PRESS RELEASE: Campaign group launches handbook for universities as an alternative to the Leicester student ‘sex work’ toolkit

Grassroots campaign group, Nordic Model Now! (NMN) today launches a handbook for universities setting out a holistic approach to supporting students caught up in the sex industry.

“This is, unfortunately, a very timely, necessary and probably life-saving handbook. For any student thinking of getting involved in the so-called sex industry, read this handbook first. For any university staff thinking of encouraging their students to get involved in this form of coercive exploitation, read it twice.” – Peter Jenkins, higher education student counsellor.

Today’s publication of the handbook is timely given the recent publicity and outrage over Durham University offering students and staff training that normalises the sex industry. It should be noted that this training was run by a team from the University of Leicester that obtained ESRC funding for a two-year project to roll their student ‘sex work’ toolkit out to other universities in the UK.

NMN developed the handbook in response to this and widespread concerns that Leicester’s approach will encourage young female students especially to experiment with prostitution, exposing them to trauma and other harms, and will confuse students’ understanding of sexual consent and exacerbate the worrying prevalence of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse on university campuses. There is also evidence that Leicester failed to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty when developing its toolkit.

Key points covered in the NMN handbook:

1. A realistic understanding of the sex industry in sometimes harrowing detail, the short- and long-term impact of involvement within it, and detailed advice about how best to support students who are caught up in it.

2. The overarching aim should be that no student has to resort to the sex industry because of a lack of other options.

3. Any policy around the sex industry must be considered an integral part of the wider response to combating sexism and sexual harassment and abuse in the university community.

4. Discussion of universities’ responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 and its Public Sector Equality Duty and how these apply to policy work around the sex industry.

The handbook is available as a free download and printed copies are available to buy from the NMN website shop, with a discount code for students. NMN plans to send a printed copy to every university in the UK.

Richard Byng, GP and Professor of Primary Care Research at the University of Plymouth, says:

“I would like to promote this handbook to universities as a means of preventing more students and young people from going down the route of participating in the sex industry. My clinical work in our GP outreach service (where we care for traumatised individuals often selling sex in order to obtain drugs) and the Zone’s Icebreak service (where I see a group earlier on the trajectory, including students) has convinced me of the harm, often through re-traumatisation or bodily violence, that can result.”

Fiona Broadfoot, founder of Build A Girl UK, sex trade survivor, and women’s rights activist, says:

“As a prostitution survivor, I am deeply concerned about the promotion of ‘Pretty Woman’ notions that obscure the violence and abuse inherent in the sex trade. This, along with pornography, is driving the hyper-sexualisation and objectification of girls and young women in the wider culture and creating a perfect hunting ground for young men to treat girls and young women as prey. The results are there for all to see in the soaring numbers of rapes, sexual assaults, and strangulations. This handbook provides universities with a much-needed vision for how to tackle this terrifying new reality.”

More information:

Note to editors:

Nordic Model Now! is a secular feminist grassroots group campaigning for the abolition of prostitution and related practices, and for the Nordic Model approach to prostitution. This decriminalises those who are prostituted, provides services to help them exit, imposes tough penalties on pimps and profiteers, and makes buying sex a criminal offence, with the aim of changing attitudes and reducing the demand that drives sex trafficking.


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