Commercial sex in higher education; what are the rules?

Students in the sex trade are not a new phenomenon; however universities are yet to catch up to this.

In 2009, an investigation by Linda Cusick and Susan Paton of the University of the West of Scotland and Ron Roberts on Kingston University sought out to uncover “higher and further education institutions’ policies… relate[d] to the interactions of their staff and students with the sex industry.”

The investigation highlighted the figures of students selling sex were extremely varied with research by Westminster University estimating 3–4% of indebted students were earning money in the sex industry, whereas  through gathering information from sex worker support services, Leeds University Student Union estimated 60% of sex workers in Leeds were students.

It seems the student attitude towards the sex trade as a form of employment is not one of inconceivability as from a sample undergraduates, it was noted that 10% “knew students who are involved in sex work, which was defined as prostitution, escorting, lap dancing or stripping”. Alongside this, a recent survey of over 300 students “found 21% would be willing to undertake some form of sex work to pay for their education”.

However, of the 326 institutions written to 72% responded and out of these 236, not one  “reported having a policy on staff or student involvement in commercial sex and none suggested that they had any concerns in this area“. The only form of policy came through an implied link between their general policies and their “applicability to staff/student involvement in commercial sex.”

One such higher education institution in England commented

“[S]hould we become aware of staff or student involvement in commercial sex we would be primarily concerned with understanding the circumstances of the individual(s) involved and in taking a supportive rather than a punitive approach in the first instance.”

The figures suggest that students are resorting to work in the sex trade to fund their studies; however the notion that they are forced appears misplaced with numerous students acknowledging the industry and even suggesting it could be a possible job choice. In the case of students involved in sex work, the numbers are there, however the support and guidance from the institutions is certainly lacking in response to this.

Students are working in the sex trade but it appears the universities aren’t ready to specifically address this yet.

What are you experiences of universities dealing with students in the sex industry? Let us know by commenting below or email us privately at investigatestudentprostitution@gmail.com.