If you are *ahem* “of a certain age,” like me, one of your early musical experiences involved being assaulted by the seemingly endless airplay of a song by Rupert Holmes, called “Escape (The PiÃ±a Colada Song)“, a treacly romantic ballad in which a man, bored with his marriage, reads a personal ad by a woman who lays out her requirements for an adventurous, passionate lover:
- If you like PiÃ±a Coladas
- And getting caught in the rain
- If you’re not into yoga
- If you have half a brain
- If you’d like making love at midnight
- In the dunes on the Cape
- Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for
- Write to me and escape.
He goes to meet the woman in a seedy bar, and discovers her to be his wife; he’d never dreamed that she liked any of that stuff, and the passion in their marriage is reignited as they discover each other all over again.
Five years later, Tipper Gore and the PMRC were sitting in Congress, wondering why all of my generation’s favorite music was about Satan worship and suicide.
Today I found a news story that sounds like the triple-X version of Rupert Holmes:
WARSAW (Reuters) – A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment’s employees.
Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.
“I was dumfounded. I thought I was dreaming,” the husband told the newspaper on Wednesday.
The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.
(Writing by Chris Borowski, Editing by Matthew Jones)
I eagerly await the film with Belladonna as the wife.
It must have been an interesting moment: the story quotes the husband’s bewilderment, but what explanation did he have for being there in the first place? Fixing the plumbing? Delivering pizza? Offering free pelvic exams?
The divorce kind of bewilders me a little, since neither party has a whole lot of moral ground to stand on. Best, really to just accept your share of the blame, forgive, forget, and move on. Obviously, the realities of romance are not as late-70’s AM lite rock had promised me.
But the economics of the story interest me, too. Back in the sixties, Edward Albee wrote a play (adapted from a 1962 British play by Giles Cooper), called Everything in the Garden, about a couple trying to play the “keeping up with the Joneses” game of American suburbia, and doing rather poorly at it. That is, until the wife is approached by a matronly Englishwoman who’s establishing a discreet brothel locally. In the end, it turns out that their neighbors are able to keep up their country-club lifestyles because the wives are working at the same brothel.
I know less than nothing about the economics of life in modern Poland, and still less about the individuals involved. But I think the fact that she seems to have deliberately chosen working in a brothel as a way to get “some extra money on the side” is interesting, especially when the modern way of talking about sex work is increasingly moving towards conflating “trafficking” with “prostitution.” Even as sex workers put their stories out there and work to organize themselves, traditional moralists are pushing back forcefully to bury those stories with a single tale of prostitutes as passive victims. (e.g., the radfem term “prostituted women” as opposed to “women who are prostitutes.”) I think that this story winds up in the “Odd News” section of so many sites not only because of the comedy of the awkward meeting, but the titillation of a woman who openly chose this as an economic transaction not out of physical coercion, or financial desperation, but as a casual way to make a few zÅ‚otych for creature comforts. I wish the story had been treated as more than a salacious one-liner.Â There’s a great deal of missed opportunity to hear about the woman’s motivations, what regrets (if any) she has, and whether she’s going back to this work.Â To me, it’s an enticing story that I would like to know much more about because it implies much more nuance to prostitution as an economic transaction than the mainstream media’s usual story of victimization, desperation, and abuse.Â Of course, it’s not the first time that the media (American, English, or Polish) has blown an opportunity to look deeper into the lives of sex workers. Or, for that matter, to look at sex work in a way that plays up the work instead of the sex.