Should we be discriminating against sex workers when the number has doubled?

The number of students turning to sex work has doubled. It’s no secret that university life is far from easy. The demanding workload, annoying housemates and lack of money are enough to make anyone feel a little low. The answer seems simple – just get a job. In reality, it is far more difficult – it needs to pay well as well as not being too demanding, so you have enough energy to do the, arguably, equally as important academic work.

With a checklist longer than your grocery bill, is it really a surprise that over 70,000 students across the UK are thought to be involved in sex work? Save the Student surveyed 3,300 students and found that 4% admitted to taking part in ‘adult work’ compared to 2% in 2017. This sort of work includes sharing intimate photos; selling used underwear; signing up to sugar daddy websites; nude modelling; phone sex; and prostitution. 

One student says:

“I could earn more in one day stripping online than I would in a week working in a shop or a pub.”

If this is the case for the majority of sex work, it is no wonder that students are turning to this sector. By taking intimate photos on days there aren’t lectures, going on dates when classes have finished, taking calls in between seminars it seems to make sense.

The biggest misconception about student life is that it is simple and easy. Actually, it’s very similar to the average working adult lifestyle without ever clocking off and a yearly income. Students still have to pay for bills, rent, food, textbooks, vehicle necessities, and social activities.

The average monthly living costs for students has increased to £807. Despite the inflation, maintenance loans are still only £504 a month for students from low income backgrounds.

Jake Butler – a money expert from Save the Students says:

“Maintenance loans are means-tested, meaning that the government expects parents to plug the gap. But most parents have no idea their children are forced to desperate measures just to continue their studies.”

79% of students are struggling. Student Finance presumes that parents will just pay for whatever else their child needs, but what if they can’t? They still have their own bills, food, rent/ mortgage, vehicle payments, etc. Plus, what if they have more than one child at university – can they really afford to help them all?

Rachel Watters of the National Union of Students admitted:

We are fully aware that the cost to live and study in the UK makes sex work as much of a student issue as poverty, labour rights, and the welfare state.  

“While we continue to respect a students’ decision to choose sex work, and acknowledge that it can offer working conditions more suitable to students’ needs than other forms of work, it’s important that we break down stigma that prevents student sex workers seeking help from their institutions, family and friends, public health and survivor support services when they require them.”

Some would ask, if it’s really this bad, then why do people even go to university in the first place? For numerous years now, the majority of job roles have required a 2:1 degree or equivalent. It is no longer as easy as saying that you’ll be able to get a job elsewhere. 

Really, there are two things to take away from this. Firstly, any Student Finance loans or grants should be agreed upon between them and said student. It should have nothing to do with parents or their income; they aren’t the ones going to be paying it back after all. Secondly, a job is a job. As long as someone if savvy and safe in regards to their name, pictures and address, if they’re happy, shouldn’t we be happy for them too? 

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