The Student Sex Work Project launches website

A Swansea University research project which aims to develop a student sex worker policy for Wales is to take a step forward with the launch of a new website.

The website will go live following a major Student Sex Work Project conference at the University tomorrow (Friday 21 September) which will bring together those working with sex workers, policy-makers, student support services, student union representatives and sexual health practitioners to discuss key issues affecting student sex workers and learn more about the project and the website.

Student Sex Work project The three year research project which started in June, is funded by a £489,143 grant from the Big Lottery Fund Innovation Programme and is led by Dr Tracey Sagar with her colleague Debbie Jones from Swansea University’s Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology in collaboration with Terrence Higgins Trust, the Integrated Sexual Health Clinic, Cardiff and Vale NHS, the National Union of Students Wales (NUS Wales) and Newport Film School.

The team hope that student sex workers will get in touch via the website to share their views in complete confidence, so they can learn more about their needs and how best to meet them with a view to develop a student sex worker policy in Wales.  Visitors to the website can also access comprehensive sexual health and personal safety advice.

The team also has Twitter and Facebook accounts should people wish to get more information via social media, but the team says that confidential information should not be posted on these forums.

Throughout the project, researchers will be at student events, such as fresher fayres and student nights, and will be linking in with welfare and women’s officers from the NUS Wales in a bid to learn more about student sex workers.

Throughout the project the team will be working closely with Newport Film School who are making a film to promote debate and discussion of the issue.

Dr Sagar said: "Since the grant was awarded by the Big Lottery we have been absolutely thrilled by the support and interest shown in the Student Sex Work Project.

“One question we are regularly asked is 'what do we mean by sex work?'. For us, sex work has a broad meaning but we are aware that most people associate it with women who sell sexual acts for money, in other words the common understanding of prostitution. Our project identifies 'sex work' as including activities such as erotic dancing, web cam sex, phone chat sex, escort work, massage parlour work as well work in the porn industry. Also, our project emphasises that sex work is not associated only with women but also men and transgender workers.

“We are really excited about our project launch - all project partners have been working hard behind the scenes towards preparing for the 21st September 2012. The launch includes information and workshop day at Swansea University and, it marks the 'going live' of our website. We will also be spreading the word of this new service at Freshers Fayres throughout Wales over the next two weeks.

“What we now need is for students and student sex workers to get involved with the project. They will be able to contact us through the website and follow the project on Facebook and Twitter. We have an enthusiastic project team who can't wait to engage with students/sex workers in Wales and we really do believe that in working together we will be able to bring down discriminatory and prejudicial barriers and work to ensure that the right policies and services are in place for young people who engage in the sex markets in Wales.

“We really hope that all interested individuals, agencies or organisations will follow us on Twitter and Facebook and that they also get involved with the project."

Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee Member, Barbara Wilding, who will be speaking at the launch, said: “The Big Lottery Fund is committed to bringing about real improvements to communities most in need but recognises that existing ways of meeting need do not always work and that some needs are new with no ways of addressing them. This is why we launched BIG Innovation in Wales. As this project demonstrates, it can help turn people’s big new ideas into a reality.”

“Swansea University is a world-class research-led University and the research will reveal the motivations and needs of student sex workers for the first time. It will also provide the first cross sector e-health sexual health service in Wales and will develop best practice guidance for Welsh Universities and local services. We recognise that it is very difficult to develop and implement this kind of innovative work in the current economic climate. This is an exciting and much needed project and we recognise the importance of investing in evidence based project work which stands to make a real difference to the lives of student sex workers in Wales.”

Steve Jones, National Director for Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this innovative project. There is a real need to identify the extent of sex work among the student population in Wales, not only to help develop resources for the students themselves but also to give universities, and local and national government bodies a greater understanding of the issue as a whole. Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru has a history of working with marginalised groups in society, and along with our project partners, we hope to provide much needed support now and into the future.”

Lorraine Galatowicz, Chair of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP) said:” The UKNSWP are delighted to be involved with the Student Sex Work Project and its partners in Wales.  This exciting and innovative project will promote learning and understanding about student sex worker needs and associated issues in Wales and will hopefully act as a platform to extend the learning and findings to enable wider understanding throughout the rest of the UK..

Hannah Pudner, Director of the National Union of Students Wales said: "This research is more important now than ever.  We are coming across more and more stories of female students turning to the sex industry to fund their studies.  This industry is often seedy, unregulated and dangerous, so the more we know about it, the more we can help the students working in it. "

Chris Morris of Newport Film School said: "This research project is timely, relevant and important – the students and staff at Newport Film School are proud to be a part of such an important and creative research project. Newport film School will be making a 30 minute drama on the subject of student sex working in Wales, to highlight the issues and provide a link between the research and the reality".

To get in touch in confidence please visit www.thestudentsexworkproject.co.uk

For more information:

Twitter: @TSSWP or join our Facebook group at facebook.com/thestudentsexworkproject