'Horrific': Durham Uni criticised for offering students safe sex work course

12 November 2021, 17:18 | Updated: 12 November 2021, 18:44

Durham university held a zoom workshop, to provide students with advice on how to stay safe during sex work
Durham university held a zoom workshop, to provide students with advice on how to stay safe during sex work. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A prestigious university has come under fire from politicians for offering a course which teaches students how to stay safe whilst working in the sex industry.

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Durham University held a zoom workshop, organised by the students' union, to provide students with advice on how to stay safe during sex work.

The union say peers should not face "barriers" when accessing support "free from prejudice" after a report found around four per cent of students partake in sex work.

But the move has been met with criticism from politicians who have branded it as "horrific", claiming the university is "badly failing in their duty to protect" students.

Minister for higher and further education, Michelle Donela hit out at the university saying: "Any university that does this is badly failing in their duty to protect students.

"It is right that vital support is offered to women who are being exploited. However, this course seeks to normalise selling sex, which has no place in our universities.

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"We know this is a sector that can target young women and students and trap them in the role."

Whilst Labour MP Diane Abbot took to Twitter to say: "Horrific that Durham University is offering training to students who want to be sex workers part-time.

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"Sex work is degrading, dangerous and exploitative. Uni should have nothing to do with it."

A poll of 3,200 students last year claimed that around four per cent of British students (almost one in 20) had used sex work to fund their course.

With a total student population of 2.38 million, this could mean that more than 95,000 students across Britain are currently using sex work as a means of funding their higher education.

In a statement the university said it is "emphatically not seeking to encourage sex work" and "makes no apologies" for running the course.

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The statement read: "We don't judge, we listen, support and give practical help. We run many courses for students and staff on topics from mental health and wellbeing to drug and alcohol awareness.

"The intent here is to ensure that social stigma does not prevent students who might be vulnerable or at risk from accessing the support they need and to which they are entitled."

Adding: "We make no apologies for working to ensure that Durham is a safe environment for all of our students and staff. We are extremely disappointed by the way the intentions for, and content of, this session have been misinterpreted."

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A separate study revealed last year that around 500,000 students are signed up to the Seeking Arrangement website looking to be 'sugar babies'.

Student 'sugar babies' usually accept money and gifts from older, wealthier users nicknamed 'sugar daddies' in return for intimacy.

President of Durham Students' Union, Seun Twins, also defended the students' union's decision saying: "Sex workers exist and sex work can mean so many different things to so many different people.

"Pretending to be shocked by this fact does not make change or make sex workers any more safe and protected. Grow up and be mature about this."