According to Prostitution Research and Education, San Francisco, there is a “pyramid of prostitution” with three distinct categories, or tiers:
The largest group of women in the sex industry— 60 percent—is trafficked.
Women in this category have been sold, stolen, or coerced into prostitution. Their freedom and ability to make choices has been removed. They belong to someone like property. Basic necessities like food and shelter are doled out as a privilege.
The middle tier—38 percent—are women who got involved in prostitution because they needed the money.
They may have lost their job, had children to take care of, or bills to pay, and saw prostitution as a viable option.
The top tier—two percent—are women who service a few men for a lot of money in a short period of time in their lives, and then they get out, or are bought out by one man who supports them.
This is more commonly known as a sugar daddy, or an “older boyfriend”.
The U.N. International Labor Organization estimates that 4.5 million people are trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally (Ilo.org)
“Haley, you were right. I came to Miami with that dude you warned me about, and it’s not at all like he said it would be. He took everything, even my shoes and cell phone. He’ll be back tonight and I have to walk the streets until I make enough money.”
The first thing a pimp does when he takes on a new girl, is remove her sense of identity. He takes away her friends, her family, her clothes…everything that is associated with her “former identity” and doles out what he wants her to become. Everything from food and simple shelter, a bed, makeup, razor, anything that gives her a sense of self is removed. This is a form of psychological control, and it’s just the beginning of what comes next.
Women who work with pimps are give false promises, threatened, lied to, manipulated, and beaten. They have no say in their daily lives. They belong to the pimp, like cattle, and are traded, sold, and discarded.
When we compare this to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can see a definitive relationship in the tiers of the pyramid. Maslow states that one needs to have BASIC PHYSICAL needs — food, water, air — the elements that keep us alive (on the bottom) met before we can move to the next tier — SAFETY. Again, here is where we see pimps exert another form of heavy control, for pimps are known to beat, strangle, and kill those who oppose them. SOCIAL needs too — for a pimp replaces all her friends with others girls and pimps in the industry, to make it nearly impossible for her to leave. ESTEEM — the number one rule of a pimp is to maintain control over this.
In fact, looking at this pyramid, the pimp exerts control over every aspect of a prostitutes life, and as long as someone is tied up with one, so will all their elements of being human. For the pimp strips away everything and turns his subject into a product to be sold, and trafficked.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, we can distinguish sex trafficking from other types of commercial sex, by looking at the Action + Means + Purpose Model.
A commercial sex act is any sex act where an exchange of value is given to or received (22 U.S.C. 7102), as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). See the Federal Laws page for more detailed definitions.
“Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker takes any one of the enumerated actions, and then employs the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts. At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of sex trafficking. The presence of force, fraud or coercion indicates that the victim has not consented of his or her own free will. In addition, minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered to be human trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion.” (TraffickingResourceCenter.org and the Polaris Project)
Based on these facts, pimps are the number one reason the 60% of trafficked prostitutes will never achieve self-actualization, self-esteem, or have their social and safety needs met. In actuality, they’ll never make it past it the first step of becoming a human being — freedom to feed and cloth and shelter themselves and their children.
And this is why, if you know someone involved with a pimp or a trafficker, they deserve your sympathy — not your judgement, nor your dollars.
(Image Credits: Prostitution Research and Education in San Francisco, ProstitutionResearch.com; Mikko Lemola, Fotolia; National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) 2012)