As university and college semesters unfold, a small but growing percentage of students will also take on a largely under-reported and overlooked form of part-time employment: sex work.
Over the past year, there have been several reports of a dramatic increase in content creators on OnlyFans – a platform that allows fans to pay creators directly for content, which has been popular with sex workers. Some new users say they created accounts to overcome financial hardship during COVID-19. The OnlyFans platform reported a huge increase in users during the pandemic: from 7.5 million users in November 2019 to 85 million in December 2020.
Read more: ‘Sugar babies’ mirror growth in student’s sexual function
In Canada, the company Seeking, (formerly known as Seeking Arrangement), which calls itself an “elite dating site”, reported on a page titled “Sugar Baby University” in January this year that in Canada More than 350,000 students have “chosen to raise their level of university experience by joining Seeking Arrangements and dating successful beneficiaries who help them avoid student loans and secure a better future.” That “the number of college sugar babies seeking sugar daddies on a seeking arrangement has increased by nearly three percent over the past year.” The company now discourages the use of the term “sugar baby.”
“Sugar dating” or “sugaring” is an approach to dating in which one partner offers compensation (often in the form of money or gifts) to the other; The person receiving compensation is commonly referred to as a “sugar baby.”
As we enter a new academic year, higher-education institutions need to take notice and respond.
What is “sex work”?
While people are most likely to think of sex work as prostitution, the reality is that sex work is an increasingly widespread occupation that includes any form of sexual services provided for compensation.
While some students may engage in prostitution, they may also participate in pornography, webcaming, working phone lines, dancing in clubs, Chinese dating, etc. With the rise in platforms like OnlyFans and JustForFans, anyone can engage in sexual acts from their home or dorm room.
Why are students participating in sex work?
While we do not know how many Canadian students are participating in sex work, international estimates suggest that 2.1 percent to seven percent of students engage in sex work.
Students often view sex work as a business choice for a variety of reasons. Sex work may provide an attractive option for some people because it provides a flexible work schedule, allows one to be one’s own boss, offers higher wages than service-based industries such as retail, or because it is pleasurable. Is.
Additionally, increasingly liberal social attitudes regarding sex and sexuality may make some students feel more comfortable participating.
For others, sex work may be less of an option. Some students may have negative work experience elsewhere or lack viable employment options. Others may have experienced exploitation, abuse, or abandonment, which leads them to believe that sex work is their only option. Students facing mounting debt, including higher education, may be particularly motivated to engage in sexual acts.
While there may be a tendency to criminalize sex work or to challenge sexual work-supportive attitudes based on these factors, the Canadian Public Health Association, human rights experts, sex work advocates, and researchers all highlight the potential pitfalls of such a response. We do; Our energy is best spent addressing the motivations to pursue a sexual act rather than punishing the participants.
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International students may also be attracted to sex work to help pay their tuition fees, which are on average three to five times higher than domestic students. Despite stereotypes that international students come from wealthier backgrounds, studies show that many – particularly those who enroll in Canadian higher education, those who seek immigration – often face economic uncertainty, affordable Struggles to find housing and experience higher rates of food insecurity than their domestic peers. .
Meanwhile, their opportunities for off-campus employment are limited by their visa status, making sex work a potentially attractive option.
Why should students consider sex work in higher education?
Despite becoming more common and mainstream, sex work also carries risks. Sex-working students are more likely than their non-sexual-working peers to report more sexual partners and a higher prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, and also to report higher drug consumption or addiction More likely. Additionally, sex-acting students are more likely to seek support services – especially counseling – than their non-sexually-working peers.
In addition, there is an over-representation of 2SLGBTQ+ people in the student sex worker population, which raises questions about how we can best support 2SLGBTQ+ students in higher education. The Canadian Public Health Association also reports that First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are overrepresented in the sex worker population in Canada due to the ongoing effects of colonialism, and we can reasonably assume that the demographic breakdown of student sex workers is similar. It is possible .
While some student sex workers may feel comfortable disclosing their work to their peers and may do so as a way to manage and take control of the stigma, others may avoid doing so because of the stigma against the sex industry. which can lead to social isolation and potential inconsistencies in their identities. . It is worth considering how community and cultural values may influence a student sex worker’s choice to disclose their work, and whether or not they may in turn be open to student service professionals.
The legal context of sex work in Canada is a bit of a gray zone. Although Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, does not criminalize the act of selling one’s own sexual services, it does criminalize the purchase of another person’s sexual services.
This creates a quasi-criminal situation for sex work where every time a sexual service is provided for compensation, a crime is taking place, even if the student sex workers themselves are not guilty. Bill C-36 raises questions for institutions of higher education whether to perform sex acts on campus (such as in residence) or through institutional resources (advertising sexual services while using the institution’s Internet).
Higher education institutions may also have legal responsibilities or obligations if sex trafficking is taking place on campus. However, it is important that sex work – a consensual sexual experience and form of act – is not combined with sex trafficking, in which someone is forced or coerced into sex service.
loss reduction method
The Canadian Public Health Association advocates harm reduction approaches to sex work, focusing on addressing the reasons why people may choose to pursue sex work, and ensuring that those who do not do so. Engaging in the profession, they are able to get proper support for their well being. .
This means that it is essential that student wellness centers include student sex workers in the design and implementation of their services, including mental health, substance abuse, and sexual health. Similarly, support that the possibility of access to sex workers should also be culturally sensitive for 2SLGBTQ+ students and that on-campus support for 2SLGBTQ+ students should have an understanding of the sex worker’s needs.
As students navigate the costs of higher education in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must begin to take steps to address the needs of our student sex workers. From the lens of health and wellness, we need to ensure that student sex workers are included in health promotion programming and responsive health services in higher education.
Student sex workers looking for support or more information are encouraged to reach out to Maggie’s Toronto or the Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network.