Attitudes Towards Student Prostitution

Whether it’s for or against, everybody has an opinion on the subject of student prositution.

On Twitter the attitude, particularly among younger persons and students, seems to be one of mockery, joking over lack of money and a need to sleep with others for money because there’s no potential alternative.

Twitter search for 'student prostitution'

Whereas in the comment sections on an article on the Mail Online regarding the issues, the attitude is generally one of digust and incredulity.

Comments on a feature article commenting on the rise in student prostitution as found in the Daily Telegraph

Although these comments are only a small sample of the opinions available and expressed and cannot be taken to be wholly representative of Great Britain or even of Daily Mail readers and Twitter users, from these you can see there would appear to be an obvious divide between the younger and older generation with one seeing it as a form of myth and the other as an ‘easy way out’ often citing the excuse of how men are able to pay for their education without resorting to such practices.

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Student prostitution: funding a lifestyle

When confronted with the primary concern around student prostitutiondid you feel forced into the industry?” Louisa* replies firmly, “absolutely not”.

The idea of students turning to sex work often conjures up images of late-teens to twenty-something year olds struggling to get by during their education and as a last resort they turn unwillingly to a field of work that is judged and scrutinised for its dangers and controversial nature. But, Louisa isn’t your typical student working in prostitution.

Louisa studied BA Health & Social Sciences; however, she breaks the mould as being in her thirties makes Louisa a mature student. Although older than your average student, Louisa was still a student and throughout her time at university, she funded her lifestyle through working as an escort.

Louisa highlights “I could afford my studies through my previous career”. However, she admits that prostitution offered her more spare time, “less stress” and more money.

Now, although Louisa is not your typical student, she is not alone as she notes that “there are many other ‘mature’ [student] escorts doing so”.

Louisa, alongside many other student prostitutes in a similar position, is forgotten by the media. Why? Not only because of her age, but because many of these students’ work in the sex industry is a choice, and often one that funds a lifestyle.

She notes that the sex industry, “like any job it has good and bad points.” This is certainly a choice for Louisa, “I have completed my degree and don’t plan on working in that field at all, much preferring to escort for now.“ “Escorting is my profession for now, and hopefully for the next few years.”

Are students really in the sex trade?

Throughout this investigation, it has been uncovered that students are working in the sex trade – which extends further than just prostitution, to include lap dancing, amongst other areas. However, it appears that the number of students feeling pressured into the profession is much less than has been suggested.

Our recent survey in Birmingham found that out of 100 students asked, nearly a quarter knew of a student in the sex industry. Additionally, an investigation in 2009 showed, although varied across the UK, evidence of students turning to the sex trade for money. Westminster University estimated 3–4% of indebted students were earning money in the sex industry, whereas Leeds University Student Union estimated 60% of sex workers in Leeds were students.

But those seeking help for their decision to work in the trade shows little to no evidence. One25, the charity that reaches out to women trapped in sex work, say they “not aware of any students within our client group” and an investigation in 2009 found that out of the 236 institutions not one “reported having a policy on staff or student involvement in commercial sex and none suggested that they had any concerns in this area“.

So why are students choosing employment in the form of prostitution?

Our study of the student/prostitution community has offered insights into the real reasons behind the numbers of student in the sex trade. The focus on funding studies as a primary reason is misplaced, with the reality being students are choosing prostitution to fund a lifestyle.

Research has shown that although “overall the cost of living had gone up by more than 9.5%” on closer examination,  “the breakdown of items within the living cost index” showed that “not many of these areas would be of particular issue to the average student.” In particular, the report notes that “an average food shop had only risen by around 30p” and several household bills “although several not particularly relevant to students had only risen by around £3.00

Additionally, suggesting students are funding their education may be misleading as for the majority of students, they won’t start paying back their loans until they are earning a salary of over £15,000.

So how are students being forced into the industry? Well put simply, it appears they are not. Figures of students in prostitution and the sex trade are certainly difficult completely determine, but the reasons of those who are willing to come forward suggest that their job is a choice and a choice based on wanting more money in their pockets.

Louisa says “I decided to try it out as I really did not enjoy the stress, low pay and bad management I had experienced in a few jobs in my previous career.  I decided to turn escorting into my full time job when I was certain that I could earn a certain amount guaranteed.”

Not alone in this, student and part-time lap-dancer Rachel* saysIf I wanted to live on just my student loan I could have but I didn’t want to. I don’t believe anyone would be forced into it while they’re at uni.” Her choice was made on material needs. “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.

The Issues of prostitution

This investigation has addressed that the sex industry is one that brings controversy, but more importantly, dangers. However, this is a long standing issue to be tackled, not only for the sake of students but for all workers in the sex trade. Some see prostitution as degrading, violent and dangerous, whereas others see the industry as one allowing empowerment and pride in the profession. Whichever side you agree with, unless this industry, one of the oldest in the book, is completely wiped out and illegalised, we can only push for better regulations to protect those people who decide to work in this area.

Investigating Student Prostitution: the truths, myths and issues

Yes, there are students working in not only prostitution, but various areas of the sex trade. However, a sigh of relief may be made as the overriding reason found throughout this investigation is not students funding their education or because these students have been forced into the work. The truth is that the majority of these students have made a job choice that suits their own lifestyle choices. Like Rachel says, “It’s just a job.”

(*names changed to protect anonymity)

Are you a student who has funded a lifestyle rather their education within the sex trade? Let us know your experiences or your views on the investigation into student prostitution by emailing invesitgatestudentprostitution@gmail.com or by commenting below.

Is Student Prostitution a problem of the lower classes?

The occupation of ‘Prostitute’ has long been assosciated with smut, disgrace and low class women. These helpless, often drug abusing women are looking to make a quick buck out of sleazy old rich men, but is this the case? Who is becoming involved in prostitution and why are they turning to such a sordid way of earning money?

The National Union of Students has claimed that the vast majority of students that are being forced to turn to prostitution according to their records have been those taking part in longer courses, such as Medical Science and Veterinary Science. They add that these are often students from a more advantaged background.

A study carried out in Canada by the Canadian Medical Asasociation suggested that students studying Medical Science tended to come from more advantaged background, their parents tended to have professional highly paid jobs and they tended to be from White, Chinese or Indian heritage.

This suggests that the students that are turning to prostitution to make ends meet have hailed from particularly well off families. Are they shocked by the transition to living on their own and struggling to maintain the lifestyle to which they have become acostom?

Has the desire to look after themselves driven them to sex work?

The image of the conventional sterotypical prostitute is definitely evolving but in to what?

A posh naive medical student with a taste for caviar and designer handbags?

What do you think? Let us know : @investigatesp

Commercial sex in higher education; what are the rules?

Students in the sex trade are not a new phenomenon; however universities are yet to catch up to this.

In 2009, an investigation by Linda Cusick and Susan Paton of the University of the West of Scotland and Ron Roberts on Kingston University sought out to uncover “higher and further education institutions’ policies… relate[d] to the interactions of their staff and students with the sex industry.”

The investigation highlighted the figures of students selling sex were extremely varied with research by Westminster University estimating 3–4% of indebted students were earning money in the sex industry, whereas  through gathering information from sex worker support services, Leeds University Student Union estimated 60% of sex workers in Leeds were students.

It seems the student attitude towards the sex trade as a form of employment is not one of inconceivability as from a sample undergraduates, it was noted that 10% “knew students who are involved in sex work, which was defined as prostitution, escorting, lap dancing or stripping”. Alongside this, a recent survey of over 300 students “found 21% would be willing to undertake some form of sex work to pay for their education”.

However, of the 326 institutions written to 72% responded and out of these 236, not one  “reported having a policy on staff or student involvement in commercial sex and none suggested that they had any concerns in this area“. The only form of policy came through an implied link between their general policies and their “applicability to staff/student involvement in commercial sex.”

One such higher education institution in England commented

“[S]hould we become aware of staff or student involvement in commercial sex we would be primarily concerned with understanding the circumstances of the individual(s) involved and in taking a supportive rather than a punitive approach in the first instance.”

The figures suggest that students are resorting to work in the sex trade to fund their studies; however the notion that they are forced appears misplaced with numerous students acknowledging the industry and even suggesting it could be a possible job choice. In the case of students involved in sex work, the numbers are there, however the support and guidance from the institutions is certainly lacking in response to this.

Students are working in the sex trade but it appears the universities aren’t ready to specifically address this yet.

What are you experiences of universities dealing with students in the sex industry? Let us know by commenting below or email us privately at investigatestudentprostitution@gmail.com.

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.

The real problems behind student prostitution

So what are the real problems here? Prostitution, or the exchanging of money for sex, is not illegal in the UK and most universities do not have policies related to student prostitution, even though it may be more common than once expected.

If prostitution is a rife as is being suggested in the press, surely universities should be implicating rules and support for those students considering or resorting to becoming one of the suggested growing numbers of prostitutes working for their fees. Prostitution is a dangerous business to be involved in, and although it may offer high pay for work that requires few skills, students must especially be cautious. This path could damage not only career prospects and professional reputation but personal health and well-being.

BBC have reported on Swansea University as they begin conducting research into the concerns around students turning to prostitution in order to find real evidence and not rely on the ‘anecdotal evidence’ currently available. NUS Wales’ women’s officer, Stephanie Lloyd,

“We don’t have figures for exactly how many students are sex workers but the good thing is that we’re finally going to get hard evidence of the scale of it.

“We have some rough ideas of what is needed, such as information around sexual health provision. And it may be that it takes a form of e-health like websites that give people the right support and help. As for these people to go to speak directly to someone is often difficult.”

There are many issues here but firstly, if student prostitution is becoming a growing trend then the lack of support needs to be quickly changed so that students are aware of the real risks involved.

However, perhaps the real issue is that student fees are so high and job opportunities are so few that the students feel they have no way out other than to sell their body for their education? There seems little hope for the near future too with the implication of even higher tuition fees. Could we be set to see a rise in student prostitution?

Our investigation will see us talking to students, universities and organisations to uncover whether the shocking statistics and anecdotal evidence presented is really transpiring across the UK.

What do you believe the real issues are with this situation? Are you a student with insights to real student prostitution?  Let us know your thoughts by commenting or email us privately at investigatestudentprostitution@gmail.com.