9 Things You Should Know About Pimps and Sex Traffickers

A landmark government study commissioned by the Justice Department was recently released by the Urban Institute. Although the study covers a wide variety of topics related to the underground commercial sex economy, it provides some of the most revealing data on those who coerce women and children into prostitution. Here are nine things from the study you should know about pimps and sex traffickers.

pimp1. A pimp is an individual who controls the actions and lives off the proceeds of one or more women who work the streets. Generally, pimping becomes trafficking when “the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim” is present. (For the purposes of this article, the term “pimp” will be used for both pimps and sex traffickers.)

2. Nearly one-third of the pimps interviewed said they entered the underground commercial sex economy because they grew up around it. Exposure to sex work as children made the trade seem like a normal, achievable means to earn a living. Studies have suggested that individuals that grew up in neighborhoods where prostitution was prevalent or have family members engaged in sex work sometimes enter the field. Other research has found that individuals working in other illegal underground economies, such as drug dealing, sometimes move into the facilitation of underground sex markets

3. Recruitment is the most important component of any pimp’s business model. Pimps recruited individuals of all ages, genders, and races. However, multiple pimps noted that white women are more profitable in the sex market and easier to manage. Pimps also reported that law enforcement has placed a heightened emphasis on arresting and prosecuting individuals who pimp underage women. As a result, many offenders avoided minors, in part due to fears of arrest and prosecution

4. Pimps recruited sex workers in different spaces, such as scouting at transportation hubs, mass transit stations, nightclubs, strip bars, malls, high schools, college campuses, local neighborhoods, as well as through online and social media channels. Pimp-managed employees played a critical role in recruiting individuals to engage in prostitution. Employees approached individuals, encouraged friends to engage in prostitution under the pimp, bolstered the pimp’s reputation, and explained the business to recruited individuals.

5. Pimps appeal to individuals’ emotional dependencies and economic needs through “finesse pimping.” The study found that different forms of coercion and fraud, sometimes independent or even free of physical violence, are used by pimps to recruit and control employees. These forms of coercion and fraud included feigning romantic interest, emphasizing mutual dependency between pimp and employee, discouraging women from “having sex for free,” promising material comforts, and establishing a reputation as a “good” pimp.

6. The majority of pimps reported imposing rules on employees. Rules related to drugs and alcohol are common. Many pimps said that employees using hard drugs are typically unreliable and a danger to themselves. Others prefer that their employees not smoke marijuana or drink, but still tolerate it. About one in five pimps said they impose restrictions on their employees about what clients they can solicit, often banning black men and younger men. Pimps are commonly concerned that black men and younger men would engage in drug use, be rough, commit robbery, leave without paying, or are pimps scouting for new employees.

7. Pimps responded to rule violations in multiple ways, including physical violence, isolation, and confiscating possessions. Even in the absence of clearly articulated rules, pimps used discipline to exert control over employees and encourage dependency. Those that admitted to researchers that they use violence indicated that physical violence was always used in conjunction with other forms of coercion. Coercion through psychological and emotional abuse was cited by respondents as the most common form of punishment.

8. In terms of revenue, about 18 percent said they impose a dollar figure quota that employees would have to earn each day. These figures range from $400 to $1,000, depending on the day of the week. Other pimps say that, instead of requiring quotas, they incentivize performance by collecting and depositing cash at the end of every night so that the group starts each day without money. If the employees want to ensure food, lodging, and other necessities, they would have to go out and earn more money, pimps reasoned.

9. Nearly 21 percent of the pimps interviewed said their greatest fear was being arrested and prosecuted. About 18 percent said their greatest fear was for their personal safety, while only 6 percent cited employee safety as their chief concern. Though the majority of respondents stated that arrest is the foremost “risk” of pimping, they also routinely reported that they believed pimping was less risky than other crimes.

Other posts in this series:

9 Things You Should Know About Marriage in America

9 Things You Should Know About Black History Month

9 Things You Should Know About the Holocaust

9 (More) Things You Should Know About Roe v. Wade

9 Things You Should Know About Poverty in America

9 Things You Should Know About Christmas

9 Things You Should Know About The Hobbit

9 Things You Should Know About the Council of Trent

9 Things You Should Know About C.S. Lewis

9 Things You Should Know About Orphans

9 Things You Should Know about Halloween and Reformation Day

9 Things You Should Know About Down Syndrome

9 Things You Should Know About World Hunger

9 Things You Should Know about Casinos and Gambling

9 Things You Should Know About Prison Rape

9 Things You Should Know About the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

9 Things You Should Know About the 9/11 Attack Aftermath

9 Things You Should Know About Chemical Weapons

9 Things You Should Know About the March on Washington

9 (More) Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty

9 Things You Should Know About Child Brides

9 Things You Should Know About Human Trafficking

9 Things You Should Know About the Scopes Monkey Trial

9 Things You Should Know About Social Media

9 Things You Should Know about John Calvin

9 Things You Should Know About Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence

9 Things You Should Know About the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases

9 Things You Should Know About the Bible

9 Things You Should Know About Human Cloning

9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain

9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood

9 Things You Should Know About the Boston Marathon Bombing

9 Things You Should Know About Female Body Image Issues

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  • Andrew

    Thanks for writing this article. It’s a great companion piece to the Fact-Checker one written a little while ago about the Superbowl sex trafficking mythology. Hopefully as Christians approach this topic, God’s desire for the truth will be firmly held above the many embellishments and half-truths that seem to surround it, even amongst God’s people.

    The deliverance of all true victims of sex-trafficking, from the pimps caught in the cycle of crime and abuse, to the ‘empowered’ sex workers who are leveraged into prostitution by ‘sex-positive’ feminism and egalitarianism, to the willing women who are protected by society’s aversion to holding them accountable for their own bad choices, to those who use those mythologies embellishments and half-truths as a smokescreen or to further a political agenda, to the sad lonely and desperate men and women who perpetuate the industry, is something we can all be praying for.

    • anonymous

      Yes. This is a complex issue, and the simply dichotomy of helpless, innocent women (the prostitutes who, no matter how willingly they entered the sex trade, we now feel should not be punished or held responsible for their choices) and evil, abusive, vile men (the pimps and johns who we now believe deserve no mercy or compassion, and should not only be sent to prison but spent a lifetime on a sex offender registry that will close them off from any chance at a normal or productive life) is not helpful to anybody.

      It also ignores that “madams” are extremely common in the sex trade, especially in the kind of child sex trafficking we are justifiably most outraged by. Many of these “madams” were prostitutes themselves. So should they be seen as helpless, innocent victims, or as evil monsters? Is the young man who goes into pimping because he grew up around the sex trade–his mother was a prostitute, his father was a pimp, etc.–somehow more responsible for his choices than the woman who becomes a madam because she was raised in the sex trade? Do we believe that women are adults who can and should be help responsible for their actions? Do we believe that God can change people and that, along with appropriate legal consequences, people also deserve second chances?

      In the vast majority of cases, in the U.S., everybody involved in the sex trade–the pimp/madam, the prostitute, and the john–is both a victim and a perpetrator. The pimps are engaged in a reprehensible trade, but in many cases have known little else their whole lives. The prostitutes are making wrong, immoral choices and taking advantage of sad, desperate men, but in many cases don’t feel they have other options. And the johns are exploiting the desperation of women and engaging in gross sexual sin, often because they are in the grips of a sex addiction and feel a loneliness and pain and emptiness they know no other way to fill other than sex.

      Everybody involved is both victim and victimizer, which is part of why the sex trade is so horrible and exploitative: it makes an abuser out of everybody involved, while also making them the abused. Everybody involved is exploited and exploiter. And everybody involved deserves both the chance to take responsibility for their actions–including legal consequences–and compassion and support to start a new life once those consequences have been paid.

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  • Phil

    In California we passed (81% yes) Prop 35. Among other things, it requires sex traffickers (“pimps”) to be registered sex offenders Anyone familiar with the restrictions and stigma of being a Registered Sex Offender (RSO) will understand just how huge that is.

    See: http://www.casre.org/prop-35/

    It’ll be interesting to see the impact of these laws as word on the street gets out.

    • anonymous

      I’m not really sure how a lifetime of stigma and restriction is a good thing, if our goal isn’t simply to punish pimps endlessly but to see them restored. And, that *should* be our goal.

      The reality of the sex offender registry is that it currently has over 750,000 men on it, and that number is growing so fast that it will soon top 1 million. Of those 750K+ men, less than 15% are on it for either 1) an offense of any kind against a child 13 or younger, 2) a forcible or violent offense against a person of any age, or 3) more than one offense of any type (including more than one victimless or non-violent offense). The other 85%+ are on for a single non-violent statutory offense with a teen 1-2 years below the age of consent OR a single non-contact victimless offense.

      The reality of the registry is that men on it, AFTER they have served out the well-deserved legal sentences they received, are subject to decades or life of shame, stigma, and alienation. Most find it impossible to find jobs because of the registry, while their status also disqualifies them from receiving public aid. This means that most end up either being financially supported by a woman in their life (a wife, girlfriend, or mother), in a family that often lives in poverty, while spending their days idle; or, if they can’t find a woman willing to support them, homeless and transient; or, as is rarely the case but may well be in the case of pimps, turning to illegal means to make money since all legal options have been closed to them. This is NOT a good outcome. I’m not sure when we became a people–and, God forbid, a *church*–who feels this is a fair, right, and good outcome for a young man who, at 22, made a bad choice with a willing girlfriend two months below the age of consent.

      Should pimps be punished? Yes. And, the circumstances of their pimping should be taken into consideration. A man (and I’m saying “man” even though many pimps are women, despite that not fitting neatly into our “poor, helpless, female victims–the prostitutes–who should not be held responsible for their choices and evil, abusive, vile men–the pimps and johns–who deserve no mercy or compassion” dichotomy) who acts as the “boss” and “protector” of a group of willing women and doesn’t mistreat them should be punished less harshly than the man who is harsh or manipulative to the willing women working for him and certainly in the rare cases when a pimp kidnaps a minor and forces them into sex slavery, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

      But, once the punishment is up–and, in the last case, a lifetime in prison may indeed be in order–the former pimp should not just be allowed to start a new life, but should be encouraged and supported in doing so, just as we support and encourage prostitutes who start a new life. A lifetime on the sex offender registry–which is the case in CA, for all sex offenders, regardless of offense–is only going to prevent that from happening. Do we really think that men who were making $500+ per day in an illegal trade are going to NOT at least seriously considering returning to that when their sex offender status bars them from all or nearly all means of supporting themselves legally for the rest of their life?

  • http://www.redeemedwarrior.com Justin M. Davito

    Thanks for posting. I hope and pray real soon that this “crime” will be less safe for the pimps.


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