Sex work, it turns out, is still just as popular a way to finance your university studies this year as it was last year. A poll of British students at the beginning of this academic term found that one in 20 people know somebody paying for their course by escorting, while one in 25 students said they would consider finding sugar daddies to finance their lives as they completed their degrees.
British students can expect to be saddled with over £45,000 worth of debt on leaving university, so it's no surprise that young people want to find ways to avoid getting maintenance loans, or – if things are really working out for them – even loans to pay their fees.
The Student Sex Work Project, carried out last year by researchers at Swansea University, found that many students largely enjoyed the work – citing the flexible hours, decent money and the fact they just enjoyed having sex – but that it came with a few unsurprising downsides, such as facing stigma and having to hide what they did from their peers and parents.
The same study found that there are more male than female students using sex work to help them pay their way through uni, but in writing this piece I was only able to speak to three young women – so here are accounts from them about supplementing, or even wiping out, your loan with sex work.
Tiffany, 25, studying in Essex
There are two ends of the scale: you get the ballers who know the game and the losers trying their luck. One guy I met made me order off the happy hour menu at a Mexican. For most of the date he had guacamole around his mouth and then told me at the end that he was "between jobs" but would love to take me to La Senza. Yeah, I mean: bye.
This other guy handed me £4,000 in £50 notes in the corner of a pub and sent me a prepaid credit card while he was away on business a few weeks later. We hadn't even fucked yet.
The perks are great: I buy myself a new wardrobe every other month and I always spend my first allowance with a new guy on a new handbag or Louboutins, and half the time they buy you everything you want anyway.
Travel wise, I've been all over the place – London, Barcelona, Dubai, but never for that long, or else they get bored with you. It can be quite tiring. You've got to dress sexy during the day, make sure your makeup is always flawless and be in a good mood 24/7. You can never burp, fart, yawn or not laugh at their shit jokes. You've got to be willing to try sex stuff you'd refuse your boyfriend. I mean, one minute you're lying on your back; next minute you've got a dildo up your ass, pretending to love every minute of it. I've made about £42,000 this year, so if you're good looking and can fake-moan you're sorted.
Adrianne, 24, studying in Manchester
I study in Manchester, but, coming from the US, I had no expectations as far as how expensive Europe was going to be. I was finding the financial situation quite hard; I was basically counting coins in a three-bedroom flat with six people – so I decided to give escorting a try after I was introduced to this site by my classmate.
I created my profile and got 25 messages within the first 24 hours on the site. The requests were everything from a sensual massage to a plain and simple coffee. I decided I wanted to go out with this gentleman who seemed really nice and well spoken over text. He wasn't too old, about mid-thirties; I didn't want my first time to be with someone close to my grandfather's age. We met at a local bar for drinks. I felt very uncomfortable sitting there waiting – it wasn't like waiting for a date at all. I felt like everyone around me knew what I was up to.
When my date finally arrived I immediately got paranoid. He didn't look like the charming man in the photos. It was definitely him, but he looked far from his profile picture. We started talking and my voice wouldn't stop shivering. He sat too close to me and seemed to always have the need to have his hands on me, whether on my hand, thigh or shoulder. It freaked me out. He wouldn't take his eyes off me and spoke in riddles, which made me incredibly uncomfortable. The simplest questions was answered in riddles all leading to me, my body or what I was wearing.
Later on, the guy had to use the bathroom. I went to the bar and asked if there was a way out of other than the main entrance. The bartender asked if I was having a bad date, and I laughed in fear and said yes. He kindly pointed towards the other end of the room and I ran out of there with my coat in my hand. I started walking towards my bus and, as I approached the bus station, I heard my escort name being called out loud. I turned around and saw the man running from the bar towards the bus stop, telling me I wasn't supposed to leave yet and that he wasn't done.
I jumped on the first bus at the bus station, not even looking at what route it was. The bus drove away – in the opposite direction I wanted to go – and I never saw him again.
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Annabelle, 22, studying in South Wales
I was first introduced to escorting through a friend of mine who'd heard about students selling "company" as a way to make the financial status easier as a student. I decided to give it a go.
I'm still dating the first sugar daddy I met. We met for coffee and hit it off instantly. We had a few non-sexual dates, like dinners, cocktails and a trip to the opera. The first night we slept together I made £1,200. I had regular vaginal intercourse, gave head and he went down on me, too. It didn't feel different from any of the other guys I would usually date, apart from the fact that he was almost twice my age, married and had kids.
So far I've made close to £30,000, I travel with my sugar daddy when he's on business trips. I usually just sit around and wait at cafés and hotel restaurants – but sometimes he lets me go out and shop with his credit card. I never splurge on super expensive things, just because he's already paying me a monthly allowance of £3,200.
I've done some pretty nasty things in bed, simply because that's what he's into. He's submissive, so I'll hit him, choke him and even sometimes spit on him – he really likes that.
I'm not planning to stop escorting, but it sometimes gets a bit hard if I find myself being interested in other guys. I have to support myself and I desire the lavish lifestyle more than a solid relationship at this point in time.
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