An investigation has shown that a lot of Nigerian students clearly enjoy sex work on its own terms. Flexible hours, good working conditions and sexual pleasure were among the most regularly cited positive aspects of sex work. But in almost every case, this enjoyment was balanced with stigma and enforced secrecy.
Giving her experiences of paying her way through university with sex work Angela from Maiduguri said “I’m a second-year studying Sociology and Philosophy. I started working after my first year, trying various part-time jobs, I’d just moved town from the North. My family are not well off, so can’t afford to help me much.
“I didn’t know anyone in the university town so when I moved there, I started from scratch. At first, I lived in an overcrowded, noisy flat with other students. After I started sex work, I could afford a place of my own.
“I have regular clients through some hotel receptionists who have my number. I visit clients at home, in hotels and occasionally at their workplace. It’s flexible and fits around my course; especially, I can work the hours I want at my convenience.”
Speaking on secrecy, another student confessed that “That’s where I have a problem,” she admitted that her choice has turned into a giant secret. “I have to be careful what I say, where I go and what I do.”
A close discourse with other “practitioners” in confidence revealed some moving issues.
Mabel (not her real name) in a state university told our correspondent that her parents know she is into academic prostitution while in school.
“They have to. Mum is a petty trader and my father was laid off as textile engineer when the industries closed down. But I made good grades and got admission, so what was I expected to do?”
For Martins, “The sex work I partake in is escorting. Men hire me by the hour, either for sex, company or dates. I got into the sex industry because I had no money left to pay my bills or do anything socially. I signed up to a website, thinking I wouldn’t get much of a response, but I did. And it felt good! It feels good to have the ability to make men pay for you; it gives you a certain power over them.
“My friends know what I do but I don’t talk about it to anyone, as there’s definitely a great deal of stigma attached (to sex work). One of my friends actually tried to get me down about it and tried to say I was “a dirty hooker on the street”, but it isn’t like that at all.
“The type of payment I receive is reasonably good. It lets me pay off my bills and I have money left over to spend on my social life. The income isn’t steady, though: the thing about escorting is that when the money runs out, you aren’t guaranteed to get another customer straight away, so you’re often back to having no money.
Mabel is not an isolated case. Brazilians, Mexicans and Malaysians even boast a worldwide network of academic prostitution on streets and across borders but it is safe to say that it wasn’t a part of our culture.
The issue now went beyond having young female graduates, dropouts or less privileged, litter the streets at odd hours, to creating an educational system that promotes this uncharitable act as the ‘only’ means of survival.
In Nigeria today, it is no longer strange when a chief or chairman drops off another man’s daughter at school on a Monday morning after a weekend of ‘Business Trip’. The smiling young student who now has a bulging purse to pay her school fees and buy books, blows a kiss to the waiting 50 year old man who in turn blushes like melted jelly.
They are everywhere, in every higher institution, almost every department and level. The big girl clique; housing the ones who are ready to handle a sugar-daddy “aristo” and give him the same pleasures a ‘poverty stricken boyfriend’ would demand, with the added advantage of getting some of the allocation that should have gotten home to a patient housewife; a case of “using what you have to get what you want,” unfortunately.