Have you ever had a conversation with a friend where you both were using the same word but neither of you felt understood? There are times when the same words can have totally different meanings. Knowing how someone uses a word is just as important as knowing the word itself. If we want to understand then we seek to understand the deeper meaning or fuller meaning of the word, so we won’t be led into confusion and misunderstanding. In communication we get to listen as well as talk and we get to clarify and continue conversations until there is understanding even if there isn’t agreement.
Any parent who has used the word “maybe” knows this. The child doesn’t hear no, and so they try to get the “maybe” to mean “yes”. There are language gaps and parents have expectations that, if met, the “maybe” could turn into a “no” or a “yes”. It all depends on the situation and the meaning of the “maybe”. The subtly of a “maybe” is lost on ears that cannot understand.
The language we use and the meaning behind the words is extremely important in our quest to be known. It is important in preventing sex trafficking and prostitution as well. There are words used in this world that others might not know what we are talking about. If we can get some understanding around the different use of words hopefully will be able to speak into people’s lives at a deeper level.
A brief example is the word “The life” is used to refer to someone who is in prostitution. They are in ‘the life’. This word initially confused me because prostitution doesn’t seem like a life I’d like to live. It doesn’t sound very alive to me. I think of the life as being close with my family and friends and enjoying one another’s company. I had to hear the words ‘the life’ a number of times before I realized what was being talked about.
Some of these words are taken from the glossary at the beginning of Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children A Call to Actionby: Linda Smith with Cindy Coloma. This is an important book to read. It paints a picture of what it might look like to be in the life and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone who desires to help fight sex trafficking.
The life or the game: The life or the game are terms used for what it means to be in the underground life of prostitution. Whether you are in prostitution of your own choosing or controlled by a pimp or even if are a pimp, you would consider yourself in the life or game. Being in the life is being a part of a different world where different rules apply. There are specific rules in the life that you must abide by. Rules like for women are things like: you must not look another man in the eyes, you must not turn on your pimp if you get caught. There is a definite hierarchy in the life, and you must learn your place and role in the life. Once you are in the life you need to learn quick if you are going to survive.
Turned out: Being turned out is the act of a pimp turning a woman into a prostitute. It can involve; violence, rape (often times repeated rape), forced drug use and all sorts of unimaginable manipulation all for the purpose of breaking down the victims will and making them submissive. Being turned out is the controlling of one person to make them an object that will do whatever they are asked to do, no matter the cost to themselves personally. I have heard numerous stories about women being turned out and these stories fall into the stories I will not share category. They break my heart and it is so difficult for me to imagine one person treating another like this. In turning a person out, pimps learn evidenced-base phycology on other humans to break them down. This evidence was not done in an academic setting, it has been conducted on the streets for many years; many a woman has been broken. I don’t know what it would take to break my will to the point of these women, but I imagine it would suck the hope right out of a person. In their difference, some women resist more than others.
Familial Language: Words like Daddy, Family, Sister Wife or Sister in Law are used in the life to describe those you are close to. There are many women in the life who did not have great childhood experiences with their family, and their longing for a family allows them to come into a new type of family. Those running the game take what should be good and distort it to manipulate those who are vulnerable.
Stable: A stable is group of women that is being controlled by one pimp. A pimp might refer to all the girls under their control as his stable. This dehumanizes women and turns them into less than human into work horses. It is a furthering of the humiliation that these women endure day to day. When you are able to turn a person in your mind into a creature instead of a human, you treat them accordingly. Abuse and positioning can be rampant in a stable. Pimps try to get the women to compete for who will be his top girl, known as a bottom bitch. The stable will try to win the pimp’s affections by getting more money than the other women.
Turning a trick: A trick is the sexual act that is performed. It is the act itself. It is like she is tricking the buyer out of their money.
Quota: A quota is the amount of money that a prostitute must bring in before being allowed back into the stable. Their pimp will set a dollar amount and as soon as that is reached, they are allowed to be done for the night. The prostitutes would have to turn tricks until they collect enough money. There are no excuses that some pimps will accept before letting a woman or girl back until she gets his money. They could have been robbed, put in jail or not paid for a sex act and none of that would matter if she doesn’t bring home the money. This is the prostitute’s job to go out there and get the pimp’s money. Until she reaches the quota, her work hours continue.
Survival sex: Survival sex is when a sexual act is traded for a basic human need. Trading sex for things like food or shelter or even protection is common in street life. We all need these things but when poverty meets desperation survival sex can and does happen. It is not an exchange of money but an exchange of services. If someone is addicted to drugs this can be in exchange for drugs as well. Any service or goods that meet a basic need exchanged for a sexual act is considered survival sex.
Age of Consent: The age of sexual consent in the United States is 18. Anyone younger than that cannot give legal consent to perform any sexual act. This would include lewd or pornographic pictures. This is an important distinction. Whereas some women over the age of 18 want to be prostitutes, legally a girl under the age of 18 cannot give consent, even if she thinks she wants to.
Sexual exploitation: Taking advantage of someone sexually for financial or personal gain. This can be pictures, videos or actual sexual acts. This can take place at any age. I will not list all the things that are sexual exploitation, you can read different accounts if you’d like. But there are things that I might mention here. Even subjecting a minor to pornography or explicate sexual conversations can be exploitation. Anything that can be deemed as inappropriate sexual behavior is sexual exploitation. If you ever have any questions on whether something is or is not sexual exploitation it would be good to talk to the authorities. That can be law enforcement or even a nurse at the hospital.
Sex Trafficking: When force, fraud or coercion is used to get someone to perform a sex act without any benefit to the individual. Trafficking does not have to mean movement across any boundaries. Trafficking can happen right where you’ve always lived. Any sexual exploitation of a minor where there is financial gain is automatically sex trafficking. A minor cannot make or be made to make any money from a sexual act, picture or video, without qualifying as sex trafficking. It doesn’t matter if force, fraud, or coercion was used or not. Age is an important factor in trafficking. A person over the age of 18 can work in the sex industry of their own accord. They can work at strip clubs or in pornography if they’d like, but no one under the age of 18 can. If you think that you have seen sex trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888; they are of great service and can direct the correct people to work to end it.
These words are important to know. They will help us as we continue to look at this issue in our community. We can hear these words and seek understanding. There are of course more words that you can learn, but these are a good start. As we seek to understand different elements in our community we can help prevent sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and prostitution.