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Procuring (prostitution)

Xaviera Hollander, a former madam, call girl, and author (at one time New York City's leading madam).
Xaviera Hollander, a former madam, call girl, and author, at one time New York City's leading madam

Procuring or pandering is the facilitation or provision of a prostitute or sex worker in the arrangement of a sex act with a customer.[1] A procurer, colloquially called a pimp (if male) or a madam (if female), is an agent for prostitutes who collects part of their earnings. The procurer may receive this money in return for advertising services, physical protection, or for providing, and possibly monopolizing, a location where the prostitute may engage clients. Like prostitution, the legality of certain actions of a madam or a pimp vary from one region to the next.

Examples of procuring include:

  • trafficking a person into a country for the purpose of soliciting sex
  • operating a prostitution business
  • transporting a prostitute to the location of their arrangement
  • deriving financial gain from the prostitution of another



Procuring can often take abusive forms. Pimps may punish clients for physical abuse or failure to pay, and enforce exclusive rights to 'turf' where their prostitutes may advertise and operate with less competition.[2] In the many places where prostitution is outlawed, sex workers have decreased incentive to report abuse for fear of self-incrimination, and increased motivation to seek any physical protection from clients and law enforcement that a pimp might provide.

The pimp–prostitute relationship is widely understood to be abusive and possessive, with the pimp/madam using techniques such as psychological intimidation, manipulation, starvation, rape and/or gang rape, beating, confinement, threats of violence toward the victim's family, forced drug use and the shame from these acts.[3][4] Marcus et al., however, suggested that these assumptions about abusive relationships represent stereotyped oppression narratives that may only represent a small percentage of the relationships between pimps and sexworkers.[5] In an edited volume about third parties in different parts of the world, several studies show that third parties and sex workers can have complex and long-term relationships that are not centered on exploitative dynamics.[6]

Pimps can be arrested and charged with pandering and are legally known as procurers.[7] This, combined with the tendency to identify pimping with African American masculinity, may provide some of the explanation for why 62% of all "confirmed" human traffickers in the United States are African American men.[8] In fact, it has recently been argued that some of the extreme examples of violence cited in the article below come primarily from such stereotyping supported by Hollywood screenwriters, selective and decontextualized trial transcripts, and studies that have only interviewed parties to sex commerce in institutions of rescue, prosecution, and punishment, rather than engaging rigorous study in situ.[9][10]

Legal status and debates about legalityEdit

In most places where prostitution is illegal, so is procuring, no matter if the relationship between the procurer and prostitute is formal or informal.[clarification needed] Where prostitution is decriminalized or regulated, procuring may or may not be legal. In jurisdictions where procuring is allowed, however, the only[dubious ] forms permitted do not involve threats or other forms of non-consensual acts towards the prostitute or other persons; all procuring regulations differ widely from place to place.

Procuring and brothels are legal in the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, most of Australia and Nevada, among other places.[citation needed]


In Canada, there was a legal challenge to prostitution laws, which ended in the 2013 ruling of Bedford v. Canada. In 2010, Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Himel overturned the national laws banning brothels and procuring, arguing that they violated the constitution guaranteeing "the right to life, liberty and security".[11]

In 2012, Ontario Appeal Court reaffirmed the unconstitutionality of the laws.[12] The case was appealed by the Canadian government, and was under trial in the Supreme Court of Canada in June 2013.[13] On 20 December 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the remaining prostitution laws. As of 2014, the Canadian government began working on replacing those regulations with ones that don't violate the Canadian constitution.

United NationsEdit

The United Nations 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others requires state signatories to ban pimping and brothels, and to abolish regulation of individual prostitutes. It states:[14]

Whereas prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community

The convention reads:

Article 1

The Parties to the present Convention agree to punish any person who, to gratify the passions of another:

(1) Procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person, even with the consent of that person;

(2) Exploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person.

Article 2

The Parties to the present Convention further agree to punish any person who:

(1) Keeps or manages, or knowingly finances or takes part in the financing of a brothel;

(2) Knowingly lets or rents a building or other place or any part thereof for the purpose of the prostitution of others.

Various UN commissions however have differing positions on the issue. For example, in 2012, a UNAIDS commission convened by Ban Ki-moon and backed by UNDP and UNAIDS, recommended the decriminalization of brothels and procuring.[15][16][17][18]



The term procurer derives from the French procureur.


The word pimp first appeared in English in 1607 in a Thomas Middleton play entitled Your Five Gallants. Of unknown origin, but may have stemmed from the French infinitive pimper meaning to dress up elegantly and from the present participle pimpant meaning alluring in seductive dress. Pimp used as a verb, meaning to act as a pimp, first appeared in 1636 in Philip Massinger's play, The Bashful Lover.[19] In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term was commonly used to refer to informers.[20] A pimp can also mean "a despicable person".[21] The term can also be applied to a person who is considered a ladies' man.[19]

The verb "pimping" came up in the early 17th century.[19] Rapper Nelly tried to redefine the word "pimp" by saying that it is an acronym for "positive, intellectual, motivated person." He created a college scholarship with the name "P.I.M.P. Juice Scholarship". Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune argues that there is "something truly unsettling, to say the least, about attaching such a vile word to a scholarship" and expresses concern about the glamorization of the term.[22]

In the first years of the 21st century, a new meaning of the word has emerged in the form of a transitive verb pimp, which means "to decorate" or "to gussy up" (compare primp, especially in Scottish usage). This new definition was made popular by Pimp My Ride, an MTV television show.[19] Although this new definition paid homage to hip-hop culture and its connection to street culture, it has now entered common, even mainstream commercial, use.[23]

In medical contexts, the verb means "to ask (a student) a question for the purpose of testing her or his knowledge".[24]


The word "pander", meaning to "pimp" is derived from Pandarus, a licentious figure who facilitates the affair between the protagonists in Troilus and Criseyde, a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer.[25] Pandarus appears with a similar role in Shakespeare's interpretation of the story, Troilus and Cressida.

Business of procuringEdit

The White Slave statue by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle, location unknown

Pimping is sometimes operated like a business.[26] The pimp may have a bottom girl who serves as office manager, keeping the pimp apprised of law-enforcement activity and collecting money from the prostitutes.[27] Pimps recognize a hierarchy among themselves. The least respected, or newer pimps, are the "popcorn pimps" and "wannabes". "Popcorn pimps" was a phenomenon which occurred among adolescent cocaine users of both sexes who utilized children younger than themselves to support their habits.[28] A pimp who uses violence and intimidation to control his prostitutes is called a "guerrilla pimp", while those who use psychological trickery to deceive younger prostitutes into becoming hooked into the system are called "finesse pimps".[29] An important part of the business is obtaining and maintaining a selection of prostitutes. Losing one's prostitute to another pimp is known as being "peeled". Informing a pimp that one of his prostitutes has switched pimps is a professional courtesy, and any attempt to respond to this courtesy with violence will quickly get the violent pimp labeled a "Gorilla" or "Godzilla". Prostitutes who move between pimps often are labeled as a "Choosey Susie". In addition, a prostitute may "bounce" from pimp to pimp without paying the "pimp moving" tax.[30]

A large percentage of pimps in the United States are also documented gang members, which causes concerns for police agencies in jurisdictions where prostitution is a significant problem. Pimping rivals narcotic sales as a major source of funding for many gangs; this is particularly true with African-American gangs. Gangs need money to survive, and money equates to power and respect. While selling drugs may be lucrative for a gang, this activity often carries significant risk as stiff legal penalties and harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws exist. However, with pimping, gang members still make money while the prostitutes themselves bear the majority of the risk. Pimping has several benefits to the gang that the pimp belongs to. These benefits include helping the gang recruit new members because the gang has women available for sex and the money brought in by prostitution allows gang members to buy cars, clothes and weapons, all of which help to recruit younger members into the gang by increasing the reputation of the gang in the local gang subculture. The presence of gangs (and weapons and drugs) is a virtual guarantee when prostitutes are present, which is why many law-enforcement agencies advocate taking an aggressive stance against prostitutes. Many vice units work to ascertain if the prostitute they have arrested has a pimp, and if so, they pressure them to provide information about their pimp and the gang involved. This information can then be used to go after the more serious and violent offenders.[31]

The pimp business has an internal structure – built around violence – for dealing with rule breakers. For example, pimps have been known to employ a "pimp stick", which is two coat hangers wrapped together, in order to subdue unruly prostitutes.[27] A variation is a "pimp cane", used for similar purposes.[citation needed] Another punishment for disobedient prostitutes is to "trunk" them, where the pimp locks the prostitute in the trunk of a car. Although prostitutes are supposedly free to move between pimps, this movement sometimes leads to violence. For example, a prostitute could be punished for merely looking at another pimp; this is considered "reckless eyeballing".[27] Violence is also used on customers, for example if the customer attempts to evade payment or becomes unruly with a prostitute.

Use of tattoosEdit

Many pimps tattoo prostitutes as a mark of "ownership".[32][33] The tattoo will often be the pimp's street name or even his likeness. The mark might be as discreet as ankle tattoo, or blatant as a neck tattoo, or large scale font across the prostitute's lower back, thigh, chest, or buttocks.[34]

Internet effectEdit

Since the Internet became widely available, it has become the preferred medium for prostitution. Prostitutes increasingly use websites to solicit sexual encounters. In turn, pimps have used these sites to broker their women.[35]

Criticism of portrayalsEdit

Some sex workers rights advocates and activists dispute the portrayal of third-party agents as "violent pimps" to be an inaccurate exaggeration used to foster harmful policies.[36]

Pornography and procuringEdit

Attempts have been made in the U.S. to charge pornographic-film producers with pandering under state law. The case of California v. Freeman in 1989 is one of the most prominent examples where a producer/director of pornographic films was charged with pandering under the argument that paying porn actors to perform sex on camera was a form of prostitution covered by a state anti-pandering statute. The State Supreme Court rejected this argument, finding that the California pandering statute was not intended to cover the hiring of actors who would be engaging in sexually-explicit but non-obscene performances. It also stated that only in cases where the producer paid the actors for the purpose of sexually gratifying themselves or other actors, could the producer be charged with pandering under state law. This case effectively legalized pornography in the State of California.[37][38][39] In 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court would issue a similar ruling (New Hampshire v. Theriault) which declared that producing pornography was not a form of prostitution under state law.[40]

Notable pimps and madamsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Garner, B. & Black, H. (2004). Black's Law Dictionary. Belmont: Thomson/West.
  2. ^ Zahniser, David (13 May 2008). "L.A. seeks to thwart sex trade on Figueroa". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  3. ^ "55 Little Known Facts About... Human Trafficking". Random History. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  4. ^ Skinner, E. Benjamin (2008). A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-9007-4.
  5. ^ Marcus, Anthony, et al. "Conflict and Agency among Sex Workers and Pimps: A Closer Look at Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science May 2014 vol. 653 no. 1 225-246. doi: 10.1177/0002716214521993.
  6. ^ Horning, A., & Marcus, A. (Eds.). (2017). Third Party Sex Work and Pimps in the Age of Anti-trafficking. Springer.
  7. ^ "Pandering". Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  8. ^ Banks, Duren, and Tracey Kyckelhahn. 2011. Characteristics of suspected human trafficking incidents,2008–2010. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available from (accessed 7 August 2013)..
  9. ^ Horning, A. (2013). Peeling the onion: domestically trafficked minors and other sex work involved youth. Dialectical anthropology, 37(2), 299-307.
  10. ^ Marcus, Anthony, Amber Horning, & Ric Curtis. 2014. "Child Sex Trafficking: Toward an Agent Centered Approach" in Rhacel Salazar Parreñas and Kimberly Hoang Human Trafficking Reconsidered: Rethinking the Problem, Envisioning New Solutions, New York: Open Society Institute.
  11. ^ Canadian judge overturns brothel ban in Ontario, BBC. 29 September 2010
  12. ^ Ontario Appeal Court strikes down ban on brothels, CBC News. 26 March 2012
  13. ^ "Canada's top court to hear prostitution challenge today |". CTV News. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  14. ^ "Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-29.
  15. ^ Decriminalisation integral to the fight against HIV, Michael Kirby & Michael Wong, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 13 July 2012
  16. ^ U.N. Commission Calls for Legalizing Prostitution Worldwide, Amanda Swysgood, CNS News, July 23, 2012
  17. ^ AIDS used as reason to legalize prostitutes, Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, August 2, 2012
  18. ^ Risks, Rights & Health Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine., Global Commission on HIV and the Law, UNDP, HIV/AIDS Group, , July 2012, page 43 ("Recommendation"): "Repeal laws that prohibit consenting adults to buy or sell sex, as well as laws that otherwise prohibit commercial sex, such as laws against "immoral" earnings, "living of the earnings" of prostitution and brothel-keeping."
  19. ^ a b c d Jesse Sheidlower: A History of Pimping. What the word meant and what it means now., 11 February 2008
  20. ^ "Pennsylvania Gazette, Nov 7, 1765, transcription". Smithsonian Source. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  21. ^ "Webster's College Dictionary", Random House, 2001
  22. ^ Trice, Dawn Turner. "Scholarship is soured by unsavory name", Chicago Tribune, 27 April 2005.
  23. ^ "Feet pimping". The Hook weekly. 20 September 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2007.
  24. ^ Brancati, Frederick L. (7 July 1989). "The Art of Pimping". JAMA. 262 (1): 89. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430010101039.
  25. ^ Classen, Albrecht (2010). Laughter in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times: Epistemology of a Fundamental Human Behavior, Its Meaning, and Consequences. p. 462. ISBN 978-3110245479.
  26. ^ "Really Really Pimpin' in Da South". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  27. ^ a b c U.S. v. Pipkins Archived 2012-09-11 at the Wayback Machine., 378 F.3d 1281, (11th Cir. 2004).
  28. ^ Pagliaro, Ann Marie and Pagliaro, Louis A. (1996). Substance abuse among children and adolescents : its nature, extent, and effects from conception to adulthood. New York: Wiley, p. 19. ISBN 9780471580423.
  29. ^ 378 F.3d 1281 (11th Cir. 2004).
  30. ^ Western Michigan University, The Pimping Game. Archived November 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^ O'Deane, Matthew (24 September 2010). "Prostitution & Gangs. Techniques for going after violent offenders".
  32. ^ Urbina, Ian (27 October 2009). "RUNNING IN THE SHADOWS; For Runaways on the Street, Sex Buys Survival". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  33. ^ Waters, Julie, "The Intersection of Law, Theology, and Human Trafficking in the Narrative of Joseph: Linking the Past to the Present" (2010). Second Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking, 2010. Paper 8.
  34. ^ Rowe, Claudia (June 26, 2008). "No way out: Teen girls sell bodies in Seattle". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  35. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (February 25, 2009). "Pimps Go Online to Lure Kids Into Prostitution". Wired.
  36. ^ McNeill, Maggie (July 27, 2012). "The Honest Courtesan: Bogeymen".
  37. ^ "California v. Freeman". 1989-02-01. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  38. ^ "First Amendment Lawyer - Creating Adult Content Outside California". Archived from the original on 2009-02-17. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  39. ^ "faq: part 11: legal issues". Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  40. ^ Timmins, Annmarie (December 5, 2008). "Offer to tape sex nullifies conviction: 'It's not prostitution but speech, court says'". Concord Monitor. Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2015.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Prostitution at Wikimedia Commons