SPENT too much on Christmas? Why not try prostitution? That certainly seems to be the fashionable way to earn extra pocket money at the moment.
First it was "ordinary women", in the words of prostitution support group Ruhama, who were being "forced back on to the street" in the recession because they "can't pay their household bills", as well as others dipping in and out of the sex trade when "coming up to Christmas, First Communions and back-to-school, all these times". Now the UK's National Union of Students say their members are being compelled into selling their bodies thanks to rising fees and government cutbacks.
We should start a sweepstake to see which special interest group is next reported to be turning to the world's oldest profession to make ends meet. Baggsy I get gay, one-legged, octogenarian asylum-seekers.
Americans always used to find it very strange, that students on this side of the Atlantic didn't just work to put themselves through college, the way they did back in the States, rather than sponging off mummy and daddy or going on noisy demonstrations to demand that the State pay their bar bills. Finally it seems we've caught up with the American model, but instead of trudging along with poorly paid bar work, today's students have skipped the intervening stages and gone straight into prostitution.
"Gosh, I'm down to my last fiver, I'll have to become a hooker now, there's nothing else for it ... " A recent report even found that Irish girls comprised the largest number of clients of a website in America which arranges financial assistance from so-called sugar daddies for students wishing to finish their studies. "In return for companionship," the website explains, "the man will give them a monthly allowance and often clear their student debts."
Ah, companionship. You've got to love people who want to rub your nose in the spread of prostitution but can't even bring themselves to utter the word, instead hiding it in euphemisms. As for more common or garden prostitution, Gary Redmond, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, recently remarked : "We've been hearing more and more about students having to go to these lengths to pay for their education and I think it's a shocking indictment of the state of the country."
Or else a shocking indictment of modern educational standards that students seem to have no understanding of the link between cause and effect. The recession might be a cause, but the effect depends on the individual. Poverty no more has to lead to prostitution than it does to armed robbery. You wouldn't expect sympathy if you robbed grannies to pay your way through college, so why expect someone else to take the rap when you turn to prostitution for the same reason?
It's weird really. Girls are now taught from a young age the power of the word No. If someone tries to make you do something that you don't want to do with your own body, just say No. It's the modern sexual catechism. It doesn't matter what signals you're sending out, or how far along the path to intimacy you've gone. If, at any point, you want out, then all you have to do is say No, and that No must be respected.
What's sauce for the freely given goose must be sauce for the bought and paid for gander too. Against prostitution as a way of paying the bills? Just say No. Problem solved.
BBC radio actually carried an interview last week with a young woman called, well, what does it matter? It wasn't her real name anyway. She revealed how she had become a prostitute at 18 to pay her way through college because "I couldn't see any other option". Listening to her speak, though, it was clear that she had plenty of options, it was simply that she didn't like the minimum wage job that she had at the time, didn't want to do bar work because the unsociable hours meant she wouldn't feel like getting up in the morning for classes, and was shying away from working in a shop because she knew people who'd done that and they all eventually took full-time jobs and gave up their studies, which she didn't want to happen to her.
So instead she signed on at an escort agency owned by a "friend" who'd been trying to persuade her to go on the game since she was 16. She went on to earn £30,000 in her first two weeks of work. If this is the best hard-luck story the BBC could dig up, it was a pretty poor effort. The young woman being interviewed even had the cheek to declare: "That shouldn't have happened just to get an education, not in this day and age." Good news, dear. It didn't have to happen. You made it happen. It stopped when you made it stop. Don't blame the government.
If some female students are becoming involved in prostitution, then they're doing so for the same reasons that any other woman becomes involved in prostitution -- because they are damaged and troubled souls with histories of being misused, which is tragic but hardly the fault of the recession; or because they simply do not have the moral character to resist the lure of easy money and are looking for someone else to blame for their sordid lifestyle choices.
True, saying No does mean you'll have to scrape by with very little money for a long time, which is a spirit-sapping way to live. In extreme cases, you might even have to back out of college for a few years whilst you work and save the money to go back later, which won't be much fun either. But hey, this is what men do all the time, because the options for male prostitution are limited mainly to the gay community, which is necessarily a specialist field, or to rich widows splashing out their late husband's inheritance on tuxedoed gigolos in the Bahamas, which is never going to be a mass-market business. Male students find other ways of making ends meet. Female students should too.
Indeed most already do, because they have a thing called self-respect. Why can't we hear about them for a change instead of the girls who leap on to their backs every time they want a new pair of shoes?