[April Wilson | TV Director]
For many it immediately brews up hazy images of brothels, sex workers lurking on street corners, Belle Du Jour “entertaining” wealthy clients. Whether you picture the dark or the seemingly luxurious, sex work instantly brews up the association with escorts and “prostitutes”.
In fact, sex work covers a wide range of different jobs within the industry; a pole dancer is, for example, a sex worker. The people who answer those desperate calls are sex workers. However, there has recently been a rise in sex workers in a particular portion of the population.
And that population is us, the students. A recent study from Swansea University entitled the “The Student Sex Work Project” explored how many students actually take part in the sex industry and explored their reasons for doing so. What the study found was that 22 per cent of students had considered sex work. And while two thirds of respondents took part to fund a particular lifestyle, one third wanted to avoid debt.
Trident Media conducted a sex work survey with University of Hertfordshire students and found that 73.68 per cent of students maintain a job as well as studying. Out of the participants who juggle a job and university, 40.35 per cent said they did so out of economic necessity, while 45.61 per cent said they did so to afford a better lifestyle.
Student debt for the average student has done nothing but raise recently. With student fees already growing from £3,000 to £9,000 in recent years, and the government looking to increase them further – as well as cutting maintenance grants – paying off student debt is a black cloud over many a students’ future.
It is of no surprise that, Angela Jacob Bermudo, when speaking to the Independent as a spokesperson for seekingarrangement.com, stated that the site saw a dramatic growth in members of the student population in 2012, when student fees were raised. In the UK specifically, 160,000 (40 per cent) of the 400,000 members are student “sugar babies”.
However, one significant part of the findings is that sex work is primarily associated with women, despite the number of male sex workers in the industry. The project itself found that out of their respondents, five per cent of males had been involved in the sex industry compared to 3.4 per cent of women.
The Trident Media survey found that 61.4 per cent of participants believed there was more stigma for women who took part in the industry than males. However, 92.98 per cent of the participants agreed that there was still general stigma around the sex work industry today.
Despite this stigma, 38.89 per cent of the Trident Media participants said that they had considered taking part in sex work. The most popular type of sex work they considered doing was webcam work (56.52 per cent) and phone sex (52.17 per cent). There definitely was a preference for the type of sex work that goes on “behind the scenes”.
Whatever your view on sex work, it’s an industry that has certainly stood the test of the time. Let’s face it: sex sells, and the sex industry is not going to go away any time soon. Maybe, however, there is a future for an end to the stigma surrounding sex work.