Thousands sign a petition to revoke the Leicester Uni sex worker toolkit

Just another Mumsnet discussion with no actual understanding about students’ lives🙄

Over 10,000 people have signed a petition to revoke the Leicester University sex worker toolkit. The toolkit was a landmark resource introduced last year as a way to provide information, support and signposting for students who joined the sex industry.

A Tab special report found around nine per cent of UK students are working in the sex industry and yet the majority do not receive support from their universities, despite many citing university financial struggles as the reason for joining the industry. The University of Leicester, Newcastle University and Manchester University all provide signposting to support their students who are sex workers but they are in the minority of higher education institutions providing any resources or support.

Leicester’s toolkit contains information on the legalities of different types of sex work, guides for how university staff on how to deal appropriately with students who make disclosures about their sex work and for the students a comprehensive list of support services broken down by region for sex workers.

“Call me old fashioned, but I was sold the notion that going to university was supposed to be one of the ways a woman could get as far as she possibly could from ever needing to sell sexual services,” is how the petition, which was launched in June, opens. The quote is from a user on Mumsnet as part of a forum discussing the “controversial” resource in which a variety of users slander the toolkit and suggest when they were students in the 80s they had a grant they could live within.

The petition argues the toolkit should be revoked as it “read more like a guide to getting into the sex trade” and suggests there are no resources to help students who want to leave the sex work industry.

The toolkit actually provides 20 support services which cover sex work and sexual exploitation.

Throughout the petition there are many suggestions the university did not think of the consequences of the toolkit and that it would increase male interest in pursuing sex workers.

They said: “The university did not consider other possible consequences of framing the sex industry as a positive option – for example, that male students and staff might interpret this as the university sanctioning the buying of sex and could lead to men increasing or starting sex buying activity.”

The petition also argues the university is putting vulnerable students at risk as they may read it and think the university is condoning sex work.

They said: “They did not consider that vulnerable female students might interpret the advice as the university sanctioning involvement in the sex industry as a positive way of paying their halls of residence fees and other university expenses, and that this could lead to more young women entering the sex industry and being harmed within it and further disadvantaged.”

Sex work is incredibly common for students with an estimated 214,200 students currently working in the industry. They join the industry for a variety of reasons with a vast majority citing struggling with finances for university as their reason for partaking. A 2015 survey by Swansea University found 57 per cent of student sex workers joined the industry in order to fund their higher education.

Students will engage in sex work regardless of their university’s stance on the matter. Therefore a university which is acknowledging the reality of some of their students’ lives by providing support and signposting can only be seen as helpful and responsible.

via Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Registrar and Secretary at the University of Leicester Geoff Green told the Daily Mail the university’s priority is the safety and wellbeing of their students.

He said: “We are aware that some students may decide to undertake different types of sex work for a number of reasons, and this is a reality at universities across the world.

“Our priority remains the care and wellbeing of all students, who have the right to be safe and free from harm whether they are studying or working.

“The resources for students focus on personal safety and freedom of choice, and Leicester-led training in this area has engaged close to 1,000 staff at more than 60 universities to date.”

The petition appears to be created by supporters of the Nordic Model, a highly controversial model which aims to decriminalise sex workers and criminalise the clients.

The model has been adopted in various countries including Sweden, Norway, France and Northern Ireland. However many sex workers argue the model does more harm than good.

By using this model sex workers have fewer clients and are engaging in higher risk appointments, putting themselves in danger in order to make a profit.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Thousands of students are sex workers – universities need to do more to protect them

I lost my job in the pandemic so took up sex work to fund my degree

I do OnlyFans, and I’m sick of people telling me sex work isn’t a ‘real job’