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Red-Light-District

Credit: kPluto (Creative Commons: BY-NC-SA 2.0)

by Anthony Marcus, Chris Thomas, and Amber Horning

Many recent public policy discussions about prostitution, especially underage prostitution, invoke disturbing narratives of hyper-violent, predatory pimps luring and coercing young girls into sex slavery. However, three recent studies of underage sex workers and pimps/market facilitators in New York and New Jersey call into question these assumptions. First, these public narratives overestimate the role of pimps in street sex markets; second, they overemphasize the impact of the initial recruitment stage on subsequent practices; and third, they mask or simplify the difficult and complex choices and contingencies faced by minors who sell sex. The studies find that there is in fact no prototypical pimp and relationships are more flexible, dynamic, and particular to the individuals involved than has been previously imagined.

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