An LGBTQ activist and top Biden administration nuclear official condemned the federal prosecution of a website that promoted male prostitution, writing in a 2015 op-ed for a pro-gay magazine that “archaic views of sex work” were hurting gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.
Sam Brinton, deputy assistant secretary for Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in the Office of Nuclear Energy, has courted controversy with his open advocacy of sexual fetishism and ‘puppy play,’ a sexual “kink” involving role-playing as animals. The newly resurfaced, seven-year-old essay he wrote for The Advocate, in which he defended Rentboy.com, and which was first reported by The National Pulse, is likely to raise more eyebrows.
“Rentboy.com may or may not have broken the law,” Brinton wrote. “I don’t know. But I do know, from the frantic emails filling my inbox, that the raid on its headquarters has thrown many gay, bisexual, and transgender young adults into turmoil as their main source of income has been ripped away due to irresponsible and archaic views of sex work.”
The column ran shortly after federal prosecutors charged Rentboy.com CEO Jeffrey Hurant and six Rentboy.com employees with conspiring to violate the Travel Act by promoting prostitution. The site advertised male escort services, but federal prosecutors said at the time it was “designed primarily for advertising illegal prostitution.”
“As alleged, Rentboy.com attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution,” Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Kelly Currie said at the time.
Hurant later pleaded guilty to promotion of prostitution and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and was sentenced to six months in prison.
The indictment against Rentboy.com said the site made little or no effort to verify the ages of escorts who advertised on it, with employees allegedly calling age verification “a gray area.” It also included the damning allegations that an employee had told a manager that an account was “held by a guy who brings in 10-12 boys/year to pimp out here” and that when one escort agency client refused to provide identification for several escorts who appeared underage, the same employee suggested simply cropping the “super young escorts” out of the ad.
Brinton wrote that prosecutors were victimizing young male sex workers, not protecting them.
“The federal government’s recent attack on Rentboy.com is a devastating assault on some of the most vulnerable members of our community — young adults who, for the first time in their lives, were able to earn a secure living safely through Rentboy after surviving family rejection and homelessness because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he wrote.
“Sex work disproportionately affects the LGBT community,” the Op-Ed continued. “Transgender people engage in sex work at a rate 10 times that of cisgender (nontrans) women,” Brinton wrote. “And many LGBT youth engage in sex work just to survive.”
Brinton quoted an unnamed “young man” who said shutting down RentBoy.com stripped him of his dignity.
“It feels like we had a chance to act with dignity and authenticity for the first time and it was taken away from us,” Brinton quoted the man as saying.