The reason I was interested is that I thought this might be relevant to my book on sexual codes, which needs a shot in the arm. A while back I tried to explain this book to a philosopher, and what I said was that it was trying to introduce a new kind of speech act to communication of sexual preferences, and I then went into a long narrative on the evolution of whist (in which information about a hand could only be communicated by playing a card) into bridge, in which highly sophisticated bidding systems communicate the shape and strength of hands before a single card is played. The philosopher said something along the lines of, he did not think there was such a thing as a cleanly demarcated speech act. But the hell of it is, the only reason I brought speech acts into the discussion was, I was pretty sure he knew nothing about whist or bridge; I was trying to translate into something he would understand.
Anyway, not sure I can explicate this book properly in blogtime, but I brought RC's book home and was thrilled to find that he actually had a chapter on A Theory of Sexual Interaction. I go straight to the chapter, and um, hm.
The strongest empirical approximation to sex as selfish, individual pleasure-seeding is prostitution. In the ideal type, there is a simple exchange of customer's money for exual pleasure. I wil suggest the relevance of three kinds of empirical observations.
First: customers' interaction with prostitutes is often difficult and unpleasant, characterized by a high degree of distrust and cheating. Prostitutes are primarily motivated by money: they generally try to get as much money as possible from the customer, and give as little sexual labor in return as the can get away with.... Full-fledged prostitutes engage in various forms of bargaining, both as to price and quantity, such as charging a given sum for initial sex acts and asking for more to continue on to actual intercourse, sometimes stringing out the customer to continued renegotiations of what he thought was a done deal. Prostitutes in arenas with high turnover tend to minimize their work for the money, trying to hurry the customer through as quicklyas possible. In short, a prostitute tends to act very much like a pure utilitarian actor in game theory: since this is a purely selfish exchange on both sides, the focus is on monetary bargaining and on shirking work. [¿K?] Prostitutes almost always demand their money up front, before performing; customers agree to this, apparently because the strength of their desire for sex is stronger than their willingness to calculate and bargain. In other words, the cooler head is on the side of the prostitute, hence the better bargaining position. For the same reason, prostitutes are in a better position to cheat their customers than the other way around. ...
I'm afraid this doesn't leave me with high hopes for the book (I have racked up further credit card debt and ordered Goffman on Amazon). It's actually scary to see this.
Look. I went to Smith College in 1975, and my father had to pay fees up front, and the intellectual mediocrity of the place* drove me to my first suicide attempt, and if you think Smith gave my father a refund, well, hey, over the rainbow skies are blue. Someday I'll wish upon a star. In 1978 I took the Oxford entrance exam for classics (8 exams, in fact, 2C2E), got a place, went up in 1979, to be told that overseas fees had been introduced. All fees were to be paid up front. PLUS, my beloved college wanted £1000 up front as a deposit. So then as now, academic institutions had to be paid up front - IT had a piece a while back on students being denied access to course materials because their loans had not come through, plus ça change. OK. But see, the fact that cashstrapped students have to pay up front does not necessarily mean that the people drawing their salaries are actually doing what they are notionally being paid for. So, frinstans...
For Mods, you were supposed to do three special subjects. One of mine was Aristophanic Comedy. My contemporaries at other colleges were getting their tutorials on their special subjects, as well as going to university lectures; my first year went by, and these tutorials had not taken place, so I assumed they would be arranged for the first term of my second year. I went home to the US to grapple with a) reading the whole of Homer in Greek and also reading my three Aristophanes plays and b) holding down an office job, something that could easily be managed by getting up at 5, reading Greek for 3 hours, going to work, coming home, then reading Greek from 6 to midnight. Went back to Oxford. My tutor set me a collection on Aristophanes - that is, a practice exam which was a trial run for the real thing which would take place at the end of the following term. I assumed this was the preliminary to an announcement of arrangments for my Aristophanes tutorials.
I took this practice exam and handed it in. My tutor explained that she had arranged to have it assessed by Letitia Edwards of St Hugh's (a specialist in Aristophanes). So it was sent to Dr Edwards, and I think she gave it some kind of high beta mark, and my tutor returned it to me. And that was it.
I remember walking out of that meeting with my tutor. I remember thinking: - but that's the wrong way of putting it. I can throw in some sentences - "What am I going to do? What in God's name do I do?" but there weren't any sentences. My contemporaries at other colleges - the ones who'd done the Aristophanes special subject - had all had a term of tutorials on Aristophanes, for which they had written an essay a week; they'd had reading lists, they'd done the background reading and grappled with the various issues relating to Aristophanes; and, well, erm, just because you are paying overseas fees for, ahem, "tuition" does not mean that your tutor considers herself under any obligation to set up the tuition for which you've paid. Whereas, truth be told, I think the average tart, paid for a blow job, does actually suck dick. And, truth be told, the disutility to a client of an overpriced subpar blow job strikes me as dramatically lower than that of the disutility to a university student of overpriced subpar tuition.
Payment for the tuition must be drummed up by selling time, one way or another - that is, time that could be spent on independent reading must be sold to pay for the tuition, which means that the tuition is, notionally, of higher value than what the student could achieve by simply reading 40 hours a week. But, um...
After my father retired from the State Department he got a job teaching Geography at the University of Radford, in Radford, Virginia. And my father had a strong preference for setting multiple choice exams, because they could be computer-assessed, he hated essay exams, and he hated setting papers, because they took so much time to mark. My tutor who arranged no tutorials at all was... well, I won't say she was an extreme of slackerdom, because I also had a philosophy tutor who spent the tutorials talking about the jumble sale economy and her feud with the college principal, but anyway I would say that a fondness for collecting a salary and getting away with as little intellectual intercourse as possible is endemic to the academic world. And this is actually pretty nasty.
Racking up £20,000 of student debt (Britain) or $50,000+ (US) is pretty much compulsory for access to a wide range of careers, regardless of the quality of instruction actually provided. An academic who is a good mentor can transform the intellectual abilities of his/her students - I notice that both Julia Annas and Martha Nussbaum acknowledge their debt to G E L Owen, who seems to have been an extraordinary teacher. An academic may also be tired, overworked, alcoholic, lazy; may have settled comfortably into tenure, or may be shuffled around from one short-term teaching post to another, asked to get on top of a succession of subjects at short notice - there are all kinds of reasons why an academic may not teach to a standard justified by the sacrifices required of students and their families.
Collins' comments seemed to me, anyway, to presuppose the thing they wanted to prove - that introducing commerce to a relationship automatically brings with it dishonesty. I can't help feeling that anyone familiar with Hicks's A Market Theory of Money (or, heck, The Wealth of Nations) could not make that assumption. A prostitute is really in a position similar to that of a professional writer: the costs involved are not primarily those of the actual act being paid for, but those of getting custom in the first place. An independent prostitute, at least, will generally be better off if she is in the position of one of my friends, many of whose clients have been coming back for 30 years - which is to say that she plays a game with iterations, so it can't be her dominant strategy to cheat the client on any single transaction. (Academics, of course, have no remotely comparable incentive to chase student loyalty; from a strictly game theoretical point of view, it is much more to their advantage to cheat.)
So, well, it's a bit demoralizing to find the blind spots of the culture replicated by Professor Collins. More could be said, but I've got to see a man about a dog.
* I had better clarify; I don't mean to suggest that the faculty were mediocre; they weren't. The standard of the classes, however, was constrained by the work students could reasonably be expected to do; it was easy to see that many lecturers had been worn down over the years, becoming increasingly "realistic" in their expectations.