Mercy Muroki: Female students are being encouraged to see sex work as a genuine career path

If we encourage young women to go down this path, we do so at our peril. But the people who will suffer the most in the end will be - unequivocally - these young women

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Police are hunting down 'sugar daddy' conmen who are swindling university students out of thousands of pounds, The Times newspaper reports this morning...

The conmen are finding female students on sugar daddy dating sites and tricking them into handing over personal information and bank details in return for cash and gifts... One single bank has already had 40 reports this kind since the summer and now concerns are being raised than this could be much more widespread than we think...

There is a growing number of young women exchanging romance for cash and gifts, whether that's by sending sexually explicit images of themselves to the highest bidder on apps, or meeting up with older, wealthier men in exchange for an apparent life of luxury.

And, sadly, these young women are being told that it's empowering to be treated like a commodity. It's simply not. What I think is that it's degrading, that it's dangerous, and let's call it out for what it is: soft prostitution.

OnlyFans, the popular site where people can charge their subscribers for sexy pictures and videos, boomed during the pandemic. Revenue grew by over 500% in 2020, with users spending £1.7 billion on the site.

A growing number of female students are being encouraged to see this as a genuine career path. And there is now a normalisation of viewing these young women as nothing but fresh meat that's up for grabs by the highest bidder...

Now, I'm not calling for the government to ban these sites or to punish the young women who use them. I want more common sense, not more government. And people doing things I disagree with is a price I'm willing to pay to live in a civil society. But if we're going to allow all of this to happen, the least we can do is be honest with ourselves.

Conmen taking advantage of the rise of young women willing to exchange intimacy for cash is only the tip of the iceberg. The real price that will be paid is a generations of young women with crippling self esteem issues, who think their value is tied to how much cash someone is willing to hand them. Who will become addicted to superficial relationships and superficial aesthetics. Who will be continuously exploited by bad guys posing as benefactors. Who are less likely to be taken seriously or respected - not least by future employers - because their parts are plastered on the internet, or on some creepy mans phone who can share them with anyone at any time...

If we encourage young women to go down this path, we do so at our peril. But the people who will suffer the most in the end will be - unequivocally - these young women.