Sex Work Among Medical Students On the Rise?

Prostitution among medical students may be on the rise.

ByABC News
February 28, 2012, 12:12 PM

Feb. 29, 2012— -- Sex work among medical students is on the rise, claims a new editorial, published in the journal Student BMJ. The UK-based publication noted that students are likely seeking extreme measures to deal with their financial hardship.

One in 10 students knows of another who participated in prostitution to pay their medical student loans, according to the editorial.

"Mounting evidence suggests that more university students are engaging in prostitution as a means to pay increasing tuition fees, growing debts, and high living costs," Jodi Dixon, the author of the editorial, wrote. "With escalating debts, students in the United Kingdom may view prostitution as an easy way to get rich quick."

Dixon refused ABC News' request for comment.

The numbers are rising, she noted. In 2006, about 6 percent of students reportedly knew a peer who participated in sex work. Now, those figures have risen to just below 10 percent, according to the research.

Prostitution is not illegal in the UK, but soliciting for sex and brothels are prohibited. Prostitution is banned throughout the U.S., except Nevada. In 2009, Natalie Dylan of San Diego, Calif., made headlines for auctioning off her virginity to pay for her master's degree in family and marriage therapy.

Dixon wrote that the media may also influence students' turn to prostitution to pay the bills. She pointed toward a popular UK television show, "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," which is based on the life of Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist who worked in prostitution while gaining her doctorate in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science.

Past surveys have noted that pole and lap dancing are the most popular type of sex work of which students participate. Stripping is second and prostitution came third, according to the report.

"[These are] very unfortunate choices that go against the ethical standards that doctors are expected to uphold," said Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and author of the book, "Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets." "Prostitution is worse and convictions for prostitution need to be acknowledged by medical students when they apply for a license, hospital positions, and so on."

While most would agree that prostitution isn't the best way to deal with school debt, Lieberman, who has treated medical students who have contemplated prostitution to pay back loans, said there are other, greyer, areas where people can trade sex for money.

"Gold-digging is a seemingly more sophisticated pursuit that necessitates a lot of denial, if not delusion," continued Lieberman. "The woman pretends she's enjoying the man's company, and the man pretends she loves him for himself, not his money. And websites that match 'sugar daddies' with 'sugar babies' are on the rise as being favorite solutions for students who need or want more money."

Of course, many more students who are in significant debt do not seek out sex work to pay it off. Students who have been sexually abused in the past or came from a household where they watched "flagrant sexual encounters" are more likely to rationalize the pursuit of sex work to pay the bills.

Parents are to blame for not instilling healthier attitudes toward sex, said Lieberman, and the media is to blame for glamorizing "bad girls" and encouraging young women to do the same.

But before putting too much weight on Dixon's commentary, Dr. Ted Marmor, professor emeritus of public policy and management at Yale School of Management, said there is too much "speculation" on very "thin evidence" to make such bold proclamations about students and prostitution.

Nevertheless, financial guidance may assist students in curbing decisions to seek out sex work to cover the costs. Even more importantly, students should get "at the root of their problems through psychotherapy," said Lieberman.