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The issue of students working in the sex industry appears to have had inconsistent prominence within the Students’ Union. When initially approached, LUSU Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity) Pete Macmillan said he was unaware the issue was a significant one.
But Macmillan’s predecessor, Torri Crapper, revealed that discussions were held during her term in office aimed at establishing “a support-group style forum online and an in-person forum (both confidential and anonymous) to support students who felt that there was no option but to fund their education through the sex industry,” indicating that the issue has been given serious consideration at Lancaster in the last two years.
Crapper said that the proposals did not reach fruition due to “time constraints” as well as because of problems surrounding how to raise awareness of the support on offer. “[The issue was] how to make students working in the sex industry (the ones we didn’t already know) aware of the support we were offering and how to access that support anonymously [and] confidentially without making the entire thing into a hidden agenda which would continue to support this stigma of working in the sex industry in general,” she said.
Whilst being careful not to endorse the sex industry as an option to students, Crapper was keen to stress the problem of stigmatising the issue, which she feels could alienate students from the support they need. “There was […] difficulty in how we could find individuals who were willing to support the agenda without making it into a huge agenda, which could have pushed students wanting to access the support further away,” she said.
Macmillan was unaware of the meetings. Whilst not denying that the issue had clearly been significant very recently, he maintained that it was not something he has had to confront. “I haven’t had this raised to me as an issue all throughout my term of office. I honestly don’t know where this has come from at all. There may well have been an issue there, but it certainly hasn’t presented itself this past year,” he said.
Asked about why he thought the issue appeared so inconstant, Macmillan suggested that “it may well seem very odd, but that is the very nature of student issues and demographics, they are very transitory.”
Crapper expressed her concern that the issue continues. “Support for students financially continues to remain a problem across the [Higher Education] sector and with increasing fees, decreasing part-time jobs and a booming sex industry, the sector will need to be aware that students entering into the sex industry to fund their way through their education is a possibility.”
Despite the ambiguity surrounding the issue, Crapper did state that “as far as I am aware the support is still there for students who feel confident [enough] to access it.” This was corroborated by Macmillan, who said that “if there was an issue that needed dealing with I would be all ears and listen to it, it is my job to do that kind of thing.”
Neither the University nor the University Police Force are aware of any incidences of students working in the sex industry. A statement issued by the University press office said: “Lancaster University is not aware of any students involved in illegal activity of this nature. Our campus with its close-knit college community is a safe place to live and study and we take the welfare of our students very seriously. Students facing funding problems or difficult personal circumstances should contact Student Based Services who offer a range of financial support and wellbeing services. The university also offers non repayable grants to UK students in need of extra financial support through the Access to Learning Fund. College staff also offer pastoral care and advice on a range of issues.”
*Additional reporting by Heather Mann and Jen Day