Where do the moral objections to sex work end?

In 2007, a study of 130 undergraduates in the South of England highlighted that 10% of these knew of students engaged in sex work, which was defined as “prostitution, escorting, lap dancing or stripping”. The study also drew direct links between the students’ participation in sex work and financial issues.

Student prostitution is happening and it seems that money is the main motive. However, there are a whole host of that still problems remain unclear. Our investigation will be looking into whether this really is a growing trend and if so, where the support is for students and what can be done to prevent students from feeling they have to turn to their last resort of the sex trade. Why are people really concerned with the uncovering of student prostitution?

Posting on Doctors Forum ‘Doc2Doc’, 23-year-old medical student ‘Deb_d’ questions

“Almost all the posters in this thread are of the view [that student prostitution] is not acceptable, but I ask if two adults engage in intercourse involving exchange of money of their own volition then why should it concern the rest of us? How is it any different from employing the services of a doctor, who is selling his intelligence?”

The issue of prostitution as a trade, not only considering the students involved, is frowned upon in society due to moral and cultural reasons. ‘Deb_d’ points out,

“If prostitution didn’t cause cultural or moral outrage then why would the media report it? Students working in other jobs doesn’t become news”.

But where do we draw the line on what’s deemed acceptable? Student prostitution has caused an outrage even though it’s noted as one of the oldest professions in the world, perhaps due to its affiliation with the extortionate fees forcing students into a position where they feel they have to sell themselves to survive their time at university.

However, do the moral objections apply to the part of the trade that can be done from the comfort and safety of your own home without any physical contact? Although virtual,  phone sex is trade of a sexually explicit nature, although it appears to be invisible in the scandal of student prostitution.

Students and Phone Sex

A recent Channel 4 documentary “My Phone Sex Secrets” uncovered the forgotten aspect of the sex trade that is now booming in today’s economic climate thanks to the good pay for minimal and generally safe work. 18-year-old student, Rosa, shared the experience of her first steps into this field and candidly exposed what it really entails. The initial embarrassment soon wore off at the realisation of the money it can offer. The possibility of earning over £500 a week or even £400 for one single call was enough to tempt this student. Rosa believes it “will be a very good and very fun way for me to earn money”.

However, it’s certainly not all fun and games. Rosa resorted to this unconventional employment after searching hopelessly for ‘socially acceptable’ jobs to no avail. With the worst recession since the war and the sky-high university fees, thousands of students are finding themselves in such difficult situations. These economic struggles are calling for drastic measures in which student prostitution and sex work seems to be the only hope.

Student’s Views on Students in the Sex Trade 

22-year-old Birmingham City University Student, Carlie-Ann spoke of how she thought the show was “great” and thought that she could easily take on the job as “it looked such an easy way to make money.

“However when it started to show how it affected some people’s love and personal lives I quickly changed my mind.”

This certainly raises the issues that students involved in the sex trade may be facing much more than money problems if they follow this route, it can impact them physically, mentally and their relationships with the people around them.

Personally, Carlie doesn’t “know anyone involved in student prostitution” and is one of the many that finds these claims of ‘rife’ student prostitution to be “blown out of proportion“.

Although she points out “I don’t think we have a problem at BCU” with student prostitution, she notes that “I think the uni need to help people a lot more with finding student jobs. They are happy to help you find the career you’ll get after uni, but not very helpful with what’s happening now“.

The condemnation of the sex trade is hiding the real problem that needs to be addressed. The lack of support that students are receiving both financially and emotionally is leading them to such extreme measures that they may not be able to cope with. Although the true extent of students in the sex trade is not yet known, it is clear that there are students resorting to selling themselves and that there is a failure in the system to help these students when they need it most.

Do you think that universities should have a responsibility to help their students find work so they don’t have to face turning to the sex trade? Let us know your opinions on the investigation by commenting below or email us privately at investigatestudentprostitution@gmail.com.