The formula behind Logo's Finding Prince Charming certainly seemed stale, until Thursday night when several LGBTQ news outlets reported that the bachelor at the center of the show's romantic competition may allegedly have been a sex worker in the past on the now infamously defunct service Rentboy.com.
Gay sites like Unicorn Booty and Next posted pictures of Robert Sepulveda Jr.'s former Rentboy.com profile, along with pictures of his penis, which they took from (extremely NSFW) site Str8UpGayPorn.com.
Next described Sepulveda's former work on Rentboy.com — which neither he nor Logo has yet to comment on — as a "sordid past." While that seems like a pretty standard phrase to toss around, "sordid" does actually mean "dirty" and "contemptible."
Unicorn Booty posted Sepulveda's nude picture without requiring the reader to click through to the original posting site, doubling down on the idea that a sex worker's body is up for ogling no matter the venue and no matter if they're still a sex worker or not. Mic reached out to Logo, Unicorn Booty and Next for comment but has not immediately heard back.
Even if the sites' posts try to walk back their stigmatizing language around sex work, it's clear that the language is meant to portray sex work as a negative thing. And stigma contributes to the already harsh legal and social climate sex workers face.
"Sex work — porn or prostitution — is nothing to be ashamed of," Next wrote only paragraphs after writing about it as a "sordid past."
Ironically, news of Sepulveda's past on Rentboy.com surfaced exactly one year after the Rentboy.com offices in New York City were famously raided — for no good reason — by the Department of Homeland Security, which arrested seven executives, forcing the site to shut down.
Mic spoke with several Rentboy.com users about the myriad benefits that Rentboy.com offered both its escorts and its clientele, including better sexual and physical safety, as well as educational classes on HIV prevention, tax preparation and website building.
While some on Twitter had negative things to say about Sepulveda's past, what is true is that, if he was a sex worker on Rentboy.com, he was also an entrepreneur.
"We gave people the feeling that they were successful entrepreneurs, which was what we were about," Jeffrey Hurant, former CEO and founder of Rentboy.com, told Mic. "We were about making people feel good about what they did."
But more than showing his entrepreneurial prowess, Sepulveda's work as a sex worker shows just how many interpersonal skills he could bring to a relationship.
"That's what sex workers do: They counter the distortion, the pain and suffering that the distortion of sex does to people and they transmute it to something positive," adult film star and vice president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee Conner Habib said in an earlier interview. "They make it not terrible."
Escort Viktor Belmont spoke to Mic about the benefits sex work has for escort and client, as well.
"I found strength and joy in my body through my clients, as well," he said. "We worked together to create something beautiful."
Sepulveda's alleged past as a sex worker may be the first unique flavor in the show's tired recipe. Prior to this leak about Sepulveda, little about the show's trailer, which showed its DNA was too Bachelor-esque with no new spin, was enticing enough to inspire people to watch the show.
But, with the show centered on an alleged former sex worker, perhaps the show can push back against both sex worker stigma and homophobia. By bringing a sex worker into peoples' homes via their TV or laptop screens, Charming may give viewers a humanized vision of sex workers. When viewers see sex workers as people who know how to listen and tend to the needs of others, people might finally see sex workers as humans to root for — and, you know, spend the rest of their lives with.