The oldest profession in the world is becoming the job of choice for some students across the country, using a variety of means to advertise themselves.
Numbers have been increasing for several years, with calls to the English Collective of Prostitutes trebling since 2011. The organisation, which aims to legalise prostitution and campaigns for workers in the sex industry and is a frequent port of call for those with concerns, has said that since fees went up in 2012 that their phone lines have had "unprecedented" levels of traffic.
A survey by Dr Ron Roberts from the University of Kingston found that 16% of students would consider becoming involved in the trade, which he described as "worrying".
Escort agencies made headlines earlier in the year for targeting "skinny, middle class students" - but there is more to it than a few organised businesses. Many take it upon themselves to organise meetings, with various levels of safety checks made. Some customers can regularly target students, with one saying "I use craigslist quite a bit to find and pick up students quite successfully" and most questions revolving around the price.
The website Craigslist exhibits many adverts, with a lot claiming to be from students. Postings and replies can be made with nothing more than an email address to identify the user. Not all users are seeking remuneration, although one described the typical experience thus; "most just send a dick pic and are like 'IYA ME NAMEZ BRIAN I KNO AM 44 BUT YA FIT WANNA SHAG" "
Sexually transmitted infections are one of the main concerns in such work, with rates in the UK rising over the past decade. A medical study1 found that "The incidence of STIs was low among decriminalised and regulated sex work and most infections were related to partners outside of work." However, they went on to state that forcing such workers underground contributed to an increased risk. The unregulated and clandestine nature of the many students' sex work could contribute to this risk factor, despite the industry being found to contribute billions of pounds to the economy.
Recent rises in tuition fees and cuts to funding are often cited as the main contributing factors, as well as the stern competition for any job vacancies available. One person claiming to be a student and regularly being paid for sex work said "I've been trying to get a job but times are hard especially for someone my age when there's people applying for the same position with twice as much experience as me."
The income from such work is varied with reports that agency workers can earn up to £1000 per week, whereas independents typically charge around £100 per night. Such pay means that one night can end up equating to a week's earnings for most students employed in more usual part time jobs.
The NUS, which represents students, believes that such examples are rare and has commissioned a study into the prevalence of the trade. However, in 2011 the institution published findings claiming that they believed more and more students were becoming involved in such work and that around 20% of lap dancers were also students. Such upwards trends must be setting the stage for a more public debate in the near future.
 Sex Transm Infect 2005;81:434-436 doi:10.1136/sti.2004.014431Suggest a correction