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Think Out Loud

The Culture of Pimping

Pete Springer/OPB

Often, when we talk about prostitution, we talk about the women who sell sex and the men who buy it. But there’s usually another person involved in the transaction: the pimp. Pimps facilitate prostitution, often taking all of the women’s money in exchange for their protection.

Popular culture often depicts pimps as likable, even comical characters. They are known as kings of bling who drive flashy cars and dress to be seen. Their stereotype is proliferated through television shows like MTV’s “Pimp My Ride.” The 2006 Oscar win for Three 6 Mafia’s song “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp,” served to raise the popular profile of pimps even higher. 

According to experts (pdf) and law enforcement officers, real-life pimps are violent criminals who often abuse women. Some compare pimps to modern slave traffickers. Others say pimps, not prostitutes, are the real criminals in the sex trade. State and local officials are working to change Oregon law to treat prostitutes as victims, rather than criminals.

Six bills in the Oregon Legislature aim to address sex trafficking in a way that punishes sex sellers and buyers and provides shelter and other services for prostitutes. Earlier this year, Multnomah County started a Sex Buyers Accountability and Diversion program — better know as “John School.” And in Portland, Mayor Sam Adams’s State of the City address reviewed collaborations between the city, county and nonprofit organizations aimed at combatting child sex trafficking. He said, “Because of our efforts, victims of human trafficking have a safe place to sleep tonight.”

What role do pimps play in Oregon’s sex trafficking trade? How does their depiction in popular culture affect law enforcement efforts to curb human trafficking? How has your family or community been affected by prostitution?


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