Pimps are persons who financially benefit from the earnings of women and girls involved in prostitution or in the sex trade industry. They may be the intimate partner of the individual in prostitution, or they may serve in the more professional capacity as agent or manager. Because research shows that the majority of pimps control women and girls through violence and intimidation, many women and girls are trapped in prostitution because they are unable to leave safely.
It has long been thought that women and girls in prostitution, especially those on the streets, turn to pimps for protection, but many women become involved in prostitution only because pimps recruited, encouraged, or coerced them in the first place. For example, many needy girls, often those who have left early from dysfunctional and harmful homes, undertake activities in the sex trade at the behest of a male who has taken them in and provided them with shelter and gifts.
In the 1990s, it was common to read that North American prostitution was less controlled by pimps than in the past. Why this belief was considered to be the case is unclear; recent research has consistently shown that 40% to 50% of all women and girls in prostitution are controlled by pimps, whether on the streets or in indoor locations such as brothels and escort services. All the women in legal brothels in Nevada, for example, were found by one researcher to have pimps. Because the women were off the unsafe streets, they did not need protection, but only by means of pimps or agents could the Nevada brothel industry assure itself a steady supply of women.
The large presence of pimping serves to point out that prostitution is a well-organized and profitable industry, relying on agents and middlemen to supply girls and women to meet demand. Pimps are directly related to traffickers who obtain girls and women for the sex trade industry through kidnapping or deceptive practices; they arrange for the girls’ and women’s transportation to another country, and their tactics can be similar to traffickers’.
Women and girls in prostitution are subject to violence from their customers, and research indicates that they are often controlled by their pimps and managers by means of violence, making escape difficult. Three quarters of women and girls with pimps state that they could not leave prostitution without suffering grievous bodily injury. Like battered women, they will need a safety plan that includes safe and secure housing.
- Albert, A. (2001). Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its women. New York: Random House.
- Raphael, J. (2004). Listening to Olivia: Violence, poverty, and prostitution. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
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