About 6,750 students from across the UK took part in an online study by Swansea University.
It claims nearly 5% of them had actually worked in the sex industry and male students were more likely to become involved than women.
Work ranged from stripping, phone sex chat, erotic dancing to prostitution.
It included escort work but also work, which did not involve direct contact, such as webcam work and glamour modelling.
The Student Sex Work Project was carried out by Swansea University’s Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
The findings suggest:
- Nearly two thirds were motivated to earn money to fund a lifestyle, but 45% wanted to avoid debt
- 59% thought they would enjoy the work, 54% were “curious,” 45% wanted to work in the industry and 44% were motivated by sexual pleasure.
- Of those who had worked, more than half was for less than six months, or for less than five hours a week
- Some 76% of students engaged in the sex industry reported that they felt safe in their work “always” or “very often” but 49% involved in direct sex work had a fear of violence
Dr Tracey Sagar, who co-led the study, said stereotyping was a problem and the discovery that more men were involved in the sex industry than was commonly thought was a “significant finding”.
Although only a third of those researched were men, of those taking part in the survey, 5% said they were involved in sex work, compared to nearly 3.5% of the women.
“Sex work is widely but wrongly perceived to be an occupation that is predominantly taken up by women and this means that males may fall through the student support net because they are not associated with sex work occupations,” she said.