Like cats, people are seekers of pleasure, whether in the form of entertainment, sensual “stroking”, relief from pain, vicarious conquest, etc., etc. Sometimes the stroking of our pleasure points is free, as in having someone scratch your back right where it itches. Sometimes, it costs, as in an aroma therapeutic session or a great movie.
Professional stroking is a huge business and frequently illegal as in prostitution, drug dealing, etc. Mostly, though, it’s considered legitimate business; think of professional sports, professional entertainment, cruise ship operation, casino operation, etc.
By some definitions, anyone who provides pleasurable “stroking” for a fee could be considered a prostitute. The debate about which is OK and which isn’t could be really interesting. It impinges on the questions of legalizing drug use and prostitution, for instance, and might well spill over into other realms, like the gouging of the public by offering the stroking they crave for an exorbitant fee.
A case in point: The internet is full of speculation on drug companies’ involvement in the recent swine flu “pandemic.” The reasoning goes like this: the word “pandemic” incites fear; a vaccine relieves the pain of this fear; the purchase of massive amounts of the vaccine means big profits for drug corporations; ergo, the drug companies were probably behind the pronouncement of a pandemic. By itself, the argument is, of course, incomplete. WHO could have raised the spectre without the drug companies’ urging and the profits could have been a windfall for the drug manufacturers, much like the tow truck operator benefits from a blizzard without having had a hand in causing it.
Sometimes when I see the shameless fast-food ads, see the euphoria on the faces of the actors in an ad for a pill, hear about the obscene remuneration paid to professional athletes, film actors, singers, etc., I have to wonder if we've nailed down the right forms of prostitution for prohibition.