A local escort agency owner has claimed that students from the city’s universities are turning to prostitution to pay off debts.

Concerns have been raised that female students are being exploited in the process. The escort agency owner commented in the Argus under the alias ‘Jack’ that he didn’t feel that this was the case: “They earn up to £1,000 a night.
“They’ve got mounting debts and rising living costs so why wouldn’t they want to make more money?”

However, Maya Lane, the Women Students’ Representative Officer, disagrees: “These women have no choice in the matter. As the owner himself states ‘they’ve got mounting debts’, thus they are in a lower and weaker position than him.”
Lane also commented on the fact that it was students being pressured into the sex industry: “I think it is ironic that having a degree is supposed to open doors for people, by making graduates more able to get a ‘respectable’ job and be paid more, yet the debts in paying for the degree are actually forcing students into the sex industry.”

Communications Officer, Ariel Cohen, stated: “I think we  have to question the reliability of this source and consider his motivations. If what he claims is true then we’d urge students who are struggling with debt to visit the Advice and Representation Centre to get professional advice. However, if he is just using the press as a platform to inform people how much they can earn as prostitutes in order to exploit vulnerable students, then why are we bothering to listen to him?”.

Students allegedly using prostitution in order to fund their studies does not seem to be an issue confined to Brighton.
A recent study from Keele University found that a third of escorts questioned were degree educated, and 18 percent of these escorts had post-graduate qualifications.

The issue has previously been raised in Brighton, in September 2008, when a Brighton University student told of her work as a prostitute in order to pay debts.

The student said: “I got into it because I don’t have any money. I don’t want to leave university with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.”

When questioned about the dangers that prostitution entails she responded, “I have had a few difficult customers. Those who do drugs are particularly frightening.”

Women working as prostitutes face a high risk of assault and are 12 times more likely to be murdered than other women. Yet some women with degree education advocate they enjoyed their work.

Dr Brooke Magnanti, who worked as an escort under the alias ‘Belle De Jour’, is the most famous example to date. Dr Magnanti became an escort whilst undertaking her doctoral studies, and wrote about her experience as Belle on an online blog called ‘Diary of a London Call Girl’.

She has said that she misses being a prostitute because of the confidence and thrill it gave her. However Dr Magnanti’s analysis of the sex industry has been heavily criticised for glamorising prostitution.

Dr Magnanti has responded to these claims by stating she is glad: “to be able to defend what my experience of sex work is like to all sceptics and doubters.”

Furthermore she added that: “I spend about half of my email time discouraging people clearly unsuited to the job from doing it.”

Whilst prostitution itself is legal to cause or incite it is illegal, so those involved do run the risk of prosecution. Current initiatives from the police are not to prosecute prostitutes, but to assess the situation and decide if they need support.

A spokesman for Sussex Police stated: “If we receive any information about this kind of activity we will always make inquiries to try to identify the women concerned and assess their welfare needs. We will also investigate and consider prosecution of anyone responsible if we can find sufficient evidence.”

Fears are now that rising student fees next year and a bleak economy will pressure more students into prostitution. The main worries include the security of students, and ensuring that students do not feel forced into prostitution, or exploited if they choose to enter the industry.

One student said: “I do not agree with the glamorisation of prostitution and feel that girls are inevitably exploited in this industry. However, with mounting debts and rising living costs I can understand that even the most educated women could be tempted by it.”

If students are struggling with debt they can seek advice at the Advice and Representation Centre in Falmer  House – advice@ussu.sussex.ac.uk

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