Students selling sex to pay bills

Becky Adams, an ex-brothel madam from Wales, explains why she is backing a new piece of research funded by the National Lottery Community Fund into the increase of students working in the sex industry:

Madam Becky Adams
Madam Becky Adams (photo by Karen Boyle)

As the recession continues to bite and with no sign of the economic gloom letting go, sexual health agencies, academics and the National Union of Students (NUS) are concerned that increasing numbers of students are working in sex markets to pay for their education.

That’s why I’m using my experience of working in the industry to support a National Lottery-funded research project which aims to understand the needs and associated issues of student sex workers and provide them with an innovative new sexual health service. The academic research is spearheaded by experts in the field from Swansea University and aims to provide student sex workers, who live and work in Wales, with advice and support.

There needs to be an honest look at what young people are really doing – not what the Government thinks they should be doing. There is a huge gap between legislation and reality at the moment and we definitely need something in between.

I think the National Lottery funding will be such a boost in getting the message out to students who decide to do this sort of work and to tell them that there is help and support. It can be quite an isolated and lonely lifestyle. Quite often when you decide to join some kind of sex work, life can be very secretive and you tend to hide what you’re doing from family members.

Listen to a podcast interview with Madam Becky Adams:

A website for first-time escorts run by one of my close friends has seen interest soar and one of the biggest trends has seen students entering the industry, something which isn’t a surprise when you consider the financial pressures of increased tuition fees and living costs that they face.

I’ve also seen firsthand how society and the attitudes of young people towards sex have changed and become more relaxed. I personally believe it’s as much to do with the sexualisation of young people through content available on the internet and Satellite TV as it is desperation. The media has quite a lot of blame on that score with the glamorisation of the sex industry. Young people are so much more relaxed about their sexuality these days and their attitude towards sex is just becoming so much more open minded. They seem to find elements of sexual behaviour much more acceptable than what we did even ten years ago.

For example, I had friends who wanted to become escorts for financial desperation reasons after the breakdown of relationships. It was sheer desperation that got them into the business where as now it’s about funding a certain lifestyle. Lots of young people want nice things and they don’t particularly want to have to go to work hard for it. So, the expectation of what young people should have in their lives is also partly at fault. As soon as some people turn eighteen, they choose to work in the sex industry as a way of earning money to pay for a certain lifestyle.

And it’s very easy for people get trapped in the sex industry. They get trapped in a cycle of money and you get hooked on it when you start earning lots. When you fall in love and want to do other things, it’s very difficult to get out – especially if you’re earning up to £1,000 a week in cash. It’s hard for them then to get on a normal career ladder then and just earn £200 a week and pay tax on top. It’s the quick money cycle that traps most of them.

Editor’s note: The apparent increase in student sex workers and the fact that there isn’t any substantial or quantifiable data has attracted academics from Swansea University to run the National Lottery-funded three year Students Sex Workers project to see the extent of sex work being carried out by students and the motivations behind it.

If you are a student sex worker and would like to find out more about the project, please contact Dr Tracey Sagar on

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