Sunday, August 21, 2011

College students in sex work

It's not new for college students to engage in allied sex work fields: in the late 1960s or early 70s, my father had a student who was a Harvard student working as a stripper. I wonder if the economy has made this work more common or has increased attention.

This article seems to be in a U Penn publication on 3 Penn students: 2 women who worked in fetishist contexts (foot fetish and dominatrix) and a gay man engaging in traditional sex work. The three students say that they find their work empowering, which isn't surprising especially for the two women who are both acting as dominatrices of older accomplished men. (Who exactly is in charge in a dominatrix scenario --- the man who pays and dictates terms or the woman who executes the scenario --- is an interesting question, which I assume has already been discussed in the women's studies literature.) Whether or not they truly feel empowered by their sex work, their sexualities and maturation seem tied to their work. At least one student describes the sex work as empowering not for the experience of domination but because they know they can support themselves, and it's surprising not to see them engaging in any reflection about whether that ability to earn money from sex is truly economically empowering. No mention of STI or health risks.

This article on the larger context: many women with Harvard and other Ivy email addresses seem to be seeking sugar daddies. The women they interview don't even find as much money as they expected: one just gets some money for a one-time rendez-vous that was never repeated, so basically they're just doing old-fashioned high-risk sex work rather than the "arrangements" publicized on the websites. A huge contrast with the Penn article, which paints a rosier picture.

Both articles are about educated Americans, mostly women, but they seem to have similar tropes to less educated Americans and women from developing countries: only some participants in these relationships call them what they are, and only some acknowledge the coercion and how much they may give up by participating in these exchanges.

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