“Prostitution is renting an organ for ten minutes.”
—A john, interviewed by research psychologist Melissa Farley.
Sex Trafficking of Americans: The Girls Next Door | Politics | Vanity Fair
In the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, in the pediatric division of Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center, in the back alleys of Waterbury, Connecticut, and in the hallways of Hartford’s Community Court, Assistant D.A. Rhonnie Jaus, forensic pediatrician Dr. Sharon Cooper, ex-streetwalker Louise, and Judge Curtissa Cofield have all simultaneously and independently noted the same disturbing phenomenon. There are more young American girls entering the commercial sex industry—an estimated 300,000 at this moment—and their ages have been dropping drastically. “The average starting age for prostitution is now 13,” says Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (gems), a Harlem-based organization that rescues young women from “the life.” Says Judge Cofield, who formerly presided over Hartford’s Prostitution Protocol, a court-ordered rehabilitation program, “I call them the Little Barbies.”
The explanations offered for these downwardly expanding demographics are various, and not at all mutually exclusive. Dr. Sharon Cooper believes that the anti-intellectual, consumerist, hyper-violent, and super-eroticized content of movies (Hustle & Flow), reality TV (Cathouse), video games (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City), gangsta rap (Nelly’s “Tip Drill”), and cyber sites (Second Life: Jail Bait) has normalized sexual harm. “History is repeating itself, and we’re back to treating women and children as chattel,” she says. “It’s a sexually toxic era of ‘pimpfantwear’ for your newborn son and thongs for your five-year-old daughter.” Additionally, Cooper cites the breakdown of the family unit (statistically, absent or abusive parents compounds risk) and the emergence of vast cyber-communities of like-minded deviant individuals, who no longer have disincentives to act on their most destructive predatory fantasies. Krishna Patel, assistant U.S. attorney in Bridgeport, Connecticut, invokes the easy money. Criminals have learned, often in prison—where “macking” memoirs such as Iceberg Slim’s Pimp are best-sellers—that it’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a “righteous” pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings.
“There are basically two business models: manipulating girls through violence—that’s called ‘gorilla’ pimping—and controlling them with drugs,” says Patel, who prosecuted the case of New York–based trafficker Corey Davis, a.k.a. “Magnificent.” A high-living, highly educated pimp who kept the slave master’s manifesto The Willie Lynch Letter and the Making of a Slave in his Mercedes, Davis, Patel says, made sex slaves out of, among others, a 12-year-old runaway and a university coed on a track scholarship. To force them to do his bidding, Davis allegedly sliced a girl in his “stable” with a box cutter and stomped others into submission with a special pair of Timberland boots—a technique known as “Timming.” Another female, a 15-year-old patient of Dr. Sharon Cooper’s, was zipped into a duffel bag and deposited by her pimp on a six-lane highway. The pimp of Caroline (a former Connecticut 4-H Club member) plucked out her fingernails one by one until she passed out from the pain. Natalie, an ex–Catholic schoolgirl rescued by gems, was from the age of 13 tortured or beaten with water, belts, chains, even a bag of frozen oranges. “Pimping,” Natalie says, “is not cool. A pimp is a wife beater, rapist, murderer, child-molester, drug dealer, and slave driver rolled into one.”
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