Procuring (prostitution)

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


Pimps and madams are diverse and variegated, depending on the strata in which they work, and they enter and leave the sex industry for a variety of internal and external reasons, such as family pressure, interactions with the police, and in some cases recruitment from peer sex workers.[2][3][4]

Procuring can take abusive forms. Madams/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.[5] 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 madam/pimp might provide.

The madam/pimp–prostitute relationship is often 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.[6][7] Recent empirical research of madams/pimps, however, suggest that these assumptions about abusive relationships represent stereotyped oppression narratives that may only represent a small percentage of the relationships between madams/pimps and sex workers. [8][9]

In the U.S., madams/pimps can be arrested and charged with pandering and are legally known as procurers.[10] This, combined with the tendency to identify pimping with African-American masculinity, may provide some of the explanation for why approximately three-fifths of all "confirmed" human traffickers in the United States are African-American men.[11] 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.[12]

Where prostitution is decriminalized or regulated, procuring may or may not be legal. In jurisdictions where procuring is allowed, however, the 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, and most of Australia and Nevada.[13]


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".[14]

In 2012, Ontario Appeal Court reaffirmed the unconstitutionality of the laws.[15] The case was appealed by the Canadian government, and was under trial in the Supreme Court of Canada in June 2013.[16] 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 do not violate the Canadian constitution.

United Nations

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:[17]

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.[18][19][20][21]



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.[22] In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term was commonly used to refer to informers.[23] A pimp can also mean "a despicable person".[24] The term can also be applied to a person who is considered a ladies' man.[22]

The verb "pimping" came up in the early 17th century.[22] 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.[25]

In the first years of the 21st century, a new meaning of the word 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.[22] 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.[26]

In medical contexts, the verb means "to ask (a student) a question for the purpose of testing her or his knowledge".[27]


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.[28] Pandarus appears with a similar role in Shakespeare's interpretation of the story, Troilus and Cressida.

Business of procuring

Pimping is sometimes operated like a business.[29] 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.[30] Pimps recognize a hierarchy among themselves. In certain pimp strata, 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.[31] A pimp who uses violence and intimidation to control his prostitutes is called a "gorilla pimp", while those who use psychological trickery to deceive younger prostitutes into becoming hooked into the system are called "finesse pimps".[32] In addition, a prostitute may "bounce" from pimp to pimp without paying the "pimp moving" tax.[33]

Some pimps in the United States are also documented gang members, which causes concerns for police agencies in jurisdictions where prostitution is a significant problem.[34] Pimping rivals narcotic sales as a major source of funding for many 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.[35]

Some pimp businesses have an internal structure – built around violence – for dealing with rule breakers. For example, some pimps have been known to employ a "pimp stick", which is two coat hangers wrapped together, in order to subdue unruly prostitutes.[30] A variation is a "pimp cane", used for similar purposes. Although prostitutes can 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 in some pimp milieus to be "reckless eyeballing".[30] Violence can also used on customers, for example if the customer attempts to evade payment or becomes unruly with a prostitute.

Use of tattoos

Some pimps tattoo prostitutes as a mark of "ownership".[36] 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.[37]

Internet effect

Since the Internet became widely available, prostitutes increasingly use websites to solicit sexual encounters. This has bypassed the need for pimps in some contexts, while some pimps have used these sites to broker their sex workers.[38]

Criticism of portrayals

Some scholars and sex workers' rights advocates dispute portrayals of third-party agents as violent and extremely committed to a pimp subculture, finding them inaccurate exaggerations used to foster harmful policies.[39] For example, one study found that pimps tend to drift in and out of pimping, with some of their goals and identities classified as predominantly mainstream, some as predominantly outside of that mainstream, and some as a hybrid of conventional and non-conventional.[40]

Procuring and pornography

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.[41][42][43] In 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a similar ruling (New Hampshire v. Theriault) which declared that producing pornography was not a form of prostitution under state law.[44]

Procuring in art

Notable pimps and madams

See also


  1. Garner, B. & Black, H. (2004). Black's Law Dictionary. Belmont: Thomson/West.
  2. Horning, A.; et al. (2019). "Harlem Pimps' Reflections on Quitting: External and Internal Reasons". Victims & Offenders. 14 (5): 561–586. doi:10.1080/15564886.2019.1628147.
  3. Dank, Meredith; et al. (2014). "Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities". New York: Urban Institute.
  4. Stalans, Loretta and Mary A. Finn (2019). "Self-Narratives of Persistent Pimps and Those Anticipating Desistance: Emotions, Conventional Work, and Moral Profitability Calculus", Victims & Offenders, 14(5): 647-669.
  5. Zahniser, David (13 May 2008). "L.A. seeks to thwart sex trade on Figueroa". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  6. Raphael, Jody; Shapiro, Deborah (2004). "Violence in indoor and outdoor prostitution venues". Violence Against Women. 10 (2): 126–139. doi:10.1177/1077801203260529.
  7. Skinner, E. Benjamin (2008). A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-9007-4.
  8. Horning, Amber; et al. (2018). "Risky Business: Harlem Pimps' Work Decisions and Economic Returns". Deviant Behavior. 78: 12–27. doi:10.1080/01639625.2018.1556863. PMID 30670211. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  9. Marcus, Anthony; et al. (May 2014). "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. 653 (1): 225–246. doi:10.1177/0002716214521993.
  10. "Pandering". Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  11. Banks, Duren; Kyckelhahn, Tracey (2011). "Characteristics of suspected human trafficking incidents, 2008–2010" (PDF). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  12. Marcus, Anthony; et al. (2014). Rhacel Salazar Parreñas; Kimberly Hoang (eds.). Child Sex Trafficking: Toward an Agent Centered Approach. Human Trafficking Reconsidered: Rethinking the Problem, Envisioning New Solutions. New York: Open Society Institute.
  13. Peter de Marneffe (1 April 2012). Liberalism and Prostitution. Oxford University Press. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-0-19-972610-3.
  14. Canadian judge overturns brothel ban in Ontario, BBC. 29 September 2010
  15. Ontario Appeal Court strikes down ban on brothels, CBC News. 26 March 2012
  16. "Canada's top court to hear prostitution challenge today |". CTV News. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  17. "Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-29.
  18. Michael Kirby & Michael Wong (2012-12-08). "Decriminalisation integral to the fight against HIV". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  19. Amanda Swysgood (2012-07-23). "U.N. Commission Calls for Legalizing Prostitution Worldwide". CNS News.
  20. Cheryl Wetzstein (2012-08-02). "AIDS used as reason to legalize prostitutes". The Washington Times.
  21. "Global Commission on HIV and the Law" (PDF). HIV/AIDS Group. UNDP. July 2012. p. 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."
  22. Jesse Sheidlower: A History of Pimping. What the word meant and what it means now., 11 February 2008
  23. "Pennsylvania Gazette, Nov 7, 1765, transcription". Smithsonian Source. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  24. "Webster's College Dictionary", Random House, 2001
  25. Trice, Dawn Turner. "Scholarship is soured by unsavory name", Chicago Tribune, 27 April 2005.
  26. "Feet pimping: Local biz has plans for your feet". The Hook weekly. 20 September 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2007.
  27. Brancati, Frederick L. (7 July 1989). "The Art of Pimping". JAMA. 262 (1): 89. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430010101039.
  28. 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.
  29. "Really Really Pimpin' in Da South". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  30. "U.S. v. Pipkins" (PDF). 2004. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 378 F.3d 1281, (11th Cir.
  31. 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.
  32. Eleventh Circuit (2004). "378 F.3d 1281, 11th Cir". p. 1281.
  33. "The Pimping Game". Western Michigan University. 2010-11-13.
  34. Knox, George W. (2008). "Females and Gangs: Sexual Violence, Prostitution, and Exploitation". National Gang Crime Research Center. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  35. O'Deane, Matthew (24 September 2010). "Prostitution & Gangs. Techniques for going after violent offenders". Law Officer.
  36. Urbina, Ian (27 October 2009). "Running in the Shadows (part 2 of 2): For Runaways on the Street, Sex Buys Survival". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  37. Rowe, Claudia (June 26, 2008). "No way out: Teen girls sell bodies in Seattle". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  38. Poulsen, Kevin (February 25, 2009). "Pimps Go Online to Lure Kids Into Prostitution". Wired.
  39. McNeill, Maggie (July 27, 2012). "The Honest Courtesan: Bogeymen". The Honest Courtesan.
  40. Horning, A.; et al. (2019). "Harlem Pimps' Accounts of their Economic Pathways and Feelings of Insiderness and Outsiderness" (PDF). Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology. 7 (3): 69–94.
  41. "California v. Freeman". 1989-02-01. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  42. "First Amendment Lawyer - Creating Adult Content Outside California". Archived from the original on 2009-02-17. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  43. "faq: part 11: legal issues". Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  44. 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.
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