Fog of Sex
This is largest study to date quantifying the range and extent of student involvement in the UK sex industry. The research film, Fog of Sex (stories from the frontline of student sex work) used student testimonials and interviews to bring the raw research data to life.
|Project lead||Professor Chris Morris|
|Programme alignment||Inequality & Storytelling|
Fog of Sex (Stories from the frontline of student sex work) is a 60-minute drama documentary which was made as part of The Student Sex Work Project, a BIG Lottery funded research study led by The Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology academics at Swansea University.
The Student Sex Work Project was carried out over a three-year period (June 2012 - June 2015). The project brought together key partners and agencies/organisations to work with student sex workers to enhance understanding on student involvement in the sex industry and to develop e-health services for student sex workers, as well as guidance and training for Higher Education.
Students have always worked and continue to work in the sex industry whilst studying. The Student Sex Work Project was the first large scale attempt to not only quantify the extent of engagement but also to engage with those student sex workers to better understand their motivations and the consequences of their engagement with the sex industry.
Three years in the making and based on exhaustive research interviews, Fog of Sex brings to the screen the real-life testimonies of students working within the UK sex industry.
Professor Chris Morris worked with the project research team and carried out interviews with student sex workers. To preserve anonymity the student sex workers are played by actors, all the dialogue however is verbatim, drawn directly from the interview transcripts.
The film has no commentary and seeks not to judge or take sides – it presents the stories 'as they were told' and leaves room for the audience to decide.
The final form of the film developed throughout the research process, coalescing eventually as nine separate but connected verbatim stories, that relied heavily on actors in a reconstructed interview scenario, with some limited but targeted drama reconstruction.
After the interviews were transcribed, all the original material was deleted, thus ensuring anonymity for the student. The cast was made up entirely of student or graduate actors. Most of the actors had never acted for camera before and for most it was their first professional role. Fog of Sex was produced and crewed entirely by students and graduates with the exception of the director and cinematographer. The editor was double Emmy award-winning editor Andy Netley.
The Student Sex Work Project was led by Dr Tracey Sagar and Dr Debbie Jones - The Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology, Swansea University.
The film output was led by Professor Christopher Morris, currently director of The School of Film & Television at Falmouth University but working then for the University of South Wales.
Professor Chris Morris - Project lead
Fog of Sex is directed by BAFTA award winning filmmaker Professor Chris Morris. The film is entirely researched, produced and filmed by staff, graduates and students of Newport Film School. The film is made as part of The Student Sex Work Project, a lottery funded research study run by Swansea University. Find out more about Prof Chris Morris' filmmaking portfolio, research interests, projects and outputs directly on his staff profile, linked below.
Partners included the NUS Wales, Terrence Higgins Trust, Vale of Glamorgan Health Board.
This projects has been supported by grant funding from the following funding bodies:
Arts Council England
Arts Council England was set up in 1946, by Royal Charter, to champion and develop art and culture across the country. It is governed by an Executive Board and National and Area Councils.
Total value £5M
Outcomes & outputs
Fog of Sex (Stories from the frontline of student sex work) is a 60-minute drama documentary film.
The full documentary was broadcast on The Community Channel (SKY/Freeview) in 2016. A selection of independent short films of the original documentary are available to watch on BBC Three online and on BBC Three's YouTube channel.
Fog of Sex has been shown at public screening across Wales, including at the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Bangor University, University of South Wales. Other public screenings include, The Cube, Bristol, The Hay Cinema in Hay on Wye, Plymouth University, St John and St Mark University and Falmouth University.
In 2019, The Student Sex Work Project online training package, developed by Swansea University, and featuring a range of especially created audio/visual material made by Prof Morris was launched and is now available to every HE and FE student services department in the UK.
The Student Sex Worker Project aimed to generate new knowledge on student sex work across the UK. Particularly, investigating the extent and characteristics of students' engagement in the sex industry as well as their motivations, experiences and needs. The research found that almost 5% of students have ever worked in the sex industry and one in five students have considered such engagement. Students who engage in sex work do this on an irregular basis and the money that is made from it is likely to be low, mostly spent on daily living expenses.
The project also aimed to consider the need for policy, guidance and training to encourage the provision of appropriate assistance and support for student sex workers (through services such as student wellbeing and student support within HE in Wales).
One of the key findings of the research was that sex work is not one experience and student sex workers have varying motivations and experiences, as well as potential needs. Therefore, students who work in the sex industry require an individualised approach that takes into account the personal experiences and needs of the student.
HE institutions also need to recognise the presence of students who work in the sex industry and staff are often unaware or unsure about available support.
Fog of Sex was nominated for two BAFTA Cymru awards 2015. The film won, Best Cinematography (factual) at the 2015 BAFTA Cymru Awards. The Producers (Visual Influence) were nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2015 BAFTA Cymru Awards. The film also won, Best Film for Young People at the 2016 Celtic Media Awards.
On the back of this project the Swansea academics and Prof Chris Morris set up (with other partners) a Sexualities Consortium Research Group to further research this and other areas concerning sex in society.
Available in Falmouth University's Research Repository (FURR):
Impact & recognition
"This is no patronising exposé.... and it's perhaps this impartiality that gives Fog of Sex its bare-bones, data-driven elegance. Fog of Sex escalates the viewer's emotional investment along with the stakes and the accounts become dark. Very dark. This is the sort of filmmaking that educates rather than desensitizes."
"Fog of Sex is a powerful piece of filmmaking that shines a nuanced, pathos-smattered light on the realm of student sex work. It reveals to us what we don't want to hear: that sexual exploitation is as much a product of our education system and economy as it is the machinations of the cruel."
**** The Metropolist, 2015
- Winner Celtic Media Awards 2016 (Best Film for Young People).
- Nominated for two awards at the 2015 BAFTA Cymru Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Newcomer (the producers)
- Winner BAFTA Cymru 2015 (Best Factual Cinematography)