Finding Prince Charming Should Embrace the Gay Bachelor’s Sex-Worker Past

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Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Robert Sepúlveda Jr., the gay bachelor from Logo's upcoming dating-competition show Finding Prince Charming, came into the offices of New York earlier this week looking every bit like the man that 13 other men would fight over. His salt-and-pepper hair was parted in the middle like two pea tendrils, and his muscles were popping out of the sheer white T-shirt he wore tucked into blue slacks. But as coiffed as he looked, he was a nervous and reluctant interviewee under the watchful eye of his publicist, who sat across from him. Sepúlveda, for his part, did exactly what Logo wanted, which was to peddle the message that he’s just looking for love and that the show was a way to bring gay men together. “What I want the show to do is unify the community,” Sepúlveda said. “That's what we should be doing.”

That's also the opposite of what's happening. At Jezebel, Rich Juzwiak pointed out that the entire press tour for Finding Prince Charming has been a charade, an attempt to pretend that a trashy dating reality show wasn’t exactly that: a trashy dating reality show. Now we’re getting a sense of just how much cologne has been used to mask the smell: Internet sleuths have quickly unearthed Sepúlveda’s past as a sex worker and posted his pornographic videos online. (During our interview, he told me his only jobs had been interior decorating work and modeling.)

The problem, of course, isn’t the one that Logo or Sepúlveda think it is, which is that he was a sex worker who made X-rated videos. Rather, it’s the attempt to paper over those questions with a blanket statement that it’s simply “the past." As Sepúlveda told Noah Michelson on The Huffington Post, once the news had made its rounds:

“The past is the past. I was young and it helped through college. But what I want people to focus on is who I am today as an entrepreneur, as an activist. I started a nonprofit and, you know, focusing on the show. That’s really what I want people to focus on.”

In person, Sepúlveda offered similar blandishments to redirect my focus to his nonprofit, Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks. When I asked him what the nonprofit did, he told me that it started as an art project focused on painting rainbow crosswalks in the gay neighborhood of Atlanta to create visibility. But what, I pressed, does the nonprofit actually do?

“So when people go to atlrc.org, which is Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks, they can find information about other nonprofits in the area,” he said. “We donated money to a no-kill animal shelter. We donated money to the Piedmont Park Conservatory. We donated money to a lot of other organizations in the city of Atlanta.”

It’s perhaps a fitting metaphor that the social activism he does is, in effect, another form of PR, which speaks to the real problem with casting Sepúlveda: He’s bland and cagey. In the first episode of Finding Prince Charming, he says that he’s looking for marriage and the “white picket-fence dream.” Moreover, he says he wants a man with “good family values.”

And while all of this may be true, his lack of openness only further stigmatizes sex work because it suggests that the desire to settle down is somehow inimical to it. A writer for Str8upgayporn (it should go without saying that the link is NSFW, but here’s your warning anyway) got to the core problem: “Contrary to what Logo would like their audience to believe, not all gay men are looking for “family values” (an obscene, anti-gay dog whistle used by the religious right to rally voters). In reality, gay men shove things up their asses, and gay men swallow cum.”

Finding Prince Charming wants to have it both ways: They wanted a bachelor who looked like a porn star to activate the trashy, libidinal desires of gay men, but they didn’t want him to talk about it once they realize he might actually have been one. It’s the Madonna/whore complex, but for gay men. Indeed, what may make Finding Prince Charming interesting isn’t Sepúlveda himself, but rather the era the show represents: when marriage is not just a possibility for queer people, but an obligation.