[EDITOR’S NOTE (9/1/16): After some internal discussion, we have decided to un-publish our nude photos of Mr. Sepulveda out of his respect for his wishes to leave his past as a sex worker behind — while his past as a sex worker is newsworthy, his genitals are not. In the future Unicorn Booty will no longer publish celebrity nudes unless those shots are published with the celebrity’s consent. We apologize to Mr. Sepulveda and to our readers who value consent; it’s a principle we take seriously and we appreciate the commenters and fellow journalists who weighed in on our decision. We have left this article otherwise tact for transparency’s sake and as a record for our thinking at the time it occurred.]
On Thursday, August 25 we published nude photos of Robert Sepulveda Jr., the former sex-worker who is the objet d’amour on Logo TV’s upcoming reality show romance competition Finding Prince Charming. A few people have asked about our post and our decision to post his nude pics, so we thought it’d be a good idea to share some of our thinking.
Part of the reason we published the story along with nude images was because we knew readers would be interested. Logo had just released the series’ trailer, most other gay blogs had covered it and people had started buzzing about the show and searching for more about Sepulveda. We felt the revelation of Sepulveda’s sex worker past and his nudes would garner interest.
After all, images of nude celebrities remain a perennial draw and are among some of our most popular articles because (as I’ve written before) “they provide an uncensored view of pop-culture’s most visible stars and portray them in a vulnerable and sexual light that is relatable, human and sometimes at odds with their polished, sanitized public personas.”
Furthermore, we’re a sex positive site that has a long history of celebrating sex workers and advocating for their rights including articles highlighting famous sex workers, films about sex workers, discrimination against sex-workers, the laws used to further stigmatize and oppress them and the push to decriminalize sex work. And in all those articles we’ve always sided with sex workers because, quite honestly, we feel consenting adults should have to right to exchange sex for money, full stop.
In our thinking, it would be naive for anyone placing naked pictures of themselves or offering sexual services online to think that they would not resurface at some later time. In fact, when we first heard about Prince Charming, we immediately wondered when his nude pictures would show up.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that we live in a Puritanical, sex-phobic and heterocentrist culture that stigmatizes sex workers, and take seriously the possibility of that someone could use Mr. Sepulveda’s past to discriminate against him. After all, he used a nom de sex during his sex worker days and had since deleted his Rentboy profile, presumably so that he could leave that past behind.
And yet, this very stigmatization is part of the reason we decided to post the article and the images. His past exists, he posted his nudes online, made sexy videos to show off his prowess and doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of. Lots of other LGBTQ people (myself included) have posted nude self-images online and we feel it’s important to acknowledge that it happens and that it’s completely normal — humans have been showing each other their bits since the caveman days and there’s nothing at all shameful about it.
In fact, that a former sex worker can go on to work with big name fashion houses, found a political LGBTQ non-profit and become a reality show personality is a far more interesting and honest story than pretending that his sex worker past and nude photos never existed. The story and images challenge stigmatization by acknowledging its corporeal existence and getting people in our greater community to question their feelings about sex work and the stigma surrounding it, far moreso than an article merely mentioning his Rentboy days would have. The images put a reality to the history and make the conversation more immediate and real.
The site that we linked to in our original post also conducted the additional steps of including praise from Sepulveda’s former clients and contacting Logo TV for a statement. We too reached out to Mr. Sepulveda in an attempt to show him due courtesy and hear his feelings on the recent revelation and its possible impact on his work and American culture. We — and many others, we imagine — welcome the conversation for the good it could do in dispelling the pervasive shame and stigma surrounding sex work, both in the LBTQ community and beyond.