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Ares Apollo said he first saw news of the raid on escort reviews website Daddy's Reviews. He said that, that day, escorts were either trying to deny the news or claim this was "their Stonewall. Although the raid triggered protests and a rallying cry for sex worker's rights among the LGBTQ community, Apollo said that once charges were dropped against the employees of the site named in the lawsuit, "it was hard to keep up that kind of momentum and it fizzled out. Bryan Knight, another escort, attended protests at the first indictment of Hurant.

Knight has always been entrepreneurial—a venture into carpentry led to massage, which led to escorting—but the changes to the industry in Rentboy's absence were challenging. Costs for listing on the remaining websites e. According to Knight and other escorts, hourly rates were driven down across the industry as Rentboy's diaspora migrated to those sites that remained. Like Knight, escort Abel Rey has relied on personal branding to ensure clients can find him online without Rentboy.

He's hosted a YouTube series called " Ask An Escort " since March and kept active on social media, allowing past clients to find him via Google searches. But while Rey thinks business will always keep going regardless of which websites prevail, he says Rentboy represented a sad loss. Kate D'Adamo, National Policy Advocate at the Sex Workers Project , a New York—based legal aid foundation for sex workers, said that it may have been Rentboy's work in the wider community that made them liable for prosecution. Others have argued it may have been down to an H1B visa application for an employee made in But if outreach and visibility is what exposes sites like Rentboy to legal action, D'Adamo said, that's a much bigger problem.

D'Adamo mentioned RedBook, a popular website for sex workers to find and vet clients based in the Bay Area, which was shut down by the Department of Justice, FBI, and IRS in for "money laundering derived from racketeering based on prostitution. Knight said that "there is no sense of community" in his industry now that Rentboy is no more.

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He misses the ease of promotion Rentboy brought to his work. And sometimes, we individually have to fight for basic day-to-day dignity. Knight, like Rey, said he's also made a larger push into social media, and is making forays into other interests—animation, graphic novels and music—to bolster his online presence. He said that despite the increasingly fragmented nature of his industry online and a depression in hourly wages, the turn away from central websites has helped him. The clients get bored, they want to see something new after a while.


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So if an escort pretends they're a celebrity, that's probably the best way to handle the business. Take Eli Lewis for example. He's a year-old former professional ballet dancer who says he got into escorting a couple years ago to pay off his student loans. Lewis, who attended Sarah Lawrence College before pursuing a career in ballet, says he never expected to become a sex worker. But spurred on by a need for quick cash after a dance injury and encouraged by how easy it was to get started, he eventually took the plunge. Like many others in the industry, Lewis says he also go-go dances and works in porn to make extra cash.

Industry insiders say about 60 percent to 70 percent of porn actors also work as escorts. Other escorts shared similar stories. Most said about half their escorting sessions don't involve sex. One escort, for instance, told a story of a client who wanted nothing more than to masturbate while watching the rent boy break No. It seems, however, that each escort attracts a very different kind of client.

One said his clients included coaches of college sports teams.

With such a variety of clients seeking companionship, Daniels -- who recently published a tell-all memoir about his experiences as an escort -- said connecting deeply with the men who hire him and their whims and eccentricities can make the job "exhausting. E scorts say that establishing and upholding boundaries -- whether physical, sexual or emotional -- is critical for their well-being and success in the industry. But it can sometimes prove difficult. They have no private life," said Lucas, who worked as an escort in Europe in his early 20s.

Other than in a handful of rural counties in Nevada, selling sex for money is illegal in the United States.

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The escorts who spoke to HuffPost all said they had never been targeted by law enforcement and that arrests among rent boys seem to be rare. However, most also seemed aware of the risks involved. Some escorts said that leaving the industry or the prospect of doing so and finding other employment can be daunting for this same reason.

In , adult entertainment lawyer Michael Fattorosi told Salon. The fears of social alienation and judgment also weigh heavily on the minds of some in the industry. Leo Forte, who served in the military before getting into porn and escorting, said he waffled for years before deciding to pursue sex work. Several escorts said the lifestyle has strained relationships with family members, and many expressed that dating can be extremely difficult.

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Despite the drawbacks that come with the job, many escorts maintain the sacrifices have been well worth it. You have to be almost like a healer -- sexually. The struggle to overcome common misconceptions about working in the business is a different hurdle altogether, however.

Yet, the stereotype lingers. He said few show signs of mental illness or depression.

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Additionally, some escorts may need help with money management or body image issues, while others need support figuring out an exit plan. Grov and other experts say that to protect the lives and rights of escorts and other sex workers, there needs to be more discussions about the industry -- both in the community and outside it.

Murder is obviously bad, but the exchange of sex for money? That's a little blurrier, at least to me. For now, change seems to be slow-moving: Sex work remains stigmatized, and decriminalization is a long way off. But some escorts and former escorts are taking matters into their own hands by challenging the stereotypes that dog the industry and fighting to create safe spaces for escorts to find the resources and support they may need.

Former escort Hawk Kinkaid has long been leading this grassroots effort with his website, Hook Online. Founded by Kinkaid in and run completely by volunteers, Hook Online is a platform where male escorts can share their stories and find resources and information that are useful in their line of work. Visitors can read blog posts about safe sex and filing taxes, as well as guides to marketing and dealing with police. For them, we hope [the site] will help lessen that learning curve, help them make fewer mistakes.

Some in the industry say Hook Online has been an invaluable tool for escorts, as the site has both disseminated crucial information and fostered a sense of community. Escort Eli Lewis says he hopes other safe spaces -- both online and off -- will emerge in the coming years to promote even greater unity and change. For now, Lewis, whose day job is social media director at Rentboy. He regularly offers advice to others in the industry and talks to people who have questions about his life as a rent boy. But if a conversation starts, he said, perhaps perceptions will start to change.