Pimpin’ ain’t easy? The lives of pimps involved in street prostitution in the United States of America
Davis, Holly Rebecca
MetadataShow full item record
The pimp serves as an iconic ghetto hero who stands in street cultures as a figure that represents defiance, anti-establishment angst, and victorious criminality (Funches & Marriott 2002; Horton-Stallings, 2003). The American pimp has been brought into mainstream American culture through 1960’s literature, 1970’s Blaxploitation films, 1980’s hip hop and more recently, documentaries, films, books, music and television. The word ‘pimp’ has found its way into mainstream usage and popular caricatures of the pimp can be found in everything from Halloween costumes to ‘pimp and ho’ themed college parties. Despite being highly visible within mainstream culture, this character is still enigmatic as pimps are an underresearched population. Thus this thesis aims to uncover and unveil the lives and experiences of pimps involved in illegal prostitution to produce a more panoramic understanding of prostitution and an unexplored segment of major players within it. This thesis investigates the experiences and narratives of pimps involved in illegal, predominately street, prostitution in the USA. This research project stands to offer in-depth insight into the experiences of pimps in the United States within this unique subcultural context. In order to fill that literature gap, this research interviewed pimps and gathered data that explored how and why individuals become pimps, their personal histories, how they maintain their position as pimps, how pimps pimp, and the motivations for exit and/or retirement from The Game (the world of prostitution and pimping). More than just a managerial position, the role of the pimp also embraces a lifestyle with special rules, fashions and activities that create a unique and complex underground, criminal community. Rather than just presenting pimps as violent exploiters or ghetto heroes, this thesis examined the language of pimping, their orientation to their roles, the relationship between pimping and the surrounding communities and mainstream society, and explored this criminal career as a social role as well as career. With their childhood experiences of life in American ghettos leading to regular exposure to pimps and favorable impressions of illicit, underground careers, respondents came to ‘choose’ pimping as their career trajectory in their teens. Once dedicated to becoming pimps, many pimps underwent training with older pimps and later gained acceptance within the street community to earn their positions and status as pimps. When established within The Game, they started to practice ‘pimpology’ (pimp ideology) and to firmly establish their skills and methods of pimping. Two substantive chapters within this thesis are dedicated to addressing pimpology: pimpology covers the core processes, social connections and methods of management that are vital for a pimps success and survival in The Game. The aim of these chapters is to explore how pimps function as individuals, with the women who work for them, within their peer networks, and within their communities while they are actively pimping. And finally, exit from pimping will be explored. Issues such as age, exhaustion, family, health, drug addiction, trauma, imprisonment, law enforcement crackdowns and social betrayal all also act as further incentives for pimps to ‘hang up their pimp hat.’ This research has uncovered new themes and trends within the narratives of this hidden, underground subcultural population and offers great insights into the ‘career cycles’ of pimps. This project stands to fill a major gap within prostitution research as current literature lacks the perspectives and voices of pimps themselves. Within this research, a nuanced approach offers a unique view of the pimp and their complex roles and relationships within The Game. As an understudied population, pimps have rarely been the focus of academic inquiry; thus this research stands to contribute new perspectives, insights and data on a population that has remained enigmatic and well hidden from academic exploration for decades.