Sex workers who are students at UCLan want the university to actively support their career choice.
Their call comes after a recent report by the University of Swansea revealing that one in twenty students in the UK have worked in the sex industry to fund their studies. The findings suggest that as many as 1500 UCLan students could be employed in the sex industry.
Pluto spoke exclusively to three undergraduates using sex work to pay their way through uni. They all highlighted ‘a lack of university guidance’ for students in their position.
Jayme*, a lap dancer, said: “I would want fair treatment from lecturers if I was outed, and I worry about the impact on my grades due to the stigma.” She fears that being ‘named and shamed’ could also damage her long-term career prospects.
Millie*, a student working as an outcall escort, agreed. “I’m afraid that if my lecturers found out [about my job] I would potentially lose my place at Uni,” she said.
“I feel that UCLan is ashamed of us. I’m worried that if [the university] found out, I may not get the career I want. The university could make it easier for us to access support without the pressure of lying. I want to be able to access services without the pressure to leave my job.”
Millie added that UCLan should ‘tailor services’ to prevent student sex workers feeling judged. Sex workers have suggested holding an awareness week could be helpful.
Organisations including Preston’s Foxton Centre on Knowsley St provide specialised services for street-based sex workers. The centre can also provide student support if required. But there isn’t currently any advertised support for sex workers in Preston.
However, the university say they would never back students’ choice to work in this field.
A university spokesperson said: “The safety and welfare of UCLan students is a key priority for the University.
“We would never advocate working in the sex industry but we recognise that some students will go down this path.
“Working in the sex industry should never be a necessity and the university has a range of measures in place for students who need advice, support and sometimes assistance to step away from it.
“Students can be assured they can access university support services and discuss this subject without feeling stigmatised.”
Nationally, sex work still remains an active career choice for students despite university advice to avoid it. The University of Swansea’s three year study: ‘Student Sex Work Project’ also found that a fifth of students have “considered” sex work. More than half of those feared they would have to keep their risqué work a secret to avoid prejudice.
Despite some aspects of the sex industry being legal, such as licensed strip clubs, Pluto understands there are at least six illegal brothels within the Preston area. Other internet-based work such as webcam, phone lines and chat messaging is also easily accessible.
Isabel*, who is a webcam model said: “People can get weirdly obsessed and you don’t want them turning up on your doorstep or at your uni!
Jayme* added: “I have been found by clients as I have identifiable features and they’ve tried to contact me outside of work.
*Not their real names