Durham University has been accused of promoting prostitution and pornography to its students.
The ‘Students involved in the Adult Sex Industry’ course says it addresses “the challenges that student sex workers can face”, but fails to mention any dangers or organisations that help women leave the sex trade.
Durham follows the universities of Newcastle, Manchester, and Leicester in offering resources to students involved in sex work.
‘Loss for words’
A number of students complained that the course was inappropriate and harmful.
One said they were at a “loss for words” when they saw the announcement.
Everyone who I’ve spoken to is pretty disgusted that adult sex-worker training classes are being promoted by our own students’ union.
Another warned: “This could cause a real problem, making it part of university culture and making work in the sex industry a normalised activity.”
“Everyone who I’ve spoken to is pretty disgusted that adult sex-worker training classes are being promoted by our own students’ union.”
Student outrage was joined by Government concern, with the Minister for Higher and Further Education, Michelle Donelan, warning that Durham’s approach was “legitimising a dangerous industry”.
The Minister stressed that “Universities should be focusing on raising awareness of the dangers of this and supporting women.”
Writing in The Times, journalist Libby Purves asked: “rather than normalising the selling of sexual intimacy as just another student lifestyle, might not a decent adult world offer actual support — financial and emotional — to every desperate kid.”
A 2016 National Union of Students survey of 55 students involved in prostitution or pornography found that 65 per cent of respondents had faced harassment and 47 per cent had experienced sexual assault.
Last month, more than 11,000 people signed a petition calling on the University of Leicester to scrap advice for students on how to make money from pornography after widespread disgust.
The guide also told staff and students not to “listen to or perpetuate myths regarding sex work” or “assume the student wants to leave sex work”.
The Christian Institute’s Social Policy Analyst, Dr Sharon James, said: “So called ‘sex work’ is the most exploitative industry in the world. It’s built on pain and oppression – especially of women and girls.
“Those who do get caught up in it need help to exit, not encouragement to stay. Young students should not be directed into the traps that could be laid for them by potential abusers.”