Relationship Between Pimps and Prostitutes

A prostitute is defined as one who exchanges sexual favors for money, drugs, or other desirable commodities, while a pimp is one who controls the actions and lives off the proceeds of one or more prostitutes (Williamson & Cluse-Tolar, 2002; Dalla, 2002).  Pimp-controlled prostitution is ubiquitous and the most common form of prostitution in the US by many estimates; the WHISPER organization found 90% of prostituted women they interview are pimp-controlled, Williamson and Cluse-Tolar (2002) estimate that 80% of prostitutes become involved with pimps over time, and a US Department of Justice report contends that about 50% of prostitution is controlled by pimps.  And while there are an estimated 100,000 streetwalking prostitutes operating in the U.S. at any given time, the public’s knowledge about these workers and their relations to pimps is based primarily on media stereotypes (Brewer et. al., 1990).  At one extreme, we see exemplars of prostitutes with hearts of gold in movies such as Pretty Woman, Leaving Las Vegas, and Taxi Driver, while at the other extreme we are exposed to images of black fishnets, knee-length boots, and drug abuse.  Rarely does the media provide an accurate portrayal of prostitution or the pimp-prostitute relationship.  

Given the general ignorance and misperceptions about prostitution and the pimp-prostitute relationship, there is potential for social science (through expert testimony) to illuminate relevant aspects of such a relationship.  And while the Court has rarely allowed expert testimony to establish adjudicative facts about prostitutes and pimps, the Court has been amenable to allowing social framework testimony on the relationship between pimp and prostitute.  Social framework testimony seems especially appropriate in these cases as Monahan and Walker (2010) state: “[Social] frameworks often tell jurors something they do not already know, or disabuse them of common but erroneous perceptions.”.

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