Imagine you have very little money to cover your daily expenses, your family aren’t in the situation to help you out financially and essay deadlines are looming. You come across a website offering money to talk to a much older guy, much more money any retail job could offer you. This may seem like your best option.
This is the bleak reality for many students. I was astonished by the statistics that spread across my page when I first explored this topic. To find out that 4% of us turn to adult work in a time of crisis is truly shocking. The National Student Money survey from Savethestudent.org (https://www.savethestudent.org/money/student-money-survey-2018.html) discovered that 78% of students are worried about making ends meet. A more distressing statistic is that only 41% of students found it easy to receive guidance from their university when they need it.
The idea of sex work has changed over recent years, notably because of the rise of technology. The rise of ‘sugar babies’ have dominated the online scene. This is when wealthy, older men chat to much younger girls in exchange for gifts. One of these apps which promotes this lifestyle is named ‘Seeking Arrangements’. They say that they aim to hook up wealthy men with younger women. They declared that in 2017 75,000 students in the UK registered with their website. This is a 30% increase from the previous year. In February 2016 seeking arrangements claimed that Kent had the second biggest sign up out of the U.K universities on their website. It’s important to remember that being behind the screen is still as dangerous as being out on the streets, especially if you then decide to meet these ‘sugar daddies’ and have to travel to an unfamiliar place to meet these individuals.
Online sex work is becoming increasingly common – but that does not make it any safer.
Now the issue is who do we blame. Is the current economic climate to blame? Are universities not offering the services and help that students desperately need? Is the popularity of social media also a factor? According to Mintel 1 in 10 young people aged 18-24 have used Tinder, with 400 million swipes being carried out daily in the UK.
A set of factors are at play here: the government’s way of giving out student loans; the current financial climate with its lack of jobs for young people; students not being aware of the services their university offers. Maybe the older generations are also not so well informed of this new form of ‘sex work’, and therefore struggle to advise their children against it. Regardless, dating websites and web camming are increasingly becoming a bigger issue.
Many factors go into why students struggle so much for money, but this debt is the main reason so many are turning to sex work.
My point is that while people have the right to make living however they want, there is a problem when young people feel pressure from their financial situation to turn to this kind of work and see it as their only option. The most important message is that, if you are struggling, please talk to someone before you get in a difficult situation. The University of Kent has a dedicated wellbeing team (details can be found under the student wellbeing page on the university website), while Big White Wall is a 24/7 online service which students of the University of Kent have free access to for help with mental health and wellbeing (details can be found following this link https://www.kent.ac.uk/studentsupport/accessibility/productivity/wellbeing.html). Before it’s too late, get the help you need.