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Our service recognises the existence of students who work in the sex industry. The Student Sex Work Project, carried out by Swansea University between 2012-2015, found that 5% of students who took part in the survey had been involved in the sex industry in some capacity, whilst 20% indicated that they had considered working in the sex industry.

We support a student’s right to choose to engage in sex work, and are committed to providing support and advice to student sex workers who visit our service. We are also dedicated to challenging the stigma attached to sex work, and will provide support to student sex workers who are facing discrimination or negative judgements from UCL staff members. You can find the Students’ Union’s policy on supporting sex workers here.

What is sex work?

‘Sex work’ is an umbrella term which includes anything that involves the exchange of sexual services for money or goods. This can involve both direct physical contact and indirect sexual stimulation. Examples of sex work are:

  • Internet and webcam services
  • Acting in the porn industry
  • Glamour modelling
  • Dancing in strip clubs
  • Escorting
  • Selling sex
  • Being a sugar baby

Who are student sex workers?

Student sex workers come from different backgrounds, have different lived experiences and engage in the sex industry in different ways. However, it is important to acknowledge that a large proportion of student sex workers are from marginalised backgrounds.

The Student Sex Work Survey carried out by NUS in 2016 found that 71% respondents identified as women and 17% as non-binary. Over 70% identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Queer. Over 50% described themselves as having a disability and 14% were international students.

Why do students enter the sex industry?

Student sex workers’ motivations to enter the sex industry are diverse and can be multifaceted. The Student Sex Work Survey found that 67% of respondents were motivated to work in the sex industry to pay for their living expenses, 53% to pay their rent and 35% to pay for their university fees. Other reasons included to reduce debt at the end of their course, to fund leisure activities and because the hours suited their studies.

What difficulties do student sex workers face?

Working in the sex industry can be quite isolating due to the stigma attached to sex work. This means that many student sex workers will try to keep their work a secret from their friends, family and their university. Students sex workers may also fear experiencing abuse or violence, both from the police or their clients.

What are the laws surrounding sex work?

The laws around sex work in the UK are complicated and can be quite confusing. This is because it is legal to be a sex worker, but many associated activities are criminalised. Criminalised activities include sharing premises with another sex worker, managing a brothel and soliciting on the street.

You can find further details of the laws surrounding sex work in the booklet Sex Workers and the Law.

If you are involved in sex work, you can familiarise yourself with your rights in this document created by the English Collective of Prostitutes.

What support does the Advice Service provide?

Our service pledges to:

  • Be non-judgemental, respectful and supportive to student sex workers who speak to us about their work.
  • Provide support to student sex workers with any issues they are facing, including signposting where outside of our areas of expertise.
  • Adhere to our confidentiality policy at all times – this means that any information a student shares with us about their work will remain strictly confidential, unless in specific circumstances, as outlined in our Confidentiality Policy.
  • Not perpetuate misconceptions about sex work, and remain committed to challenging the stigma attached to sex work.
  • Accept that sex workers have agency and are the experts in their own lives.
  • Provide support to student sex workers who are facing discrimination or negative judgements from UCL staff members

What support services are available for sex workers?

National Ugly Mugs (NUM) – A national safety and reporting organisation which provides greater access to justice and protection for sex workers. Sex workers can submit reports about dangerous clients which are sent to other sex workers and front-line support projects in the UK.

SWARM – A sex worker led collective based in the UK which campaigns for the rights and safety of all sex workers.

English Collective of Prostitutes – A network of sex workers working both on the streets and indoors campaigning for decriminalisation and safety.

Support for Student Sex Workers – A community of former and current sex workers which offers support to individuals involved in all aspects of the sex industry.

SAAFE (Support and Advice for Escorts) – A collective of independent escorts who offer a range of advice, guidance and support on all aspects of the paid sex industry.

Pineapple Support Society – A free support and therapy service for people working in the online adult industry.

Revenge Porn Helpline – A service supporting adults who are experiencing intimate image abuse, also known as revenge porn.

Open Doors – A free and confidential advice service in East London for people working in the sex industry.

Clinic S – A free and confidential service for women, men, trans and gender non-binary individuals, working in the sex or adult entertainment industry.

United Voices of the World – A union which works with strippers and sex workers to lobby for better working conditions and worker status.

Sex Work Research Hub Student Sex Work Toolkit  - A toolkit for students who are involved in the sex industry with information regarding their work and the availability of help and support if needed.