In an economically privileged society, many of us enjoy showing off our hard-earned possessions, perhaps putting a unique signature on them so people know they are ours. Whether it’s wearing designer clothing or engraving our technology, customizing our vehicles or monogramming our towels, we like putting our mark on things.
In the early 2000s, a popular TV show called “Pimp My Ride” graced the MTV airwaves. The show, hosted by rapper Xzibit, involved taking someone’s run-down, basic transportation and creating a fancy, customized vehicle that turned heads. America has a long fascination with this type of culture that is heavily promoted through rap music, the screen and fashion. The act of decorating something to make it flashy has developed its own terminology: “Pimping”
This sanitized commercialization of the pimp persona whitewashes the extreme violence and sexual assault female victims face at the hands of real-life pimps.
What does “pimping” actually mean? The Urban Dictionary says “pimping” is “commonly used nowadays as making something cool or better.”
While “pimp” is a non-legal term, it is actually “used to refer to a person who procures a prostitute for a customer and receives earnings from the prostitute’s services.”
When we speak of “pimping” something as a reference to visual improvement, what we are really loosely referring to is the act of labeling a human being with an identifier, dressing that person up in alluring clothing and making them attractive in order to sell them for sex.
“Pimping” as a lighthearted slang term takes on a different meaning when we put it in proper context. Just as consumers “pimp their ride” and proudly display their labels as status symbols, pimps do the same with their possessions. But in this case, their possessions are human beings.
In the past, we’ve shared with our readers how pimps often brand their girls with tattoos or burns to identify the victims as property. Our counter sex trafficking team recently identified a young female victim from Kansas City we will call “A.” The amount of branding on “A” was shocking. From her face to the rest of her body, this young woman was marked and labeled as the possession of her pimp.
It’s time for pop culture to stop glorifying and minimizing the crimes of a person who brands human beings like cattle and then sells them at auction, subjecting them to what amounts to sexual assault by strangers, multiple times a day.
Learn more about how we can break the cycle, together, here.