Conflict and Agency among Sex Workers and Pimps
This article presents data collected from active pimps, underage prostitutes, and young adult sex workers to demonstrate the complexity of pimp-prostitute dyads and interrogate conventional stereotypes about teenage prostitution. It draws on a much larger set of studies than those before: (1) a statistically valid sample from a CSEC census in New York City in 2008; (2) participant-observation and an intensive community study that holistically explored Atlantic City street prostitution markets; and (3) a snowball sample of eighty-five male pimps in New York City, some of whom worked exclusively with minors.
The multiple data sources provide a fuller picture than has been painted up to this point of the contours and dynamics of recruitment of minors into prostitution. The findings challenge conventional wisdom and popular reports. Dominant accounts draw on and contribute to misleading stereotypes about how individuals enter prostitution. All three studies found that recruitment into sex work by pimps is far less common than is presupposed by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) institutions and current popular concerns. This research is suggests there is enough consistency in findings across the studies to question the value of the current TVPA antitrafficking framework and its associated institutions. It is advised that a holistic approach to factors that lead to the pimp-prostitute relationship need to be considered for an effective policy and services to be created for this population.
The dominant understanding in the United States of the relationship between pimps and minors involved in commercial sex is that it is one of “child sex trafficking,” in which pimps lure girls into prostitution, then control, exploit, and brutalize them. Such narratives of oppression typically depend on postarrest testimonials by former prostitutes and pimps in punishment and rescue institutions. In contrast, this article presents data collected from active pimps, underage prostitutes, and young adult sex workers to demonstrate the complexity of pimp-prostitute dyads and interrogate conventional stereotypes about teenage prostitution. A holistic understanding of the factors that push minors into sex work and keep them there is needed to designand implement effective policy and services for this population.
Anthony Marcus, Amber Horning, Ric Curtis, Jo Sanson, and Efram Thompson
Conflict and Agency among Sex Workers and Pimps: A Closer Look at Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science May 2014 653: 225-246, doi:10.1177/0002716214521993