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Laura D, a young French female student, had quite a different experience. She caused a minor scandal in her homeland last year when her novel ‘Mes chères études’ came out (which means ‘my dear studies’ as well as ‘my expensive studies’). In the book, Laura (not her real name) confesses to readers that she worked as a part-time prostitute for a year in a town that she calls “V”. Why? To pay for her course in Spanish and Italian, the rent and food.
In France, nearly 40,000 students turn to prostitution simply to make ends meet, states the book's appendix. It is a number that, for obvious reasons, is difficult to corroborate. Laura didn't come across other student prostitutes herself, but her clients told her that they were a common phenomenon.
“When the book came out in France”, Laura told the British newspaper The Times, “a lot of people said that it was my choice - but at the time it didn't feel like a choice. It felt like an obligation.” Laura wasn’t entitled to a student grant or long-term loans, and the part-time job she landed just didn’t bring in enough money. Her parents couldn’t afford to help her. Bills mounted, and Laura was losing weight rapidly. That’s why she reacted to an ‘adults only’ ad. Prostitution is a fast and efficient source of income, although Laura hated everything about it. ‘I went with a client when I needed the money’, she says in The Times.
"A lot of people said that it was my choice- but at the time it didn't feel like a choice."
Two years after Laura D wrote Mes chères études, it has been translated into 11 languages. Other (former) student-prostitutes are coming out, such as German Alexandra Aden, who wrote "Und nach der Vorlesung ins Bordell. Bekenntnisse einer deutschen Kunststudentin" (After lectures to the brothel. Confessions of a German art student). Aden worked as a prostitute in Hannover for six years and got to know lots of other female students who were doing the same. And a third student, Italian-born Sonia Rossi, wrote Fucking Berlin, a book about her time as a hooker in Berlin.
|Photo: Kristine Klodane/
|Nobody should restrict them
Unlike Laura D, Aden – who now has a doctorate and is happily married – has no regrets, but she wanted to demonstrate with her book that student prostitution isn’t a marginal phenomenon. Due to the rising cost of university tuiton fees and living, Aden estimates that more and more students are resorting to prostitution or other jobs in the sex industry. The Swiss newspaper 20 minuten reported in April that because of the current economic crisis more and more women are turning to porn-film producing companies and escort agencies, among them a lot of female students.
Research from Kingston University in London in 2006 seems to indicate the same. The researchers found that there has been a 50 percent rise in such cases between 2000 and 2006. In a survey that asked 130 students in different age groups and social classes whether they knew anyone involved in the sex industry, 10 percent said they knew of students who had stripped, lapdanced or worked at massage parlours and escort agencies to support themselves. Just over 6 percent said they knew students who worked as prostitutes.
The academics from this University found that alcohol and mental problems led some women into stripping and lapdancing. But those resorting to
prostitution were simply working to earn money. The authors of the study call on education and welfare authorities to acknowledge the problem of increased costs forcing students into sex work.
When interviewed, the student-prostitutes said it’s sometimes easier to work in the sex industry because you make money more quickly, can easily pay the rent and still have time to do your reading for uni. A few girls have taken this to the extreme: they sell their ‘virginity’ to the highest bidder, and use the money to pay for their (entire) studies. There was the British girl who sold her virginity to a 44-year old engineer for € 13 000, and the Romanian girl who did more or less the same.
"More and more women are turning to porn- film producing companies and escort agencies."
Whether in France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or Denmark, the need for money is a common reason for female students to turn to prostitution. Flexible working hours and good money are obvious advantages of the job. Differences, however, exist in young women's attitudes towards it - some girls, like Laura D, see it as their last resort, but some, like Sophie, even find it exciting. She likes the secrecy and luxury of her student job. Whether the job is acceptable or not, it's up to the girls to decide and nobody should restrict them.
What matters more, is the fact that nobody should be forced into prostitution, even when in dire straits. And due to the financial crisis, the situation might even be worsening. So hopefully European politicians will realise that educational costs can weigh on students, and do something about it. So that no girl in Europe should feel compelled to become 'a working girl'.
Remark: All photos in this article are posed by models.