It is a world that is often hidden under society’s surface, but the sex industry has been more prominent than usual after a marketing ploy by escort agency Anglian Escorts which has seen students being followed on microblogging site Twitter.
Twitter users were left bemused by the interaction with the agency, which was targeting people in the East Anglian region, including students at UEA. The escort agency used its Twitter feed to promote their escorts and to urge recruitment, until the account was suspended last week. By this time it had already amassed thousands of followers.
Anna Tomson, the Women’s Officer of the Union of UEA Students, told Concrete: “The fact that this organisation is adding students on Twitter really worries me. It is only a step away from coercing vulnerable women into doing things they would not ordinarily do for money.”
Customers to Anglian Escorts pay for an escort’s time, with anything else “between two consenting adults” according to their website. While the company has not directly targeted students, its website does specify the availability of “uni students” for escort services. Under a false name, this reporter emailed the agency, describing herself as a university student looking to earn some money as an escort. The email received a prompt response from the agency, asking for photos and measurements as a prerequisite for an interview. Escorts can earn £1,000+ a week.
With tuition fees at a hefty £9,000 per academic year from September 2012, the sex industry has come under fire for targeting students as employees as they are considered an economically vulnerable group. Famously, the UK vice president of the Spearmint Rhino chain of lap dancing clubs said that students could have “fun” working as a stripper back in November.
The growing influence of the sex industry on higher education has also been highlighted in a recent study by a University of Birmingham medical student who has found that one in 10 medical students knows someone who works in the sex trade to supplement their income. The English Collective of Prostitutes has also noted a rise in the number of calls they receive from students working in the sex industry.
These events also mark a development in the marketing of escort services, which traditionally publicised themselves in magazines, newspapers or inside telephone booths. With the advent of the internet, and particularly social media, the exposure these companies can gain is far more wide reaching. Anglian Escorts set up a Facebook page on 6 March, which users can “like” to gain access to “the finest escorts in East Anglia”.
Concrete would be interested in speaking to any students who have worked in the sex industry alongside their degree. Email firstname.lastname@example.org in confidence.