Monday, July 16, 2012

Cuddly Capitalism

A 29-year-old New York woman has opened up a 'snuggery' in her home, a place where clients can come snuggle her for $60 an hour. Jackie Samuel states that science has proven the health benefits of non-sexual human contact and that she is prepared to offer a safe, relaxing environment where clients can come and snuggle with her, thereby filling a need in society for calm and affection.

The cynic in me wonders if this is more than just cuddly capitalism. Health benefits aside, is there not something odd about cuddling with a complete stranger and paying them? The picture that accompanies this story shows a young woman lying on a couch in a clean white linen shift dress that makes her look like she's recently escaped an Amish community. The look on her face is no doubt meant to be inviting and kind, but one can't help feeling a bit creeped out that she's snuggling lots of strangers for a living. A living that could be quite profitable at a staggering rate of $60 an hour.

Consider the fact that snuggling requires no special talent, no matter what kids say about mommy and daddy being the best snugglers in the universe. It really just requires arms. Perhaps the rate is so high because a willingness to invite strangers to one's homes and arms is a pretty big deal. So it sort of amounts to danger pay or general discomfort pay. Fair enough.

Which then makes us flip the question around: what would drive a person to PAY a person for this 'service'? Have we really come to the point in society where we're so starved for human contact and attention that we are willing to pay for it? People have been paying for the sexual kind for years. But basic comfort? Basic 'I've had a bad day' sort of syndrome? In the past, would we not have learned to just handle things? Stiff upper lip, rolling with the punches, all that stuff?

Let's consider some alternatives and their pros and cons:

A teddy bear. Pros: it's warm, soft, sometimes it comes with memories. Cons: it's not a person, but it's also not a stranger. Cost: probably around $50 and no hourly rate.

A massage. Pros: The health benefits of this one have also been proven and it's covered through most health insurance plans. Cons: it still sort of amounts to paying a stranger to touch you, but at least it's medical. Cost: $50-$100 an hour minus the creepiness factor.

A drink. Pros: it makes us all feel better as a general rule. We can do it with strangers and not feel creepy or get too close, although we may want to later on. Cons: unless you're an alcoholic, there really are none. Cost: a tab and a cab.

You can take from this what you like. But I'm not a doctor after all. Then again, neither is the woman who runs the 'Snuggery.'

Friday, July 6, 2012

No more Sexy Imports

New immigration laws in Canada have called for the immediate removal of temporary foreign workers linked to the sex trade. This move has been received with disdain from Tim Bambrinos, the president of the adult entertainment association of Canada, who claims that foreign-born strippers are being treated unfairly.

It's nice that foreign-born strippers with temporary foreign work visas are being supported by such a prestigious, upstanding individual. Especially when you consider how he speaks about them (taken from Yahoo!):

Begin quote exactly as found on website: "People who come to the clubs because they want to see something exotic. It's like when you go to the zoo you don't want to see the squirrels and the chipmunks and the raccoons fighting you want to see some exotic animals and that's the same demand here," he said. End quote.

Comparing the club with the zoo definitely makes you realize that you're dealing with a real classy joint that doesn't need domestic mongrels. Fair enough. Zoos simply aren't zoos without exotic creatures far removed from their hospitable natural climates who are trapped, drugged, transported and then caged. It doesn't matter that their fate is then to be pointed at or abused by oodles of oglers; it's what the zoo needs in order to be a profitable institution. And ultimately, the President of this association is defending their bottom line.

He furthers his point with this follow up statement:

Begin quote "It's's an attraction. People want to see in Canada something different, something exciting, something that's not indigenous to our area." End quote.

Yes, it's such a relief to know that we're putting the 'exotic' back into the term 'exotic dancer.' The true beauty of a multicultural society is equal opportunity for all races to bump and grind for audiences.

On a more serious note, however, he does express concern about the potential danger to these workers:

Begin quote "They're going to be lured underground. They're going to be more susceptible and driven into more precarious and dangerous situations." End quote.

That may be true, but this has been the reality for just about every category of temporary foreign worker in Canada. Many of them are living precariously and even dangerously, subject to abuse and threats. While the threat of this is very real, it's abundantly clear that women's rights are not the top of the agenda for this spokesperson; especially since he sees them as animals in a zoo.

Begin quote: Lambrinos insists the strippers aren't taking these changes lying down. End quote.

We're guessing that they won't. They will probably take it lying down, sitting up, and all sorts of ways.

Only The Charming Survive

It used to be that only the strong survive. But with shifting career dynamics and an increased tendency towards client service-oriented professions, it appears that the new skill to survive is not so much strength, but charm.

With the exception of the public service, job security is practically non-existent. In fact, it's not even desired by the new generation of workers; most young people want and expect to change jobs every 2-3 years, and in some cases, will also change cities. They are more virtual, more mobile and their focus is not security and wealth, but the elusive quality of happiness and loving what they do. Some look for more meaning, while others look for more fun, and others look for maximum mobility so that they can globetrot while picking up a paycheque instead of a back pack.

The good news is that they have plenty of options. The shift from robotic assembly line style professions means that there is more freedom to provide special services that a machine cannot; from the barista who sprinkles just the right amount of cinnamon into your dolce latte to the personal trainer who helps you get to the ideal weight, specialized client-service oriented professions are on the rise. The potential rewards include flexibility, adaptability and the all-important being your own boss.

The potential pitfalls? Low wages, no security, high risk, and potentially, crippling debt. But here's the difference maker: charm. The ability to sell yourself and be a true entrepreneur. The more that a person can talk themselves up and their skills, the bigger their potential revenue. While it's a well-known fact that people who present themselves better at interviews are more likely to get jobs, the charm factor can be the difference between wage slave and savvy businessperson. Smart use of social media and the old-fashioned recruiting in person can result in a far more lucrative and satisfying career than a 9 to 5 desk job.

While it's important to be able to actually deliver on the promised service, it appears that the promise is just as important now as the service itself. While parents used to tell their children to become doctors and lawyers, nowadays, more parents are telling their children to learn a trade so that they can't be fired. Trade school or law school, we should all add one more to the list: charm school. An old-fashioned meet and greet means a lot more than it used to and we should all be ready with a smile and some confidence.