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College Students Turn to Sex Work to Pay Off Debt

College Students Turn to Sex Work to Pay Off Debt

 

After a debt-ceiling deal in which Pell grants remained but the federally subsidized graduate student loan program went under the chopping block, it’s even more sobering to read about the lengths to which college students are resorting to pay off their mountains of debt.  According to Amanda Fairbanks of the Huffington Post, a surprising number of young people are turning to a kind of prostitution to pay their student bills.

On the website SeekingArrangement.com (which advertises itself as “the elite sugar daddy dating site”), young students in need of funds can advertise themselves to wealthy online suitors.  One woman described herself as “a full-time college student studying psychology and looking to meet someone to help pay the bills.”  For other 20-somethings who are struggling to find work in a bleak economic climate, these kinds of arrangements may be distasteful, but mutually beneficial.

“Over the past few years, the number of college students using our site has exploded,” said Brandon Wade, founder of Seeking Arrangement. “College students are one of the biggest segments of our sugar babies and the numbers are growing all the time.”

Wade estimates that 15 percent of the site’s members are students.  He rewards students who sign up using a .edu email address by upgrading their membership and giving them elite access.

Some of the students (who are mostly female) describe the encounters with anguish.  ”I never thought it would come to this. I got on the train and I felt dirty. I mean, I had just gotten money for having sex,” said one young woman. “I guess I accomplished what I needed to do. I needed the money for school. I just did what needed to be done.”

But some of the “sugar daddies” see themselves as helping the students onto a better life — while enjoying the company of a more “educated, smart” woman than a traditional escort.  ”I guess I like the college girls more because I think of their student debt as good debt. At least it seems like I’m helping them out, like I’m helping them to get a better life,” said one “sugar daddy.”

The founder of another “sugar daddy” website also lauded the benefits of the arrangements his site facilitates.  It’s perfect, he said, for older men of means, who want “young, vivacious arm candy,” while women “want a guy who can take them out for a Michelin two-star dinner, take them on the trip of their dreams, or who knows, maybe they’ll even find some guy to pay off their debt.”

The problem is, of course, that this is a deeply misogynistic way to see women, and it’s equally problematic for male students.  The fact that students are being forced into these power-imbalanced relationships reflects badly on our higher education system, which saddles students with so much debt that in a bad economy, sex work may seem like the only viable way to make money.  As Lydia Dallett observes on Equal Writes, “it is clear that many students turn to sugar daddies out of desperation instead of genuine desire.”  And she’s right — although for some it may be an empowering opportunity, the fact that women are making themselves available for these kinds of exchanges does not mean that they are making a free choice.

Related Stories:

Pell Grants Spared, Graduate Student Funds Cut in Debt-Ceiling Deal

Post-College Debt Grows

Debt May Not Be So Empowering After All

Read more: , , , , , , , ,

Photo from stevendepolo via flickr.

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7:18AM PDT on May 13, 2012

Woman have been using their bodies to get what they need or want from time immemorial. As long as men desire women and are welling to pay the price, women will get what they want. Women marry unattractive older men of means every day and this is not considered prostitution. Women demand alimony from ex-husbands that they discarded and the legal system enables this prostitution. Women only get into long terms arrangements (not one night stands) because they deprive a benefit from such association and terminate it once it is no longer beneficial. To claim that women who willingly trade sexual access for some benefit are victims is wrong on so many levels.

7:18AM PDT on May 13, 2012

Woman have been using their bodies to get what they need or want from time immemorial. As long as men desire women and are welling to pay the price, women will get what they want. Women marry unattractive older men of means every day and this is not considered prostitution. Women demand alimony from ex-husbands that they discarded and the legal system enables this prostitution. Women only get into long terms arrangements (not one night stands) because they deprive a benefit from such association and terminate it once it is no longer beneficial. To claim that women who willingly trade sexual access for some benefit are victims is wrong on so many levels.

7:14AM PST on Mar 6, 2012

While I agree with this article entirely, I do want to point out that the increase in popularity of this sort of thing among students may also derive from a changing viewpoint about sexuality. As more women (and men) stop believing in an imperative to keep sex only in the context of a romantic relationship, they will be more likely to start seeing its sale as an acceptable use for their sexuality.
I guess what I am saying is that while many of these women are presumably doing this out of desperation, it is also possible to consider prostitution as a viable job due to sexual liberation.

5:42PM PST on Jan 5, 2012

Su M. – ‘You said ‘I totally don't judge anybody who has to do this, but I can't argue that this is really a free choice. Plus, you can't just "decide" to do this kind of work and necessarily walk away without some possible psychological harm…’. These young women have the problem of a society which judges them; a society that puts ‘moral’ issues ahead of common sense and causes all of the psychological harm. Higher education is a mess because it is far too expensive in the US. In many cases, the young woman can find a comfortable, long term ‘relationship’ that benefits her and the older male she is having the relationship with. Two happy people, that is much better than many marriages I have seen.

4:34PM PST on Jan 5, 2012

It's sickening that men paying these women see themselves as benefactors - if men with money really wanted to help women with their educations, they would fight in the political arena to make college more affordable. I view the behavior of these "sugar daddies" as just another example of institutionalized misogyny and oppression of women. I totally don't judge anybody who has to do this, but I can't argue that this is really a free choice. Plus, you can't just "decide" to do this kind of work and necessarily walk away without some possible psychological harm - lots of women who engage in prostitution end up with PTSD and other such issues. Women who get stuck having to do this could end up with psychological issues for the rest of their lives, plus, they have the problem of a society which judges them rather than the men who pay to have sex with them. Since economic incentives make it not a free choice, in a sense society is pressuring women into having sex when they really don't want to but can't find any other way to get ahead. To me, that's coercion.

This kind of reminded me of something a friend of mine said - she was in college and did artwork. She said that she was sure that she would get more attention from men doing sex work than for her artwork, which is pretty sad to see the status of women even these days in society.

and *seriously* pete M, the "greed for big money positions?" how much money do you suppose lots of college graduates actually make? How much d

6:06PM PST on Jan 3, 2012

It is sad, but sometimes you have to do things you don't want to.

2:19AM PST on Dec 19, 2011

Thanks.

9:09PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

Sad.

5:09AM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

thanks for sharing.

10:25PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

Yeah the greed for prestigious big money positions costs a price doesn't it.
Oh well fast and big money or work legit for it in a restaurant like years ago.

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