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Stop Slut-Shaming Prince Charming

Stop Slut-Shaming Prince Charming

robertsepulvedajr.com

The Advocate's sex columnist, Alexander Cheves, slams criticism of the Finding Prince Charming star's history of sex work.

When I first saw a trailer for Logo's new show Finding Prince Charming, I had mixed feelings. My community, fresh from the bloodiest hate crime in American history and precariously on the verge of a dark future should Donald Trump become president, sorely needs some positive, thoughtful media. What do we get? A dating show.

What's worse, this dating competition show, a la Flavor of Love and The Bachelor, looked to be populated by traditionally fit power gays -- guys who drive Teslas on California's 405 freeway, and not a tummy or queer faerie in sight.

But then reports started coming in that one of the competitors is HIV-positive. Depending on how it's handled (no dramatic reveals, please), this could be a much-needed conversation-starter for our community. Then critics, as expected, dug into "Prince Charming" himself: Robert Sepulveda Jr., an Atlanta native with sharp eyes and a salt-and-pepper beard, whose affections a host of men will be vying for.

Since he and I share a city, I may have passed Sepulveda a dozen times outside the gym. Robert is handsome but nothing exceptional. He would have blended in with the crowd as another fellow gay man in a tank top at Brut or in the backroom of my favorite after-hours club. When negative reports and accusations about him started bubbling up, both in local Atlanta zines and international LGBT publications, with claims that he had been everything from a porn star to a lying businessman, I realized something: I like Robert Sepulveda Jr.

I like guys who take on a media firestorm. He knew it was coming. Everyone is calling him a narcissist, and of course he is. You have to have an ego if you're going to step up to the pillory of gay media and have a million queens point and say you're either too good-looking or not good-looking enough. We are the harshest critics and the deepest of dirt-diggers. He knew we would look for ways to drag him down. Proceeding with a show that showcases his every mannerism and flaw in close-up takes guts -- and a certain degree of arrogance.

What we know is that he was an escort in his early 20s. "The small furniture store I was working at suddenly went out of business," he told People in its current issue. "I didn't know how I was going to pay rent or my [college] tuition or buy food."

He has denied the porn rumors, although there is at least one video circulating, and even a racist accusation published by Perez Hilton. Sex-phobic commenters are having a field day. Robert is getting a heavy dose of slut-shaming from all those irrelevant, moralizing queens who think a sex worker is not worthy of the title "Prince Charming."

We can dismiss their slut-shaming, but let's take apart the escort-shaming, because that's a bigger deal. Not everyone who escorts does it out of desperation. I've done it casually, because I eat out and like expensive clothes -- but many people do it to survive.

In fact, a disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth engage in survival sex. Rather than shame him for doing what many people do to live, let's shame a culture that puts people in desperate situations and gives them few alternatives. Let's shame those who oppress us by policing our sex lives and attack us for how we earn a living.

"I didn't want to have to talk about that time in my life again," Sepulveda told People, "but I'm not ashamed of my past. I own it, and I'll talk about it with the guys on Finding Prince Charming."

Sex work is not always this trudging, miserable thing that some people are forced to do, either. For most guys I know, sex work is fun. No part of it is deserving of shame -- internalized, or from all the trolling queens clutching their pearls in mock horror, who are still clicking through Sepulveda's sex videos and will be tuning in to Logo to watch him in his quest for love.

Sepulveda now owns a luxury interior design firm and may or may not run an operational Atlanta-based nonprofit, Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks, which has itself caused a heated firestorm. He may have skeletons in his closet -- who doesn't? -- but his sex work or his sexy videos doesn't make him unsuitable to be Prince Charming.

Robert, I like your courage. I hide behind my keyboard writing about sex, but you put your face out there. They will fem-shame you and age-shame you and say you're too this or too that, but I think you're just trying to earn a buck and maybe -- maybe -- find love. I hope you do.

And I'm single.

ALEXANDER CHEVES is a sex columnist for The Advocate. Follow his blog, The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend, and his Twitter @BadAlexCheves.

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