I became a lap dancer to pay off my student debt
Do you often wonder how you would cope with student debt? Twenty-one-year-old Beth* turned to lap dancing to fund her way through university.
Dancing for a stranger, wearing just a bikini and a fake smile, isn't how most students want to spend their weekend. But my job as a lap dancer was the only thing keeping me financially afloat. I hated dirty old men gaining pleasure from me, sometimes even asking for 'extras'. I would come home after each shift and wash myself over and over. I was tormented emotionally by what I was doing but had run up such huge debts I didn't feel I had a choice. The punters had no respect for me, and I had none for myself. How had I got myself into such a mess?
Getting into debt
I was 18 when I started my degree in English Literature at Brighton university and life couldn't be better. I liked my course, made a lot of friends and went out partying at the weekends. I'd heard about students getting into debt but was confident it wouldn't happen to me as I'd always been sensible with money. However, once I'd paid my rent I realised just how little money I had left. And this was just the first month.
I started using my credit card to cover costs. It was meant for emergencies only, but before I knew it I was running up huge debts. I opened another student account and was soon dipping into my two huge overdrafts. I decided to get a part-time job as a waitress, but the money was poor and the hours were long. I was exhausted and found it hard to concentrate in lectures. I was so worried about my finances I couldn't sleep, but was too embarrassed to own up to anyone.
"I realised I was in a strip club"
I was feeling desperate when I saw an advertisement in a club window for help. The job description was vague but the money looked good and, at the time, that was all I cared about. When I turned up to the club for my interview I saw five glamorous girls waiting, then I spotted the poles and realised I was in a strip club. I was shocked and angry at myself for not researching the place properly, but I needed the money and the club owner was keen on me, so I started later that week.
My job mostly involved giving lap dances to pervy, middle-aged men from 11pm until six in the morning. Clients would shove money in my underwear as I rubbed against them. When large groups of businessmen came in I had to host. I would serve drinks in a leopard-print bikini and pretended to have a good time whilst they stared at my breasts. If the men paid extra, my boss made me host topless. But that wasn't the worst part.
I would come home after each shift and wash myself over and over.
Sometimes a customer would pay extra for me to go into a backroom and dance naked. There were cameras to make sure I was doing the job properly. I felt so degraded I sometimes wanted to attack the customers just for the way they were looking at me. But I'd nearly maxed out two overdrafts so had to 'grind' and bear it. By the end of each shift I felt humiliated and disgusted with myself.
My life had spiralled out of control. I felt so low at times I thought about self-harm as a way of venting my anger. Although my finances were in better shape, I wasn't. I had no self-esteem left, my uni work began to suffer and I became depressed. I was frequently in tears and was angry and irritable with my housemates. I kept wondering what my parents would say if they found out.
I couldn't seem to get myself out of the rut I'd got myself into. However, it all changed when I went home for a weekend. My mum asked me if everything was OK and I burst into tears. I told her everything, and she told my dad. To my surprise they weren't angry or disappointed, just very understanding.
They told me to quit the job right away and gave me an extra allowance every month to help with bills and rent. They also helped me apply for a bursary at uni, which made a huge difference.
Getting out of debt
I was lucky to have understanding parents, but I still wish I'd done something sooner. Debt is an issue that affects many students, yet stripping isn't the solution. There are bursaries you can apply for and also advice on how to budget. Many students suffer in silence but it's important to seek help rather than keep it to yourself. I'm now working as a teaching assistant and have learnt to put what I did in the past. I couldn't be happier but I'll always keep an eye on my bank balance from now on.
As told to Daisy Phillipson