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12th Nov 2021

Durham University offers training and support to students in the sex industry

Charlie Herbert

Durham university offering advice to sex workers

The sessions aim to give ‘well-informed and free from prejudice’ advice and support to students involved in sex work

Durham University is offering advice and support sessions to support students working in the sex industry.

The Students’ Union sent an email to all students and staff about the sessions, advertising them as an opportunity for students who engage in sex work to receive support that is “well informed and free from prejudice.”

It said that student sex workers “should not face any barriers accessing support” and said it aimed to give informed advice.

The SU highlights that the 2015 Student Sex Work Project found that 4.8 per cent of students had been involved in sex work in some capacity and that around one in five respondents said they had considered sex work to cover the rising costs of university.

It reads: “As with any other student, those who engage in sex work have a range of support needs that may be related to or be independent of their sex work.”

The SU adds: “Our ultimate belief is that students who engage in sex work should not face any barriers to accessing whatever form of support they require, and that any support they do receive should be well informed and free from prejudice.

“Students who engage in sex work will be able to access whatever form of support they require… Where a student’s needs are relevant to their sex work, they will be able turn to the SU and University to seek information and guidance surrounding their rights and will be appropriately signposted to support services.”

However news of the sessions has attracted criticism, with Michelle Donelan, the minister for higher and further education, telling the Times that the uni was “legitimising a dangerous industry” and “badly failing in their duty to protect.”

Meanwhile Labour MP Diane Abbott described the project as “horrific” and and that universities should have nothing to do with “degrading, dangerous and exploitative” sex work.

But the Durham Students’ Union welfare and liberation officer, Jonah Graham, has defended the training, saying that critics are being “maliciously disingenuous to pretend to misunderstand this as anything other than an attempt to support students in a difficulty arising from the reality of rising costs in higher education.”

He added it was “contemptible” to try and create a scandal from “an attempt to support people whose work can make them vulnerable.”

The university itself has also defended the sessions, saying they were designed to ““ensure students can be safe and make informed choices” and that they had noted an “emerging trend” of students selling sexual services.

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