Some are violent thugs. Others charmers and deceivers. There are different kinds of pimps, and they use distinctly different methods to ply their trade, according to experts in the fight against sex trafficking. “Romeos” employ finesse and charisma to convince women to join their stables, acting like a boyfriend and the only person in the world who will truly care for them. Others dubbed “gorilla pimps” use sheer force and brutality to force women to work for them, beating them if they don’t bring in enough money or try to escape their control.
It was a “CEO pimp” that ensnared Rachel Thomas. The well-dressed man posed as a modeling agent and told Thomas, a lawyer’s daughter then attending Emory University in Atlanta, that he could get her into that industry. At first he got her legitimate modeling gigs. He also got her personal information when she wrote her Los Angeles home address on a tax form. But eventually he pushed her into working at a strip club and then having sex with men there. He threatened to kill her family if she refused.
She managed to escape and has since founded the Long Beach-based Sowers Education Group, which offers schools and organizations advice on how to prevent human trafficking and help survivors recover. To someone like Thomas, there is nothing charming about “Romeo pimp” behavior. She said, “It’s all about manipulation and breaking down a girl’s self-esteem, so they do what the pimp tells them to do.”
Gang members are also more and more often getting into the pimping business because of the sheer profit involved, noted Jim McDonnell, the police chief in Long Beach, which is considered one of Southern California’s bigger hubs for child prostitution activity.
Also contributing to the problem is pop culture’s glorification of the pimp as a character in film and song. The film “Hustle & Flow” (2005) main character is a pimp trying to break into hip hop. That film won an Academy Award for best song, Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” and its star, Terence Howard was nominated for Best Actor. This cultural adoration worries Thomas, whose organization “challenges students to think critically about pop culture’s glorification of casual sex and pimping.”
Learn more at Christina Villacorte‘s Contra Costa Times article: Prostitution in Los Angeles: Some pimps control women with violence, others turn on the charm.