Social norm violations

May 30, 2017



John Stack
Staff Reporter | jes062@latech.edu


When I was a sophomore, I took business law. It was an interesting class which aimed to help us better protect our assets. Nevertheless, it lasted from 6 until 9 in the evenings, and we all get vexed from time to time.


As the class waxed into its second hour and the teacher went on and on as the clock just tick-tick-ticked away, my mind wandered and then I suddenly remembered a project for a communications class: Social Norm Violations.


“… and though maybe not immoral is still illegal here,” the professor concluded. Then she proceeded to reinforce with an illustration. “So, let’s say that there’s a good prostitute; that she …”


My hand went up.


The professor nodded. “Yes?”


Ingenuously, “What do you mean by a good prostitute?”


She was caught off guard.


She hemmed, she hawed, (I do not know whether she did this as a result of wondering why I would ask such a question, what I was up to, or just how to answer it at all; it made no difference) and then finally: “She looks good; has many steady, regular clients; makes a lot of money; is healthy, etc. So, the …”


My hand went up again.


She quirked a brow and sighed. “Yes?”


“All of those things which you just said concerning a good prostitute …”




“Those are just secondary qualities at best; some are even tertiary and quaternary. Those are just attributes: she is none of those things. So again, I ask, what is a good prostitute?”


A vein visibly throbbed in her forehead. A paroxysm of uncertainty swept her face.


I let it go at that. “Don’t worry about it. You were saying …?”


She wasn’t sure anymore.


The class did resume, after a moment and a few snickers; she finally collected her thoughts.


After class I apologized for catching her off guard like that, for going into Socratic inquiry in her class; but it was late, I was tired, and my mind tends to wander when fatigue sets in. She was all right with it; said that she understood (her father, another professor who also happened to be my adviser, had told her of my early a.m. hours―being a morning soul).


I asked if she would mind if her father proctored her tests for me in the mornings from now on; she gladly agreed.


Did I plan that out beforehand? Was that the efficacy of my questioning all along? Why do they call an orange an orange but they don’t call a banana a yellow?


Moot points.


It was a good move …


Whatever that means.


John Stack is a senior journalism major from Meridian who is a staff reporter for The Tech Talk.


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