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IntroductionWithin the recent years, the phenomenon of sex work among students appeared in various media channels (Chrisafis, 2008; Dixon, 2012). Several studies have investigated sex work among high school students in Norway (Pedersen & Hegna, 2003), Sweden (Svedin & Priebe, 2007), and Canada (Lavoie, Thibodeau, Gagne, & Hebert, 2010). Pedersen and Hegna found that 1.4 % of the participants (N = 10,828, age of 14-17) sold sex, three times as many boys as girls. The adolescents selling sex were frequently involved in delinquent behaviors and substance use. The study conducted by Svedin and Priebe provided similar results, reporting that 1.8 % of the boys and 1.0 % of the girls (N = 4339) had sold sex. Selling sex was associated with having an immigrant background, higher level of unemployment in the family, and studying a practical/vocational program. Being involved in selling sex was associated with poorer mental health, weekly use of alcohol, and antisocial behaviors. A higher preval ...
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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sex Work Among Students of Higher Education: A Survey-Based,
Cross-Sectional Study
Felix Betzer Stephan Ko
¨hler Ludwig Schlemm
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Introduction
Within the recent years, the phenomenon of sex work among
students appeared in various media channels (Chrisafis, 2008;
Dixon, 2012). Several studies have investigated sex work among
high school students in Norway (Pedersen & Hegna, 2003),
Sweden (Svedin & Priebe, 2007), and Canada (Lavoie, Thibo-
deau, Gagne, & Hebert, 2010). Pedersen and Hegna found that
1.4 % of the participants (N=10,828, age of 14–17) sold sex,
three times as many boys as girls. The adolescents selling sex
were frequently involved in delinquent behaviors and substance
use. The study conducted by Svedin and Priebe provided similar
results, reporting that 1.8 % of the boys and 1.0 % of the girls
(N=4339) had sold sex. Selling sex was associated with having
an immigrant background, higher level of unemployment in the
family, and studying a practical/vocational program. Being
involved in selling sex was associated with poorer mental health,
weekly use of alcohol, and antisocial behaviors. A higher prev-
alence of sex work among high school students was reported in the
study by Lavoie et al., investigating a sample of 815 Quebecoise
high school students at the age of 15–18 years. According to this
study, 3 % of the participants reported having bought, and 4 %
reported having sold sexual services, predominantly girls. History
of sexual abuse, casual sex, and the number of stressful life events
were related to the sale of sex.
Concerning students of higher education, only few data exist.
Roberts, Bergstro
¨m,andLaRooy(2007) conducted a cross-
sectional survey of 130 students with a mean age of 22.8 years.
This study did not directly ask about experie nces in sex work, but
it asked if students knew of other students engaged in sex work. It
was found that over 10 % of participants knew of students
engaged in sex work. Poor psychological well-being, drinking
problems, and financial circumstances were associated with sex
work. It has not yet been investigated whether the prevalence of
student sex workers in higher education is in the same order as in
high school students. The circumstances of life, the social envi-
ronment, as well as the way of financing oneself are different for a
student of higher education compared to those for a high school
student. Therefore, we conducted a survey-based, cross-sec-
tional study among students of higher education in Berlin.
Method
Participants
A sample of 4,386 completed questionnaires from students from
various universities in Berlin was evaluated. Participants’ mean
age was 24.4 years (SD =3.7); 44.1 % of the participants were
female, and 13.6 % did not specify their gender. On average,
participants were in the 5.7th semester of their studies (SD =4.0).
Concerning their relationship status, 40.7 % were in a relation-
ship, 30.3 % were single, 3.7 % were married, 0.3 % were
divorced, and 23.9 % did not specify their relationship status.
Measures
We designed an online questionnaire containing general infor-
mation and questions about demographics, financial situation,
F. Betzer (&)S. Ko
¨hler
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy,
Charite
´Universita
¨tsmedizin Berlin, Campus Charite
´Mitte
(CC15), Charite
´platz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany
e-mail: felix.betzler@charite.de
L. Schlemm
Department of Neurology, Charite
´Universita
¨tsmedizin Berlin,
Berlin, Germany
123
Arch Sex Behav
DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0476-y
personality, substance use, and sexuality. The questionnaire was
distributed via the mailing lists of Berlin’s major universities.
For a personality test, the 15-item Big Five Inventory was used
(Lang, John, Ludtke, Schupp, & Wagner, 2011). All scales in the
questionnaire were designed using 5-, 7-, or 10-point Likert items.
Data Analysis
Cross-tabulations with v
2
or Fisher’s exact test were used to
compare proportions between two groups (students who were
engaged in sex work to students who were not). Non-parametric
Mann–Whitney Utests were used to compare medians of not
normally distributed continuous data between the two groups.
Normal distribution was evaluated using Kolmogorov–Smir-
nov tests. Data are presented as percentage values or medians
with interquartile range (IQR).
Results
Seven percent of the participants indicated that they are or have
been involved in sex work (involved in sex work: N=227; not
involved in sex work: N=2998; not answered or dropped out:
N=1161). Most students involved in sex work replied that they
pursued prostitution in the narrow sense, meaning sexual inter-
course in direct exchange for money or escort services, which
may include sexual intercourse (Table 1). Thirty-three percent of
the students who were actually not involved in sex work could
imagine doing so; this percentage was summed up from all
participants who replied either‘yes’’(5 %) or‘‘yes, given certain
circumstances’’(28 %). The students were able to enter an
amount of money per hour at which they would be willing to
engage in sex work. The median amount was 100(IQR =110).
Financial Situation
Sex workers received significantly less financial support from
their families than other students (35.2 vs. 59.3 %), v
2
(1, N=
3127) =47.3, p\.001. Also, among those that received any
support, the amount differed significantly between sex workers
(N=64, 300/month, IQR =300) and other students (N=1526,
400/month, IQR =365), p=.025. Sex workers received fewer
scholarships (2.3 vs. 10.4 %), v
2
(1, N=3127) =14.6, p\.001,
and were more often in debt (28.9 vs. 17.3 %), v
2
(1, N=2940) =
11.3, p\.001. In addition, sex workers received fewer student
loans than other students (14.6 vs. 20 %), v
2
(1, N=3127) =
3.8, p=.05. However, the overall income turned out not to be
significantly lower for sex working students (N=121, 800/
month, IQR =525) compared with other students (N=2467,
700/month, IQR =350), p=.201.
Sexual Orientation and STDs
A total of 87 % of students who were not engaged in sex work
self-reported as heterosexual versus 54 % in the group of sex
working students, v
2
(1, N=2909) =110.6, p\.001.
Five percent of the non-sex workers versus 13 % of the sex
workers described themselves as homosexual, and 8 versus 33 %
as bisexual. Students involved in sex work (N=123) had sig-
nificantly more sexual partners in the last 3 months than other
students (N=2799): 3.0 (IQR =7) versus 1.0 (IQR =0), p\
.001.
The group of sex workers showed a significantly higher prev-
alence of sexual transmitted diseases (STD) compared with
other students (28.8 vs. 8.5 %), v
2
(1, N=2842) =16.9, p\.001.
Substance Use
In any drug examined (marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, etc.),
except for alcohol, sex workers showed a substantially higher
use than other students (e.g., cocaine: 28 vs. 9 %), v
2
(1, N=
2915) =46, p\.001.Concerning alcohol consumption, the rela-
tion was inverted (90 vs. 94 %), v
2
(1, N=3012) =4.3, p=.04.
Personality Traits
Agreeableness was significantly lower in the group of sex
working students: In this group (N=135), students had a median
of 5.0 (IQR =2) compared to a median of 5.3 (IQR =1.3) for the
other students (N=2660), p=.033.
Discussion
This study provided the first estimation of sex work among stu-
dents of higher education and a first psychosocial characterization
Table 1 Modalities of sex work within the group of sex working students
Modality of sex work Yes (%) Yes (n)No(n) Missing (n)
Prostitution in the narrow sense 21.6 49 93 82
Escort service including sex. Intercourse 18.5 42 109 76
Striptease, webcam or phone sex 11.0 25 126 76
Escort service excluding sex. Intercourse 9.7 22 129 76
Other 9.7 22 129 76
Arch Sex Behav
123
of this group. The prevalence of students being or having been
involved in sex work was found to be 7 %. The prevalence we
found was several times higher than those found in other studies.
Pedersen and Hegna (2003) reported a prevalence of 1.4 % in
Norway;Lavoieetal.(2010) reported 4 % in Canada, both for
high school students. In a cross-sectional sample of undergradu-
ates (N=130) in England, 10 % of all participants knew of stu-
dents who were engaged in sex work (Roberts et al., 2007).
There are several factors that could have had an impact on the
relatively high prevalence we found. The likelihood of sex work
increases with age, having a maximum in the late twenties (aver-
age age of prostitutes in Germany, 28 years, Robert-Koch-Insti-
tut, 2008). Another explanation might be the fact that we focused
on a metropolis like Berlin, while the above-mentioned studies
examined mostly whole areas. It is noticeable that the actual
prevalence diverged quite strongly from the percentage of stu-
dents who could imagine pursuing sex work: 7 versus 33 %. One
has to take into account that the 33 % assemble from 4.7 % of
students who simply responded‘yes’’and those who responded
with‘yes, under certain conditions’’(28.3 %). This implies that,
for many students, this thought remains rather theoretical than
actual praxis. Surprisingly, the above-mentioned conditions were
just on an amount of money with an average of 261per
hour offered.
Financial Situation
We could verify that sex workers received significantly less finan-
cial support than other students. They received less financial
support in total and also had lower rates of scholarships or other
financial support. These results confirm the findings of Roberts
et al. (2007) and suggest that students are participating in the sex
industry as a consequence of financial hardship. Sex work results
in a higher income compared with poorly paid jobs and therefore
allows more time for students to devote to study (Lantz, 2004;
Moffat & Peters, 2004). This is also in line with findings of sex
work in adolescents where there was a clear association between a
higher level of unemployment/financial difficulties and sex work
(Svedin & Priebe, 2007; Tyler & Johnson, 2006).
Sexual Orientation
A vast majority of students in the non-sex worker group was
heterosexual (87 %) with 5 and 8 % homosexual or bisexual,
respectively, while a smaller percentage of sex-working stu-
dentsidentified as heterosexual (54 %) with 33 and 13 % homo-
sexualand bisexual,respectively.For homosexualmen, thereis
research underlining a new paradigm that respects personal
motivations forsex work (Bimbi, 2007). These motivations are
the view of sex work as a job and a valid source of income.
Svedin and Priebe (2007) also argued that it is possible that
young men who are trying to find out if their sexual disposition
is of a homosexual nature have difficulties in doing so among
their peers and are, therefore, left to seek more older men, with
whom they can experiment. This may also lead to more offers to
sellsex. We also could verify thatstudents whowere engagedin
sex worksufferedmore frequently fromSTDs (28.8vs. 8.5 % in
the non-sex worker group), which is not surprising and is in line
with several previous findings that sex work dramatically
increases the risk of STDs (Baral et al., 2012; Miralles,
Mardarescu, & Sherr, 2013).
Substance Use
Substance use was significantly higher in the group of sex work-
ing students as compared to other students, except for alcohol.
This was the opposite of the finding by Svedin and Priebe (2007),
who found that adolescents who sold sex had a significantly
higher consumption of alcohol than in the control group. In line
with our findings, the use of illegal drugs was 2–6 times more
common for sex workers. Also, Roberts et al. (2007) reported that
22 % of their participants knew students engaging in drug dealing
and 3–4 % reported knowing students who were involved in pros-
titution to support themselves financially. However, it remains
unclear whether drug or alcohol use are precursors or conse-
quences of selling sex (Svedin & Priebe, 2007).
Personality
Sex working students were less agreeable than students not
involved in sex work, the only significant difference in our per-
sonality data. Again, it remains questionable what are precursors
or consequences of selling sex. A bidirectional influence may be
possible: it may seem intuitive that someone who takes the deci-
sion to engage in sex work has to bring along a certain type of
personality, in order to face difficult situations with clients and to
draw clear lines. Also, it may seem as intuitive that those kinds of
situations which sex workers usually have to face do not pass
someone’s attitude and behavior without leaving certain marks or
changes which may become apparent in lower agreeableness
scores. Our data do not provide a basis to answer this question.
Limitations
Due to some methodological limitations, our data must be inter-
preted with caution. We cannot provide an exact response rate,
since we do not precisely know how many students were reached
by our questionnaire (conservative estimate would yield a
response rate of roughly over 10 %) and may result in a relevant
selection bias. The participants mayalsohavebeenmoreopento
the topic of sex work resulting in a false high prevalence.
Acknowledgments The first two authors share first authorship.
Arch Sex Behav
123
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... In comparison to sex work in general, student sex work remains under-researched in Germany, and reports of firsthand experiences from the people directly involved are lacking. Student sex work is a widespread phenomenon all over the world (Roberts et al., 2007(Roberts et al., , 2010(Roberts et al., , 2013Betzler et al., 2015;Sagar et al., 2015a). Roberts et al. (2013) studied the prevalence of student sex work in the United Kingdom and estimated that around 6% of all university students are working in the sex industry. ...
... Research by Sagar et al. (2015a) suggests that almost 5% of students in the United Kingdom are involved in sex work. Betzler et al. (2015) found that approximately 7% of the students in Berlin, Germany, are working or have been working in the sex industry. While some people are aware of the existence of student sex work and may even have considered entering the sex industry themselves, others are unaware of it (Roberts et al., 2010;Betzler et al., 2015). ...
... Betzler et al. (2015) found that approximately 7% of the students in Berlin, Germany, are working or have been working in the sex industry. While some people are aware of the existence of student sex work and may even have considered entering the sex industry themselves, others are unaware of it (Roberts et al., 2010;Betzler et al., 2015). Until now, only a few studies have concentrated on students' motivations to enter the sex industry (Roberts et al., 2010;Sagar et al., 2015a). ...
Article
Full-text available
Student sex work is a current phenomenon all over the world, increasingly reported by the media in recent years. However, student sex work remains under-researched in Germany and is lacking direct first-hand reports from the people involved. Further, sex work remains stigmatized, and therefore, students practicing it could be at risk of social isolation and emotional or physical danger. Therefore, this study examines students working in the sex industry focusing on their personal experiences and attitudes toward them. An online questionnaire was completed by 4386 students from Berlin universities. Students who identified themselves as sex workers (n = 227) were questioned with respect to their motivations to enter the sex industry, characteristics of their job, feelings after the intercourse, and perceived risks. Student non-sex workers (n = 2998) were questioned regarding knowledge of and attitudes toward student sex workers. Most student sex workers reported that they entered the sex industry due to financial reasons (35.7%). The majority reported offering services involving direct sexual intercourse. Disclosing their job to friends, family, or others was associated with less problems with social isolation and in romantic relationships. With a total of 22.9%, student non-sex workers reported never having heard about students working in the sex industry. The most frequent emotions mentioned by them with regard to student sex workers were compassion and dismay (48.9%). There was no difference in happiness between student sex workers and non-sex working students. Through this research, it becomes evident that there are similarities between the student’s motivations to enter the sex industry, their feelings, and the problems they have to face. Moreover, prejudices still prevail about the life of student sex workers. Increasing understanding of student sex work might help those sex workers to live a less stigmatized life and thereby to make use of support from others. The universities as institutions could form the basis for this, e.g., by openly supporting student sex workers. This could help to encourage the rights of student sex workers and to gain perspective with respect to the sex industry.
... There are several factors that contribute to stigma around student sex work. Betzer et al. (2015) issued a questionnaire to students (N = 4,386) at various universities in Berlin, Germany evaluating student involvement in sex work. They found that student sex workers reported having more STDs and engaging in significantly higher rates of substance use than non-sex work students, potentially contributing to continued stigmatization. ...
... Other more acute and less perfunctory motivators may exist for involvement in the sugar lifestyle. Student sex workers in Germany were found to receive significantly less financial support from their families than other students (Betzer et al., 2015). In the same study, participants indicated a stronger desire to participate in sex work as the perceived financial opportunity of sex work increased. ...
Thesis
Sugar relationships (i.e., a sugar daddy/mama paired with a sugar baby) are a growing cultural phenomena gaining attention in the United States and becoming increasingly commonplace on college campuses. A sugar baby is defined as an individual who receives financial or material benefits in exchange for companionship and/or sex, often with an older partner, a sugar daddy. The researcher aimed to describe and understand the lived experiences of college sugar babies by employing Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) methodology. She interviewed ten former and current college sugar babies. The results included nine coded domains and succeeding categories and subcategories. The domains included (a) process and considerations of the lifestyle, (b) benefits of the lifestyle, (c) sugar daddy characteristics, (d) self-perception and identity, (e) motivation/influence to participate in the lifestyle, (f) miscellaneous code, (g) sex and intimacy involved in the lifestyle, (h) negative effects of the lifestyle, and (i) power dynamics involved in the lifestyle. Findings indicated that sugar baby motivation was largely financial but that other more intangible drivers also existed, such as adventure and educational attainment. Implications include that counselors and stakeholders explore and challenge common narratives within sex work discourse regarding disempowered women. Although sugar relationships may exist within larger, more inequitable societal constructs, the act of sugaring may be a means of usurping dominant power structures for some sugar babies. Other results situated sugaring among existing definitions of sex work and intimate labor. The author also put forth recommendations on bias exploration for counselors and caution around moralistic language that alienates sugar babies, which may devalue their mental health and wellness and cause them to abstain from help-seeking behaviors. Finally, the author calls for higher education institutions to become better allies to sugar babies by providing neutral information about the lifestyle and mental health support.
... Nevertheless, the ratio is lower than the one obtained in another Polish study of students (conducted online), in which 17.2% of respondents declared having provided paid sexual services, and 10.4% other sponsorship services [32]. The results of the author's research are similar to those obtained in other European countries, e.g., in Great Britain [33] or Germany [34] cf. [35], because, although the percentage of people declaring the provision of various sexual services was 6-7%, sexual intercourse accounted for about 0.2% of the behaviours; thus, it concerned 1-2% of the respondents. ...
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... 46 Furthermore, we asked for risky sexual behavior (number of sexual partners in the past 6 months/lifetime; number of partners the participants had unprotected sex with/without the influence of alcohol in the past 6 months). 51 Participants self-reported any present and/or past diagnoses of mental disorders (as diagnosed by physicians and other practitioners only; no self-diagnoses). ...
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We examined measurement invariance and age-related robustness of a short 15-item Big Five Inventory (BFI-S) of personality dimensions, which is well suited for applications in large-scale multidisciplinary surveys. The BFI-S was assessed in three different interviewing conditions: computer-assisted or paper-assisted face-to-face interviewing, computer-assisted telephone interviewing, and a self-administered questionnaire. Randomized probability samples from a large-scale German panel survey and a related probability telephone study were used in order to test method effects on self-report measures of personality characteristics across early, middle, and late adulthood. Exploratory structural equation modeling was used in order to test for measurement invariance of the five-factor model of personality trait domains across different assessment methods. For the short inventory, findings suggest strong robustness of self-report measures of personality dimensions among young and middle-aged adults. In old age, telephone interviewing was associated with greater distortions in reliable personality assessment. It is concluded that the greater mental workload of telephone interviewing limits the reliability of self-report personality assessment. Face-to-face surveys and self-administrated questionnaire completion are clearly better suited than phone surveys when personality traits in age-heterogeneous samples are assessed.
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This study examined the exchange of sexual services for compensation (e.g., money, drugs, alcohol) in high school students. The sale of sex in young people from nonclinical samples has been the subject of recent studies, but buying such services has received far less attention. This study described these two phenomena and associated factors within a nonclinical sample of 815 high school students (M = 15.86 years) from Québec. According to our results, 3% of these youth reported having bought and 4% reported having sold such services in their lifetime. More girls were involved in selling sexual services and more boys were involved in buying them. Young people generally disapproved of prostitution. Logistic regressions revealed that attitudes in support of prostitution, history of sexual abuse, casual sex, and the number of stressful life events were related to the sale of sex. Furthermore, observing sexualized social activities and exhibiting approving attitudes towards prostitution were associated with buying sexual services.
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Available evidence suggests that changes in the funding of higher education have led to some students entering the sex industry in order to make ends meet. The current study comprises a sample of undergraduates (N = 130) in the south of England, who completed a cross‐sectional survey of their financial circumstances, health, psychological well‐being, substance use and lifestyle. A response rate of 74% was obtained. Data indicated that over 10% of all respondents knew of students engaged in sex work (defined as prostitution, escorting, lap dancing or stripping) in order to support themselves financially. Poor psychological well‐being, drinking problems and financial circumstances were associated with sex work, and although no direct evidence was found linking this to an earlier history of sexual abuse, there was an indirect relationship through the impact of abuse on mental health. A logistic regression model incorporating General Health Questionnaire scores, alcohol problems and hours worked outside of study strongly predicted whether respondents knew of students engaged in sex work. For lap dancing in particular the model was very strong. This study provides further evidence of students' participation in sex work and its association with economic circumstances. Further longitudinal work is required to clarify the nature of these relationships.
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Adolescents who reported to have given sexual favors for payment were investigated. The sample consisted of all adolescents in the public and private school systems in Oslo, the capital in Norway (age group 14-17, response rate 94.3%, N=10,828). Adolescents who had sold sex form 1.4%, three times as many boys as girls. Half the group had done it more than 10 times. Most were under the legal age of sex in Norway (16 years) when this first happened. We found no associations with sociodemographic variables or residential area in Oslo. However, sex sale was associated with low intercourse debut age, conduct problems, alcohol problems, use of drugs (including heroin) and violent victimization. The conclusion is that a small group in the general adolescent population sells sex, and many of the clients are assumed to be homosexual or bisexual men. Adolescents who take part in these activities are often heavily involved in delinquent behaviors and use of drugs, and many probably are in a risk zone for sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), drug abuse and a delinquent and criminal development.
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Adolescents reporting selling sex for payment were studied with respect to socioeconomic background, perceived mental health and health behavior, antisocial behavior, sexual experiences, including sexual abuse and abusive behaviors, and the use of pornography. The sample consisted of a representative sample of 4,339 students (response rate, 77.2%) from the third year of upper secondary schools in five Swedish cities. Of the participating adolescents, 1.8% of the boys and 1.0% of the girls indicated that they had sold sex for money or other reimbursements. Selling sex was associated with having an immigrant background, higher level of unemployment in the family, and studying a practical/vocational program. Adolescents with the experience of selling sex had an increased risk for different psychosocial problems, such as poorer mental health, weekly use of alcohol, and antisocial behaviors. The adolescents selling sex were also characterized by having had a greater number of sexual experiences, a greater preoccupation with sex, relatively early sexual debut, and experience with sexual abuse as victim and/or perpetrator. The index group students watched pornography more frequently than the majority and they also watched more deviant forms of pornography. The significance of the higher frequency among boys and the gray zone between normal sexual exploration and prostitution are discussed.