One in 20 students in the UK have worked in the sex industry while studying at the university to make ends meet, according to a new survey that shows more number of them are secretly turning to the profession.
Men were more likely to be involved than women, and the sex work ranged from prostitution and escorting to stripping and internet work, the Student Sex Work Project report said.
One in 20 students had worked in the sex industry while they pursued a degree, researchers from Wales- based Swansea University’s Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology who carried out the online study said.
Tracey Sagar, who led the study, said: “We now have firm evidence that students are engaged in the sex industry across the UK. The majority of these students keep their occupations secret and this is because of social stigma and fears of being judged by family and friends.
“And we have to keep in mind that not all students engaged in the industry are safe or feel safe. It is vital now that universities arm themselves with knowledge to better understand student sex work issues and that university services are able to support students where support is needed.”
The recent study involved 6,750 students, of which 5 per cent of men and 3.5 per cent of women said they had worked in the sex industry, while nearly 22 per cent overall said they had considered doing so.
Nearly two-thirds of those involved said their motivation was to fund a particular lifestyle and 56 per cent said it was to pay basic living costs, while two-fifths wanted to reduce their debts at the end of their course.
Money was not the only motive, as three-fifths thought they would enjoy it, 54 per cent said they were curious and 44 per cent cited sexual pleasure as their motivation.
However, up to a quarter reported that they had found it difficult to leave the industry, while a further quarter did not feel safe doing sex work, The Guardian reported.
The report said the number of those accessing counseling rose to 21 per cent for student sex workers – but universities often had no specific policy to deal with the issue.
Sagar, an associate professor of criminology, said: “Our research has not been about encouraging students into sex work, it has been about supporting students who are in sex work. And this is the reality, students are engaged in sex work occupations – this is a fact. Another fact is that some of them need advice, support and sometimes assistance to step away from the industry.
“At the moment, students feel so stigmatized and judged that they are afraid or at least very reluctant to disclose their occupations to staff and services at universities that could help them. Stereotyping is also a problem.”
The UK student population numbered 2.3 million in 2012-13, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.