The University of Brighton has been criticised for allowing a group encouraging students into prostitution to run a stall at its annual Freshers’ Fair.
Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (SWOP) Sussex describes itself as an advocacy group for student prostitution.
It publishes leaflets offering tips such as: “It is not illegal to work as an escort or to sell sexual services. You cannot be prosecuted for just selling sex”.
On the day A-Level results were released, the group tweeted that it would be at various freshers’ fairs, and that students should seek them out for information about “#studentlife and #sexwork”.
“It is incredibly irresponsible to promote an industry that is the cause of massive violence and exploitation against women”
The stall itself offered students free condoms, while leaflets gave advice on “safer escorting”.
In a tweet, SWOP said: “Rising living and tuition costs mean that more students than ever are turning to sex work and Swop believes that they deserve our help as well. Sex work is work.”
The tweet was later deleted.
Columnist Sarah Ditum hit out at the organisation’s targeting of students, saying: “This is essentially a grooming operation, pitching prostitution as a manageable, desirable lifestyle, equivalent to joining the rowing club.
“It is preying on the naivety of young students. It is incredibly irresponsible to promote an industry that is the cause of massive violence and exploitation against women”.
Chris McGovern, Chairman of Campaign for Real Education, said: “This is appalling and brainless. It gives an air of respectability to prostitution”, adding that young students could be “exploited sexually” and put in physical danger.
“appalling and brainless”
In a statement, the university said it “does not promote sex work as an option to students”, adding that for those students suffering hardships, the university does offer financial assistance.
A 2015 study by Swansea University found that nearly 20 per cent of students had considered prostitution to pay their bills, while five per cent said they had sold their bodies at some point in their lives.
In 2001 a study by the British Medical Journal found that in three cities, half of women involved in street prostitution reported having been subjected to violence in the previous six months.