VANCOUVER (CUP) — Kate is 21 years old. She’s a second-year Vancouver Community College student, and she’s part of a growing trend.
Kate recently posted an ad on Craigslist searching for another female to team up with her as a “partner in crime,” as she put it. She wrote that she was looking for another girl to participate in sexual acts with her, and potentially a multitude of other men, in hopes of making some quick and easy cash to help pay for some of life’s necessities. Her thinking was that two women would be safer and perhaps more profitable than one.
Despite the full swing of the recession, life waits for no one, and neither do life’s costs. Many people are finding it hard to get by in today’s world where unemployment and inflation dominate. Kate is no exception. A self-sufficient student who attends full-time classes while juggling a part-time job, she is but another victim of the vicious economic downturn. Like many others her age, she has had to look beyond the conventional means of earning an income to find an alternative, albeit illegal, way to earn a decent living.
“The economic position of the world has made it hard for me and my boyfriend to make enough money to pay for the basic necessities of life and pursue future career goals,” said Kate.
“I am a very smart, intelligent person. I received honours and top-of-the-class (recognition) in many of my subjects, but times are tough and this will allow me to make a lot of money without sacrificing a lot of precious time.”
Kate said this is the first time she has ever done something like this. She said she has never before solicited her body for any reason and admits that even given the circumstances, it is a very difficult decision to make. While she has yet to act on her ambitions, she said there is a 70 per cent chance she will go through with her plan.
Kate is not alone. Currently there are dozens of girls posting similar ads on Craigslist and other free ad sites in Vancouver alone. After describing their smile, body type and breast size, most girls express that they are willing to perform a rainbow of sexual acts in return for cash to help pay rent, tuition and general living costs. Kate herself confessed that it is out of pure need that she has ultimately turned to prostitution.
A story published by the London Times in 2006 wrote that prostitution among female students went up 50 per cent from 2000 to 2006. One in 10 students in the U.K. are likely to know someone who has performed sexual favours in return for tuition payments. The group that did the research said the results were in accordance with what they expected given the growing financial difficulties students face.
Selling your body is not the only alternative. Illegal money comes fast and in abundance no matter what the source, and more and more youth are willing to risk a criminal record to get it in their pockets.
Blair has been selling marijuana in the Vancouver area for three years. Even before the economy began its decline, the 22-year-old found it difficult to live on his own and pay for basic needs on his paycheques alone. Blair, who works full-time at a model restoration company, said the money he makes from selling marijuana is enough to pay for all his basic living costs with money to spare for extras. He said his average $1,500-a-month paycheck helps, but is not enough to support him on his own.
“Rent alone is $840 a month,” said Blair. “And then I’ve got groceries, Muay Thai (boxing classes), gas, insurance…. My transmission blew up twice last year and that cost me $5,000, but I need a car for work.”
Blair says he enjoys dealing drugs on the side but admits that he’s not proud of it.
“If you can do it, it’s too easy and it’s good cash,” said Blair. who pointed out the similarities between selling weed and other illegal quick-cash schemes. “My house was broken into last month and I was robbed for everything. I was pissed, but then in the end I’m no better than the people who did that shit. It’s bad, man. But you do what you’ve got to do. That’s just life sometimes.”
Blair is a seasoned veteran at doing what he feels he has got to do to get by. Ever since he held a previous job at a gas station, he’s been part of a scam that allows gas station attendants to exchange full points cards with empty ones, stealing the full cards and returning the empty card to the patron who actually earned the points. The points are then redeemed for gift cards and sold at a discount to friends, who in turn redeem these gift cards for cheap gas. The employees profit from every stolen gift card sold.
Blair also admits to having scammed credit cards at one point.
“When times were tough a little while ago, I learned how to scam money from credit cards. At first it helped pay the bills, but when I started pulling in more money I was actually able to save it. Actually, I got to Europe by scamming credit cards,” he said.
When asked if he had ever contemplated asking his family for money when he falls on hard times, he said he would never consider asking anybody for a dime.
“It’s just not in my nature. What’s the point of living on your own then? I don’t want to go home. That’s a step back for me.”
Desperate times, desperate measures
Similar tales include that of a 22-year-old man who admitted to stealing cash out of the register at a Tim Hortons because his minimum wage paycheques and progressively fewer shifts were not enough to keep him afloat in the sinking economy.
“Anyone who would give me exact change, I’d just open the till without punching in an order and remember how much extra I put in. At the end of the night, sometimes I’d come out with an extra 40 or 50 bucks,” said the man. “It’s what you’ve got to do sometimes.”
Another 18-year-old girl used Craigslist to advertise her “need of financial help, big time.” Her post boasts her “5 ft 3, 106 lbs, very petite and sexy body, great ass, small but perky breasts, soft skin, full lips, great smile and awesome personality” to men all over the Vancouver area who are willing to help her out with her $500 rent bill.
After a couple of emails back and forth, in which she wrote, “have I got a story for you,” the barely-legal teen stopped returning mail and backed out of an interview.
Any of the above may be good, quick cash, but all interviewees openly expressed a sense of shame in participating in criminal activity to earn enough of an income to live a normal life. In the end, the economy is what it is and the choices these young people are making are still choices. There are many alternative yet law-abiding places to turn to in times of financial need, but perhaps none quite as lucrative as the business of crime.
For many, though, the legality and morality of the issue has taken a spot on the back burner right now. After all, a man must eat before he has enough energy to worry about personal ethics.