According to a recent study carried out by the Bubbles Escorts agency of London in 2015 – 5% of students, which equates to over 100,000 individuals, turn to the sex industry in order to be able to afford going to school. Many students turn to exotic dancing, prostitution and stripping. It is also becoming increasingly easy for students to fall into this type of work due to the huge range of social media adverts.
A report from the Student Sex Work Project highlighted a few interesting issues. These include:
Most students would not tell their family about their job.
Men were more likely to turn to this industry.
66% work in the industry to be able to afford their lifestyle.
56% work in the industry to be able to pay for the cost of living.
Two fifths wanted to finish university with less debt.
50% said they were curious about the industry.
Three fifths said they believed they would enjoy it.
There is still a significant social stigma on the sex industry, which is why it is kept secret from family and friends. This is concerning, because students may not actually be safe.
There were a number of other interesting results in the responses from the 6,750 students that were interviewed. For instance:
5% of men said to have worked in the sex industry, compared to just 3.5% of women.
22% of all students had considered the sex industry.
25% found it hard to get out of the industry once they had entered it.
25% who worked in the industry felt unsafe.
Separately, it was uncovered that the majority of student sex workers had been attracted through social media campaigns. Various messages are being sent out through Twitter and Facebook targeting new students in particular. Considering student debt is increasing, averaging £44,000 since tuition fees were increased to £9,000 in 2012, this is worrying. A lap dancer, for instance, can earn between £50 and £800 for a night’s work. As an escort, a student could earn thousands in a single week. Some advertisements were even found in student groups, and while these are often removed by board moderators, they will be reposted very rapidly under a different name. Some escort agencies are following students on Facebook, hoping to be followed back and attract them into the industry. Escort agencies also increase the number of flyers they send out during Fresher’s Week.
Dr. Brooke Magnanti,39, released a book that highlighted her life as an escort, when she was known as Belle de Jour. The book consisted of copies of her blogs that she kept as being a London student, working as a call girl alongside it, in order to fund being able to go to school.
Helplines for prostitutes are also reporting that they are seeing an increase in the number of students that call for help and advice.
A further report on students in the sex industry is due to be released. There is also a public call asking universities to do more for these students and to ensure fewer fall in the trap of the sex industry. Universities need to learn what the reality of being a student is, from a financial point of view, and they must have safety nets in place. The research is not trying to tell students to try the sex industry to fund their studies. Rather, it was created to offer support for those who feel they have no other option. Students tend to feel stigmatised and judged and this is particularly true for men. By raising awareness and offering support, students have a much greater chance of staying safe.
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