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sex work
Taylor McGraa and Ash J Robins

Student sex workers need safe spaces too

London arts university Goldsmiths are striving to create a positive environment for people working in the sex industry

The conversation surrounding sex work is a global discussion right now, with Hollywood stars such as Lena Dunham and Meryl Streep leading a charge against Amnesty International’s campaign to decriminalise sex work. Many argue that decriminalisation would remove the stigma surrounding the industry, others say it’s a dangerous tactic.

This year, Goldsmiths University of London has a new society on the horizon – one that doesn’t seek to judge, but just to help. The Goldsmiths Sex Worker Solidarity Society is the first UK university group that will focus on the aid and support of those within the sex industry.

We spoke to the society’s founders about why the group is so crucial. “We’d just like to know that there is a space for people to seek practical advice, where people can feel like they aren’t living in secret," said the girls. There are many people in the sex industry who are forced to live with secrets each and every day of their lives – something that can compromise their safety as well as their physical and mental health.

Many of the taboos and myths that surround sex work contribute to workers feeling it necessary to keep their work secret to begin with. “There are a huge number of student sex workers out there, even if you choose not to believe it”, the society founders told us. “There is a clear blanket of fear and distrust of sex work, which in many cases, if not most, is unjustified.”

The founders put emphasis on the clear differences between trafficking, slavery, workers who are forced into the industry by circumstance and workers who make a choice. As a society, they want to acknowledge, embrace and raise awareness to tackle the black and white perceptions of sex work. They hope to have the society up and running by September and eventually run it as a 24-hour service that extends into the community, for students and non-students alike.

Although the society is currently open to all Goldsmiths students who are in solidarity with sex workers, the girls are also planning on offering exclusive safe spaces for members who are specifically involved in the industry. “Nobody should live in the shadows out of fear and shame," they said. “If you are a sex slave, you deserve to be heard and liberated, if you are forced into sex work by circumstance, then you deserve to be heard and helped, and if you choose to be a sex worker because it’s flexible and better paid than working in bar that could drop you at any minute, then you too deserve to be heard and protected.”