Student sex workers need more support! In the UK, conservative estimates suggest that the sex industry is worth over £8.8 billion, and this is not including sex workers who do not declare their earnings, as well as online sex work where the companies profiting are tax registered in other countries.
A study published in June of this year found that student sex workers often describe feeling a strong sense of rootedness within sex-work communities, with sex work becoming an important part of their identity. Rather than living a double life, respondents aspired to a singular, authentic selfhood.
Gone are the days of sex work being an occupation only existing in dark alleyways, something to be hidden away and discussed in whispers. Now, the sex industry is viewed as a part of daily life, with top 40 songs referencing the renowned website ‘Onlyfans’ and with Perfect 10s strip club clearly visible to anyone who walks through Preston city centre. Many sex workers are loud and proud about what they do.
For UCLan especially, supporting student sex workers is key. The following quote was taken directly from the University’s website:
"The University of Central Lancashire has been transforming lives since 1828 and has always been committed to access and widening participation. To this day we pride ourselves on being an open and accessible institution for people from all backgrounds. We believe strongly in the power of higher education to promote social mobility and this is reflected in our extensive widening participation activities and student support services."
Many of the students who attend UCLan will come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of our students will have to work in a variety of sectors, one of which is sex work, in order to be able to afford what some other students are handed. This is especially exaggerated when we consider the majority of sex workers will not have been able to benefit from the government job retention scheme (furlough), leaving them in increasingly dire financial predicaments.
We need to support all our students, not just the ones that fit our preconceived vision of what the perfect student should be.
When we refuse to discuss something, we give it power.
When we choose not to actively support our student sex workers, we teach students that it is something that we shouldn’t speak about. When choose not to support our student sex workers, we teach exploiters, traffickers, abusers, that there will be no repercussions for their behaviour.
We need to speak about it.
We need to provide students with a safe space where they can talk about their experiences, share their problems and develop solutions - just as we would with any other career.
We need to empower our students, so that they can make educated decisions and know their rights.
We need students to know that they can come to us when things go wrong.
Sex work is not inherently harmful, but stigma can make sex work circumstantially dangerous.
As your Students’ Union, we are calling for the University to step up and support their students by reaching out through communications to encourage and empower student sex workers to come forward for support without fear of judgment...