Huffpost Women
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright Headshot

Is Sex Work Becoming 'No Big Deal'?

Posted: Updated:
Print

Think "sex worker," and "affluent," "educated," and having a "strong family background" and "access to resources" are not the descriptors that come to mind. But a University of Arkansas study recently found that many U.S. women joining the "high quality," illegal prostitution market encompass all of those qualities.

Forgoing opportunities as streetwalkers or brothel workers, they voluntarily and matter-of-factly seek to work primarily as high-end escorts or as women who advertise themselves on the Internet. Far from desperately trying to fund their next drug high, childrearing expenses, or bills, they bare their wares for the very same reasons most people look for work -- for money, stability, autonomy, and job satisfaction.

Such research joins a string of flabbergasting findings on who would consider joining the "world's oldest profession." A British study, published in the journal Sex Education, found that 16.5% of undergraduates would consider sex work, with 93% pointing to money as the primary incentive. Another Leeds University study, involving over 200 lap-dancers, reported that one in three participants engaged in such work to fund their schooling.

Also making headlines, a Berlin Studies Centre study has reported that one in three university students in Berlin would consider sex work as a way to pay for their education. (It further found that over 29% of university students in Paris and 18.5% in Kiev would contemplate such.) Some 4% of the 3,200 Berlin participants reported already having engaged in some type of sex work, like erotic dancing, Internet performances, or prostitution. Researchers speculated that greater student workloads and higher fees have made sex work's high hourly wages quite attractive.

While many people can't wrap their head around a person's desire to engage in sex work, this field's potential to become your "average day job" changes depending on what the sexual exchanges involve. With the term "sex work" encompassing a wide range of jobs, like erotic modeling, stripping, lap dancing, erotic massage, being a dominatrix, and webcam work, a person can make money doing 'tamer' activities than prostitution (which itself is loosely defined by Merriam-Webster as "the act or practice of engaging in promiscuous sexual relations especially for money.") Often involving zero physical contact, those sorts of jobs seem much less demeaning and threatening, hence, in some realms, become more socially acceptable.

These "artistic performers," as they'll often call themselves, often don't feel victimized. In often citing perks of the job, like more money made in less time, a flexible work schedule, a sense of independence, and anonymity, as motivators. Between the aforementioned findings and interviews with those in the industry, one can begin to wonder if turning tricks has become 'no big deal',... that is, until you consider just how well it goes over on a resume.