Rent for sex arrangements in the UK raise concerns over exploitation of vulnerable people and their freedom of choice
Politicians, charities and journalists decry the practice
Online advertisements that offer accommodation in exchange for sex have been increasing, raising concerns over the exploitation of vulnerable people and their freedom of choice, according to an investigation by the BBC last month.
Charities have described the advertisements – which are legal and appear on platforms such as Craigslist and Gumtree – as exploitative.
“They would argue that they have chosen voluntarily to enter that situation. The trouble is when you have a vulnerable person who then becomes exploited, the concept of choice soon disappears.”
In an opinion piece, Poppy Noor, a reporter for The Guardian, wrote: “How do you negotiate autonomy over your own body with someone who has a key to your room or lives in your home, and can put you on the street if you refuse? And who do you complain to if those terms are broken?”
Journalist and author Helen Croydon had also investigated these advertisements.
In an interview with London Live News, she said: “What is wrong with it this is that I think that the man who produce this adverts don’t actually grasp the total loss of freedom and independency of this people.”
It is a form of prostitution, and I am not saying there is something wrong with prostitution, but this is a new form of prostitution! These men want these women to move in with them on a twenty-four hour basis and some adverts even offered a shared bed.”
Referring to London as one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, Croydon added: “From the men I spoke with about the adverts, 80% of them already had experienced previous arrangements and in every case it had been with a foreigner student.”
I do think they will feel tempted in desperate situations, I don’t think many students have maturity and personal experience to realise the invasion of space and privacy this would be.I would like for these men to take responsibility and understand how much freedom they are taking from this people.” She added.
Consuelo Tersol, an Italian student, tells The New Normal about her experience that took place in Edinburgh just last year. She was looking for a room and came across a post that interested her:
“I called him and he said that there was only one room in the house and we would need to share a bed. I hung up the phone.”
Consuelo speculates that a lot of students might have had similar experiences and come in contact with these types of adverts.
In an opinion piece for The Guardian, writer and artist Penny Anderson said that most of these tenants are women seeking asylum and she also refers them as “potential tenants who must show documents proving they have the right to remain in the UK.”
All over the UK politicians are spreading awareness regarding this subject, pointing out the need to step in and address issues facing the public housing sector.
Wales assembly member Dawn Bowden,who brought up the matter in the National Assembly, said to WalesOnline: “Whilst this practice may not be illegal, it is inherently immoral and is deliberately targeting desperate women, and sometimes men, who feel they have no other options than to give into this exploitation.”
A Welsh Government spokesman stated in the same National Assembly to WalesOnline: “We condemn this abhorrent practice which takes advantage of the poverty and social inequality of the people it preys on.
We are already working to address the underlying difficulties faced by people seeking to secure good-quality, secure accommodation through the provision of affordable housing, mitigating the economic pressures from zero hours contracts and benefit changes, our anti-slavery policies and initiatives and our support services for vulnerable people with multiple needs.”