Printer Icon

Pimps Not the Problem When it Comes to Underage Sex Trafficking

By SAGE Publications - 2014-10-17 - Updated: 2015-09-03

Summary

New study finds that pimps are only responsible for luring minors into sex work in a very small number of cases.

"While 87.2% of these young sex workers reported wanting to leave their line of work, none of them stated that a controlling pimp was their reason for staying"

Main Document

Media portrayals of underage sex trafficking include pimps luring girls into prostitution and then controlling, exploiting, and brutalizing them as if they were slaves, but just how representative are these images? A new study finds that pimps are only responsible for luring minors into sex work in a very small number of cases, and that they are not the reason why young prostitutes stay in the industry. This study was published in a new article from the May issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

In one part of their study, the researchers analyzed the largest dataset ever collected in the U.S. from minors working in the sex trade, and found that only 10% of the minors had a pimp at the time of research, only 1.6% lived with a pimp, and 47% reported not knowing a single pimp. Furthermore, pimps were responsible for initiating only 8.1% of the minors into sex work; minors were initiated by their peers 47% of the time and by customers 23% of the time.

While 87.2% of these young sex workers reported wanting to leave their line of work, none of them stated that a controlling pimp was their reason for staying. Instead, the most popular issue was economic status with challenges, including finding other employment, restricted educational opportunities, and housing – 61.4% of those responded were self-described as homeless.

"We argue that the narrative of pimp trickery and coercion distorts reality in three ways," the researchers wrote. "First, it overestimates the role of pimps in street sex markets; second, it overemphasizes the impact of the initial recruitment stage on subsequent practices; and third, it masks or simplifies the difficult and complex choices and contingencies faced by minors who sell sex."

In a total of three separate studies, researchers Anthony Marcus, Amber Horning, Ric Curtis, Jo Sanson, and Efram Thompson analyzed data collected from active pimps, underage prostitutes, and young adult sex workers from New York and New Jersey.

"We recognize that situations of oppression and captivity do exist among this population," they wrote. "However, they were rare enough in a statistically representative sample in New York City and an intensive ethnographic census in Atlantic City to question the degree to which the dominant narratives of underage sex trafficking and resultant policies can protect the majority of vulnerable youth engaged in commercial sex markets."

This new study is part of a special issue from The ANNALS titled "Human Trafficking: Recent Empirical Research," edited by Ronald Weitzer and Sheldon X. Zhang.

Find out more by reading the full article "Conflict and Agency among Sex Workers and Pimps: A Closer Look at Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking."

Since 1889, The American Academy of Political and Social Science has served as a forum for the free exchange of ideas among the well informed and intellectually curious. In this era of specialization, few scholarly periodicals cover the scope of societies and politics like The ANNALS. Each volume is guest edited by outstanding scholars and experts in the topics studied and presents more than 200 pages of timely, in-depth research on a significant topic of concern. http://ann.sagepub.com/

Impact Factor: .856, ranked 32/92 in Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary and 59/157 in Political Science

Comments and Discussions

Do you agree, disagree, or want to add an opinion on this topic? We welcome relevant discussions and your unique insights.

Related Information on This Topic

Cite This Document

Men who Pay for Sex Have Much in common with Sexually Coercive Males - Men who buy sex have less empathy for women in prostitution than men who do not buy sex


UK Males Who Pay for Sex Also Have Many Unpaid Sexual Partners - Study focused on male behaviour and profile of those who pay for sex and their risk of transmission of sexual diseases


Human Sex Trafficking Investigation - Department of Health and Human Services estimate 6-800,000 people are trafficked annually with 70% forced into the sex trade internationally


Study Reveals 150,000 American Youth Ages 13 to 17 Identify as Transgender - Age of Individuals Who Identify as Transgender in the United States study provides new estimates of age composition of individuals who identify as transgender in the U.S. and estimates of size of transgender identified population by age group


Cherry Creek School District's Pornographic Sex-Ed Content - Colorado parent joins Family Research Council Tony Perkins on the radio to discuss Cherry Creek School District pornographic sex-ed content


EEOC Seeks Public Input on Proposed Enforcement Guidance on Harassment - Proposed guidance explains legal standards applicable to harassment claims under U.S. federal employment discrimination laws