University of Brighton Attacked Over ‘Sex Workers Freshers Stall’
October 3, 2018
The University of Brighton has come under criticism after a sex workers’ support group ran a stall offering help for students at its freshers’ fairs.
The decision to allow the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project Sussex to have a stall has caused an investigation to be launched.
Feminist activists have branded the move as ‘beyond disgraceful’. One said the sex trade has “become normalised and pimped to women as though it is a harmless and respectable way to earn a living”.
The Brighton Oasis Project charity describes itself as a “discreet and confidential” service for women in the sex industry who live or work in Sussex.
A University of Brighton spokesman has responded by saying “the freshers fair is an event organised by students for students and as such is managed by the students’ union.
“The university is nevertheless exploring this matter further with the students’ union to allow us to gain a full understanding of the aims in inviting Swop (Sex Workers Outreach Project) to the event and to ensure due care is taken when presenting students with third-party information on highly sensitive and emotive issues.
“We would like to make it clear that the university does not promote sex work as an option to students.
“We provide a wide range of welfare support as well as financial assistance to any students who suffer hardship. This is offered on a confidential and non-judgmental basis, balancing respect for our students’ right to make their own decisions and our wider duty of care.”
The aforementioned stall offered free condoms and lubricant to visitors.
In a series of tweets promoting its attendance at the event, it said: “1 in 6 students does sex work or thinks about turning to sex work. We can help.”
It also tweeted: “If you’re topping up your fees with sex work, or struggling to balance work and studies, or want to talk and don’t know where to go… we’re here for you. We respect your autonomy, privacy and confidentiality.”
After receiving a barrage of abuse, the charity responded by saying it “never idealised sex work”, adding: “However, we understand why students may turn to sex work, and navigating the legal precariousness as well as potential danger mean that students are extra vulnerable and we will help.”
It said it was not “encouraging or suggesting” that students become sex workers but cited academic research about students in sex work and said the group would offer “support and advice without judgment”.
This wasn’t enough for feminist campaigners such as Sarah Ditum, who told the Sunday Times: “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 as if it was the same as working in a bar.”
However, there have been messages of support for the group also. Tomi Ibukun, president of the student’s union which organised the event, told The Sunday Times: “Swop was at our freshers’ fair event to raise awareness of the specialist support they provide should it ever be needed.
“They were not there to advocate sex work as an option to our new students. It is unfortunate that some people have misinterpreted the attendance of Swop at our freshers’ fair.”
For me, this comes down to the old feminist misconception that helping people in a vulnerable position encourages them to continue doing it and others to start.
We see with the clamour for the adoption of the Nordic model which criminalises the purchase of sex. Every sex work advocacy group tells you it will be unsafe for sex workers, but these so called feminists just don’t care and call for it to be introduced.
I will say now; I feel that attacks on sex workers are no real problem for these people as they feel (incorrectly) that it will disincentive people from doing this kind of job.
Therefore I see no problems with a sex work group getting involved at a university. We have seen plenty of evidence of students becoming sex workers, so if this is the case, why not help them to do it in a safe manner? The alternative is to leave them to their own devices and if something unpleasant happens to them, so be it.
For so called ‘moral crusaders’ to be willing to allow the latter shows them to be complete hypocrites.
We applaud Brighton and hope other universities follow suit.