A university in the United Kingdom has come under fire for its online "toolkit" which critics have called out as a guide for students to make money by creating their own pornography.
A group is circulating a petition to have it removed before it spreads to other colleges around the country.
The Daily Mail reports the University of Leicester created two toolkits last year, one for students and one for its staff. The toolkit gives advice for students involved in "sex work" to help them figure out what sex services are legal in the country.
According to the Mail, students are told that stripping, sex chat phone lines, selling underwear online for sexual gratification, "butler in the buff" and "sugaring" – being a paid companion for a "sugar daddy" – are legal in the UK.
Both guides advise students and staff to have "a non-judgmental and supportive attitude", and not to "listen to or perpetuate myths regarding sex work" or "assume the student wants to leave sex work," the newspaper reported.
The Christian Institute, a nonprofit charity, reports more than 11,000 people have signed a petition, calling on the university to remove the guides from its website.
The group Nordic Model Now started the petition back in June of this year.
"These documents claim to be aimed at supporting 'students who are sex workers but they read more like a guide to getting into the sex trade and fail to provide substantial support for students in difficulties," the petition reads.
The petition's authors also give an example.
"Picture this: a young female student is being coerced into the sex industry by her boyfriend to fund his drug habit. She turns to the toolkit for advice but there's no guidance about protecting herself from coercion and pimping. There's not even a mention that they are common in the sex trade," they write. "What about a young woman who realizes she's made a terrible mistake and wants to get out? Again, no help whatsoever."
"The toolkits fail to mention a single organization whose primary focus is helping women quit the sex trade," it continues.
"Warnings about the well-documented physical and psychological harms that prostitution causes? Total silence," the petition reads.
"Signposting to guidance on budgeting, hardship loans and grants, and other employment options? Nothing," it notes.
"How can this be justified?" the petition asks.
The petition also says the university is sending a message to students that it's OK to work in the sex industry to pay their tuition because it's allegedly a normal form of work and "not as the violation of human rights recognized under international law."
The university responded by claiming it's normal for students to engage in "sex work" at universities around the globe.
"We are aware that some students may decide to undertake different types of sex work for a number of reasons, and this is a reality at universities across the world," Geoff Green, registrar, and secretary at the University of Leicester told the Mail.
"Our priority remains the care and wellbeing of all students, who have the right to be safe and free from harm whether they are studying or working," he said.
"The resources for students focus on personal safety and freedom of choice, and Leicester-led training in this area has engaged close to 1,000 staff at more than 60 universities to date," Green continued.
The Christian Institute's Social Policy Analyst Dr. Sharon James responded to the guides, saying, "Prostitution should never be condoned or facilitated in any way. It is shocking that Leicester University is telling students that it's ok to sell access to their bodies. This guidance will only serve as a green light for abusers and exploiters."
"So-called 'sex work' is the most exploitative industry in the world. It's built on pain and oppression – especially of women and girls," she continued.
"Those who do get caught up in it need help to exit, not encouragement to stay. Young students should not be directed into the traps that could be laid for them by potential abusers," James concluded.
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