Overview of Business Models That Pimps Utilize

Business models vary between pimps and types of sex business, making it difficult to identify pimps and traffickers as they arise or evaluate a uniform prescription to the problem of commercialized prostitution and sexual exploitation.  It is difficult to gather accurate data, such as statistics, regarding this particular industry due to the secrecy and shame surrounding the sexual abuse that occurs.  As a result, information regarding a pimp’s business model is not necessarily available making it difficult to draw accurate conclusions on this subject.

Yet, there are a few different models that have been identified by law enforcement and non-profit organizations.  One study indicates that many commercially exploited victims move between one type of activity to another, such as moving between working the streets and in an escort service.  Pimps adhere largely to a specific business model of their choosing but will incorporate elements of other business models as [s]he deems necessary to the monetary advancement of his or her enterprise.  Often times there is no real ‘business model’ that pimps go by.  They will come up with their own model for how they feel they can best profit from.   “The bottom line is, in order to keep their businesses running pimps need to control, and control can come in the form of physical, emotional, psychological, and financial to the girls [or males] who are dependent on them.” Although business models exist they are not equivalent to a legitimate business model, such as fast food chains, because pimps often times do not have a formal education.

It is important to realize that “pimps understand the meaning of business over personal ventures, that is marketing a product and investing in your product first so your product can return profits.”  Pimps also understand the concept of capitalism, meaning that it is a pimp’s prerogative to entice any prostitute away from another pimp because it is viewed as a component of free enterprise.  Philosophically speaking, “pimps believe all capitalistic pursuits are parallel to pimping.”

Therefore, other pimps are free to seduce a prostitute away from his or her current pimp into his stable for his financial gain without fear of retaliation from the current pimp due to street rules that prevent pimps from chasing their prostitutes.  A pimp will teach his prostitute[s] not to make eye contact with any other pimps in order to protect his assets from being stolen by another pimp.  What keeps individuals in prostitution is the fact that they are living by the rules of the street.  A prostitute is forced into working for another pimp if [s]he makes eye contact with another pimp, ultimately resulting in a new ownership as [s]he goes to work for that new pimp.  A prostitute may be “out of pockets” if [s]he makes eye contact with another pimp, meaning [s]he has put a pimp’s money at risk.  Conversely, the advancing pimp may choose to take the prostitute’s money, putting that prostitute’s pimp at a financial loss.

The pimp business plan ultimately represents a larger pimp mentality, according to Alameda County DA Sharmin Bock, as pimps look to extend their trafficking business both locally and nationally.  Pimps must build up his name ID in order to acquire [more] prostitutes, money, respect, and power.  A pimp has become a successful pimp and businessman if [s]he is respected by the pimping community.  This particular philosophy is similar to the legitimate corporate world: a business[wo]man must build up a good reputation in order to become legitimized and respected.

Similarly, a pimp must build up his or her reputation and reliability in order to become [well] known, bring in a significant financial quota every night, own a good-sized stable, and have prominence among clientele.  “Ultimately you do want to be doing the big ticket sales of children all over the country.  And sadly today there is no bigger bang for your buck, no better investment on your money, no better return, than selling a child [or any individual] for sex.”  In other words, the number one rule of the ‘Game’ is that the pimp must get paid.

There are two categories of activity within the commercial sexual exploitation industry: indoor versus outdoor.  Inside, or ‘low frequency’, activity includes: escort services, private or exotic dancing, live internet, photos or film, massage parlors or health spas, brothels, gang-related, [a prostitute’s] own residence, someone else’s residence, phone sex, peep shows, bars or clubs, live sex shows, parties and events, or an institutional setting.  Outside activities encompasses the opposite spectrum of a pimp’s business and incorporates street prostitution, drug homes, truck stops, and hotels.

Author’s Note: (c) Anna Rutherford Engel.  Please site if quoting any of my writing.  If you would like to know which studies or individuals I am citing in my work, please contact me and I will send you those sources.  Additionally, contact me if you would like my research as a whole.

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Pimp-Prostitute Relationship

The pimp-prostitute relationship holds two primary parts.  Initially, a pimp fosters dependence on behalf of the victim through his actions, validating himself as someone significant in the victim’s life.  The pimp or trafficker exploits the victim’s vulnerability by appearing to be a love figure; a victim’s exploitation begins when they believe they can trust someone.  A primary way of engaging individuals, particularly females and juveniles, in prostitution is through this process of feigned friendship and love.both of which are found in a pimp. A pimp manipulates his prostitute[s] into economically providing for him by arguing that prostitution is ”a job like any other job, that she is not selling herself, that she is just selling a service”.

The second step is to understand that pimps make it their business to comprehend the psychology of their victim[s] while practicing and honing [their] tactics of manipulation. The pimpes goal is to exploit and create vulnerabilities and remove the credibility the minor holds in the eyes of their families, the public and law enforcement. The traffickeres ultimate goal is profit. Included in this model is physical and verbal abuse, isolation, and severing ties to the victimes community. The victim enters into the sex industry where [s]he experiences constant violence and severe trauma. Victims undergo a process of being recruited, groomed, abused, controlled, and being turned out by violent pimps. The result of this step is a ”trauma bond” between victim and pimp or trafficker that can be equated to Stockholm Syndrome. “Pimps crush runaways [girls] with a mix of violence and affection, degradation and then require absolute obedience to a rigid code: the prostitute cannot look the pimp in the eye, call him by name or keep any cash.” In this way a pimp dehumanizes his prostitute[s] by turning him or her into a commodity. An element of the strategy for control over prostitutes employed by pimps and other individuals involved in commercial sexual exploitation is to keep the prostitute economically dependent upon the system of prostitution itself. “Any profit is often spent as rapidly as it is obtained, reinforcing the efforts that go into prostitution.” Spokane Regional Health Needle Exchange reports that additional methods of control utilized by pimps include physical abuse, threats to family members, and withholding basic need.

It is important to note that while some individuals do make the conscious decision to enter prostitution because they either know someone who turn tricks or [they] need a fast and easy way to make money, the majority of individuals are seduced into prostitution and various other “careers” within the commercial sex industry by pimps. Doctors Janice G. Raymond and Donna Hugehst, along with Carol J. Gomez, found that 64 percent of American women reported that the individuals who recruited them were connected to the United States sex industry [Raymond, Janice G., Ph.D., Donna Hughest, Ph.D., and Project Coordinator Carol J. Gomez, B.A.]. Minors in prostitution nearly always have a pimp [Smith, Linda A., Samantha Healy Vardaman, and Melissa S. Smith]. The dominance of pimps over victims typically takes form of physical abuse but may also include coercion and psychological manipulation. One study examined how prostitutes viewed the men in their lives: many prostitutes do not believe these men are pimps even though the latter economically benefits from their work in the sex industry. In fact, many individuals who are arrested for promoting prostitution are not viewed as pimps by their prostitutes. This does not mean that pimps do not exist. “The perception among prostitutes of who is and who is not a pimp does not necessarily correspond to the legal definition of promoting prostitution” [Helfgott, Jacqueline B.].

Author’s Note: (c) Anna Rutherford Engel.  Please site if quoting any of my writing.  If you would like to know which studies or individuals I am citing in my work, please contact me and I will send you those sources.  Additionally, contact me if you would like my research as a whole.

Hierarchy Within Human Trafficking

The sex industry may either be a highly structured organization that is run by a sophisticated hierarchy of individuals and groups with several key players or a decentralized entity with less organized small groups of individuals that lack a central leader.  The financial security of a pimp determines how large or small this hierarchy becomes. One study indicates that most trafficking organizations are small with one to five individuals involved. A few organizations are defined as large, consisting of six to 15, while very large organizations consist of 50 to 100 individuals. The structure of all hierarchies remains relatively similar to one another, despite the various sizes. Bradley Myles, Executive Director and CEO of Polaris Project, states that the business model for pimping is similar all across the United States.

The first model consists of a primary trafficker or kingpin, primary traffickers, secondary traffickers, spotters, the grassroots chain of intelligence gatherers, a network of established links with other exploiters such as pimps, and other stakeholders. The latter incorporates financers who subsidize transactions at different levels; goons or gonads who provide security at various levels; hoteliers who provide accommodations during transit; transporters who provide or arrange transportation; paramedical individuals who attend to the illnesses of the trafficked victims, typically during transit; officials who provide several services including security in lieu of sexual services or bribes; and final exploiters and abusers, such as individuals who may also be part of the network. All such individuals dictate the terms regarding the supply and demand of the trafficking process.

Another way to examine a trafficking hierarchy is the family hierarchy where the pimp is on top, thereby embracing status and power. They manipulate the “Game” and control the actions of others as it [the “Game”] is all about getting money. Having a certain amount of charisma and smooth-talking conversations towards women is what it means to have “Game” for pimps. Well-respected pimps, known as “Macks”, are at the top of the “Game” and employ several successful prostitutes. A Mack is the epitome of pimping as they are the top pimp who has it all. Another category of pimp is known as “players.” Such a pimp dominates the pimping scene and has an average stable of individuals while being respected in his or her subculture because [s]he makes a good living. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the “Tennis Shoe” pimps who only have one or two prostitutes on the street. Tennis shoe pimps are viewed as the least successful, are possibly on drugs, and allow their prostitutes to use narcotics.

“Bottom Girls” are second in command and are the equivalent of office managers of a legitimate business. This title refers to the prostitute who has worked the longest for a pimp while consistently bringing in the most money. Bottom girls are at the top of a pimp‘s organization as she is a trusted and experienced individual in a pimp‘s stable. Holding this title gives this prostitute status and power over the other individuals working for her pimp. This particular female individual monitors the prostitutes while teaching them everything there is to know in the industry. In addition to her other duties, a bottom girl looks after a pimp‘s affairs if her pimp is out of town, incarcerated, or otherwise unavailable. Bottom girls receive privileges that none of the other prostitutes receive, such as sleeping in the same bed as her pimp while all of the other prostitutes sleep on the floor. Another example is that the bottom girl is able to ride in the front seat of the pimp‘s car—meaning she gets to sit next to the pimp—while all the other prostitutes are made to sit in the back of the car or walk.

Thirdly, there is a “wife-in-law”, a prostitute with supervisory duties similar to those of a bottom girl. This individual, along with the bottom girl, will work the track in the place of her pimp as well as run interference’s for and collect money from prostitutes.

A pimp‘s enterprise may consist of subordinates who are responsible for transporting prostitutes to work, obtaining drugs for the prostitutes, maintain the household and/or vehicles, and securing prostitutes. Pimps may use family members and friends to act as [the] legitimate holder of vehicle titles, real estate leases, cash, and other property that the pimp has paid for with the proceeds he makes from his prostitute[s].

Prostitutes are underneath this layer of the pyramid as they are the bottom of the hierarchy.

Author’s Note: (c) Anna Rutherford Engel.  Please site if quoting any of my writing.  If you would like to know which studies or individuals I am citing in my work, please contact me and I will send you those sources.  Additionally, contact me if you would like my research as a whole.

Why Pimping Exists

The sex industry is driven simultaneously by customer demand for sexual services and pimps who are motivated by the opportunity to make money.  The market place of victimization operates according to the economic laws of supply and demand much like an legitimate market.  Pimps move victims like products to the markets to satisfy the demand for sexual services.  As in any market, supply and demand for commercial sexual services are correlated; supply, while it can and will affect the market structure, increases to meet a growing demand for sexual services.

Pimping commodifies [fe]males while marketing their bodies for [fe]male customers to sexualize and buy.  Prostitutes have simply become another commodity in a larger realm of criminal commerce involving other commodities, including narcotic drugs, firearms or weapons, and money laundering.  An example of the mentality of prostitutes as property is found in the practice of tattooing a pimp’s name or symbol upon a prostitute’s thigh as a sign of the pimp’s control over him or her.  A tattoo, a permanent sign of ownership, signifies that the prostitute is the pimp’s property and is not owned by the prostitute, other prostitute[s], or a secondary exploiter thereby reinforcing the philosophy that prostitutes are property.  Simply put, prostitutes are viewed as pieces of real estate.

The commercialization of human beings transforms the sex trade into an industry based on business ideals that is driven by a desire for money while assisting in stimulating the already existent demand for human bodies.  Sexual exploitation is based on the foundation of supply and demand which is witnessed as victims become consumer products, meaning their bodies are sold on the market for consumption.  Various market entrepreneurs operate on the premise that the demand will never disappear.

Prostitution also results from a structural inequality between males and females.  Dr. Kathleen Barry exposes an entitlement factor as a key force for some male customers.  “It’s like going to have your car done, you tell them what you want done.  They don’t ask.  You tell them you want so and so done.”  The business of prostitution can be described as the use of real human beings to support the fantasies of others.  Anyone working prostitution who tells a ‘John’ too much about who they really are interferes with the customer’s [sexual] fantasy, risking the loss of a customer.  A pimp is required to know that they are using people in order not to become sentimental about it because “it’s business”.  “In a pimp’s mind, prostituting other individuals is the only way [s]he can make money.  The last thing [s]he’ll do is get a real job.  Pimping will ‘prevent’ him [or her] from committing other crimes, such as burglary.”

Pimps & Pimping

Pimps

Pimp is an acronym for ‘person into marketing prostitutes.‘ A pimp is defined as an individual who makes a profession reducing other individuals into commodities and convincing them to sell their bodies to clients. Pimps are anyone who solicits for prostitutes or brothels and live[s] off a prostitute‘s earnings. They can work street prostitution, internet ads, brothels, organized prostitution, etc. Everyone runs their business and money making opportunities through exploitation their own way‖. Pimps are motivated by the opportunity to make money in a commercial sex industry in which the cargo is male and female human bodies.
A pimp is a male or female individual who solicits clients for a prostitute for his or her‘s own [financial] gain or benefit. Male solicitors are referred to as ‘pimps‘ whereas female solicitors are referred to as ‘madams‘. Typically, madams manage off-street sex work with no significant involvement in any other crime form. Examples of ‘madams‘ are Heidi Fleiss, who was convicted in 1997 of her involvement in the sex trafficking industry; Tamera Sue Florey; and Jenny Paulino.
A professional pimp performs the necessary function of brokering. A pimp fulfills the purpose of bringing together two parties—the prostitute and customer—to a transaction at less cost than it would to take to bring them together without the pimp‘s services. Clients profit by utilizing a pimp through the elimination of wasted time waiting or searching for a prostitute while knowing that a prostitute comes recommended.

Pimping

Pimping, the verb format of the noun, is when an individual is “being used to commit a commercial sex act”.  Pimping is motivated by economic gain within the context of a complex web of physical, sexual and substance abused perpetuated by socializing practices and social beliefs that reinforce the notion that sex is an economic commodity.  Pimping is an entrepreneurial behavior as it is the creation and extraction of value from an environment.

Relevance of Human Trafficking to Public Policy

Several laws and regulations addressing commercial sexual exploitation, particularly prostitution, currently exist throughout the United States yet many of them are ineffective or hold loopholes in which pimps are not convicted for their crimes.

A pimp may not even be violating the law depending on the jurisdiction that [s]he is in.  Important efforts to develop comprehensive policy framework and implement legislation have been attempted but the execution of such measures have been hampered due to limited efforts in reducing the victimization of minors.  Poor coordination among federal agencies, non-government organizations and between all fifty States has also contributed to the inefficient work to reduce the commercial sexual exploitation of minors.

Amendment XIII of the United States Constitution provides legality to outlawing
prostitution, a modern-day form of slavery. It states that slavery or involuntary servitude cannot exist within the United States or any of its territories except in prison as a form of punishment towards individuals who have been convicted of a crime. Moreover, Congress is the only entity that has power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Mann Act [18 U.S.C.A. § 2421 et seq.] was enacted and signed by President William Taft in 1910 as a federal criminal statute that deals with prostitution and child porn. It is also used to prosecute men who shuttle females across state lines for sexual activity. The intention of this specific legislation was to stop the interstate commerce of trafficking women by making it a felony to knowingly transport females across state lines or in foreign commerce for the purposes of prostitution. It was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme court in 1913 [Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308, 33 S. Ct. 281, 57 L. Ed. 523] and later, in 1917, was broadened to include noncommercial acts of immorality [Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 37 S. Ct. 192, 61 L. Ed. 442]. The scope of the act was changed with the interpretation that the court used when it interpreted the phrase “acts of immorality”.   The court desired to prevent the use of interstate commerce as a venue that promoted sexual immorality, such as prostitution. Additional amendments have been attached to this act in order to neutrally protect boys and girls who are sexually exploited, including child pornography.
Several other examples of federal laws that prohibit human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude include: Trafficking and Sex Tourism [Title 18, U.S.C. §§ 2421-2423] which encompasses international and interstate sex trafficking for all ages and the Transportation for Illegal Sexual Activity and Related Crimes [Chapter 117, Title 18 of U.S. Code] which targets the illegal transportation of minors for sexual criminal purposes. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act [TVPA] of 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2008 are additional examples with the latter providing assistance for child victims while enhancing the ability to criminally punish traffickers.  Washington, the first state to outlaw human trafficking, makes it a felony to recruit, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain individuals for exploitation purposes in order to generate finances. The WAS legislature states that any individual entrapped in sex industry is forced against their will into involuntary servitude. Nevada requires all prostitutes to use condoms and to be regularly tested for STD‘s and HIV in addition to be licensed, registered, and pass background checks.

California‘s Pimping and Pandering Law distinguishes two separate sex crimes that simultaneously revolve around Penal Code 647(b). ―The purpose of California‘s pimping and pandering laws is to discourage people from trying to increase the number of available prostitutes‖x. Pimping and pandering laws are two separate legal vehicles, however, despite similarities. Pimping laws apply to individuals who knowingly live off the earnings of a prostitute‘s actions regardless if the former finds clients for the latter. For instance, CA‘s Penal Code 266(h) invokes guilt upon an individual when they solicit prostitution including finding customers for a prostitute, collecting a fee from the former, and/or collecting some or all of the prostitute‘s pay regardless of the fact that a pimp may not have played any part in finding the customer. This specific code is violated when an individual collects money from a prostitute while soliciting customers. Another example is AB 22 [2005] which criminalizes pimping and assisting victims with benefits.
Reversely, pandering laws target individuals who encourage or persuade another individual to engage in prostitution while making that individual available for sexual acts, such as transporting that individual to the site that the sexual activity will occur. CA Penal Code 266(i) PC, for example, criminalizes individuals who procure: giving, transporting, or making available another person for the purpose of prostitution by intentionally encouraging or persuading an individual to become [or remain] a prostitute. Pandering does not necessarily require the collection of money for a pimp‘s services. Other relevant laws include Penal Code 647(b) and SB 1560 [2007] which creates a state-funded program for non-certified victims, thereby extending eligibility for benefits and services. Furthermore, California has mandatory minimums for imprisoning individuals who are caught trafficking minors, with differentiating sentence amounts based on the age of trafficked persons.

The CASE Act

On November 6, 2012, Californians will have the opportunity vote on Proposition 35, otherwise known as the CASE Act.  Proposition 35, a joint effort between California Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation, would fight against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children.

Proposition 35 would:

  • Increases criminal penalties for human trafficking, including prison sentences up to 15-years-to-life and fines up to $1,500,000.
  • Fines collected to be used for victim services and law enforcement.
  • Requires person convicted of trafficking to register as sex offender.
  • Requires sex offenders to provide information regarding Internet access and identities they use in online activities.
  • Prohibits evidence that victim engaged in sexual conduct from being used against victim in court proceedings.
  • Requires human trafficking training for police officers.
  • Prohibits the use of evidence that a person was involved in prostitution if they were coerced or under 18.
  • Bans attacking the sexual behavior of a victim in court to undermine their credibility.

Proponents champion this proposition for its efforts to protect children from sexual exploitation while keeping human traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.  “By passing 35, Californians will make a statement that we will not tolerate the sexual abuse of our children and that we stand with the victims of these horrible crimes.” – Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County District Attorney and national victims’ rights advocate.

Opponents argue that although Proposition is well-intended, it contains flaws.  IVN states that “some prosecutors worry that the initiative’s broad wording will undermine their ability to prosecute traffickers” while “depriving accused traffickers of a fair trial, making it vulnerable to constitutional challenges”.  John Vanek, a retired police lieutenant from the San Jose Police Human Trafficking Task Force, says that the CASE Act could potentially discourage prosecutors from charging cases under the new law(s) due to restrictions, such as limiting the information they can use in court. Proposition 35 could also decrease the amount of money available to survivors through civil remedies because of the increase in criminal fines.

To view who is funding Proposition 35, click here.  A list of endorsements can be viewed here.  To donate, get involved with Proposition 35 or find more resources, visit the CASE Act’s website.