I received this e-mail from www.change.org about the use of the term “Pimp” in our every day culture as being glorified, while in reality it is a profession (if you can call it that) which subjugates women. I found the story very interesting and have chosen to share the email with you below. Also, I applaud Demi Moore and the new Foundation she created with her husband Ashton Kutcher called “The Demi & Ashton Foundation” or “DNA” (not incredibly original, but its the cause that counts), which works toward the elimination of sex slavery worldwide.
Demi Moore vs. Kim Kardashian*
Who would have thought that a Twitter exchange between Demi Moore and reality TV star Kim Kardashian this past week would have provided a teachable moment on the subject of sex trafficking?
The exchange surrounded the word “pimp,” which Kardashian used when she linked to a photo of her and some girlfriends out on the town, and labeled it “Big Pimpin’.”
Moore, an advocate against sex slavery who recently donated $250,000 with her husband Ashton Kutcher to help the survivors of human trafficking, responded:
“No disrespect. I love a girls night out but a pimp and pimping [refers to] nothing more than a slave owner! If we want to end slavery we need to stop glorifying the ‘pimp’ culture.”
The result? A slew of celebrity tabloid headlines pitting Demi vs. Kim.
But as Changemaker Rachel Lloyd, founder of the anti-trafficking organization GEMS writes on Change.org this week, the glaring omission from all the articles and commentary that resulted from the exchange is any real analysis of Moore’s point — that we glamorize and glorify pimp culture, use terminology that seems to legitimize the practice, and in doing so ignore the fact that pimps are modern-day slave-owners.
Of course, Ms. Kardashian didn’t intend to glorify real pimps any more than most people do when using the word as slang. But this slang desensitizes us to the terrible reality of pimps and the sex trade, and has a very real impact on the psychology of young girls most vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
The median age of entry into the sex industry in America is between 12 and 14 years old. And partially because of the use of the word “pimp” to glorify men in music videos and popular culture, many girls grow up thinking of a pimp as someone who is cool, rich, and sexy, rather than someone to be feared. Rather than as someone who might kidnap them. Or rape them. Or beat them for failing to bring home enough money one night.
This is the awful reality of pimps, who sell more than 100,000 children for sex in the United States each year.
It’s unfortunate that it took a celebrity squabble to bring pimp culture to the nation’s attention. But now that it’s arisen, let’s take this opportunity to have a real conversation about how to address a very real issue. For more information on the dark reality of pimping, click here.
*This entire text are the words of a www.change.org email.
Since arriving here in Bulgaria I have strayed away from talking about the issue of human trafficking for sexual exploitation on my blog mainly because I do research and speak to people who work with victims on a daily basis. I wanted my blog to be a place where I could share more about cultural differences and comical experiences I’ve had here. That being said, it bothers me that too many people through out the world do not understand the immensity of the problem, mainly because of a lack of awareness in our global community around the issue.
In my time here one of the concepts which has bothered me considerably is the fact that these crimes are defined legally and discussed in governmental and NGO circles only through the use of the term “trafficking.” While trafficking through the illegal transport of humans against their will should be considered a crime, it is what comes after that is the most egregious. Women and children are forced to become slaves and perform sexual acts against their will. Most are often raped repeatedly after being trafficked across international borders or within a country, in what is often considered by traffickers the “breaking in” period. Why is it that most laws define these crimes based on the movement of these women and children, and not on the fact that they are held against their will as slaves for unknown periods of time?
Since joining the European Union in 2007, both Bulgaria and Romania have been on probation for evidence of organized crime within their governments, which is very much a factor in the large number of women & girls trafficked into the sex trade from these countries. Now that both these countries are EU members their borders are more open to travel to other EU countries making it easier for traffickers to move women/girls across Europe. In addition, increased international tourism during the summer to resorts on the Black Sea Coast and in the winter to ski havens like Bansko gives traffickers a reason to bring girls to these areas within the country as well. This makes Bulgaria a triple threat – a country of origin, transit and destination.
In the past few years their have been many awareness campaigns and educational trainings that have targeted at risk groups so that girls no longer fall victim to the “job opportunity abroad ads,”etc. Though now more aware of the threat of traffickers, poor women & girls still see prostitution as the only real option if they want a better life for themselves. So despite having knowledge of the possible scenarios that await them many girls think that this won’t happen to them, or that they will go work as a prostitute for a year or a few months and then come back with lots of money. Girls from Bulgaria are the third highest when it comes to sex workers in the EU according to a BBC report. So, some of these girls go willingly, they are not trafficked — but they are often met with the same outcome as those who are forcibly moved across borders. Girls passports are taken away, they are told that they have a debt to repay to the pimp and that they cannot leave until they have earned a certain amount of money as a prostitute. Of course room and board are also added daily to this climbing debt that must be repaid. This is called “debt bondage” and is most definitely “Sex Slavery” since girls cannot leave and most never earn a dime with all of their money going to the pimp. For these girls, if they escape their situation, they often don’t consider themselves victims and blame themselves for what happened. Even girls who were trafficked against their will convince themselves that they chose this fate and that this was the life they wanted. This is a coping mechanism many victims use to allow them to mentally survive this kind of trauma.
But, the question is: In international court systems can these victims bring their perpetrators to justice? The answer to this question is a complicated one, because the burden of proof is on the victim and many times it is difficult to prove in court who the victims are. If a victim explains that she went willingly to be a prostitute in some countries it might be argued that no trafficking crime occurred. Also, many victims are not provided with the support services they need to be confident enough to face their pimps and/or traffickers in court. In Bulgaria, witnesses are only sometimes able to gain refuge in crisis centers/shelters for a limited time. The Animus Association has the only crisis centre for victims of violence (including domestic violence) in Sofia and they can only accommodate 6-8 people at a time for 1 month. This is hardly enough time to provide the necessary mental and social counseling needed. Some victims fear going home because the trafficker knows where she lives and she is concerned harm will come to her or them — or she is simply ashamed and doesn’t want to face her family. There is just not enough funding to provide the help these women need. Also, if a woman does find the courage to file criminal charges she must testify on multiple occasions in front of the accused. There is no option to testify via video in a separate room, etc. The Bulgarian Government would argue that a majority of victims do in fact file criminal charges against their traffickers/pimps.
But, like familiar statistics associated with sexual crimes like date rape – the majority of victims of sex slavery or trafficking do not report that the crime was committed. So there are many nameless victims out there who went through unimaginable trauma or are currently living it who will never be helped or counted.
I could keep going because I’ve barely grazed the surface of this issue, but I’ll save it for another time.