Number of students turning to sex work doubles in two years, survey indicates

‘I was desperate for money so I could survive’

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 22 October 2019 16:32
Students are turning to sex work for extra money but experts warn universities are ignoring the issue

Twice as many students are turning to adult work – which includes sugar dating and having sex for money – amid financial concerns and rising living costs, a survey has suggested.

One in 25 students (4 per cent) admit to trying adult work, which is any job that involves nudity or erotica, compared to 2 per cent in 2017, according to the poll.

The survey, of more than 3,300 undergraduates, carried out by money advice website Save the Student, found that students are most likely to sell intimate photos or used underwear to get cash.

A lack of financial support is encouraging the trend across UK universities, the report suggests.

Students spend an average of £807 a month on living costs – up from £770 in 2018, the survey found.

A second-year student at York St John University, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Independent that she carried out adult work as “money was a massive concern”.

The student would meet up with men, go on dates with them and engage in sexual activity for money. She also sold pictures of herself nude through Snapchat for extra cash.

“I was desperate for money, not so I could spend it on luxury items, but simply so I could survive. Mainly so I could buy food, key textbooks for university and ensure all my bills were paid for,” she said.

Jake Butler, money expert for Save the Student: said: “The doubling of students involved in adult and sex work over two years is alarming and very concerning.

“But it’s not all that unexpected, given the financial situation students are put in.”

The student maintenance loan falls £267 short of the average student’s monthly living costs, the Save the Student research suggests.

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

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In May, a government review into post-18 education funding, chaired by former banker Philip Augar, called for maintenance grants to be restored for low-income students after they were axed in 2016.

The government has not yet made a formal response to the proposals in the review.

Rachel Watters, women students’ officer at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “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.

“Whilst 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.

“We know that the criminalisation of sex work does not stop sex work from happening, but only pushes it further underground, entrapping students further in poverty and isolation.”

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