That’s right, gentlemen. Step right up. In 48 lessons, you too can learn how to collect, manage, and sell your very own stable of prostitutes. You too can pimp your way to fame and fortune. Learn the game from this industry-recognized pimp. The American dream can be yours!
I wish I were joking.
But this is a real book, just arrived on my local library shelves. And how do I, as a feminist, feel about this latest title?
So many feelings.
If you doubt that mainstream American culture remains deeply misogynist, this book will settle the question.
The author portrays himself as an entrepreneur from the ghetto, a real American-dream type guy who pulled himself up by the bootstraps. And how? By selling other human beings. And even though he’s black, the irony is lost on him because, after all, these are women. According to Pimpin’ Ken, their happiness can be bought with a shopping trip. So everything’s fine. Right?
This is capitalism unleashed, ladies and gentlemen.
- Male ego for sale: The book’s cover copy claims that pimps have risen to “mythical status” in current American culture, citing multiple reality shows as evidence. The argument is compelling. Prostitutes remain fairly invisible. Pimps seem to be everywhere. And it makes a kind of sense. While the rest of us stumble uncertainly toward greater gender equality, the Pimp-as-hero remains immune. The Pimp continues to operate as if women’s bodies are real estate to be bought (by him) and rented out (to tricks). And not only does he pull this off. He makes a killing. In an age when articles seem everywhere to proclaim the extinction of half the species, from “The End of Men” to “Are Men Useless?”, one can hardly blame male viewers from taking refuge in what must feel like a fantasy world. What could be more fortifying than an alternative reality where women are investments rather than competitors?
- If women were horses: From cover to cover, the author refers to women as bitches. Not as a term of disrespect. But simply as fact. Something taken for granted. Once purchased, they become hos. And hos, like racehorses, are investments he hopes to get a good ten years out of. This is hardly unique to the sex industry. More and more American employees complain of the dehumanizing view their employers take of them—as investments. This is just the trend, taken to its logical end. Starting, of course, with the populations that people are least likely to object to being exploited—lower class women, particularly low-income women of color and foreign-born victims of human trafficking.
- Winner takes all: Women have a right to their earnings. There’s a reason feminists call prostitution “sex work.” It’s work. This isn’t recreation. These women turn tricks to earn money—not because they’re out to get some. But because of U.S. law, prostitutes in this country have few protections and no recourse against exploitation from their pimps. The situation is different for sex workers in the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, and sex workers can unionize and educate one another about protection—legal and physical. The benefits of transparency are all on the side of the women—who can be their own employers. Legalization decreases the women’s vulnerability and limits the pimps power over them. Instead of a black market in human beings, it’s recognized for what it is: a powerful industry in which the employees deserve legal say.
The very fact of the book’s publication says a great deal about American culture—our celebration of profit over human rights and our acceptance of male control over women.
The buying and selling of women’s bodies for male titillation remains normal, even amusing to us.
Still not convinced American culture endorses the subjugation of women? Imagine if this book were about buying and selling a “stable” of black men—for white entertainment. Racism is still very much alive and well in the U.S. But we hope we’re past slavery. We can’t stand the same practice along racial lines. But gender?