A new study which surveyed 3,167 students in the UK revealed 78% are struggling to get by with the money they’re currently on – and some are even turning to sex work in order to keep their heads above water financially. According to the data from the National Student Money Survey, which was collated by money advice site Save the Student, over one in 10 students are turning to “using their bodies” in order to make money when they’re caught short on money.
This isn’t just restricted to sex work – some are trying life modelling, medical trials, webcamming or sugar dating (spending time with someone much older who pays for your company) in order to get by. According to Buzzfeed, in 2017 75,000 UK students registered with the sugar daddy website SeekingArrangement, which is a 30% increase from the year before.
According to Save the Student’s data, the average student receives around £600 each month in maintenance loans and £138.50 a month from their parents. But with the average living costs of students currently sitting at about £770 per month, students are already in the red before the month has even really started.
Many students – around 76% – tend to take on part-time jobs such as bar or retail work in term-time to make extra money. But these new methods of making quick cash are becoming a more popular way to pay off debts. Nowadays, nearly as many people use their bodies or gambling to make money (11%) as those who turn to their university for a hand-out (15%).
Sex work among students is a reality for far more people than we might realise, and plenty of students enjoy it – flexible hours, good working conditions and, obviously, sexual pleasure have often been credited as the good aspects of sex work. But there’s still the stigma of sex work that keeps it from being accepted on campus. One worker told Vice: “Mostly students doing sex work don't talk about it, because if it comes out, it could affect your future and job prospects.
“Since I started escorting, I've heard that a former roommate exchanged sex with her landlord to cover the rent, and another woman I know was a part-time sex worker to earn enough to travel home to visit her family. Sex work among students is much more common than people think, and is likely to increase as long as fees, rent and the cost of living is so high.”
The fear of repercussions from their university is something that worries a lot of students partaking in sex work, but Save the Student’s money expert, Jake Butler, says that’s something that needs to change – instead of punishing students, they should be offering support.
“Every year, our survey reveals students are involved in sex work, whether by choice or because they've run out of options,” he said. “It’s true that there’s been an improvement in recent years but sex workers still face an unfair stigma, and many may fear repercussions from their university over their choice of work.
"Universities need to continue their efforts to provide support and create spaces in which students feel safe accessing advice, to ensure all students are aware of their rights and can practice their work safely.”
In the meantime, The Student Sex Work Project is on hand to provide students with help and guidance, in order to keep workers safe. Their main aim is to promote learning and understanding around student sex worker needs. As an innovative sexual health service, their goal is to assist what they call a “marginalised population through an ethical, empowering research-led framework.” The more they are able to understand the needs and motivations of student sex workers, the more they can work with universities in order to provide the tools they need for social inclusion within the student community, as well as implementing a proper policy and practice to help keep them safe.