Are women turning to Prostitution to Pay for College?

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82 Responses

  1. I don’t really agree with looking at the “epidemic” in sex work as a parable for our need to fund higher ed. Maybe we should fund higher ed more, although I’m skeptical. But there’re a lot of disjunctures between cause and presumed effect for me to buy into the parable. There’s also a hint of what is probably an unintended moralizing shrill, in the vein of “those evil anti-taxers are driving young girls into prostitution!” Again, I think that’s not necessarily what you intended, but it is in my opinion a logically necessary conclusion to reading the situation as a “parable” for higher ed.

    Mine’s only a partial disagreement. I mostly agree with the rest of the OP.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I know there is a popular libertarian argument about who should bear the costs of education and that low-college tuition is really seen as benefitting middle class people at the expense of working class people. This is of course kind of silly, the state legislature does not say “This money came from Bill the Construction worker whose children will never attend college, let’s use it to pay for Sally’s college education even though Sally’s parents are lawyers.” There were large culture war/battle of the resentiments in the argument that states should fund the Public Universities less. The Kent State massacre also had large class underpinnings.

      This might be a glib example but Jonas Salk was educated the City College of New York and the University of Michigan according to Wikipedia. Both are public institutions. At the time, CCNY was known as a place where working class kids could get a university education when the old Ivy League was prohibitive. CCNY also admitted minority students when they were excluded from private universities, this was pre Civil Rights Act America. Jonas Salk repayed the United States and the world by creating the Polio Vaccine or at least perfecting it.

      Not every university grad is going to be a Jonas Salk, the overwhelming majority will not but I think of low-cost university education as being a kind of investment in the betterment of society because we will get a Jonas Salk every now and then. If it takes education a million people to get one Jonas Salk, the investment is worth it.

      And I am still not convinced why it is bad for society to have a time and place where many young people get to study for four years in whatever interests them. I would say allowing and encouraging this is a sign of an advanced and civilized society.Report

      • Well, my comment was mostly about using sex work and its prevention as an argument for funding college/university. But I did admit to being “skeptical” about funding higher ed more, so I guess your comment on my tangent is a fair one.

        Suffice to say that I’m a pretty big fan of the idea of public universities. And, apparently like Salk, I went to public university for my BA and beyond. I think rising tuition prices are a big problem. Decline in state funding is probably one important reason behind those rising prices. I’m just not convinced that more money will necessarily resolve the issue if other developments, such as some universities’ decisions to build ginormous recreation facilities or some commuter schools’ decisions to build dorms, aren’t resolved first or at the same time.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        The thing about being a public institution is that the government can probably (if not almost certainly) tell the universities “tuition is going to cost X”.

        And I would have no problem with government doing that. Many private universities also receive substantial benefits from Federal and State governments in terms of tax-exempt status, grants and other research money, etc. I would have no problem with the government telling private universities that these perks and privileges come with sticks and responsibilities.

        http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/take-away-harvards-nonprofit-status.htmlReport

      • I think I agree. But that’s different from simply giving more money to higher ed. I do suppose, however, that it’s an indirect way of reshuffling how money is spent. It might lead to more TA’s or adjuncts instead of real professors, for example. I’m not necessarily opposed to that outcome or to mandates about tuition costs.

        As far as private schools, I’m willing to consider sticks and carrots when it comes to funding, but I’d want the sticks and carrots to be closely tied to the funding. I.e., I’d find it hard to imagine telling private schools exactly what their tuition should be simply based on the fact that the institution is not for profit, although I wouldn’t be opposed to some sort of formula that stipulates tuition cannot go beyond a certain percentage of expenditures. (For all I know, that’s what your link talks about. I didn’t read it yet. Also for all I know, a formula is the mechanism by which some states put caps on tuition.)Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “Not every university grad is going to be a Jonas Salk, the overwhelming majority will not but I think of low-cost university education as being a kind of investment in the betterment of society because we will get a Jonas Salk every now and then. If it takes education a million people to get one Jonas Salk, the investment is worth it.”

        two thoughts:

        1) this is the great man theory taken to, uh, extensive heights. in light of your love of the non-useful arts this seems odd.

        2) consider the following: http://www.cuny.edu/admissions/tuition-fees.html

        let’s assume that you won every lottery on earth (yes yes i know you don’t play lotto but bear with me) and decided you’re going to find the next jonas salk. and let’s assume that the 10k difference between in and out of state residents was the state subsidy of in-state students.

        10k x 4 years = 40,000
        40,000 x 1,000,000 = 40,000,000,000

        if you only get one jonas salk per million cuny students (as an alum i think the ratio is slightly better than that) it costs 40 billion dollars for each salk.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @dhex

        I just picked the 1,000,000 for a sake of drama but I don’t think 40 billion is too much to spend on education. It is certainly money better spent than on prisons or the military-industrial complex.

        Jonas Salk was picked as a start example. Generally I don’t go for great man history but every now and then there is a great person and Jonas Salk was undoubtably one but he was not alone. It is impossible to tell if and when another person would have come up with his innovation. Maybe roughly the same time, maybe decades later.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I also note the titllative content of the story: college girls hooking up with wealthy middle-aged men (who would otherwise be invisible to them). We’re also taking the word of the “seeking arrangements” website that it really has a million or so such accounts, whether active or no, and that these account holders are, if they exist, being honest about themselves. Lots of room for skepticism.

    We need not doubt that such things happen, of course. We may speculate about its pervasiveness — but what can we do about it when it is found? Consenting adults, private affairs, none of the public’s business. What public benefit would be realized if we detect and then reduce its pervasiveness! It may not be the most desirable way for people to relate to one another, but this doesn’t strike me as a sufficiently serious problem to merit any particular response.

    I can be convinced I’m wrong about that. But that’s where I’m starting out from.Report

    • I also think it’s kind of quick of the article’s author to assume that the site functions only as an escort arrangement.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I also note the titllative content of the story: college girls hooking up with wealthy middle-aged men (who would otherwise be invisible to them).

      I think @burt-likko hits on the driving factor of this article and its popularity. Or, at least, a combination of titillating and sexually disgusting, depending on your vantage point.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @burt-likko

      I agree about your what is to be done point? I certainly don’t want the women to be expelled from college. Again, I think prostitution should be legal just like I think narcotics should probably be legal but as mentioned above, legality does not necessary always equal encouragement.

      I do wonder what would happen if the cost of college was cut by between 50 percent. Let’s say Princeton costs 50,000 a year when you put all the expenses together. Graduating in four years will produce a debt load of 200,000 dollars assuming no financial aid or scholarships. That is a really big chunk of change to a 23 year old. What if the total cost was 100,000 or less? Would we see a dramatic decline in the number of people paying for college with sex work/escorting/looking for a sugar daddy (or mommy) arrangement?

      If yes, I think we can say that it is the extreme cost of college driving people to these arrangements and something can and should be done about this. I am not saying that seeking arrangements should be illegal but perhaps it is better to have people be able to say “I think I can do the education thing without going to Seeking Arrangements.”

      Do you disagree?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        If the student doesn’t want to prostitute his or herself out, why couldn’t he/she simply choose to go to a less expensive school?Report

      • I think if someone is in a position where they feel like they have to do sex work to pay for college, then I imagine tuition would have to be much less than even $100,000. If the argument needs be made that we must lower tuition and ensure someone can go to Princeton at half, or less, the current going rate, that argument must be made on its merits and not on the claim that we’re saving the girls from white slavery. I’m not in any case that interested in making Princeton cheaper. Public universities, maybe, but not the private u’s.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I am forced to use Princeton and N.Y.U as examples because the author of the Atlantic article did too. The Princeton angle probably also adds to the titillation more than if the example was UCLA or the University of MichiganReport

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @stillwater, because even though you can get a perfectly good education at a less expensive school, a degree from Princeton or similar college can get you opportunities that the less expensive school would not. Even if you don’t make any connections, an Ivy degree has some really powerful advertisement power for getting started in your career. Many employers see it as screaming, “well-qualified individual fit for nearly any job.”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        a degree from Princeton or similar college can get you opportunities that the less expensive school would not

        Of course it does. I’m not sure that answers the question, tho. It seems to me that a person who didn’t want to prostitute themselves out could simply choose to go to a less expensive school. Am I wrong about that?Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        Let’s say Princeton costs 50,000 a year when you put all the expenses together. Graduating in four years will produce a debt load of 200,000 dollars assuming no financial aid or scholarships.

        This is a poor assumption. Princeton gives excellent financial aid packages. No student will take out $200,000 worth of loans for it.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        @leeesq

        a degree from Princeton or similar college can get you opportunities that the less expensive school would not. Even if you don’t make any connections, an Ivy degree has some really powerful advertisement power for getting started in your career. Many employers see it as screaming, “well-qualified individual fit for nearly any job.”

        In that case, one should be able to pay for it from future earnings without prostituting oneself.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @stillwater

        Re: Princeton (or similar school) vs. Less-Expensive State School

        I suppose in a rough way it is a choice but I have a different view of choice over most people. If someone looked at the grand economic picture of the nation and the power of prestige, it could still be in their best interest to go to Princeton. There are also factors of biography involved which will be different for each individual, etc.

        That being said you could probably write a whole book on the idea of college, how much should it cost, and where people should go, and see a lot of socio-cultural politics coming into the equation. Some people seem to think you always pick the lowest cost option no matter what, others seem to think you go for the most prestigious school you got into no matter what. Everyone has their reasons, I suspect that these reasons are largely based on cultural ideals and assumptions more than anything else. There does seem to be a set of people who strongly object to the idea of places like Harvard or Princeton existing.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I suppose in a rough way it is a choice but I have a different view of choice over most people. If someone looked at the grand economic picture of the nation and the power of prestige, it could still be in their best interest to go to Princeton.

        What is your non-standard view of choice in this type of situation? I mean, in this case I’d call the choice Faustian (in the *worst* case scenario) and entirely controlled by the agent.

        Also, surely the kids who go to Princeton think doing so is in their best interests. Given that, why is their choosing to do something you find morally a problem? Why is it a problem if they think prostituting themselves morally objectionable? It’s not like Princeton set things up this way. Or even rich old dudes for that matter.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Been thinking about this for a bit now, and I have to say Saul – you make truth tellers outa Hanley and Roger. You’re the perfect embodiment of what they view liberalism (progressivism) to be all about: making moralistic judgments about right and wrong and trying to impose those views on others. This post and thread is a perfect example of that, it seems to me. Even if there is an “epidemic” of women choosing to prostitute themselves to pay for their tuition, there isn’t any harm inflicted, nor anything morally objectionable. It’s their choice.

        Would the world be better if they didn’t have to make that choice? Well, maybe. But a world in which women won’t be tempted by rich dudes to trade affection for cash is not a possible world given who we are as human beings. Just throwin that out there. Hope it doesn’t sound too harsh.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        As @scarletnumbers points out, Princeton, like most top American universities, has need-based financial aid. The high sticker price exists solely to get well-off families to cross-subsidize tuition for lower- and middle-class students. For a student from a family of average means, Princeton is cheaper than a state school.

        The reality is that only a tiny, tiny minority of students take out six-figure loans for an undergraduate education. I don’t particularly want to dig up the links now, but I looked this up a while back and found that 30% of students graduate with no debt, and of the other 70%, the median debt is around $30,000 (which is to say, 2/3 of all college graduates graduate with $30k of debt or less). Six-figure debts are almost always from undergradute plus professional degrees.

        Failing to mention this is terrible, terrible journalism.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Rather, I should say that most top private American universities have need-based financial aid.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        @saul-degraw
        Re: Princeton (or similar school) vs. Less-Expensive State School

        I suppose in a rough way it is a choice but I have a different view of choice over most people. If someone looked at the grand economic picture of the nation and the power of prestige, it could still be in their best interest to go to Princeton.

        Sounds like a very standard rational choice perspective.

        And following the same logic, it could be in their best interest to graduate debt free by making a trade with some older wealthier men. Or to get extra spending money by making a trade with older wealthier men, whichever it is that they’re doing.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        because even though you can get a perfectly good education at a less expensive school, a degree from Princeton or similar college can get you opportunities that the less expensive school would not

        @leeesq For the vast majority of students this is not the case. There are numerous studies showing that unless one comes from a below middle class background and/or is the first in their family to go to college, the advantage of going to an elite private school vs. a flagship state school is nil and the difference is selection effect. I.e. Kids that get into Harvard and go to Penn State do as well, on average, as kids that go to Harvard.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @mo

        Are we talking about do well in terms of their grades at college or their post-college economic output?

        I also wonder what the overlap is between schools like Harvard and schools like Penn State. My hunch is not much but I could be wrong. It could also be a lot because of people using Penn State as a safety.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @saul-degraw It’s when looking at income years after graduation. The exception is for minority, low income or first generation college students because presumably they have low social capital where the connections are worth it. But for the vast majority of students, the value of Harvard isn’t going there, it’s being good enough that they want you to go there.

        http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2011/03/01/the-ivy-league-earnings-mythReport

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      This epidemic is probably similar to the epidemic of high school teachers sleeping with students. In that it isn’t increasing in frequency, we just hear about it more thanks to the internet & a culture that can’t seem to keep a secret to save it’s life.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        Interesting comparison and I am not sure a desirable one…

        The secret line seems off. Are you suggesting that it is okay for high school teachers to sleep with students as long as everyone keeps mum? Are you saying we should sweep stuff like that under the rug?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @saul-degraw, I don’t think MRS is making any such judgment. MRS is simply stating is that these things happened in the past but the culture of the time favored keeping these sorts of things secret and the technology didn’t present a way to broadcast things to the world. In the past, if Suzy was exposed as paying her college education through prostitution than at worst or best, it would be revealed in the local daily. Now it gets broadcast to the entire world through the magic of the internet. The culture of the past also made people more reluctant to speak about these things rather than volunteer the fact that they are a sugar baby freely.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @saul-degraw @leeesq

        Lee has it right. It’s the same thing with quite a few “epidemics” of crime, or other less than ideal behavior. The internet makes the whole country so very interconnected that every small event that might never have made it past the local paper, buried on page 12, instead goes viral.

        And yes, I bet money that teachers were sleeping with students in the past, probably at the same rate. However, during my high school years (late 80’s, early 90’s), there was no internet & social media & constant connection to the internet via cell phone. The kids in my generation who were Hot For Teacher could not avail themselves of text messaging & Facebook posts, so the evidence trail that something was amiss was harder to find.

        Paper notes with pet names are easy to destroy & hard to link back to an adult. So are phone calls from landlines when caller ID was just coming out.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    It’s not like this is new. More widespread, perhaps, if the Atlantic and it’s sources are to be believed. Forty years ago, at the midwestern state university I attended, it was well known that some young women paid their way through school as sex workers (not that that term was in common usage at the time). I only met one who admitted to it, and she summed it up in pretty simple economic terms: “I can net more in four hours on Friday night than I can make at any of the standard part-time jobs in a week.”Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @michael-cain

      Agreed. Nothing is new under the sun and what not. I do think the internet makes us aware of these things more and probably does increase chances of it happening.*

      How did the women advertise/solicit? Did they use alternative weeklies? As far as I can tell, alt weeklies basically fund themselves with ads for “massage parlors” and escorts.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        As I recall it being described, it was all rather old-fashioned, with a madam who made the arrangements, screened clients (as well as the workers), handled most of the money other than tips, etc.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I forgot my asterisk.

      I always hear an old saw story about a dad paying for a sex worker to take his sons virginity. I always wanted to do a sketch/movie where a dad does this for his sweet but kind of geeky and shy college junior son. It turns out that the sex worker the dad hires is a woman that sits next to the guy in English seminar or whatnot.

      There is a way to make the awkwardness of this situation really funny. Or you can make it really sentimental and sweet?Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Stripping your way through college is not exactly an unknown story either.

      Of course, most strip clubs are pretty exploitative. (I’ve only known one person whose worked in one, and she waitressed and said the pressure to any waitress to strip was pretty heavy.The tips were better, but the management liked to rake in ‘fees’ from the dancers, which she didn’t have to worry about at least).Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Sure. And some dudes sell pot to pay tuition, too.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Or Cocaine sometimes in the case of one very famous bust at Columbia. I don’t know if that is advisable or preferable either even if I dislike the War on Drugs.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Ha. I know a kid who put himself through school selling out of his dorm room at a college in Utah; long since graduated and moved on with life. All I could think is for all the colleges in all the world. . . he said his products earned a premium there, it was easy to make a lot of money with nearly no effort.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I don’t know if that is advisable or preferable either even if I dislike the War on Drugs.

        I’m trying to parse this sentence. Are you saying that even if it weren’t illegal you would still find the practice of selling drugs to pay for school inadvisable (on what grounds?) and unpreferable (based on what standard?)?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @zic

        My guess is that the University of Utah would contain the non-Mormom population of the state and the Mormons would largely go to Bingham Young but I could be wrong.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @stillwater
        Its kind of like working for a cigarette company to pay your way through college. It might be legal, but it is severely morally questionable because, you know, cigarettes kill.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @stillwater

        1. As far as I know cocaine is still illegal so the idea of selling it to pay for tuition or even spending money does carry risks.

        2. I support legalization but a regulated one, not legalization in an anarchic free for all where you can buy from Larry or Monica selling from their apartments or dorm rooms.

        3. Narcotics (beyond maybe pot) do have serious health and addiction risks and it would be wise if the anti-drug war movement recognized that. You can realize that the War on Some Drugs is horrible on many policy and human levels but this does not mean that I need to shout “Yay do all the heroin you want”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Murali,

        What kind of libertarian are you? 🙂

        So, the reason it’s inadvisable for a student to sell legal drugs to pay for their education is because, those drugs being the killers that they are, selling them is immoral? Really?

        What if they need to sell those drugs to pay for that coveted Princeton degree? YOu know, the school that’s in their “best interests” to graduate from?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Saul,

        Seems like your saying that selling those legal drugs to pay for school is inadvisable because some of them carry heavy health risks (which the anti-WOD folks need to acknowledge! (duly noted, btw)) for the person purchasing and using those drugs. Is that right?

        If so, then the argument has nothing to do with tuition costs, but the types of behavior people engage in. You want a more moralistic society, one where not only do people not have to do such things to achieve their goals, but they wouldn’t choose to in any event. Like I said upthread, that’s an impossible world given who we are as human beings.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “2. I support legalization but a regulated one, not legalization in an anarchic free for all where you can buy from Larry or Monica selling from their apartments or dorm rooms.”

        so when a friend picks up a bottle of wine for you do you slap it out of their hands and declare them an anarchist?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Or, maybe you didn’t mean to imply those things. Honestly, I don’t know, since I didn’t understand how your comment answered my question and was just going with a best guess sorta thing. Obviously I could be wrong.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @saul-degraw You’re right about UU (though Zic doesn’t specify which college in Utah). University of Utah might as well be Gentile State University. Though a lot of Mormons do actually go there, it’s the place you want to go if you are not of the Brethren. Weber State isn’t the worst place, but BYU is BYU and USU isn’t a whole lot better from what I understand, and UU is in Salt Lake City and if you’re not Mormon and live in Utah, SLC is where you want to be.

        (“Gentile” obviously has a different meaning in Utah than it does just about everywhere else.)

        I should add that being a non-Mormon in Mormonland has a distorting effect on non-Mormons. You’re pretty much assigned to the counter-culture, regardless of your general predisposition and tendencies.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        The real issue here wasn’t which culture/counter-culture this kid was embedded in, it was the automatic very long-term prison sentences that result from any drug-law infraction in Utah. Unless you have the funds to pay for a lot of legal fees, fines, etc., even a roach is a six-month prison sentence.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Thinking a bit deeper; one of the reasons for taking drug culture out of the black markets is that it, in theory, makes us safer; less problems with gangs/cartels, less contaminated substances, less having-to-affiliate with criminal elements. You know all the arguments.

        Doesn’t the same thought process apply to the sex trade? Sully, a while back, had a guest blogger who addressed the question of your daughter working in the sex trade. We know, beyond doubt, that the sex trade is even more difficult to eradicate then the wish for intoxicants. So knowing, is it better to have an open and legal market, with safety standards and protections, or a black market of shame?

        The notion of working as a sex worker gives me an ick feel; but I’ve known women who worked in it (high end, like the girls in this story,) because they were good at it, enjoyed it, and it was better than the bulk of service-sector jobs they could land. Personally, I liked the notion of sex worker, Companions, from Firefly.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        @zic didn’t specify what was being sold, so maybe it was caffeinated beverages at BYU.Report

      • Avatar trumwill says:

        Mormons drink caffeine. Just not caffienated coffee.

        The placeI worked had a soda fountain in it, but no caffeinated coffee.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        @trumwill

        Yes, but BYU doesn’t sell them on campus, citing “lack of demand”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Following up on what zic said,
        Thinking a bit deeper; one of the reasons for taking drug culture out of the black markets is that it, in theory, makes us safer; …Doesn’t the same thought process apply to the sex trade?

        A recent NBER paper suggests so. Rhode Island sort of acccidentally, and temporarily, legalized indoor prostitution. From the paper’s abstract.
        Not surprisingly, we find that decriminalization increased the size of the indoor market. However, we also find that decriminalization caused both forcible rape offenses and gonorrhea incidence to decline for the overall population. Our synthetic control model finds 824 fewer reported rape offenses (31 percent decrease) and 1,035 fewer cases of female gonorrhea (39 percent decrease) from 2004 to 2009.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I don’t think it says anything great about American society that college tuition has become so expensive that high-end escorting seems to be the best way to finance an education

    Of course we don’t know that this last sentence is true. A journalist stumbling on an enticing story does not a cultural crisis make.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Assuming that the relative pay scales are the same as the woman I met 40 years ago described, perhaps the question that should be asked is why high-end escorting pays so much better than other part-time jobs that people that age can get.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Maybe Chris came down with cartoonitis.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        This is not new, the internet is just a new medium. It’s not just to pay for college, though of course that’s not unheard of. It’s not a huge trend, it’s just click bait.

        I remember the ol’ “stripping to pay for college” outrage/concern/reason to go to the strip club, which was another case of prudish outrage and condescending concern for all the poor little helpless women-folk who are forced to resort to [insert sex-related thing here… oh no, women having sex!], because Lord knows the ones who are actually involved (and not the multiplied total of our fears) can’t possibly be doing it because they want to or like it. They can only do it because the cruel world leaves them no other choice.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        It’s the sexist version of “won’t somebody pleeeeeeeeease think of the children.” And we will inevitably try to draw lessons about society, and maybe even policy, because young women are fucking, and we can’t have that.

        /rantReport

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @chris

        Everyone seems to be missing the part in my essay where I write that prohibition does not work.

        Also the parts where I do write about that the Atlantic publishes this because it tantilizes everyone and allows everyone (regardless of their ideology) to draw their own moral conclusions that confirms their ideology.

        And comments from you and Stillwater confirm my observation that it is impossible to say “Just because X should be legal, does not mean that it should be done or encouraged.” I don’t understand why such a statement is so hard to comprehend by so many Americans. You either have to be “Yay go shoot up heroin if you feel like it. Don’t care about the negative side effects or what being an addict can do to your family” or be a hard-core drug warrior it seems. Why is it impossible to recognize that the drug war is bad but shooting heroin might not be the greatest idea either to use a different example?

        Yes, there are plenty of women who will be able to do this and have no negative side-effects either physical or psychological. There are also plenty of women who will probably do this and suffer negative side-effects that are both physical and emotional. Tod mentioned the various pathologies and damages he has observed when women are “kept” and the damages occur in both the keeper and the kept. I’ve heard similar stories and experiences from people who were not Tod.

        This really should not be such a radical fucking concept or that difficult to grasp. Yet it seems to be.

        I would also add that many feminists are against legalizing sex work and whether sex work should be legalized or not is a hot topic in feminist circles from what I understand so discussing the pros and cons are not exactly the patriarchy coming down.

        You are right that this has always happened and always will happen with a bunch of other things which is why I think prostitution and narcotics should be legal, regulated, and kept safe for both seller and consumer. That does not mean that there are no negative side-effects (which might manifest later) or downsides.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Why do I feel as though if I said what Chris said it would have drawn an “oh, you libertarians thinking those poor women are making their own choices” response? Maybe because that’s what ended up in my email in-box when I did suggest what Chris just suggested.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I didn’t miss it, it’s just not relevant to my point, which is that they sucked you and plenty of other people in in the first place.

        Hell, the website isn’t new, and there are others. There’s even a TV show. But someone somewhere got wind of college students (similar stories popped up 6-8 months ago), we get a bunch of male concern, and no one actually bothers to actually research what’s going on and why the hell what we think is going on is so outrageous.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @james-hanley

        I think that there are people who would probably do this regardless of the cost of tuition for reasons Michael Cain mentioned above or other ones. I also think that there are people who probably are making calculations based on student loans and would not turn to sex work if tuition were lower.

        But I can see that I firmly and adamantly disagree with libertarians and conservatives on the costs of college tuition especially at public universities. I do think it is a universal good to keep tuition low even if it means higher taxes. To be fair, I think there are things we both agree money can be diverted from to keep tuition low like ending farm subsidies or overcriminalization and the military-industrial complex, etc.Report

      • Everyone seems to be missing the part in my essay where I write that prohibition does not work.

        I didn’t miss that point or the other points. That’s pretty much what I was agreeing with when I said above I agree with most of the rest of your OP.

        I do disagree with the notion that this “trend” (if it is a trend) is a reason to increase funding or otherwise address tuition costs. Tuition costs probably need to be addressed and maybe increasing funding is part of the answer, but it’s weak tea to rest it significantly on, “and by doing this, we’re saving girls from prostitution.”

        This really should not be such a radical fucking concept or that difficult to grasp. Yet it seems to be.

        No, it’s not difficult to grasp. And it’s not a distinction between people suffering “no negative consequences whatsoever” and people “suffering negative consequences.” It’s people playing a role in what risks they run and who forbids them to make that choice. (And yes, I realize you don’t endorse prohibition of sex work, but as you note, some, even some self-identified feminists, do.) I suspect no one does sex work without suffering some negative consequences. This might sound glib, but every kind of work I can think of has some negative consequences.

        And when all’s said and done, I am uncomfortable with the idea of sex work. I think it is exploitive. If I had a friend who was considering doing it and he/she asked my advice, I’d advise against it and if he/she didn’t follow my advice, I’d be worried about their well-being. But it’s also somehow about respecting their choices, even if I think their choices inadvisable. It’s a mix of unfortunate, bad, innocuous, and (maybe) good things, all rolled into one. Although I’d want it to be legal, I’m wary that legalizing it might not be the panacea for the problems that some make it out to be.

        You’re not necessarily arguing anything different. But I, for one, do believe I “fishing grasp” the concept.Report

      • You know, the tone of my last comment was kind of mean and while I stand by everything I said, I should’ve phrased it differently.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I also have a tendency to think I was being mean-spirited write after posting something.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I also think that there are people who probably are making calculations based on student loans and would not turn to sex work if tuition were lower.

        Saul, I’ll ask the question again: rather than prostitute themselves, couldn’t a person simply choose to go to a less expensive school? You haven’t answered that except to say you have a non-standard definition of “choice” in situations like this.

        Contra-Vikram’s Postulate, I’m going to assume that an analogy here will clarify what I see as the underlying point. Suppose I really want to become a member of the Boulder Country Club for instrumental and identity based reasons. That is, because it’s in my “best interest” because of all the opportunities and privileges that membership will convey. Suppose that the only way I can make enough money to pay for the dues is to sell myself to rich old women with rich old husbands no longer attentive to their needs. (Suppose I’m also young and attractive!)

        If I chose to follow that path, would you say that the price of a premier golf club membership is too high based on the choices I made to pay for gaining entry to that club?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        And comments from you and Stillwater confirm my observation that it is impossible to say “Just because X should be legal, does not mean that it should be done or encouraged.”

        Oh! Is that your point? That prostitution and drugs shouldn’t be encouraged even if they’re legal? Sorry, I thought your point was that tuition rates ought to a lot lower because we (as a society!) are suffering an epidemic of women being forced into prostitution to pay their tuition bills and student loans.

        Sorry bout that Saul. Next time you write a post I won’t comment on it. I’ll just wait for your clarifications in comments and respond to those.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Also, it’s not prostitution, or at least most of it isn’t. It’s dating, with women selecting for wealthy men. We could have a conversation a lot women and the economy, maybe, but what I see is just people freaking out because women are having sex. If you want to have a conversation about prostitution because women are using a site for a particular type of romantic relationship, my problem is that you wrote the post at all.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        These chicks should be in *my* dating pool!Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Translation please.Report

  7. Avatar kylind says:

    I’ve read a very similar article here in Germany, some years back.
    Around here, the student debt for the average student is more in the range of 10,000 euro and three times that would probably be a rare and very shocking amount.
    That suggests to me, that it isn’t just about the cost. Obviously, more inequality will cause more prostitution at the margin, but when even a fraction of the cost causes prostitution, then you can’t eliminate it by targeting just the cost.

    In the end it’s probably a very simple calculation. Older men have money and want the companionship of young, educated women. Young women have their bodies and want money. Solve for the equilibrium.
    One short session with a client pays as much as a whole day of work. One evening with a client pays as much as a weeks wages. Higher end clients sometimes pay ridiculous amounts of money for beautiful, educated women to spend time with them. It’s no surprise when they take that offer instead of cleaning office buildings or working retail.Report

  8. Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    I agree that the Atlantic article is one of those regular panic attacks we have of “OMG these kids today”.
    While of course, the best evidence we have is that these kids today consume less drugs and tobacco than their parents, get pregnant at lower rates, and in general are more morally upright than we were.
    I don’t for a minute believe there is any such epidemic, or that there is one thing new here.

    WRT sex work, I don’t buy the false dichotomy of an unfettered market in sexuality or the rigid enforcement of a narrow morality.

    For example, if brothels were legalized, we would still have a prohibition. We would set guidelines and boundaries, and prohibit violations.

    Once we strip away our instinctive ambivalence and anxiety over sexuality and view it simply as work- (problematic, but for the sake of argument) we see that there is as always, a fine line between coercion and consent.

    Does a guy really consent to working 14 hours a day, or is that just the best of limited options? Is it a just society that presents him with that limited menu? How do we cope with the fallout of that dynamic?

    I can actually agree with the libertarians here that there is value and wisdom in respecting people’s choices, even the awful and self destructive ones. I also think we need to grasp that these awful self destructive ones directly and indirectly affect us. So when we blithely accept the choices made by others, we are mortgaging our own futures to the consequences.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @lwa-liberal-with-attitude

      I agree with everything you wrote here and I was trying to get to the very fine line between consent and coercion that often seems to be a dividing line between liberals and libertarians. We got into similar arguments a while back about a person agreeing to sell their own organs. My feeling is that once someone decides to sell their own organ, he or she is probably in rather dire circumstances and society would be better off making sure people had options or never reached such circumstances as much as possible. Or this would at least be the sign of an ethical and good society.

      There are circumstances when I think a person can choose willingly to work a 14 hour day. There are also plenty of circumstances where it might be the least bad of a set of bad options. Some of these least bads are less troubling than others. A college student burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline is a good example of when there should be no intervention or it is at least not a societal problem. Maybe the same with a last minute deadline or life and death surgery at the last moment.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

        The issue I would like to probe deeper and see more recognition of, is that all choices are linked in som way- that there are very few if any that can truly be said to have no externalities.
        I don’t mean in a mystical “butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon and it rains in Tokyo” way.

        I mean in the very concrete and literal way that a young man chooses to become an alcoholic, and spends the next 20 years leaving a trail of destruction and suffering in his wake until he dies.

        We may- on balance- be a better society because we allowed that choice. But we, collectively suffered as a result. Accepting awful choices is not the same as indifference.Report

  9. Avatar j r says:

    The article starts off with a dramatic and movie worthy story/scene about a young woman at Princeton University who is whisked away to NYC in a limo for a midnight dinner, late night sex, and then promptly returned to campus in time for her 10 AM class.

    A limo? Who was this 60-something banker? Gordon Gekko? You see a limo in 2014 and chances are it’s a bunch of teenagers from New Jersey, not the Masters of the Universe or their mistresses.

    This reads like fiction to me. The author should have made it an Uber and maybe then it would be more believable.

    If it is not an iron law of the internet, then it ought to be: never take accounts of how much money someone is making from elicit activity at face value. They are almost always lying or exaggerating. This reminds me of that guy who was going to have a reality show about his 11 kids from 12 different women who claimed to have been a millionaire by the time he was 21 from selling drugs or the Duke coed who claimed that she was financing her education doing pro-am adult scenes that maybe pay about $1500 before taxes and expenses. It’s almost all clickbait.Report