Last week, Donna Asutaits was sent to jail after failing to pay taxes on earnings of over £300,000 ove the course of her career as a prostitute. A career which she began as a student in order to pay for her … Continue reading
When confronted with the primary concern around student prostitution “did 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* says “If 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by commenting below.
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
Student prostitution is continually reported as being a massive issue that needs urgent government attention. Students are apparently being forced into the sex industry against their will, but are they?
The rise in student prostitution has been blamed on a simultaneous rise in tuition fees and living costs however recent research suggests this not to be the case.
Tuition fees have risen in 2012 to £9,000 from around £3,000, however students won’t actually feel the impact of this until well after they leave their studies.
Students will need to earn over £21,000 a year before they even begin to pay back their loan and it has been calculated that students would have to earn over £41,000 for 30 years if they wish to completely pay back their loans at all.
After looking in-depth at the living costs that would affect students in 2012 it is apparent that the actual rise in living costs is relatively small. Closer to 3% rather than the 5% that has been reported in the press.
Charities set up to help prostitutes and people within the sex industry have also failed to report an increase in student prostitution. One25, a prostitution charity set up in Bristol have reported that they haven’t encountered any students accessing their facilities at all.
However a recent survey has suggested that almost a quarter of students at a Birmingham University admitting to knowing a fellow student that works within the sex industry. Suggesting that students aren’t being forced in to prostitution and are in fact electing to sell their body.
Students, having recently left home and the shelter of family life are in fact looking for a quick and easy way to make money. Something that won’t take too much time away from their social life and studies but will fund the life style that they have become a custom to whilst living at home. Prostitution is simply the job that has filled this need for a fast income and rise in living fees and tuition have become the obvious but innocent thing to blame.
Do you have an opinion on student prostitution? Why do you think its happening? Is it a problem? Please comment below or contact us at email@example.com and let us know what you think.
A clearer presentation of some of the data presented in “Are fee rises really to blame?” as shown below.
This chart focuses primarily on the change in prices of items included in food shopping as some of the other payments mentioned (i.e. mortgage) are unlikely to be relevant towards students.
From this chart there is no clear rise nor fall in price on food. In fact as stated in the table here, overall there is a decrease in overall cost of thirty-five pence.
Although students are very much aware of the price of their degree when they begin, they aren’t required to pay it back for aslong as it takes them to earn over £21,000. Moreover, a student would have to earn over £41,000 for 30 years to pay off their entire loan within the new guidelines.
Several recent reports have looked into the link between the rise in tuition fees and the number of students turning to prostitution but is this really the case?
The maintenance loan (the portion of the loan to cover living costs) actually remains unchanged. Therefore students have no less money to live on than previous attendees.
Why are recent headlines declaring the education system has a prostitution dilemma on its hands?
The rise in living costs maybe to blame. The Daily Telegraph recently conducted a study regarding the real cost of living in which it examined how much the cost of living had actually gone up in recent years. They found that overall the cost of living had gone up by more than 9.5% however when examining the break down of items within the living cost index is it apparent that not many of these areas would be of particular issue to the average student.
According to the report, an average food shop had only risen by around 30p.
For a large percentage of the students in the UK the prospect of university is a scary one. The idea of having more debt than you could ever have imagined is terrifying. For those students that take the leap and begin the road towards a degree, they are often forced to take drastic action if they want to survive for three years away from home.
Rachel* was one of those students. She attended university for almost a year before she got into financial difficulty. “My Mom just wasn’t in the position to help. I had to do something if I wanted to carry on living the way I wanted.” After extending her overdraft as far as she was allowed she finally realised she needed a job. “I tried to work in a coffee shop but I earn nothing and had to put up with so many idiots.” It was at this point that she turned to a friend who had discussed her weekend job at a lap dancing club. “She always told me I’d be good at it but I suppose you don’t consider it until you need to, do you?”
Within no time Rachel was in the club, meeting the other girls and getting a feel for her surroundings. “Its sleazy at first. Its all the things you can imagine at first but after a few nights you get used to it and its nothing. Its just work.”
“I’ve often been propositioned. It’d be really easy to turn to prostitution and if you were desperate I could see why you would.”
The clientele are almost always old enough to be Rachel’s father and the club isn’t the most sophisticated of establishments but to Rachel it is very clear that this is just a job. When asked when she’ll stop she is extremely undecided. “I don’t know, I suppose at the end of university, when I have a proper job.”
When I pointed out to her that this “proper job” will almost definitely pay her less than her current profession she shrugs her shoulders “I can’t be lap dancing forever, I’ll have to stop one day.”
When asked about students being forced into the sex trade Rachel is particularly sceptical. “I don’t think people can be forced into it. I wasn’t forced into anything. If 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.”
The charity are ‘not aware of any students within our client group‘, notes Kate Golten of One25.
This is a stark opposite to the claims of growing prostitution within the student community in the UK as recent media coverage has suggested.
Golten stated that to date she and her colleagues had not experienced students working in the sex industry, although highlighting that One25 would offer help to students working in the sex industry if they were ‘women who were involved in street sex work, or at risk of being involved in street sex work‘.
However, One25 are ‘not aware of what is available to students working in the sex industry as this is not [their] client group‘.
One25, the charity that reaches out to women trapped in sex work, helps to support them as they break away from the industry and ‘step away from the streets‘. Their mission is to help them as they take the brave steps towards rebuilding a life away from the violence, poverty and addiction associated with the sex trade.
The women often make first contact with One25 through meeting us during outreach. Our van goes out 5 nights per week and provides nutritious food, hot drinks and a chance to talk and get advice in a safe space.
The video below gives an insight into how these GSK Impact Awards 2010 winners are earning that title.
These findings suggest that certainly for Bristol the case of students in the sex trade is not as apparent as has been speculated. However, as Golten suggests, One25 do not consider students part of their ‘client group‘, does this mean there is not a high case of student prostitutes or rather that they may not know where to seek help?
Let us know your experiences of such charities. Are there enough routes for students to seek help for working in the sex trade or are such charities not necessarily called for due to the low, or non-existent numbers of student prostitutes? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.