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27th February 2012

Student prostitution: an increasing concern

The increase in student prostitution has initiated a £500,000 investigation by Swansea University

Student prostitution is estimated to have increased as a result of the rising costs of attending university. The English Collective of Prostitutes claim that calls from students seeking help doubled in 2011 while concerns over student prostitution in Wales has initiated a £500,000 investigation by Swansea University into the matter.

Supposedly, a combination of factors has lead to increased sex-work activity among students.  Higher education is becoming more costly at a time when youth unemployment continues to rise.  Though student prostitution is not a new development, it has seen a spike in activity following the announcement of higher university fees.

It may seem absurd to fellow students with more conventional jobs that someone should choose sex work to raise the funds for their education, but those that do it will argue that the financial incentives are too difficult to resist.  The infamous Brook Magnanti, author of The intimate adventures of a London call girl, worked as a prostitute for an escort agency and made £300 an hour doing so.   To put that into perspective, Brook made in one hour what the average bartender would make in 50.

Some students desperate for the cash have taken an unorthodox method of prostitution by offering their virginity to the highest bidder.  A struggling student in New Zealand fetched up to £20,000 by advertising her virginity for sale. In Belgium, a 21-year-old student sold her virginity in an online auction for a staggering £45,000.

Despite how immoral such behaviour sounds, evidence suggests prostitutes can stand to make a lot of money, which begs the question – why is prostitution a low skill but high paying profession?

In a published paper entitled A theory of prostitution, economists Edlund and Korn conclude that “prostitution must pay better than other jobs to compensate for the opportunity cost of forgone-marriage market earnings”.  In other words, prostitution pays well because prostitutes must compensate for compromising their access to a shared income pool that comes with marriage.  This theory could explain why the age bracket where escort wages peaks (between the ages 26 and 30) coincide with the most intensive marriage ages.

Whether financial reward alone is enough to justify prostitution is another matter entirely, but the increase in student prostitution is the by-product of an economy in bad shape coupled with a worrying lack of education and advice on the matter.

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