…The sorry state of students who offer sex to pay or pass exams
Between offering sex to pass examinations and prostituting to pay tuition, sex work as option for cash trapped university students have spread like the California inferno across the world.
It got so bad that a study revealed that students in the campuses are selling their ovaries to raise money for tuition and survive campus life.
In Nigeria, academic prostitution and its growing acceptance amongst corporate professions – even the legal systems has, fearfully, become one of the norms that have found a place of honour in societies across the world.
After a video of an Akwa-Ibom State University student who arrested a man that had picked her up and gave her N1, 000 against the agreed N20,000 for a night out lightened up the social media, reactions on the internet showed that the incident was not a Nigerian problem; it is a global nightmare.
A new study shows that eight in 20 British students have engaged in some kind of sex work; some were bold to justify their action when they talked to researchers about their experiences.
Quite recently, researchers at Swansea University released the findings of The Student Sex Work Project, the first comprehensive attempt to analyse UK students who are also sex workers.
The report found that 5 percent of students have undertaken sex work at some point – which can mean either that they supplied “direct” sexual services, or did “indirect” work, such as modelling, cam shows or chat lines. While 5 percent represents a small but significant minority, a much greater number – 1 in 5 – reported that they had considered doing sex work to pay their way through higher education.
Some of the findings were not too surprising. With the increase in student debt, as well as the slashing of university funding for grants and bursaries, sex work has become an increasingly attractive prospect for cash-strapped students. A number of sex workers told researchers that minimum wage or zero-hours jobs just weren’t an option, while the most common reason given for undertaking sex work was “good money”.
The gay prostitute factor
A surprise finding from the study however, revealed that the females are not the only cash-strapped students who take to sex to pay their way through; a greater number of male than female students are found to be sex workers. 2.4 percent and 3.5 percent of men had taken part in “direct” and “indirect” sex work respectively, compared to 1.3 and 2.7 percent of women, according to the study.
This is despite the fact that male and trans-sex workers are often written out of popular narratives and media reportage when it comes to sex work.
Investigation shows that a lot of 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.
“That’s where I have a problem,” one student confessed, admitting that “it 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 “practitioners” in confidence revealed some moving issues.
Mabel (not her real name) in a state university told our correspondent 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?”
Experiences of paying your way through university with sex work
“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.”
“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.
The good old days
It is sad that in this same country in the days of purity, sanity and sobriety, a lady, in ancient Hausa tradition, had no relationship with a man until she was in her teens and ready for marriage. A Yoruba lady would not be caught dead in another man’s car in the name of dropping her off from school – and the issue of lecturers/students’ sex-for-marks was not heard of. Where then did it all go wrong, how did we get there?
A lady who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, told our correspondent in core Pidgin English; “Ah, se na today you just de hear that one? Oga, everybody wan survive; so as man de make money, we sef go rub him back small, and e go drop bar, shikena. Na give and take.”
An executive of a private firm who paid her tuition through sex work told our reporter that sex work is far better, much better paid and suited her time better than any other work she could do.
“I found it very hard to budget and pay bills without anyone supporting you. I knew a lot of students who had to drop out and left courses due to financial pressures. I know a former roommate who exchanged sex with her landlord to cover the rent, and another woman I knew was a part-time sex worker to earn enough to travel home to visit her family.
“Mostly students doing sex work don’t talk about it, because if it comes out, it could affect your future and job prospects.
“Nowadays, sex work among students is much more common than people think, and is likely to increase as long as fees, rent and the cost of living is so high,” she confided.
The openness of this revelation was shocking. Gone are the days when virginity and virtue were celebrated among young spinsters and bragged about by their parents. Who then is responsible for this ‘Give and Take’ mechanism?
The Home front
Charity is believed to begin at home but when the home isn’t charitable enough to finance the upgrade from an underprivileged lifestyle to the ‘Big girl’ clique, it becomes an ultimate search to find a man who’s ready to cripple his own home to satisfy your needs, while short-changing his own daughter who, in turn, gets herself a similar man in a cycle where no one is immune.
Sadly though, when the young girl who is supposed to be struggling without the books you couldn’t afford, strolls in with a new iPhone and bag of new clothes allegedly given her by a “close friend”, no one cares to probe! No one cares about the real story, after all, “she’ll one day live alone so it’s good that she can fend for herself.”
“I prefer to look at this factor as the ‘Bandwagon effect”, said a lecturer in the University of Calabar. “Certain school of thought is of the opinion that we are what we see, read, hear and experience. It goes same for student prostitution. Every lady gets attracted to the material benefits and added attention derived from the flashy lifestyle and, no matter how cultured or religious they may be, it tends to cross the mind occasionally.
“These constant negative energy transform to reassurance of; “isn’t it just sex? He’ll have his way for one or two hours and I’ll get what I need, at least I’m doing it for an important purpose,” he added.
A stakeholder blames the school system for being the cause of a norm that is now threatening to cripple the same academic system’s image by presenting it as a breeding ground for indecent activity.
What funny circle of this shame is the fact that over 80% of these ones who are responsible for patronising the academic hustlers, have their children schooling abroad in a much friendlier environment while the remaining ones are over here shouting sermons into their daughters’ ears about how demonic men are looking for ladies for ritual. They ask their daughters to bring all their troubles home so as not to fall prey to the same demonic hustle gang that they belong to.
The lecturers aren’t left out. The cost of attending a federal university may be relatively lower, but when placed in contrast to the recommended minimum wage, does it remain cost-friendly? Then we have the lecturers who expect you to get a ‘necessary’ textbook and greet them with a smile before coming to their offices for guidance and academic counselling for ladies ONLY!
The culture of the African child and society is gradually drifting to oblivion as we adopt a “new norm”. Moral decadence has fallen to levels beyond communal or personal repairs and what is currently needed is a nationwide sensitisation and criminalisation of the act of student prostitution, with stiffer penalties so as to deter anyone nursing ideas of joining the bandwagon.
But who will bail the cat – if the cat wants to be bailed at all?