THE BLOG
08/14/2015 03:23 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2016

Cash4Class: How Male Escort Site Rentboy.com Is Funding Higher Education

Male escort site Rentboy.com is all about giving back to its community.

First, they created the Hookies, a male escort award show which had its first ceremony back in 2006. With awards that acknowledged the varied skills that come with being a sex worker like "best boyfriend fantasy," "best dressed/style" and, of course, "best cock," the awards brought male sex workers into the spotlight to celebrate their talents. This year, the Hookies had a groundbreaking moment when escort Viktor Belmont tied for best newcomer, the first time a trans man had won an award there. While perhaps shrug worthy for the general public, the move towards recognizing trans men as men in gay spaces was an important (and political) one.

Now, they've created a "Cash4Class" scholarship fund to give male escorts advertising with Rentboy.com a financial boost to go back to school. Potential winners of the $1500 fund can submit a 500-1000 word essay or a 1-5 min video answering the question "why is going to school part of achieving your dream?" with a September 15th deadline.

"Like many of you, sex work was a way for me to help pay for school. I still have a few student loans to pay off...or never pay off, as the case may be," said CockyBoys star, artist and blogger Colby Keller, who will be officially judging the entries for Rentboy and has posted a sample video to inspire applicants. "Despite that fact, knowledge really is power, right?  The power to articulate the world around us, and the power to change it. There are many people out there in the world who want to keep that power from us. There's no better tool we have to fight with than a well worked-out noggin."

Leo Sweetwood, an escort who won "best social media" in the 2015 Hookies, agrees. "I don't think the general public gives pornstars enough credit, and they don't see porn stars as smart. They don't see that a lot of pornstars are business owners or they are college graduates or PHDs; some of them are pursuing medical school." Escort Max Cameron, for example, mentions his college education in his profile, and wants to go back to school for business, particularly in the tourism industry; "I have been talking to a potential business partner on starting our own adventure travel company. I don't want to give away TOO much, but it's something I've really wanted to do for quite some time!"

The scholarship will be open to current Rentboy.com advertisers who are US residents 18 and over and have proof of enrollment in college or classes (though any type of schooling is eligible: university, art classes, hair school, real-estate license, CPT, nursing school, etc). Entrants are invited to use their working names -- the name of their school or program will never be revealed publicly. The money can be used for anything school related -- from classes and supplies to room and board. And with applicants receiving a free month of advertising, why not take the opportunity to learn something new?

It's a fantastic way for the male escort site to encourage those working with them, as well as encouraging brand loyalty. When being a member of the site gives you potential benefits like this, why advertise somewhere else? It's a strategy many companies have taken up, and it's kind of exciting to see sex work following suit.

Considering how many female sex workers tend to use the adult industry to help fund working towards a degree, I do wonder why female-focused escort sites in the US don't tend to have these community and building incentives. I wish, back when I escorted, that there had been an equivalent award show for female escorts... and that having such a show would be safe and not waving a red flag to the bull that is the vice squad. Also confusing is why advertising sites actively supportive of sex workers, like Eros or Slixa, have not made a similar move -- the only scholarship funds I was able to find for female sex workers were earmarked for human trafficking victims exclusively.

The "Cash4Class" scholarship brings to light an interesting hypocrisy, in my mind. If anti-sex work feminists care so deeply and so vocally about "saving" women from sex work, why aren't they supporting their educations or exit strategies? And if these female-focused escort companies care about women's agency, why aren't they coming up with similar scholarships and community celebrations? Additionally, why are we, as a culture, fascinated and repelled by those who turn to sex work to avoid being saddled with massive debt on leaving the ivory tower of higher education? Why do we feign shock when we discover that there are students who do porn to get by, and god help you if you're a tutor or a teacher?

Most importantly -- why are we so much more accepting of male students choosing sex work as a financial strategy, but condemning of female students walking the same path? When students with male privilege go into sex work, yet have more access to opportunities outside of it, why are we mostly silent or admiring... and why do female students get branded, instead, with a scarlet letter?

Don't worry, this is a rhetorical question.

In the meantime, I'm rooting for the rent boys who will be applying for this scholarship. It's a brilliant idea and gives me a lot of hope to see a company benefiting from sex workers who gives so readily back, not only to the individual brands of sex workers (like with the Hookies), but to their futures as well, without moral judgment. Also? I hope the success of this initiative will encourage other sex work advertising spaces to follow suit.