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The sex industry has started using social media to target cash-strapped students. Advertisements are posted on websites such as Facebook promising large sums of money, in the hope that students will become lap dancers, escorts and web-cam performers.

The number of students employed in sex work has doubled in the past year according to a study by the Universities of Kingston and Leeds, with now 6% of students reportedly partaking in some form of sex work. The number of students carrying out sex work continues to rise as tuition fees, rent prices and the cost of living goes up, with loans and grants staying the same. Part-time job opportunities are sparse, especially those flexible enough to allow for adequate time to study.

With unemployment so high amongst students, and sex work offering up to £800 a night, the prospect of entering into the sex industry has become a viable and necessary option for many. Professor Ron Roberts at Kingston University claims that around £600,000 and £3m per institution from the sex industry is pumped into universities, meaning that today their economies are becoming more intertwined than ever.

Due to the rise in numbers of students partaking in sex work, a lottery funded project: The Student Sex Work Project, has carried out extensive investigations into the involvement of students in sex work. The results of the nationwide study, which were carried out by Swansea University’s Criminal Justice and Criminology department, found that 22% of students would consider sex work to fund their studies.

The study also found that more men than women were found to be involved in sex work. Dr Tracey Sagar, who co-lead the study, stated that stereotyping was an issue. Although only a third of those questioned as part of the study were men, 5% reported involvement in the sex industry, compared to only 3.5% of women.

Sagar said: “Sex work is widely but wrongly perceived to be an occupation that is predominantly taken up by women and this means that males may fall through the student support net because they are not associated with sex work occupations.”

“We now have firm evidence that students are engaged in the sex industry across the UK.” As part of The Student Sex Work Project, support services have been set up, such as sexual health clinics and sexual abuse helplines. According to Sagar, the aim of the project is not to stigmatise, but to educate and provide support for the increasing numbers of students entering into sex work.