On Thursday 20 January 2022, we delivered a printed copy of our petition with the full list of signatures to the University of Leicester. At the time of printing, the signature count stood at 13,345 signatures, with 83 organisations listed as official supporters. Sincerest thanks to every single one of you.
Even though the petition remains open for signatures, we decided to deliver the petition now because the university had told us that they would be conducting a formal review of the policy this month.
We were met by Angie Pears, Associate Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and Sarah Cavendish, Head of Student Support. I shook their hands and handed them the petition and gave them each a printed copy of our handbook for universities, which one of them informed us she’d already read.
I referred to the official statement from the university Registrar and Secretary (see below), that we’d been sent beforehand. This, I said, says that you are not encouraging students into the sex industry – but that is what will happen in practice. The toolkit uses the “sex work” terminology and the training insists that “sex work is real work”. This normalises it, I said, and will make vulnerable young people think that it really is just a normal job. But it’s not and they will be harmed by that experience.
Katie then stepped forward and, in a slightly shaky voice, said that that’s what happened to her when she was at university, because sex work was so normalised and she’s still bearing the consequences now, five years later. Pears and Cavendish were silent – as if shocked or unable to speak. Katie took another step forward and reiterated her point and repeated what she said, to which one of them replied, “Yes, we’ve heard you.”
And that, folks, was pretty much it! The delivery was done. They had the petition, including all the comments that people left when they signed it, two copies of our handbook, plus an envelope addressed to the Vice-Chancellor containing the four articles we published about the toolkit and training (see links below).
Here are some photos from the day – the placards show some of the comments left by people who signed the petition:
“Please, Leicester, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re talking to teenagers who’ve just left home for the first time”
Later Katie summed up her feelings like this:
“As soon as we walked in, you could tell that they weren’t interested in any kind of conversation. I hoped that telling my story might make them reconsider their standpoint.
I find it extremely difficult to talk about my history in prostitution, but I really wanted to explain the long-term impacts that it can have. I feel a responsibility towards these young female students to protect them from the struggles I have experienced, and I don’t understand why Leicester University doesn’t seem to feel the same responsibility.
Please, Leicester, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are talking to teenagers who have just left home for the first time.”
The Registrar’s official statement
This is the official statement from Geoff Green, Registrar and Secretary of the University of Leicester, that was sent to us beforehand:
“The University of Leicester has a responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our whole university community.
“Our priority remains the care and wellbeing of all our students – they have the right to be safe and free from harm, whether they are studying or working.
“We do not take this responsibility lightly and we are seeking to provide students this may affect with all relevant support. As such we will be reviewing this petition.
“We emphasise that we are categorically not encouraging students into sex work. We understand that some students may decide to undertake sex work for a number of reasons, and this is a reality at universities across the world.”
Yes, Geoff Green. And pigs can fly.
We are glad that the registrar says that they will review the petition. We believe that Leicester urgently needs to rethink their approach to this issue. As we have set out in the petition text and the articles linked below, we have many concerns about the policy, toolkits and training – not least that by presenting a dangerous, exploitative and supremely sexist industry as neutral and equivalent to the retail and hospitality industries, for example, they will seduce young people, especially young women, to enter it and this will damage their well being and life prospects – and it will seduce young men in particular to be consumers of the industry, leading to more sexual misconduct and abuse, and the expansion of this brutal and dehumanising industry.
Rather than a toolkit, it is in effect a grooming kit. Until it is revoked and the associated training stopped, our petition remains open – so if you haven’t signed it, now’s the time.
- The ‘student sex work’ training: supporting students or shameless propaganda? You decide.
- Distorting mirrors: The second Leicester student “sex work” training session
- Does the Leicester student ‘sex work’ toolkit comply with equality legislation?
- What’s wrong with the Leicester Student Sex Worker Policy and Toolkit?
- 71 reasons for signing the petition to revoke Leicester University’s ‘student sex work toolkit’