I’ve just finished reading this morning’s New York Times story about the Secret Service scandal, and my head is reeling. Buried in the middle of the story is a remarkable sentence:
Eventually, she lowered her demand to $250, which she said was the amount she has to pay the man who helps find her customers.
It’s remarkable because “the man who helps find her customers” is mentioned nowhere else in the story. It’s remarkable because the chain of events described in the article—how the woman met the Secret Service agent, how the events of the night and following morning went down—nowhere includes any indication whatsoever that “the man who helps find her customers” did, in fact, help her find this customer, much less do anything else that could possibly justify appropriating the woman’s fee. Yet the Times reporter does not seem to register this discrepancy.
The man in question is the pimp, of course. Contrary to popular dude imagination, pimps don’t actually contribute any value to the prostitution transaction; they’re simply parasites. They attach themselves to women and blackmail them for part (or all) of their earnings, with the penalties ranging from beatings to death. They also induct new girls into prostitution by raping them and then putting them to work on the street, appropriating the earnings for themselves. They’re like the mafia shaking down the corner store, only less benign.
Let’s review the sequence of events in Cartagena as related by the New York Times:
- “Sitting in her living room wearing a short jean skirt, high-heeled espadrilles and a spandex top with a plunging neckline, the prostitute described how she and another woman were approached by a group of American men at a discotheque. In an account consistent with the official version of events coming out of Washington, but could not be independently confirmed, she said the men bought a bottle of Absolut vodka for the table and when that was finished bought a second one.”
Are you seeing any role for the pimp here? Did he help the women find the discotheque? Did he draw a street map for them and give them directions? I don’t think so.
- “There was a language gap between the woman, 24, who declined to give her full name, and the American man who sat beside her at the bar and eventually invited her to his room. She agreed, stopped on the way to buy condoms but told him he would have to give her a gift. He asked how much. Not knowing he worked for Mr. Obama but figuring he was a well-heeled foreigner, she said, she told him $800.”
Is the pimp anywhere in this part of the story? Did he walk with the couple to the drugstore? Did he act as interpreter? No.
- “By 6:30 the next morning, after being awoken by a telephone call from the hotel front desk reminding her that, under the hotel’s rules for prostitutes, she had to leave, whatever deal the two had agreed on had broken down. She recalled that the man told her he had been drunk when they discussed the price. He countered with an offer of 50,000 pesos, the equivalent of about $30.”
So they go to the hotel, they do whatever, they sleep. Was the pimp there? Did he assist in the activities? Direct events, participate himself, offer up his own ass or mouth for services? Nope.
- “Disgusted with such a low amount, she pressed the matter. He became angry, ordered her out of the room and called her an expletive, she said.
“She said she was crying and went across the hall, where another escort had spent the night with an American man from the same group. Both women began trying to get the money.
“They knocked on the door but got no response. She threatened to call the police, but the man’s friend, who appeared on the scene, begged her not to, saying they did not want trouble. Finally, she said, she left to go home but came across a police officer stationed in the hallway, who called in an English-speaking colleague.
“He accompanied her back to the room and the dispute escalated. Two other Americans from the club emerged from their rooms and stood guard in front of their friend’s locked door. The two Colombian officers tried to argue the woman’s case.”
So, we have two Colombian police officers, the woman’s friend, and three Americans all involved in this dispute. Is the pimp there? Is he part of this scene? Is he negotiating, contributing, anything? Nope.
But now the killer:
- “A hotel security officer arrived. Eventually, she lowered her demand to $250, which she said was the amount she has to pay the man who helps find her customers. Eager to resolve the matter fast, the American men eventually gave her a combination of dollars and pesos worth about $225, and she left.”
So, the one person who had absolutely no part in the proceedings, the one person who did nothing to earn any money, the one person who wasn’t even on the scene—he’s the one guy who gets paid.
What is remarkable to me here is that the New York Times reporter and apparently everyone else just blips over the existence of this guy—the guy who’s getting paid, the guy who is robbing the woman of her earnings.
It’s like a story about slavery where there are no slaveowners: just slaves mysteriously working in the fields all on their own.
11 Responses to “The pimp vanishes”
It’s hard to believe that the deeply conservative year 1963 yielded more enlightened words about pimps. I am thinking of the song lyric in the musical Irma La Douce:
Every evening, the ‘poule’ will stroll up and down near the Bridge of Caulaincourt. This is the way the poule will earn money for her boss, or as we say in the milieu, ‘grisbi’ for her ‘mec.’ This is the system: Mec sends out poule, poule gets grisbi. Grisbi goes to mec and buys him his hand-made shirts, his painted ties, his drinks, his bets, his crepes suzettes. It’s just simple economics.
Violet Socks says:
It is incredible, especially considering that Irma La Douce is firmly in the tradition of bullshit romanticizations of prostitution. Gah, I hate that stuff with a passion—happy hookers with their hearts of gold, and the pimps and johns who love them. I can’t tolerate it for even a second.
Most prostitutes begin when they are very young homeless street kids and have no legal way to earn money.
I hate this attitude that women become prostitutes because they love sex so much. Because obviously if you loved sex, you’d want to have it with someone who didn’t give a shit about your pleasure, who probably wasn’t attractive, who required you to perform sex acts that the vast majority of women consider disgusting and painful, etc.
It all comes from this idea that sex is something women provide for men’s pleasure. And don’t tell me straight women don’t have sex drives. They just don’t get a chance to express them. It’s all “worry about looking good, worry about pleasing your man, give him a chance even though he’s hideous or you’re a heartless b— ” in the media. And don’t get me started on porn’s influence on sex. Women slaving away to look gorgeous and please their man in bed, and he sits on his fat hairy ass wondering why she doesn’t want to have sex, aka poledance for him, let him jackhammer her vagina with no lube or foreplay and then spew semen all over her face, just like his porn idols.
It’s unlikely you intended it, but your title instantly brings to mind the book The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia http://www.newseum.org/berlinwall/commissar_vanishes/vanishes.htm
The victors write history, and men are still the only victors allowed.
Interesting use of the word ‘demand’ in “lowered her demand to $250″
Why not “lowered her fee for services”, “lowered the agreed-upon price”, “compromised financially to resolve the altercation” or “conceded to a much lower payment than was originally promised”?
My newsfeeds are stuffed with this story from all over the world. Coverage revolves around men and the details of men’s rules made (Columbia prostitution is legal) and men’s rules broken (Presidential security compromised) while women’s lives made or broken are irrelevant.
Men’s rules include the caveat that hurting a woman behind closed doors where other men aren’t bothered is acceptable, but getting caught if it sneaks out the door is anathema.
The gold digger says:
Does the Times really think that none of their readers will know the word “pimp?”
I feel bad for these women. I wish they had gotten their money up front. I’m glad the guys are being fired.
tinfoil hattie says:
But prostitutes like being prostitutes. They give the pimps their money for “protection.” Prostitution is fun, and empowering, and feminist! And a great way to make money.
How dare you imply anything else?
anna, your comment is BRILLIANT.
Great commentary. Posts like these are why I hang out here. I was wondering about that when I first read it – I assumed the pimp had arranged things with the agents ahead of time and got them together at the club…… obviously not.
One thing I’m curious as to your thoughts on… I hardly think prostitution is a great thing, but this girl was in a MUCH better position with it being legalized in Colombia. The only reason the agents couldn’t stiff her with impunity is because the police were brought in.
She couldn’t have done that in the US. She would have had zero recourse. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.
Violet Socks says:
Right! So, thankfully, the pimp got his money. Excellent result.
Violet Socks says:
Those working against the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children know that “tolerance zones” in countries that have legalized prostitution – which is actually legalization of brothels and pimping – are magnets for traffickers. The “Pley Club” is a strip club and brothel. Worldwide, such clubs provide cover for the recruitment and use of women and girls for commercial sexual exploitation.
The secret service detail didn’t simply take a stroll to an isolated brothel. There are rows of sex clubs and brothels in the Cartagena prostitution zone, where many women from different countries also walk the streets in search of “customers” seeking sexual services. The US officials were among the hundreds of US sex tourists who, every year, visit these sex clubs and brothels. Pimps control many of the women in the legal tolerance zones. The woman who set the secret service scandal in motion sought more money from the secret service agent than the puny $30 he’d paid her because she had to pay her (legal) pimp.
Just so we’re clear about what exactly is legal here and what is being facilitated.
The statistics are astronomical, aren’t they? What is it, something like 80% of the prostitutes in countries where it’s legal are victims of trafficking?