1 in 3 sex workers have degrees – survey

Reuters/Eric Gaillard
Nearly 40 percent of sex workers in the UK have a degree from either college or university, a recent study has found.

The study, which took data from British sex workers who were not trafficked into selling sex but had chosen to do so, revealed that 38 percent held an undergraduate degree, with a further 17 percent completing a level of postgraduate study.

The research by Leeds University, with additional funding from the Wellcome Trust, took information from 240 sex workers, including 196 women, 28 men and 12 transgender people.

More than 70 percent of respondents had previously held jobs in the healthcare, educational or charity sector, the study found.

The second most prominent area of employment was retail, with 33 percent having worked in the industry.

The study also focused on the reasons why respondents had turned to sex work. One worker said she had been unable to keep up her mortgage repayments while earning £50 per day as an NHS healthcare assistant.

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Alex Feis-Bryce, Director of The National Ugly Mugs group, which works to establish better healthcare and safety for sex workers, told the Metro newspaper that people were often too quick to dismiss sex work as “inherently bad.

Many people, particularly politicians, fall into the trap of seeing sex work as inherently bad without actually asking sex workers what their experiences are and what challenges they face.”

“This research challenges this perspective. It is clear from this research that recognizing sex work as work and acknowledging its diversity is crucial,” he said.

“Policy makers fall into the trap of assuming that they know better and introducing sweeping proposals intended to ‘save’ sex workers.”

While Feis-Bryce acknowledged that sex workers have a choice, the study reveals most earn less than £1,000 per month, and some combined sex work with regular jobs.

It also found 113 sex workers (47 percent) had been victims of crime, including rape and robbery, while 86 (36 percent) had received threatening texts, calls or emails.

Dr Teela Sanders, the study’s principal researcher, recommended that sex workers “be allowed to legally work together” to enhance their safety.

“Societal attitudes need to change,” she said.