The Student Sex Work Project

Swansea University

I’m really pleased to be working with Debbie Jones, Dr. Jacky Tyrie and Dr. Tracy Sagar on The Student Sex Work Project – the website can be found here at www.thestudentsexworkproject.co.uk

I’m covering Joanne Bowring’s maternity period and will be working on this project for six months. It’s a really exciting project which is not only research based, but also assists people in reality too. This really attracted me to the project, since the best research, in my view, is research which practically helps people.

The project began six months ago and aims to achieve a number of aims which are;

To increase community learning and understanding about student sex worker needs and associated issues.

To achieve an empirical understanding of the motivations of student sex workers and their physical and mental wellbeing needs.

To formulate new solutions that reach out to an isolated community group and which improve student sex workers’ access to sexual health services, and advice/ information on physical and mental well being.

To increase social inclusion for student sex workers within policy, practice and the student community, and improvements to wellbeing and sexual health.

So how are we going to do this? Well, the team have devised a multi strand strategy which blends a number of different ways in which the Project can reach its target audience and crucially decimate information about the realities of working in the industry as sex workers experience it;

Questionnaire: An attitudinal questionnaire will be sent to all students in Wales about sexual health, attitudes towards sex work and attitudes towards students who engage in sex work.

Peer Researchers: An inclusionary participatory action research approach will invite student sex workers to join the project team as ‘peer researchers’.

Website: The e-health website will provide access to peer mentors; a ‘chat room’ facility; sign-posts to national / local service information and advice on keeping safe. We also use the website to provide essential Ugly Mugs information.

Film: A film on student sex work will be produced. The film will promote the project but also, importantly, will raise awareness about student sex work and reduce prejudice and stigma against student sex workers. We are fortunate enough to have Professor Chris Morris of Newport Film School to direct the documentary, which will be filmed in Autumn 2013.

Guidance: We will develop and disseminate good practice guidance to deliver better health care and support for student sex workers and to facilitate the inclusion of sex worker students in policy and practice in Wales.

My role involves working with volunteers, who are absolutely essential for the promotion of the Project. Our volunteers both promote the project, and those who have completed relevant training provide a net-research service which provides information and advice in real time to sex workers who may require it. The service is being used and we hope that more people become aware and access the help if they feel they need it.

Although the project is still in its infancy, it is great that student sex work is finally being acknowledged. It is hoped that this research will finally provide a platform for those who are involved in the industry to have their voices heard.