The third in our series about whorephobic language. Content Note; some of the links in the piece go to media accounts of rape and sexual abuse
Hear the word “pimp” and everyone is sure what they mean. The street hustler on the corner with his stable of “hoes”, a scourge on society that all, surely condemn. Dr Brooke Magnanti writes with power and scorn of the image most people have, the dog whistle racism behind the term. She is quite correct- it is a word that reeks of racism and assumptions that are no surprise coming from people who view women of colour as unable to choose sex work or give informed consent.
The casual use of the word pimp for sex work activists which the good doctor also mentions, (now there is a casting choice the BBC should consider) is typical of their strange misogyny, but I shall return to that later. What this post is largely looking at is a deeper issue behind the term.
What is a pimp? Julie Bindel recently accused a website owner of being a pimp because independent sex workers advertise there. If that’s the case then WordPress and Google are also pimps. Most rational people (I know, radfems are rarely rational) appreciate managers, webmasters and agency owners are not pimps. However, in their minds they probably still have the picture of an exploited woman in a relationship with a man, a man who manipulates her, takes her wages, perhaps beats her.
There is a word for this- it is called domestic violence. Romantic love is not a vital component of domestic violence, nor is marriage. It is when someone exploits and abuses another with whom they are in a relationship. Or as in this story, Police Say Woman Escaped Pimp a victim of kidnap and rape. Why is the word pimp even used in the headline? A woman was held prisoner and raped. The only reason pimp is used is to minimize the crime. I would be very surprised if it were used in a story about a white man, or even a white victim.
The word is used to victim blame. Often, when it comes to gang exploitation of vulnerable girls the victims believe they are in a relationship with their abuser. It just happened to be one that, as with all domestic violence, leaves the victim believing they are at fault, that they deserve their fate. One of the saddest pieces of testimony in the recent court case in Oxford was that of a young girl saying that she thought this is what love was. Yet they still get called child prostitutes, so we don’t need to look at their tales of gang rape and torture. Their abusers are not pimps, they are rapists. When a woman is forced to have sex with men for money by another abusive man, he is many things. But pimp isn’t one of them.
We need to call things what they are, not hide them behind nice words. Rape, domestic violence, child abuse. Antis and prohibitionists avoid this through a desire to make the general population believe all sex work is rape. By doing so they allow society to turn a blind eye to the abuse on its doorstep. We should not let them get away with it.
The calling of sex worker activists pimps, has happened to all of us. If you think only men, (because all pimps in the anti view are men) can be campaigners, and if you believe every sex worker blog, tweet or article, is produced by some cabal of pimps, then you live in a very strange world indeed.
- Beyond Pimps, Procurers and Parasites: Mapping Third Parties in the Incall/Outcall Sex Industry (sexworkresearch.wordpress.com)