By: RACHAEL McCULLOCH and BRIANNE SMITH
There may be more to pimps than society’s skewed image of the racialized black man dressed in fur and bling, who takes advantage of vulnerable women, according to Christine Bruckert, criminology professor at the University of Ottawa.
Bruckert presented her seminar “Beyond Pimps, Procures and Parasites: Third Parties in the Street-based Sex Industry” at Carleton on Nov. 22, which aims to expel the general stereotype regarding the relationship between sex workers and pimps in the sex industry.
Bruckert’s findings are based off 75 interviews she conducted with sex workers across the country, regarding their experiences working as prostitutes and their relationships with third parties such as pimps.
The general public views a pimp as the “racialized black man who has lured or tricked girls into the industry and controls them,” Bruckert says.
Prostitutes, on the other hand, are seen as women who have suffered abuse, neglect, isolation, poverty and drug addiction, in turn pushing them into a life of prostitution.
These stereotypes are used to rationalize why people would choose to do sex-work, she says.
But not all sex-workers are victims of their pimp. Many willingly choose to involve themselves with a third party for multiple reasons, Bruckert says.
This could include protection and security, training, social support, a sense of community, or a mutual sense of friendship.
Lexus, one of the prostitutes Bruckert interviewed for her project, learned critical survival tactics from her third party.
“I’d be dead if it wasn’t for her,” Lexus told Bruckert in their interview.
Another Canadian sex-worker, Wendy, told Bruckert her work was more expensive without her pimp around, “because when I was with him, he had a place we could go use.”
However, Bruckert says relationships between pimps and sex workers can also have negative impacts, such as abuse.
“Sometimes these relationships are very, very violent,” she says.
“There is no denying that…I’m not defending [the pimps]. We heard about women who were badly beaten by their pimps.”
Bruckert says the women she interviewed felt as though they cannot go to the police when in danger, for fear that those around them will be charged with “living on the avails” of a prostitute.
Social support for these women is lacking in our society, Bruckert says, and the negative stereotypes associated with pimps and prostitutes result in abuse and isolation from the community.
As a society, we are too judgmental of what is right and wrong, she says.
“We need to be respectful of people’s ability to assess their own circumstance, and do what’s right for them.”