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Although a study into Lancaster students and the sex industry had been in the minds of the Investigations team for some time, a series of national newspaper articles on the issue combined with a confirmation that tuition fees are going up inspired us to follow in the footsteps of The Times and The Guardian and try to write our own piece.
It hasn’t been the easiest investigation we’ve done, to say the least. We have tried to find the extent of the situation at Lancaster but have struggled. Quite understandably, if students are funding their education in this way, they may not feel comfortable discussing it with journalists or having it written about in the newspaper. Equally, there is little open advertisement on campus; it’s likely that if this happens at all it’s largely by word of mouth. And the results of our survey show that it’s a choice many people would disapprove of.
But just because no one’s talking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
According to a study done by The Independent, 25% of lap dancers have an undergraduate degree and 13.9% are using lap dancing to fund undergraduate degrees, with a further 6.3% funding postgraduate studies. With figures like these, it is not unreasonable to assume that Lancaster students have taken this career path, either during their degree or after it.
The comments of Torri Crapper, former LUSU Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity) show clearly that there have been Lancaster students who have made this choice in the past; why would discussions have been held if it wasn’t felt there was a need for it? There have been other stories as well; we’ve heard anecdotes of students with price lists of services offered in their room windows and students working as escorts or at Stringfellows, but nothing to fully indicate the scale of it all. It may not be a big issue, but it’s there.
It is hard for LUSU or the University to decide what they should do. Should they run the risk of being seen to encourage students into an industry viewed by many as risky at best and downright immoral at worst? Or should they bury their heads in the sand, pretend none of it is happening and potentially put anyone who is working in the sex industry in danger because they have nowhere to turn for support?
What should be paramount at all times is the safety and welfare of students. It is not for LUSU, the University or anyone else to dictate to someone how they should live their lives. We are all adults; we make our own decisions and we’re responsible for the choices we make. The only responsibility that can be taken is to ensure they’re doing it safely and without fear of judgement.