Treating is the act of serving food, drink, and other refreshments in order to influence people and to gain benefits not easily obtained in the free market. It began as a political term, and came to be used elsewhere.
In law and politics, treating is the act of serving food, drink, and other refreshments to influence people for political gain, often shortly before an election. In various countries, treating is considered a form of corruption, and is illegal as such. However, as long as the supplying of refreshments is not part of a quid pro quo for votes, etc., it is often not illegal.
In a social context, treating came about with the birth of leisure time in the late nineteenth century. Young working class women took pride in going out and enjoying the city’s “cheap amusements”. Some notable cheap amusements included public dances, amusement parks, and nickelodeon movie theatres. Although young working class women liked to go out, this often proved difficult, as their wages were very low. Young women dealt with this issue in numerous ways. Some refrained from going out or limited going out to special occasions, while others depended on their male counterparts to finance their pleasures. The latter solution is referred to as “treating”. Historian Kathy Peiss has popularized this term in many of her scholarly works such as Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (1986) and “Charity Girls and City Pleasures” (2004). The act of treating was an exchange between a man and a woman. A man would agree to pay for a woman’s outing in exchange for her company. Treating ranged from the more innocent to the more scandalous. Treating was seen as harmless when it was conducted between a “steady” couple and more risqué when it was performed on a casual basis. The women who engaged with this more risqué form of treating often reciprocated by performing sexual favors. These favors could be dancing, hugging, and kissing to intercourse. The women who engaged with the more intense sexual acts were referred to as “charity girls”. These women did not see themselves as prostitutes but often walked a fine line between being treated and being paid for their sexual services.
- NZ Legislation Online
- NZ Herald - Election 'treats' get just deserts
- NZ Herald - MP in gun for 'carrot' in mailout
- Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986), p.6.
- Kathy Peiss, “Charity Girls and City Pleasures,” OAH Magazine of History 18, no. 4 (July 2004): 14.
- Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986), p. 54.
- Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986), p. 110.
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