Survival sex, a self-explanatory term, simply means making ends meet by engaging in fornication, in return for money. Survival sex is prevalent among the impoverished and the homeless. It is often sought out in an attempt to getting food, a place to sleep for the night, drugs or other basic needs. Poverty researchers and aid workers use this term to describe people who are in dire need of food and shelter. Many researchers like to think that people are predisposed to prostitute themselves because it has been familiar to them; especially those who have fallen victim to child sexual abuse. But many other researchers promulgate that, with the exception of a small percentage, most prostitutes seeking survival sex want to extricate themselves from the industry, given the potential for disease and the perils in the job.


Survival sex has been a subject of debate in countries like New Zealand, Colombia, United States, Canada, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, Uganda, and South Africa. It has seen prevalence throughout the world. In fact, so common that, researchers find that at least one in three child derelicts in the indigent regions of North America has had to engage in adultery for survival. In one study carried out on the guttersnipes of Los Angeles, it was concluded that about one-third of girls and half the boys had engaged in survival sex. The proclivity of indulging in survival sex increases with the number of the days the homeless has been homeless, had committed crime, been victimised, attempted suicide, injected illicit drugs, being pregnant or have had an STD. Another study finds the correlation between survival sex and the people who are considered to be outcast. The study finds that gay, lesbian and transgender street children are three times likelier to indulge in survival sex. This study is backed up by another study which reveals that transgenders are most likely to indulge in survival sex than any of the other groups.


There have been many studies which have found that street children do not necessarily see survival sex as an exploitative; but rather are deluded to think it as means of building a ‘potential relationship.’ One strong predictor of engagement in survival sex is a prior history of the person.

Anti-prostitution activist and psychologist Melissa Farley write to the New York Times, saying that, more often than not, survival sex is coercive and lacks consent. She goes on to write that that is the biggest issue, not health and safety risks or the simple inequalities between buyers and sellers. Farley also argues that women do not have enough viable alternatives of paying for their basic needs. Farley extrapolates her lopsided argument to assert that women would be further vulnerable to the job option that prostitutes have, for she thinks that prostitutes would also be vulnerable to workplaces environments.

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