Reflections on ‘Sex for Rent’

Aug 04, 2023

We know that ‘sex for rent’ is not an isolated form of abuse and believe it needs to be set within the wider context of violence against women and girls, and a national housing crisis.

As an organisation supporting women involved in the sex industry, Beyond the Streets recently submitted a response to a Home Office consultation that sought to better understand the occurrence of ‘sex for rent’ (or exchange of sexual relations for accommodation) and where it sits within our current legal framework. This was endorsed by other organisations in our affiliate network.

To reduce instances of sexual exploitation around housing and accommodation, there is a need for changes to be made which address the underlying issues at play.

The underlying issues which need addressing include:

  • The gender pay gap within the UK
  • Lack of affordable, good quality social housing  
  • Lack of regulation of the private rental market 
  • An inadequate welfare system where age discrimination is built in  
  • Freezing of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates by the government since April 2020 
  • Women’s hidden homelessness and gendered experience of the criminal justice system 
  • Lack of refuge spaces for women leaving an abusive partner. 

For more details around these issues, see this excerpt of our consultation response.

The occurrence of ‘Sex for Rent’ is currently trending in the news and on social media. The emphasis which is dominating this conversation is on rogue landlords and their deplorable behaviour, without enough focus on the key message that we are asking anyone interested in this topic to take home, which is that ‘sex for rent’ is not an isolated form of abuse but is occurring within a wider context of gender inequality, financial strain, and lack of adequate housing. 

The exchange of sexual relations for accommodation is happening in a variety of informal and varied situations, not solely within formal landlord-tenant relationships. If we narrow our focus to formal landlord-tenant arrangements, the multiple other forms of sexual exploitation around housing and accommodation are left out of this conversation and the wider context is more easily overlooked.  

Without concerted effort, investment and political will to address the wider underlying factors outlined above, the opportunity for abuse and exploitation within exchanges of sexual relations for accommodation will remain.