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Late last year, the University of Leicester launched their ‘student sex work’ policy and toolkits and announced that they had received funding from the ESRC to roll these out to universities all around the UK. Many people are worried that this approach could be interpreted as sanctioning or even promoting a deeply sexist and damaging industry and will lead to more vulnerable young people being drawn into the industry and harmed and disadvantaged by that experience. There is also concern about the impact of this approach on students’ understanding of consent and on the general relations between the sexes, at a time when girls and young women are subject to staggering levels of sexual harassment and sexual crimes.

To address these concerns, Nordic Model Now! has developed a handbook for universities that presents an alternative and more holistic approach – which we are launching at this event. It provides a realistic understanding of the sex industry, the short and long-term impact of involvement within it, and how best to support those who are caught up in it.

It looks at the responsibilities universities have under the Equality Act 2010 to work to prevent the discrimination and further disadvantaging of students who are young, female, LGBT+, disabled, or racialised, and to work towards improving the relationships of those from all the protected characteristics, including between women and men generally. It argues that any efforts to bring about positive change on university campuses in respect to sexist attitudes and behaviour are doomed to failure unless programmes directly address the sex industry and porn consumption.