There are always two sides to every story, or in this case, street; Grey Street to be precise. This once grand residential area of St Kilda has become notorious for its street workers, gutter crawlers, and drug problems. This controversial matter has informed many that sex work may be the only option for the unfortunate ones in desperate need of cash, including some Victorian university students.
Prostitution has been around since the beginning of recorded history. Our social view of sex work has swayed over time from decriminalisation and regulation, to neo-abolitionism and prohibitionism. The majority of people believe that it is an immoral act, which violates the sex worker’s human rights.
Since mid-February 2011, the Victorian government has placed laws that help to enforce the prohibition of sex work on many of the streets in St Kilda, including; Carlisle, Blessington, Inkerman, Grey, Greeves, Vale and Barkley Streets. Police patrol the streets at night, hunting down those in breach of these laws. Nonetheless, the banning of these activities has not stopped street workers and ‘gutter crawlers’ on Grey Street from their illegal activities.
But is that the only truth in sex work? The stigma that we call prostitution also has a flip side.
Sex workers are most commonly driven into this profession fearful for their life and survival. They question whether they will be able to provide for themselves. We may think that this is an impossible situation to be forced into, but for the small percentage of people, this fear has become their reality.
Another harsh reality that we have to acknowledge is that students have many financial issues during their courses; as you well know, most university students are broke. Some cases have reported that they had severe enough financial problems to have caused them to resort to sex work in order to compensate for increasing university fees. The number of students working in the sex industry has increased exponentially.
A university student with experience in this field, who preferred not to be named, put it this way:
‘Typically they’re very career-oriented and know exactly what they want to get out of the job. Going to uni is obviously getting more and more expensive, and for many who haven’t got wealthy parents, this is the best way to make ends meet. Most of the girls say it’s the rising costs of fees and being a student in an expensive city like Melbourne that is making them consider the sex industry.’
Should this activity go unnoticed? Before we judge, we should stop to think of what most of these people will be going through in order to truly understand why students and sex workers exploit themselves in such a way. We don’t know anything about them, their life, their issues, or their current financial status.
Think before you judge, as you well know, there are always two sides to every coin.
Written by Rory Harrington
Illustrator: Veronica Mellere