Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Galerianki, sponsorówki

The non-Polish readers are likely to find the title of the post confusing, since both words used there are neologisms in Polish. The former is a combination of the word galeria [handlowa] and the –anka suffix. Galeria handlowa translates into English as “a shopping mall”, whereas –anka in the old-fashioned Polish was added into girl’s surname to emphasise she is still a maid. Hence, after the short processing, galerianka is “a [female] child of shopping malls”, or as the up-to-date net dictionaries offer “a mall girl”.

The phenomenon itself is not new, but it was x-rayed and highlighted anew in the film “Galerianki”, by Katarzyna Rosłaniec, released and generously awarded this year. Some critics have torn the film to pieces, as it’s not a work of art actually, but in this particular case the message is more important than a form. The debuting director gives her audience an insight into the world of teenage (aged approximately 13 – 16) girls who hang around the shopping malls, looking for men, who’d buy them new stuff in return for… sex.

“It’s all because of poverty”, I heard from my friend, who also had watched the film. The characters of the film don’t come from really poor families, their households are far from affluence, but their families make ends meet. The heart of the problem lies in and outside their homes. They grow up in broken families, where the relationships between family members are very poor, everyone pursues their own interests, nobody cares much about the children, who are left alone with their mounting problems. The second factor is the rampant consumerism – teenage prostitutes fall victim to the vision of the world, where the social position is determined by the clothes you wear, handset you call from and a car of your boyfriend. Pathological is such order and the film implicitly points it up. The “veteran” mall girls are ugly, clothes their sponsors buy them are more than kitschy, their white boots and belts stand for the type of fashion typical for a disco-polo tańcbuda somewhere beyond Białystok. Their sleazy beauty, revolting outfits, greyness of their real world (from what I’ve read on forums the depiction of a middle school is very accurate – much has changed since 2003!), contrasted with the riot of colours glittering from the displays in the shopping malls. The film would have lost its educational value, if it hadn’t had a tragic ending. The failure of love is not unexpected in this, no longer innocent, yet devoid of inhibitions, world.

A sponsorówka = a girl who has a (steady) sponsor, is a few years older than a Galerianka (the age usually ranges from 19 to 25), who hails from a provincial town or rural area and has come to a big city to study. Soon it turns out costs of living are prohibitive or she aspires to higher standard of living, better clothes, cosmetics. Money doesn’t grow in trees so she’s looking for an asset which could bring some decent revenues and finds… her own body.

Is it another phenomenon? Age and purpose of their prostitution are not the only features that distinguish them from mall girls. They have a steady partner, by and large a well-off, mild-mannered, well-read, businesslike male, who in return for an intimate relation will provide them with an accommodation, pay the university fees, buy books or ask out for a dinner. In typical prostitution, prostitutes have to serve every client, in sponsorship deals, they can pick and choose. A mall girl as a rule takes pride in their attractiveness and resourcefulness that allow her to make profits on her body, a sponsorówka is mature enough to conceal her disgraceful activity. Her family and friends are never meant to find out about what and with whom she does.

Where’s the thin boundary between prostitution and… And what? According to the narrower definition, prostitution is having sex in exchange for money, the wider one covers all acts and practises related to sexual activity for hire. An average Galerianka wouldn’t call herself (in her peculiar language) a slut. Aside from her way of reasoning which implies what she dabbles in reflects upon her resourcefulness, she might claim she doesn’t do it for money.

So what is the prostitution? Any sex acts committed with a view to obtain any material benefit from it, doesn’t matter if it’s cash, flat to live in, new tacky boots, promotion at work or anything else. In the light of the definition above, both galerianki and sponsorówki are prostitutes. If there’s any commonly morally unacceptable practice to be mistaken for prostitution, it can be sleeping around, for pleasure, fun, or any other, non-material reasons. What is noteworthy in this particular respect is that a man, who often changes sexual partners is frequently called “macho” and a promiscuous woman is a “whore” – still I see some room for improvement in equal opportunities.

The quirky student who runs this blog could argue the sociological analysis of the problems discussed is classical, not Keynesian and some of the readers would rack their brains trying to figure out what he has meant. Everyone who puts the problem of prostitution focuses on the prostitutes, but few researchers try to find out more about the men who are their clients. The transaction on this particular market are entered into, because demand meets supply. The main question then boils down to a chicken or egg dilemma. Are the men paying for sex, because there are girls ready to get paid for having sex, or are the girls ready to hire their bodies because they know there are men ready to pay for it? Rare were the studies of psychological profiles of men, who were clients of escort agencies. And the ones who sponsor students? A typical sponsor is a wealthy, married or unmarried (there’s no regularity), well-educated man in his thirties or forties, who can afford to have pleasure of shagging a young piece of arse without obligations. But who are those creatures who prefer mall girls? Has anybody been interested in their mental health? Has it occurred to anyone that they can also pose a social problem?

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