I know a handful of people who have seen sex workers for trade. I have no issue with the idea that sex can be exchanged for money or (as in “traditional marriage”) other benefits, and I’m not at all bugged by, say, a photographer exchanging website photos for a domme session; however, I get a little nervous when I hear about a lawyer or a doctor trading for some sexual pay-off. I guess legal and medical coverage hint at a greater power differential; they are so expensive and so very important, and so many people need them who don’t easily have access to them, that my mind wonders when consent ends and coercion begins if one is charged with a crime or needs an appendectomy. I certainly don’t think that just because a sex worker wouldn’t have sex with someone in their personal lives, it’s somehow automatically coercion when they are doing it to pay their bills/survive. So when is one right to feel squicked out? Is a for-trade situation ever just totally inappropriate? Or is this some ghastly Puritanical reflex that I need to consider unlearning?
Though you may find it an interesting exercise in introspection to try to figure out why you’re squicked out by the exchange of sex for what we might call “high level” professional services, I don’t think you should feel compelled to do so because there isn’t anything “wrong” with your feeling that way. Now, I suspect that the reason is some sort of entanglement with the idea of a powerful person demanding sexual services as payment for a favor; I think we can agree that a cop saying, “Give me sex or I’ll arrest you”, or a company boss saying, “Give me sex or I’ll fire you and destroy your career”, are forms of rape. And though I don’t agree that for a professional who does not have actual power over a person to offer valuable and/or expensive services in exchange for sex is morally wrong, I can imagine circumstances in which the line would be mighty thin; for example, the only doctor in a remote village demanding sex and refusing any other form of payment from an extremely ill woman in dire poverty without means of travel to find a different doctor. So it’s not at all surprising that the one type of interaction could “cross-contaminate” the other in your psyche.
However, it doesn’t actually matter why you feel squicked out by that particular interaction, as long as you respect the right of others not to feel that way. As I wrote in “Out of the Dark”, “The human brain is not rational, and we don’t get to choose what turns us on….sexual likes, dislikes, kinks and fetishes emerge by mysterious paths from the murky swamp we carry deep in our brains, and there’s no known way to reroute those pathways once they’re established.” Lots of people are squicked out by the fact that I have sex for money with strange men, some of whom may be extremely physically unattractive; others are uncomfortable with my bisexuality, or with the fact that I’m extremely turned on by some kinds of BDSM. At the same time, I’m unmoved or even turned off by other kinds of BDSM, and also by some vanilla sex acts that millions of people enjoy. And that’s all perfectly OK, as long as everyone respects everyone else’s right to have different feelings and refrains from inflicting violence on them or otherwise trying to persecute them, such as by lobbying for laws (enforced by violent thugs) to criminalize behaviors not because they objectively harm others, but merely because they don’t like them. The most important thing to remember is that aversions and squickouts are properties of individual psyches, not of the things those individuals are squicked out by; they are personal idiosyncrasies, and therefore harmless and not really a cause for concern unless they cause one distress or drive him to act in a way that abrogates the rights of others.