According to a recent poll of 3,200 undergraduates, 4 per cent of students are currently involved in 'sex work', while a further 10 per cent say they would consider it if faced with a 'cash emergency'.
Back in the halcyon days when I was a student, the vast majority of us concentrated on working for our degrees and, when not doing that, having fun – although perhaps in the reverse order. But with many students today forced to take paid work in order to fund their studies and avoid crippling student debt, the atmosphere appears very different.
However, while getting a part-time job in a bar to make ends meet might be one thing, selling your body to those willing to pay for the satisfaction of their lusts seems entirely different in kind. Yes, the financial returns may superficially seem good, with the added benefit of flexible working hours, but that any student should voluntarily go down this hazardous, exploitative, and demeaning route raises major questions about the level of desperation and need that drives them to such action, but also, and perhaps more to the point, about a societal decline in moral values which sees sex, pure and simple, as a 'commodity' to be exploited for gain.
What does this casual and cavalier approach, to something that goes to the heart of our being and is part of our humanity, say about how we value both ourselves and others?
The Bible says that God created man and woman in His own image, and He blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.' But it goes even further than that, because created from the same flesh, God expressly created Adam and Eve – and by extension, the whole of humanity ⎼ to live in lifelong and exclusive union, for their mutual support and for the bringing up of any children they might have.
Seen in this light, 'sex' becomes something that is indescribably precious, forming the glue that binds the couple together, conferring on them intimacy and mutual delight, and the bedrock of family upon which society depends.
Yet in modern society this, it seems, is no longer true. Instead, sex has become a recreational past-time, to be indulged at whim and at any time, without any special reference to the 'other' who may, or may not be, physically involved – and online voyeuristic 'sex' is apparently becoming increasingly commonplace.
This is demeaning and a fundamental denial of our God-given humanity.
But it is also, it has to be said, hazardous and exposing those who physically indulge in such behaviours to disease and possible violence. STIs amongst young people, for instance, are said by doctors to be at epidemic rates of transmission.
And despite the rosy picture given by proponents of this new morality, penicillin is very far from being the magic bullet to cure all infection. The reality indeed is that an increasing number of sexually transmitted infections, contrary to what is often claimed, are untreatable while others, though amenable to treatment, are nevertheless life-changing. And, despite our best efforts, some infections prove fatal.
At the same time, even if by some miracle our liberated young manage to avoid disease, sex workers notoriously experience higher rates of violence than the general population, so there is a real risk that students adopting this course may be badly hurt.
No, whatever the veneer of liberated glamour attributed to the freewheeling exploitation of those prepared to pay, the unpalatable truth is that sex work – more properly known as prostitution – is unsavoury, squalid, debauched and degenerate.
Durham University claims that in offering training alerting student sex workers to the challenges they might face, it is merely recognising reality and fulfilling its duty of care to keep students safe. It is not their place, the university claims, to pass judgement. Rather, they are acting responsibly "by offering vulnerable students advice on how to stay safe and ensuring 'social stigma' did not stop them from accessing support".
On this line of reasoning we might perhaps expect to see similar courses offered to students dealing in drugs. After all, that too is a hazardous enterprise. Absurd though that suggestion might be, the fact remains that the courses now being offered by Durham, and other Russell Group universities, are effectively giving official endorsement to prostitution, which is not just morally corrupt, but remains at this time subject to restriction under UK law, as set down in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Provision of such courses is an affront to God and can only contribute to the moral decline of society. But, perhaps even worse, such overt endorsement of the commodification of sex can serve only to lock the next generation into behaviours that will irrevocably tarnish their humanity and blind them to a higher good.
Victory for the devil indeed.
Rev Lynda Rose is founder of Voice for Justice UK, a group which works to uphold the moral values of the Bible in society.