NUS: 5 Things we learned from the Student Sex Work Survey

In February the Women’s Campaign and the LGBT+ campaign worked with the Sex Workers Open Universityand the English Collective of Prostitutes to launch a survey to gather information on the lives and experiences of students’ sex workers. Today we are launching the results of the report with recommendations to help better support students working in the sex industry to fight the discrimination, stigma and violence they face.

1. Cost of Living and Fees

Over half of respondents (67%) described how they were motivated to go into the sex industry in order to pay for living expenses such as food and bills. This was followed by paying the rent (53%) and to fund consumption such as clothes and books (51%). 35% said that their sex work was used to pay for leisure activity or to pay for their university fees and around a quarter (26%) said it was to reduce debt at the end of their course or to avoid getting into debt.

2. Disabled Sex Workers

Over half (55%) the sample considered themselves to have a specific learning disability, other disability, impairment or long-term health condition. 35% of respondents also said that having a mental and/or physical disability was one of the reasons that they had remained in the sex industry.

3. Student sex workers’ thoughts on legislation

In England and Wales sex work is not in itself illegal – but a number of laws criminalise activities around it. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is an offence to cause or incite ‘prostitution’ or control it for personal gain. When asked about what legal changes they would support- the majority of respondents said that they would support the decriminalisation of sex work (75%), followed by legalisation (27%) and criminalisation of clients paying for sex (18%).

4. Safety at work and the police

Respondents said they were reluctant to go to the police if they had experienced a crime whilst working in the sex industry. 48% of respondents said they would feel very uncomfortable  going to the police if they had experienced property theft, violence and sexual violence at the hands of clients and /or management.

5. SUs and institutions can do much more to support student sex workers

We asked respondents whether they thought the support they received from their students’ union and institution was sufficient. Less than 15% of respondents thought their institution or students’ union was providing sufficient support. We also asked whether they would like any other information from their university or students’ union.  Responses included: information on sex work to raise awareness about student sex workers in the institution, information on student sex workers’ rights, information about campaigns and activism around sex workers’ rights, advice around how to reduce stigma and information on student sex work support networks.

This research draws upon and adds to the findings and recommendations of The Student Sex Work Project (TSSWP) report and will be followed by more detailed qualitative analysis of the particular experiences of women and LGBT+ student sex workers. For more information about the findings of the report, contact

Read the Student Sex Worker Research here.