Students in the sex trade; is it as negative as it seems?

Laura of the English Collective of Prostitutes pointed out,

Ever since grants were done away with and loans introduced, we have been contacted by increasing numbers of students considering or involved in sex work.  Considering that it is common for a student to be saddled with a debt of £30,000 + at the end of their course this is no surprise.  Jobs in shops and pubs that students usually take up to cover living costs are increasingly scarce and low paid.”

So with other routes being hard to find or offering little money in comparison, the sex trade has certainly become more appealing to students in hard financial times.

Students are highlighting the great benefits of their work, as student ‘Rachel’ in our previous post noted

“I wanted to have nice things, I needed money for those nice things, I needed a job for the money so I lap danced. It’s as simple as that.”

She’s not the only one that sees her job choice as a positive one. Speaking to The Guardian, London university student, Joy Nilsson spoke of her passion for her work.

I don’t want to owe £50,000 when I graduate, and I know other women feel the same. I love my job and I’m very proud of what I do – it fits perfectly with my studying, it’s very flexible and you get your money up front. What other jobs give you that kind of freedom?”

Nilsson certainly doesn’t sound forced into this path.

The growth of lap dancing

Although it is apparent that students are resorting to the sex trade, the numbers of those working in prostitution appears less significant than other areas of the industry. One particular area showing this is lap-dancing as it is becoming a much more common occurrence.

A study of over 200 lap-dancers carried out by Leeds University found that

one in three of those surveyed were working to fund education. The majority of these were younger women, with 14% working to fund undergraduate study; 6% were on postgraduate courses and 4% in further education.”

So students are turning to jobs that offer flexible hours, high rate of pay and often great satisfaction. Is that really so negative?

The view from inside the industry

Commenting on The Guardian’s story, reader “c243dvx” shared her experiences

“I graduated from a prestigious university with a good degree some years ago, and CHOSE to work as a striptease artist thereafter.”

Although no longer a student, the reader suggests that the real negative issue here is not students in the industry but the operation of the sex trade.

I enjoy my job and have never felt degraded, which cannot be said of the many other industries I have worked in (law, media, finance to name a few). The woman who runs the club I work at is fair and supportive, and should be congratulated for creating such a nurturing working environment. I do understand, however, that many clubs are not run in such a commendable way, and I believe we should work to change the way they are operated.”

A job in any field will have positives and negatives, but perhaps for the sex trade the positives are being ignored. If students consent to this work then there should be no problem with their choice. The real issues that need addressing are those clubs and sections of the industry that do not offer the same safe environment for not only students, but any of their workers.

The number of students in the sex trade is difficult to determine with the social and moral judgement that still plagues the industry making it harder for the workers to speak out about it. However, the numbers should not be the main focus. Students and non-students are not numbers but people and so the extent of safety and support available for these workers should be under judgement, not their choices.

What are your experiences of the support on offer for workers in the sex trade? How safe is the industry and where does it need improvements? Let us know your experiences of the industry by commenting below or email us privately on investigatestudentprostitution@gmail.com.