Prostitution: a class analysis

The point was this: what is the difference between selling one's skill at baking apple pies and selling one's skills at performing hummers?

Well, suppose someone breaks into your house and forces you at gunpoint to bake an apple pie. He then forces you at gunpoint to perform fellatio on him. Is there a difference that makes a difference? If there is no qualitative difference between making pastry and rape why should rape be prosecuted any differently than, say, assault? This is very foggy territory but one could argue that performing fellatio on someone has a stronger emotional and psychological component than does making pastry. I am a professional cook and a professional baker and I do get passionate about making pastry but not to the point where I would want to have sexual relations with a pie.

Having sexual relations with someone involving pies is different. Sexual relations are a mutual contract between sentient beings. Pastry is an inanimate object. I agree with you to a point, but the working conditions of prostitutes varies greatly. The conditions of Park Avenue call girls are much different than the conditions in the brothels of Colombia, Thailand or the Philippines. Some prostitutes choose prostitution for a variety of different reasons. Some may get pleasure out of it, but I doubt it. Many are forced into it for a variety of reasons; usually economic. The real unemployment rate in greater Caracas hovers around 30%.(Caracas has the most brothels I've ever seen) Young women from the peasant and working class often do not have much of a choice. Further, many prostitutes are drug addicts and thus cannot live the 9to5 lifestyle. Does prostitution add value to the economy? Tough question, but my dogmatic answer is no because nothing physical is produced. Prostitution belongs to the service sector of the economy. Your points about waiters are interesting but since I work as a cook I'm quite biased against waiters. Its usually management/owners that try and bilk waiters for their tips not cooks. Waiters usually earn much more than cooks. I've worked in places where I earned $50 for an 8 hour shift while the waitress may earn upwards of $200(tax-free!) depending on how attractive she is etc.

Cooks add value to the economy, waiters don't. When a dish arrives at a table burned and dried because it has been sitting on the counter while the waiter socializes about her new modeling contract, I take the responsibility even though it wasn't my fault. Remember, that's *my* food sitting under those heat lamps and if you don't pick it up within the next 2 minutes, I'm going to deliver it myself. How have waitresses been associated with prostitutes? Waiters do not negotiate their own relations of power. That is academic bullshit. You can rhapsodize all you want about relations of power and domination but when you experience it you'll know perfectly well what it is. Waiters and prostitutes are slaves to the capitalist like any other wage worker is.

Sam Pawlett


Sam love, I've been a waitress, cook, and/or rest. manager (a pastry chef too!) since I was 16, nearly 20 years!

So, it's not academic bullshit and the fact is that book resonated with my own experiences as well as friends, co-workers, and the students I've taught who've been waitresses. What Paules means is that waitresses tell customers to get off all the time. They also tell managers to get off all the time b/c the things that managers tell them to do are often absolutely ridiculous and clearly not in a waitress's interest. This is increasingly true as waitress work becomes increasingly rationalized in the hands of large corporations. The chains hand their new hires a ring binder that's generally four inches think (I have a collection of them that I've secured, begged, borrowed and stole) As anyone on this list would know if they've been to a Bennigan's or Applebee's or the like, servers follow scripts. 'Would you like a carafe of house wine with that sir?" "How 'bout desert, I know you're full and need a take out carton but I'll just bet there' room for some key lime pie" Very annoying and the waitresses know it and they subvert managerial authority all the time? Why? Because they don't want to piss off customers who might tip them less. Or perhaps even because they have developed a sense of craftsmanship--as tough as that might be for you to believe--and feel that a good server is someone who knows what his/her customer's want, is attentive to their needs, and treats them like unique people rather than like parts on an assembly line --which is what rationalization in the service industry does: turns even the customers into things to be fed and shoved out the door like Charlie Chaplin and the lunch machine in Modern Times.

I'll never forget the first day I trained to be a waitress. I followed around Betty. She was working the coffee shop section in HoJo's. Betty was a cranky woman but those truck drivers and regulars loved her for the most part. Betty is a standard figure in the truck stop, a character type if you will. I can point you to work that explores why. Anyway, we went to clean up a table during lunch rush and a trucker had left a couple of pennies. Betty was steamed and she made a scene right there, ran after him and threw those pennies right at the guy and said "Here looks like you need this much more than I" I this dumb innocent thing was just shocked. But Betty got away with this sort of thing all the time, and eventually I did too to some extent, though I just wasn't old enough to get away with her particular manifestation of this maneuver.

This is what Paules book is about. Telling the customers to get off--customers who are very clearly one's employers in the sense that your pay is directly dependent on servicing them in a highly unmediated exchange. it's also a bit about the tension b/t waitresses and cooks--and cooks can make waitresses miserable by not putting their food out properly b/c they're motivated by poor hourly wages rather than how many tables they can turn over. See? And waitresses often tell mgmt to fuck off b/c they gen'ly have no respect for them--though this clearly depends on the kind of rest. we're talking about.

I've done all kinds of waitress work, from HoJo's, a truck stop, a small bistro, to trendy little joints, a jazz club, to a very fine place that modeled itself after windows on the world and a four star restaurant. I know lots of waitresses through work, through life, through my teaching. All of them have nodded w/recognition upon reading or hearing about Paules analysis.

Oh and a book I've been trying to finish for awhile, one that you might find interesting reading is _Kitchens_ by Gary Alan Fine. Neat stuff about how mostly men learn to become cooks at a culinary institute as well as about how that training translates to three different statuses of restaurant. Also gets at the waitress/cook tension from the cook's point of view as you've articulated. hey, look I've been on both sides of the whole thing. Oh and I've also worked for and ran a catering outfit in Ithaca, NY and so know how the production and service of meals is quite different once all of the staff b/c subject to an hourly wage. The diff. be/t relations between customers, mgmt, cooks really is quite different once these micro-level social relations of work are altered.

So, sorry to disappoint you but you can't put me into that stupid academic know it all box. Not only have I done all sorts of rest work, I've also worked in factories, mopped floors, sales work, and clerical work. Nuff for now

hat's resistance, of course, and not revolution but it *is* something--something to work with I think, at least in terms of consciousness raising.

Kelly