerted initiative by DHS to shut down online prostitution? If so, will DHS be investigating sites that heterosexuals use for such purposes? What about the half dozen or so other gay escort sites out there?

4. Focus on gay sex acts

The Rentboy complaint is oddly prurient, with prosecutors listing various fetishes from profile pages, including “diapers, sneakers, spanking, watersports, leather,” for no apparent reason other than shock value. What’s wrong with a little foot worship?

5. Purpose

What is the game plan here? Has anyone given any thought to thec end game? Do we really prefer prostitution back out on the streets? Is this a good use of scarce taxpayer dollars?

6. The future

Rentboy is no longer operating, and the URL now redirects to the scary moniker, What happens next? Are Rentboy’s advertisers just going to (have to) take their business elsewhere like Craigslists or those annoying profiles on Adam4Adam? The Hookies? Or will Rentboy’s first amendment defense succeed – and this all blow over shortly?

Inquiring minds — as they say — want to know. So stay tuned for coming attractions.