Reluctant Townie: A perspective on the pizzeria peep show
Last week, one of the social warriors at local webzine Cheesing Agreeably blew the lid off a Campustown scandal after publishing the Tweets of a Green Street pizzeria, highlighting an alleged Twitter promotion the business ran offering free pizzas to women who walked into the lobby and flashed their high beams.
Of course, I do not literally mean high beams — it's just that The News-Gazette is weird about the words I can and cannot print in this column, and this particular subject is a, uh, touchy area — but with any luck, you can deduce my euphemism. And if you can't, there's always the Internet.
The story drew the ire of several readers, who verbally jousted in the comment section for the majority of Tuesday evening.
What emerged were two basic points of view:
— The pizzeria allegedly pulled a stunt that was tasteless, exploitative, disgusting and (at least in the view of one commenter) akin to prostitution and that anybody who was all right with what they did, or would continue to eat at that establishment, was a big stupid head who is complicit with sexism, the degradation of women and rape culture.
— The pizzeria in question allegedly makes tasteless, disgusting pizza, and there is no rational explanation for why anyone would debase themselves to obtain its already cheap product; but if one chooses to do so, so be it, it's a free country.
Those two points of view generated these two basic rebuttals:
— No one can "choose" whether or not they show their goodies when they're drunk; intoxication invalidates consent. Thus, any woman who received a free pizza for removing her top is a victim of a sexual exploitation.
— People consent to all sorts of things when they're drunk — tattoos, Breathalyzer tests, Taco Bell — and they should take more responsibility for their actions.
Now, I thought I would try to step in and offer some clarity on the situation.
I spent years of my life delivering pizzas on campus, and even more to the point, I used to work at One World Pizza — the pizza place that inhabited the very spot on Fifth and Green that another pizzeria now calls home.
If you ever wondered why I have so little faith in the youth of America, my viewpoint was shaped during my time there.
One World Pizza used to run a $5 pizza special for walk-ins after midnight. Between midnight and 3 a.m., the lobby flooded with the best and the brightest the University of Illinois had to offer in varying states of undress and unconsciousness. This was before the term "hot mess" was popularized, but if ever there was a word to describe the clientele that stumbled in after midnight, "hot mess" was the most accurate.
To the best of my knowledge, One World never ran a promotion offering free pizza in exchange for public displays of nudity, but we were certainly propositioned with the trade from time to time. After midnight on a college campus, drunk people will offer you all sorts of things for food — nudity, beer, a hit off the bong — but in the end, as the delivery driver, you have to pay your boss for the pie, and usually you can purchase any one of those things on your own for less than the cost of a pizza.
One night, while wondering up and down the apartment complex behind a popular campus bar looking for a customer who had not answered his phone in 20 minutes, I encountered a group of visibly intoxicated females.
"Hey, can I have some of your pizza?" asked one of the girls.
"You can if you have $14.63 plus tip."
"I don't have any money, but I'll flash you for it."
A guy who had been smoking a cigarette on the curb approached us.
"You'll sell me that pizza for $14?"
We exchanged money and pizza. I gestured angrily at the apartment complex. The drunk girl turned to the stranger with the pizza.
"I'll flash you for your pizza."
"You can't have the whole thing, but I'll give you a slice."
"One slice for one peek?"
Boom. Like a flash of lightning, she lifted her shirt, broadcasted her business and in the same swift motion, reached into his pizza box and claimed her slice. She jammed half of it into her mouth, turned and walked off.
Then and now, I see nothing wrong with that exchange. Just a classic example of bartering: a system that predates our fiat currency banking system. And when our fiat currency one day collapses, we will be propelled back to a bartering economy. (And probably cannibalism. But that's a whole different bedtime story.)
While I can understand how someone might view that exchange — and the alleged pizzeria promotion — as exploitative (she was made to expose herself for a slice of pizza), all I can see is a hot and steaming pile of gender inequality.
She chose to expose herself for a slice of pizza. Was it a good choice? Probably not (although it depends on how hungry she was, I guess), but what a wonderful choice to have.
If only I, as a man, could carry the same leverage with my nudity.
Why aren't their any campus eateries offering free food to men who come in and take off their pants? I'll tell you why: They would never sell another item of food again. If I could get a free pizza for walking into a building and dropping trow, I would stop wearing pants altogether. And so would every other guy on Earth. And eventually all of the world's restaurants would go out of business.
And for that reason, and that reason alone, I find this pizzeria's alleged promotion to be an outrage. It's sexist that my nudity does not demand to be gifted, but rather to be punished by jail time, expensive fines and community service.
The pizzeria needs to step up the plate, admit it was wrong and make amends by offering some sort of Dude Nudity for Pizza exchange plan.
It's 2013, people. Get with the times.
Ryan Jackson regrets being unable to insert an inappropriate joke into this article, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.