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The Trade: Pimp this Article

intergalactic pimp by cory mowery

Image by Cory Mowery at Flickr Commons

  • Pimp My Ride (You’re familiar with this show, right?)
  • Pimp My Gun (Flash game that lets users create their own weapons)
  • Big Pimpin’ (Jay-Z)
  • P. I. M. P. (50 Cent)
  • Pimp Juice (Nelly)

I could go on with the list of pop culture references to pimps.

“It’s glorified now to be a pimp, you look at the TV shows, ‘Pimp My Ride.’ Pimp this, pimp, it’s in songs, everything is pimp, pimp, pimp . . . .”

That’s coming from a Dallas Law Enforcement Official interviewed in a report by the Urban Institute, “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Traffic Economy in Eight Major Cities.”

If you had asked me before I read this report, I wouldn’t have guessed the prevalence of the word “pimp” in songs and on TV would have any real effect on people. It’s just a word, right? Just a part of pop culture? People don’t actually mean PIMPING when they use it. It’s just a word meant to conjure images of a high rolling lifestyle. Expensive sooped-up cars, swank clothes, crystal champagne flutes, big houses with swimming pools, sexy sex, money-money-money. . .you get the idea.

Or maybe it just means anything that attracts the opposite sex. That’s what Nelly once said. (And Nelly would be the authority, since he made Pimp Juice, right?)

But according to the Dallas Law Enforcement Official, “. . . So when these guys do that [when pimps approach girls], you’ve got these screwed up girls who don’t know any better and they’ll think that it’s cool and they’ll hang out with them, and they’ll start smoking with them and after that they’ll say, ‘Oh, you want to try it?’ ‘Yeah, I’ll try it.’”

The “it” in this case would be prostitution. That’s one way that pimps recruit girls.

Pimps often do have swanky stuff and glitzy gear to reinforce a young girl’s understanding of what the word “pimp” means.

So if a pimp approaches a girl, who is maybe probably going through some personal issues herself (maybe prior abuse, family trauma, drug use, or maybe she ran away from home—this may be what the Law Enforcement Official meant when he said “these screwed up girls”), and the pimp combines:

  • her (mis)understanding of the sex trade and associated lifestyle
  • offering her pretty things
  • emotional manipulation (pimps interviewed in the Urban Institute report admitted that they were skilled at sussing out a girl’s vulnerabilities and emotionally manipulating her)
  • and telling her that he loves her. . .

. . . the pimp’s got that girl willing to do what he says.

It’s not that she wants to have sex with strangers. It’s that she wants to please the pimp, or that she’s afraid of the repercussions of not pleasing him.

And let’s be clear. A girl like this cannot actually be willing, no matter what she says. Most of them are too young. The average age for a girl to get involved in the sex trade is 12 to 13.

So while people don’t actually mean PIMPING when they use the word—in the sense of manipulating women and girls into prostitution, taking all the money they make, and keeping them in place with coercion and abuse—that is in fact what a pimp does. And that is still what the word means (no matter what Nelly says).

Tomika Anderson wrote an article for MTV, which is admittedly a little dated. I think it’s from 2003, but it’s still relevant. In it, she challenges the glorification of the word “pimp” and pimp culture:

“Sure, on the surface it may look perfectly harmless, all pimp chalices and wild clothes. But ultimately, real pimping is not entertaining or cool, nor is the term synonymous with being stylish. . . .To brag or otherwise glorify being a ‘P.I.M.P.’ is an affront to all of the young women who are raped, beaten, murdered or otherwise victimized every year while working as prostitutes.”

— Tomika Anderson

Apparently, the language we use is not harmless. Anything that glorifies being part of the sex trade to young, impressionable minds is irresponsible.

As for those people who say the word “pimp” has been redefined for modern pop culture—no.

Here’s when you get to redefine a word: when it has been used in a wide-spread manner to degrade a minority group of which you are a member. Then you get to redefine it and reclaim it.

You don’t get to redefine a word that degrades other people, and use it for your own fun and games. That’s called disrespect. Or maybe ignorance. Or both.

***

L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. 50% of proceeds from her book Working Girl, a memoir of her time working for a professional escort, go to sex trafficking non-profits. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @LMarrick.


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