PeerCentered is a space for peer writing tutors/consultants or anyone interested in collaborative learning in writing centers to blog with their colleagues from around the world. Bloggers here will share their ideas, experiences, or insight. To contribute to the blog, please contact Clint.Gardner@slcc.edu.
While I admit I was once intrigued by the prostitute-consultant analogy, not by what Scott Russell had to say about it but by some of the ideas we threw around in class the other day, I can honestly say, now, that I am beginning to move away from the metaphor. While I once connected prostitution and the writing center through their brief meetings and levels of intimacy, I now question the nature of those meetings and the levels of intimacy available, and like David said in class, I agree that the comparison is a stretch.
Here’s where I struggle with a connection between meeting a stranger, a prostitute, for sex, and meeting a consultant at the writing center. Although the ‘client,’ ‘student,’ or whatever, meets with a stranger for a limited period time to meet a specific desire, the level of intimacy between sex with a prostitute and a writing consultation differs. It is my experience that consultations between peers can be genuinely intimate as one discusses personal thoughts—there is room for real connection here. But sex with a prostitute does not necessarily imply that any kind of intimacy is reached at all. There can be sex without connection, especially—not that I know from experience, but from the Russell article—sex with prostitutes. I think that the kind of relationships consultants can have with writers goes far beyond the prostitution analogy. In fact, connecting the two in many ways inhibits my view of the role consultants and the place of the writing center.
But there is a correlation between prostitution and consulting that I can’t seem to get rid of. There is a secrecy that exists within the relationship that, when taken out of it’s element, after the “deed” is done that is, those who seek a prostitute or consultant inevitably experience. When I see a student that I have worked with in the center outside in the “real world”, (going with writing center as oasis here) it is almost guaranteed that they will ignore me. The relationship is intimate for a 30-minute appointment, but ceases to exist outside of the center. I assume the same is true for the client of a prostitute, who in many cases I am sure, wishes to hide their relationship (I can’t see many running up to the prostitute they’ve been with at a grocery store to reintroduce themselves). But, at the same time, when I see students I have worked with, I never go out of my way to acknowledge them either—I don’t know if that’s because I sense they are uncomfortable or if I too wish to deny a student’s presence outside of the center.
Now that I have said that, I can’t help but wonder why this is—it almost doesn’t make any sense.
I have posted a poll in the IWCA forums: IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll! It is a part of an earlier discussion that kind of petered out about the titles used for writing center workers. Please take a moment and vote! If you don't have an account on the forum, you can register for one by clicking on the "Register" link (next to the rocket icon in the top-right of the page.) Don't forget to state your institutional affiliation when you request and account. (That's how the IWCA Forum keeps out spam accounts.)