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March 17, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Student hookers surprisingly hard to find

A recent report by One News alleging that “hundreds” of tertiary students in New Zealand are turning to sex to pay for their education appears to be misrepresentative following further investigation by Salient.

On 3 March, a news story on the One News website quoted the national Prostitutes Collective in estimating that approximately 20 per cent of the country’s 5,000 sex workers were currently attending university or polytechnic.

The Collective’s national co-ordinator, Catherine Healy, explained that the One News article was in response to a similar article in an Australian newspaper which reported that up to 40 per cent of the female sex workers in Melbourne’s brothels were attending the city’s eight universities and other colleges.

The Sunday Age contacted a number of brothels in the area and managers admitted that they had students working in their establishments – some placed the proportion of employees in full-time education at between 40 and 50 per cent.

Healy says the 20 per cent figure quoted by One News “came from [her] head.” “The reporter rang me and asked what the figures are like for Wellington… I said that at a very basic, anecdotal level, I’d say about 20 per cent [of New Zealand’s sex workers] are studying, either at uni or at other courses,” she explained.

“What mainstream media are interested in is: students are driven to prostitution because of debt.”

According to Healy, the profile of a typical sex worker is female and between the age of 20 and 30, although some can be and are older. The number of the country’s total sex workers, she added, was 5,000 throughout the year, instead of constantly at one given time. In Wellington, the figure was “probably about 500 or 600 throughout the year.”

There are a number of sex workers who are students, Healy says, but the 20 per cent figure was not exclusively comprised of university students, and in fact incorporated those studying at polytechnic or studying a range of other courses.

“I couldn’t break down the 20 per cent.” VUWSA Welfare Vice-President Melissa Barnard raised concerns about the well-being of students choosing to work as sex workers. “We need to look at the support mechanisms that are out there when things go wrong.” Furthermore, she says: “We need to be looking at the circumstances [that lead to] students turning to prostitution… Money is [obviously] a factor.”

A representative from Splash Club, “Wellington’s most luxurious Gentlemen’s Club” by self-description, says that it would be difficult to provide a figure on the number of its employees who are students.

“Things are very secretive in this industry. No one gives out their information, or shows their face online… they don’t even use their real names. A lot of people don’t disclose their other occupations,”

However, she added that she would be “very surprised” if there were many students working at Splash Club. “You work 10-hour shifts at night, from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. It’d be hard to do that and keep up with your studies at the same time.”

Justin Flitter, assistant manager at Student Job Search’s regional Wellington office, said he had not experienced any instance of a student seeking employment in the sex industry.

“We might list retail jobs for places like dVice (a sex shop)… or dairies and shops that sell adult magazines,” he says, “but we absolutely [do not] allow advertisements for jobs in adult entertainment.”

“[Student Job Search] is funded by the government and there is an agreement with Studylink and student association members, where we do not allow [advertisements] for unethical work.”

When Salient pointed out that prostitution was a legal occupation following the introduction of the Prostitution Reform Acr 2003, Flitter replied: “We encourage work that is courserelated and career-related that will benefit students in the long-term.”

Healy suggested that the demographics of New Zealand’s sex workers may become clearer following the publication of an evidence-based research studying the effects of the Prostitution Reform Act, due out later this year.

However, she raised the possibility of an opposite trend to that reported by One News and said that instead, sex workers may be turning to tertiary education. “[For example], I have met one person who has gone onto study [once prostitution was legalised]… It gave her an edge of confidence [not feeling like a criminal]. She said, ‘I feel more entitled to be able to do things.’”

One News did not respond to Salient’s request for a comment on the article at time of print.


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  1. dr. president ron "dr no, i can't be bothered reading this bill" paul says:

    “Healy suggested that the demographics of New Zealand’s sex workers may become clearer following the publication of an evidence-based research studying the effects of the Prostitution Reform Act, due out later this year.”

    This is great news, I’ve been wondering if something like this was in the pipeline. It should be really interesting to see what effect it’s had.

  2. Kerry says:

    I have studied with, partied with, and been to numerous UniQ & private events with,[Exec member X]. Including D-vice f*aware parties!

    At no time has she ever been ashamed or reticent about her involvement in Sex work. She is very proactive about expounding on her experiences in the industry!

    You are all showing your middle-class prejudice, and ignorance, about sex work by insinuating that she *should* be ashamed, or unhappy that this is being discussed.

    I suggest a course of reading in the feminist practice of sex work, just search ‘prostitution’ in the Libcat, I’m sure you can find the catalogue online without having to leave your desk! Most of the books can be found in the 3-day loans on level 3, some are in closed reserve.

  3. Tristan, Seonah and Jackson says:

    We have retracted the previous offensive comments and private material. While we do not believe we have breached anyone’s privacy, all the same we do not believe it is appropriate for this comments thread to degenerate into uninformed speculation upon one person’s life. Comments on this thread are now closed.

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