A few months ago Durham university hit the headlines with misreporting on its new support system and education program for students engaging in sex work. The controversy has sparked heated online discussion, and led us to ask if student sex workers would like to see something similar at the UvA?
The University of Durham has received backlash from both the left and the right due to their information and support program that offers education to its students on how to safely partake in the sex-work industry. With the Netherlands’ progressive position on sex work, are students doing this work receiving the support they see fit?
A UvA student who has worked with sugar daddies and solicited explicit content, who wishes to remain anonymous*, explained that ‘denying that students engage in sex work is obtuse’. They cited rising costs of living and university workloads as reasons why students often engage in this kind of work. They went on to express the implications this can have on mental and sexual health ‘just sending the nudes for money has messed with my sexual health in some ways already – let alone engaging in physical sex’.
It is the unfortunate truth that although this line of work is often valuable and rewarding, the industry comes with some inherent dangers and risks. UvA student, sex worker and activist, Lyle Muns explained that because of this, the university has a ‘responsibility for the wellbeing of students.’ He believes that it is a topic the university should be talking about, through the use of online forums and platforms.
Similarly, the student who worked with sugar daddies explained that it isn’t necessarily the role of the university to dictate what services students need. Rather, the UvA should be providing a space where ‘students in this line of work can come into contact with each other so that [they] can explain what their needs are’.
However, Muns doesn’t ‘believe that the university itself should provide all types of services’, which he explains is down to the fact there are already many ‘really good centres in Amsterdam that provide social [and] sexual services’. He also pinpoints the fact that often these students want support from a place that is ‘free of stigma’ and where they feel understood as a sex worker. It is true that advisors and councillors and university psychologists ‘may be helpful in many ways when it comes to studies’ but lack expertise and experience in this specific area.
An example of such centres is Prostitution and Health 292 (P&G 292), it’s a very useful resource for students (and anyone else) engaging in sex work. They offer all kinds of support from legal advice to self-defence classes and discrete STI checks, making it the perfect specialised help-centre for sex workers, by sex workers.
It is clear that students who are in this line of work, feel as though people would benefit from a network for them to engage with one another, through the university, given the intersection of students of sex work. It is also critical for them to listen to what is truly needed, and to make student councillors and advisors aware of the best referral points in the city that give sex workers the support they deserve.
*Name is known by YOUvA Today