Poverty – or its prospect – sometimes leads one to make surprising choices. Here’s a truly disturbing example, from London’s Independent:
Students and the sex industry: Empowering or the last resort of the debt-ridden?
With unemployment levels soaring across Britain, job prospects for graduates have never looked so bleak. But one sector proving resilient, and lucrative, for young people struggling to meet the inflated costs of higher education is the sex industry.
The number of students using their bodies to pay their fees has doubled in the past year, according to new research. A study of undergraduates and postgraduates across the UK found that as many as 6 per cent are turning to lap-dancing, pole-dancing, escorting and prostitution in order to fund their studies.
Professor Ron Roberts, who led the research at Kingston University, said an average annual sum of between £600,000 and £3m per institution is going into universities straight from the sex industry. “Sadly, students are a financially vulnerable and heavily indebted financial sector and have become targets for people with money. The economy of the sex industry is now heavily intertwined with higher education economy,” he said.
The English Collective of Prostitutes, which runs a helpline from its base in London, said the number of calls it receives from students has doubled in the past year.
Kelley Temple, women’s officer at the National Union of Students, said she was aware of a growing number of young women turning to prostitution to fund their studies. While she refused to condemn students turning to sex work, she said: “I think it is concerning that some seek to capitalise on the poverty and financial hardship of women students and sexualises what is undoubtedly intended to be an unequal power dynamic … to exploit the fact that women students are in dire financial situations in pursuit of an education.”
As the article notes, colleges and the sex trade have always been, um, intimately related. So it’s the trend that matters: When something doubles in a year, that’s a sign of fundamental change. In this case, the cost of higher ed is soaring while jobs for both students and graduates are becoming scarce. The result: thousands of kids who would prefer to be working with clothes on are now dancing naked for strangers – if they’re lucky.
The above article is from Britain, but it’s a safe bet that the US is heading in the same general direction given our similar trends in tuition, student debt, and jobs. So next time you’re at a college football game, look around. If there are 10,000 students in the stands, 600 might be strippers or prostitutes.