Some time ago I had a friend who lived in Essex. He told me about his village’s celebrity, a 14-year-old girl who regularly took men behind the pub and gave them handjobs for 20 Bensons.
I was shocked: surely her parents ought to have alerted their little girl to the health hazards of smoking. However, for all I know that young lady must have been preparing herself for a glittering academic career.
According to an article I’ve just read, studies show that somewhere between 95,000 and 500,000 British students use prostitution to fund their studies. Moreover, their universities and student unions actively encourage this activity.
At Cambridge University one can find leaflets saying that “not all sex work is abusive” (unlike, say, complimenting a girl on her body).
Bristol’s student union pledges to “lobby the University to take an explicit non-exclusionary stance towards students who work in the sex industry”.
University of London’s student union explains that “sex work is work… the exchange of money for labour, like any other job”.
Edinburgh University promises to “take a zero-tolerance attitude towards whorephobia”, thereby expanding my lexicon of objectionable phobias.
University of Oxford, while streamlining its music studies to exclude Mozart and Beethoven, supports a “campaign for the full decriminalisation of sex work”.
And Leicester University has produced a helpful ‘Sex Work Toolkit’ for students and staff, academic salaries being what they are.
I’m proud of our universities. Displaying commendable realism, they acknowledge that the role of the university has changed over the centuries.
Such institutions used to produce scholars trained in theology, philosophy, logic, music, mathematics and rhetoric. But these days they have less and less time for such abstract disciplines – nor indeed for most others recognised in the past as legitimate academic subjects.
Instead, they see their role as arming students with the skills, knowledge and character traits essential to succeeding in the rough-and-tumble of our increasingly complex world. And prostitution can serve this end better than any other extracurricular activity.
In addition to acquiring advanced amorous techniques of a purely mechanical nature, our budding academics can also develop a certain elasticity of morals and behaviour that will stand them in good stead in future life.
In some areas the benefits are immediate and direct, in others they may be deferred but no less sizeable for it. In the former category, prostitution provides essential skills for stellar success in politics, public relations, modelling, hospitality, acting and sales.
That much is obvious. But even in seemingly unrelated fields, such as law, journalism, finance or medicine, a young lady who has turned hundreds of tricks by graduation time has a head start on competition, as it were.
The same way she used men as a source of revenue, she can now use them as stepping stones on her upward career path. Moreover, she can later sue some of the stepping stones for harassment and sexual objectivising, thus complementing her already sizeable income with a tidy lump sum.
In our increasingly transactional society, every woman, regardless of occupation, can benefit from developing an acute business sense, independence of mind and ability to fend for herself. Hence I was pleased to find out that most student prostitutes dispense with pimps and work strictly for themselves.
The entrepreneur is the driver of a free market economy, and what’s a pimpless prostitute if not a self-employed businesswoman?
She has to vet her clientele, work out a flexible pricing policy to cover the whole range of services, look after health and safety provisions, ensure collection, develop a strategy minimising tax exposure – in short, the prostitute is the crystallised quintessence of modern society, the ideal toward which it strives.
I do think though that our universities must take the next bold step by turning student prostitutes into a profit centre for the whole institution. Universities already have dormitories that can be profitably converted into brothels, thereby centralising that activity and realising economies of scale.
In due course, universities may embark on expansion by moving mattresses into the now-unused classrooms, thus optimising the use of floorspace. Opportunities are rife, and I’m sure our universities will meet the challenge head on, as it were.
Meanwhile, the article I’ve read mentions a bright 18-year-old girl named Anna who studies “diligently in the musty libraries and ancient halls of one of Britain’s most venerated universities.” By night, however, she hones her business skills by turning tricks for as little as £10 a throw.
Yet again I was shocked. Anna must work on her pricing strategies, both to maximise her own earning potential and also to prevent depressing the market. Currently, she’s selling herself short.
I wonder if Anna is that girl from Essex my friend mentioned, now grown up and savvy. Old habits die hard, and £10 is close to today’s price of 20 Bensons.