Student Sex Workers ‘Should Be Punished’ Say Universities

Things are tough enough at the moment for sex workers, as even with Amnesty International coming forward and saying that decriminalisation is the way to go, there are plenty of people out there who believe that sex work is evil, and if you are taking part in it that you are being tempted by the devil… or something like that.

Young attractive happy couple embracing in bedroom

Talk to anyone without a clue about the sex industry and ask what they think about it and they will say that it is wrong, that so many women are trafficked into the country in order to satisfy men, and that they shouldn’t be being forced to do this kind of work when it isn’t what they want to do. They’ll ignore the fact that men also work in the sex industry and that a lot of sex workers actually enjoy their work, because it doesn’t fit their idea about the industry.

You’d think that places like universities would know better, with so many young minds there who have a better idea of what is going on, especially with many students choosing to join the industry to make a little extra money for themselves. Well, it seems that isn’t the case, as universities in Wales are now coming forward to say that student sex workers “should be punished” for using sex work as a way to pay their tuition fees.

Looking at the attitudes of Universities

The Student Sex Worker Project at Swansea University wanted to know basically how universities around the country feel about student sex workers, and whether their work out of university would really have an impact on their learning. Of course, we know that it wouldn’t, but the stigma is still out there, and this is what the Student Sex Worker Project wanted to look at.

What they found was quite disappointing, as a huge number of staff at a variety of universities felt that students “should be chastised” if they would go into sex work and then use the money from that to fund their degree or pay for their tuition… because how dare students be independent instead of simply taking a student loan!

Their report said that there were “two universities” who “indicted that they would take action against the student” involved in sex work, stating that it was “in case the university’s reputation would be put at stake”.

The report went on to say that the universities taking this action would pursue it “particularly when the student’s behaviour would be subject to some sort of ‘police or legal investigation’,” suggesting that these universities feel that sex work would always lead to police or legal involvement… which isn’t the case.

Mixed messages from universities

There were, of course, some universities out there who realised that being paid for sex had absolutely nothing to do with the student’s performance at university, and so they would simply show that student that they understood what was going on and do nothing else.

However, the Student Sex Worker Project also found out some other interesting things. They said that “the university case study and personal interviews with university staff showed that disclosures were dealt with very differently, from a ‘doing nothing’ approach to warning the student that if they did not cease, there would be some form of disciplinary action.”

So depending on which university you were at, you might be able to continue working happily with no-one really caring about what you get up to outside of university, while there are others who want to make sure you stop doing something as foul as sex work. How dare you get a job you enjoy that makes you a decent amount of money!

The project discovered that the main reason for this huge difference in perception was not only the personal stigma each member of staff held, but also because they were “unaware or unsure” about the different support available, and “that majority want university policy or guidance available, including information about the law” so that they can give useful advice to any students coming forward to say that they are a sex worker.

Listening to the voice of experience

So how exactly should universities handle it? I am of the belief that they should simply make sure that the student is happy with their choice and know who to direct them to if they aren’t. Other than that, it is none of the university’s business, and that is something that Carly Rae Summers believes too.

Summers was a sex worker when she was attending university, and she found that the staff at her university had a great view on sex work and the fact that she was doing it. When talking about the lecturers at her university, she said that “mine were very laid back. Unless you go to them they wouldn’t know anything about it… they gave me a number for student support and they did what they needed to do. My uni were very supportive. They called me to the office to check I was ok and not being forced into it.” If the lecturers did hold any stigma about the industry, Summers never heard a word of it: “a bad word was never said to me, they were very nice about it. But I don’t know what it’s like at other universities”.

The problem is that the Student Sex Work Project found a lot of misinformed members of staff during their study, with many of them failing “to understand the demands and lifestyle of the sex industry” and a huge number “thinking it’s illegal to sell sex in a private place”. This stigma obviously led to these members of staff suggesting that, if the student didn’t stop selling sex, they would be forced to take further action against them. So how should universities deal with it?

The Student Sex Work Project states that “universities’ responsibilities lie not in censoring or policing what they students do away from the campus but in ensuring their well-being on it. There needs to be an individualised approach to student sex workers with a heightened attention to student confidentiality.” But would that be enough to make sure student sex workers have the support they need to continue working and studying? What do you think?

You can let us know how you feel about the extreme view of universities on sex work by leaving a comment in the box below, or you should join in the discussion on the Escort Wales forum.

Lara Mills
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Lara Mills

Lara Mills is a writer who has four years of sex industry expertise behind her. Since she entered the adult industry, she has worked on the Escort Advertising forums, before moving into her current role three years ago.

Since then she has gained a fine reputation with her blogs on sex advice, sexual health and amusing news stories from around the globe. She is also a campaigner for the rights of sex workers from all over the world.

In her spare time, Lara keeps herself active by going running, and is something of a film buff. She also loves to go travelling.
Lara Mills
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