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Students Turning to Prostitution and Stripping

There are many avenues for students engaging in sex work could to assure their own safety.

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“I majored in English and women’s studies, and I felt very much like an outsider in my women’s studies classes,” says Ricketts. “I hope it is different now, but in 1998, the average ‘feminist’ student in university was very much anti-sex work. I never disclosed that I was a dancer. I was still learning how to use my voice back then.”

“As more sex workers come out of the closet,” says Ricketts, “I hope that more people will be forced to face the fact that we are not all degraded, violated victims.”

O’Doherty agrees that the public image of prostitution is harmful and has said to The Georgia Straight, “We need to take a few steps back and look at how we are structuring the experience of sex work to be one of victimization.”

As the Ontario Superior Court decision makes its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, a debate is rising about whether the decriminalization of prostitution will actually improve safety in the sex industry.

“There are certain advantages that people hope will occur by decriminalizing prostitution, which I think won’t occur,” says UBC philosophy professor Scott Anderson. “…Unless you make sure there are many other good options available to people who need work, especially in less privileged circumstances, merely legalizing prostitution does not mean that everyone that [is employed by it] believes that it is a really good [job] to do.”

Regardless of how Canada's prostitution laws change or don't change, there are many things that students in sex work could do to safeguard their own safety. The anonymous Canadian student escort says that safety is a top concern for him and that the most important way to stay safe is to work indoors.

“Even though I’m worried about being arrested for technically running a brothel with the way the laws still are, in-calls are much safer because I have more control over my work environment.”

As additional safety precautions, the student escort only agrees to work with clients after a telephone screening process, does not see clients late at night and makes sure his roommates are aware of what he’s doing—and would recommend that other students do the same. Ricketts says that students who are considering sex work need to be extremely conscious of their safety. Besides the potential for sexual harassment or rape, top student concerns regarding sex work include encountering social stigma and other repercussions even after they are no longer engaged in sex work.

O’Doherty also warns against students revealing their real identities if they choose to enter into sex work.

“I know a few people who have been very open about their involvement in sex work,” says O’Doherty. “The stuff they’ve been through is quite hellish.”

Not everyone who enters sex work “has made a big mistake,” says Anderson, but he is skeptical of whether anyone could ever make an “informed decision” to enter sex work.

“There’s certainly some aspects of the industry that are worse than almost anyone can imagine if they haven’t done it, so…. some people who end up doing that as a way of making money are making pretty serious mistakes.”

Joanna Chiu is a freelance journalist.

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