Raves which trivialize prostitution as “pimp ‘n ‘ho night – sexual attire desired” – are teaching men to sell, abuse and rape women (which is what pimps do) and they are teaching young women that it is fun to be sexually exploited. People from around the world joined together to boycott one such event.
Photographs © Melissa Farley (2001)
In early July, 2001, Vancouver social worker Jackie Lynne noticed in a weekly newspaper that an organization sponsoring rave parties was advertising a Pimp ‘N Ho themed party. We later found out that this theme originated with a Las Vegas USA organization, Paragon, which travelled and produced the shows.
The Pimp ‘N Ho rave was originally slated to be sponsored by local and international Vancouver businesses. These included English Bay Eye Care, Boy’s Co (a men’s clothing store), Fitness World, and Club Vibes, which advertised events online. Two multinational corporations, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Corona Beer, also planned to sponsor the event.
Jackie Lynne and Melissa Farley, who have collaborated in a research project documenting the experiences of 100 women in prostitution in Vancouver, decided to boycott the event, with the goal of educating the public about the mainstreaming of prostitution.
This web site describes how we organized our protest, and it is our hope that others will find the information helpful in organizing similar events in their own communities.
Here are some ideas we have about organizing a similar protest.
- Email is truly a miracle when it comes to organizing events like this. You can send out information very quickly and cheaply to a large number of people. See the ACTION ALERT, our first communication about this event which went out to a number of email lists.
- Think like a detective to organize a boycott. The more information, the better. Although we did not use it publicly, we were pleased to know that one of the sponsors of the event had been previously affiliated with Big Brothers of British Columbia.
- Don’t believe what the people on the other end of the phone tell you. With the exception of Fitness World, who were shocked that their organization was listed as a Pimp ‘N Ho sponsor, and immediately withdrew — all other sponsoring organizations at first downplayed the event, said it was just harmless fun, and basically suggested that we were silly.
- That’s until we mentioned the “b” word: boycott. Then they got a little more polite. We informed each potential sponsor that unless they immediately withdrew sponsorship, we would post their name and address up on a widely-viewed website as corporate sponsors of the mainstreaming of prostitution via a pimp ‘n ‘ho event.
- After one sponsor drops out, tell the other sponsors that one business has pulled out, and that that business name will be immediately taken off the boycott list. Be sure you do that.
- This phase of a public boycott/community protest is labor intensive. We were on the phone for about 20 hours, three days running. Everyone we called had to check with their boss, or their public relations Manager.
- But in the meantime, the ACTION ALERT was circulating, stores were calling us and asking us to take them off the boycott list. Once most of the sponsors withdrew, there was not enough money to pay for the event.
- We contacted the Vancouver and Canadian Press and issued a press statement. We set up a press conference, inviting all newspapers, TV, radio. We held the press conference at a Vancouver agency which helped girls escape prostitution.
- We wanted to use the energy and community outrage that was building about this event. We developed a list of signers of a protest statement, which included many local organizations, international organizations, and individuals.
- Eventually, all the organizations sponsoring the event withdrew their support, and the event was cancelled.
- We decided to hold a victory party at the originally planned location of the event, Vancouver’s Plaza of Nations.
- We made up “No Pimps” t-shirts for everyone (see graphics).
- We passed out informational leaflets about the Pimp ‘n ‘Ho protest, and about prostitution to passers-by.
- Never give up. Two women organized this, and hundreds of others joined in.
PROTEST THE PROMOTION OF PROSTITUTION
BOYCOTT SPONSORS OF VANCOUVER’S PIMP ‘N ‘Ho PARTY
As soon as possible please contact the following four sponsors – one is a men’s clothing store, the second is a fitness studio, the third is a hard (alcoholic) lemonade distributor with a down-home, folksy image, the last is an optical company.
Let them know that you object to their sponsoring this event, Pimp ‘N ‘Ho, which normalizes and promotes prostitution. Ask them to withdraw their sponsorship of the event.
If they do not withdraw sponsorship, let them know that you will boycott them, and promote the boycott to all of your friends and political acquaintances. Tell them how many email lists you are on.
The sponsors’ ad reads:
Pimp ‘N ‘Ho will be Vancouver”s 1st Adult Party Event, straight from Las Vegas! Sexual Attire is Desired!!
The following sponsors of Pimp ‘n ‘Ho are listed online in the ad for the event. You can see the Pimp ‘N ‘Ho ad online at: http://www.clubvibes.com/listings/tonight.asp?RealDate=7/20/2001
- ***** (men’s clothing store)
(under the name of each business,
we listed address,
fax, phone, website url,
and email so that they could be contacted.)
- Fitness *****
- ***** Lemonade
they don’t list their email but you can send them email off their website at http://
Contact distributors of ***** at ****** Group (Inc.)
- *****Eye Care
an optical company which is the main sponsor of this event
PROSTITUTION FACT SHEET
Plaza of Nations, Vancouver July 20 2001
Pimp ‘N ‘Ho theme parties are lies about prostitution.
Prostitution is not entertainment. Prostitution is not a job.
95% of 100 women prostituting in Vancouver said they wanted to get out of prostitution. (Farley & Lynne, 2001). 86% of these women were currently or previously homeless. Prostitution is sexual harassment, rape, battering, verbal abuse, and domestic violence. It is a racist practice, and a violation of human rights, and it’s also childhood sexual abuse. Prostitution is a result of male domination of women and a means of maintaining male domination of women.
Pimp ‘n ‘ho parties set up a model for how men can hurt women, and make a joke of it.
Pimp ‘n ‘ho parties teach men that pimping women is fun rather than what it really is – coercion, verbal abuse, battering, and sexual assault. Most women in prostitution have pimps, who are sometimes called boyfriends or managers. Pimps target girls or women who seem naive, lonely, homeless, and rebellious. At first, the attention and feigned affection from the pimp convinces her to “be his woman.” Pimps keep prostituted women in virtual captivity by verbal abuse – making a woman feel that she is utterly worthless: a toilet, a piece of trash; and by physical coercion – beatings and the threat of torture. (Barry, 1995). 85% of prostitutes are raped by pimps. (Council on Prostitution Alternatives, 1994)The answer to the question “why do prostitutes stay with their pimps?” is the same as the answer to the question “why do battered women stay with their batterers?” Humans bond emotionally to their abusers as a psychological strategy to survive under conditions of captivity.
Prostitution in Vancouver is the legacy of colonialism and gender inequality.
Prostitution is racist. Women are purchased for their appearance based on race and ethnic stereotyping. The 1996 Census lists 1.7% of Vancouver’s population as First Nations. The 1998/1999 Capture/Recapture data cites 7% of Vancouver/Richmond’s people as First Nations (Healing Ways Aboriginal Health & Service Review 1999). Either statistic suggests that First Nations women are grossly overrepresented in prostitution.52% of women in one study (Farley & Lynne, 2001) were First Nations, and in a second study of prostitution, 31% of the women were First Nations (Cunningham and Christensen, 2001).
Prostitution in Vancouver (and everywhere) is extremely violent. Prostitutes are the most raped group of women on the planet.
90% of 100 women in Vancouver interviewed by Farley & Lynne in 2001 had been physically assaulted. 78% had been raped during prostitution.
Cunningham & Christenson (PACE) interviewed 183 Vancouver women, and found that 68% had been physically assaulted in the previous 6 months, 68% were raped in the previous 6 months, 72% were kidnapped or confined in the previous 6 months, and 60% were victims of attempted murder in the previous 6 months
Women enter prostitution as young teenagers, not as worldly women who are playing ‘ho to have a good time.
The average age of entry into prostitution is getting younger, with the average age of entry now about 13-14 years. 52% of women in prostitution in Vancouver entered prostitution at the age of 16 or younger (Cunningham & Christensen, 2001) In prostitution, demand creates supply. Because men want to buy sex, masturbating into another human being is considered ‘normal sex.’ Here are quotes from three different johns:
- “It’s like going to have your car done, you tell them what you want done, they don’t ask, you tell them you want so and so done…” (McKeganey & Barnard, M,1996)
- I am a firm believer that all women… are prostitutes at one time or another” (Hite, 1981)
- Discussing his experience in a strip club, one man said, “This is the part of me that can still go hunting” (Frank, 1999)
All prostitution causes harm to women.
Whether it is being sold to a brothel, or whether it is being sexually abused in your family, running away from home, and then being pimped by one’s boyfriend, or whether you work at a lapdancing club — all these forms of prostitution hurt the women in it.
75% of women in escort prostitution had attempted suicide (Hunter, 1993)
Like combat veterans, women in prostitution suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychological reaction to extreme physical and emotional trauma. Symptoms are acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, flashbacks, emotional numbing, and being in a state of emotional and physical hyperalertness. 67% of those in prostitution from five countries had PTSD — a rate similar to that of battered women, rape victims, and state-sponsored torture survivors. (Farley, Baral, Kiremire, Sezgin, 1998)
“For a great part of 1992 I lived in a beautiful apartment. I drove my expensive car. I bought lovely clothes and traveled out of the country. For the first time in my 20 years as an adult woman, I paid my own way. There was no need to worry about my rent, my phone bill, all my debts. I felt invincible. And I was miserable to the core. I hated myself because I hated my life. All the things I came to possess meant nothing. I could not face myself in the mirror. Working in prostitution lost my soul.” (Survivor interviewed by Boyer, Chapman & Marshall 1993)
What should we do about prostitution?
When we understand that prostitution is violence against women, it makes no sense to legalize or decriminalize prostitution. The violence in prostitution is not a result of “social stigma” as some maintain. Decriminalizing or legalizing prostitution would normalize and regulate practices which are human rights violations, and which in any other context would be illegal: sexual harassment, physical assault, rape, captivity, economic coercion, or emotionally damaging (verbal abuse).
In 1999, the Swedish Parliament passed a law that criminalizes the buying of sexual services but not the selling of sexual services. This is a compassionate, social interventionist legal response to the cruelty of prostitution, which gets at the root of the problem: the demand side – pimps and johns. The Swedish law does not criminalize women in prostitution, instead, offering them needed social services such as housing, drug & alcohol treatment, healthcare, and job training.
The law seems to be working. For more information about prostitution, see http://www.prostitutionresearch.com
RELEASE WEDNESDAY JULY 18 2001
PIMP ‘N ‘HO PARTY FRIDAY JULY 20 IN VANCOUVER:
ENGLISH BAY EYE CARE MAINSTREAMS PROSTITUTION
(Press conference Friday July 20 at 8pm, Plaza of Nations)
Pimp ‘N ‘Ho is the theme of an adult party event that is to be held in Vancouver this week. English Bay Eye Care (605-685-7001), and Paragon are sponsors of this event,
Saying that it is just a “Las Vegas theme party with sexual attire desired,” Kevin and Mike of English Bay don’t seem to care about what prostitution is really like from the perspective of the woman or girl in prostitution.
From her perspective, prostitution is mostly rape, with some money tossed at her, or some food, or some drugs after the rape. Prostitution causes great physical and psychological harm to women and children, especially those who are poor, and especially those who are First Nations. Raves which trivialize prostitution as pimp ‘n ‘ho theme parties are teaching men to sell, abuse and rape women (which is what pimps do) and they are teaching young women that it is fun to be sexually exploited.
This week, five Vancouver corporate sponsors have withdrawn their economic support from the Pimp ‘N ‘Ho party. In addition, 23 organisations are currently protesting this event, including 7 Canadian organisations. We expect more organisations to join our protest soon and will disclose their names on Thursday July 19.
You are invited to attend a press conference which will be held at Plaza of Nations, Friday July 20 8pm.
We plan to demonstrate against Pimp ‘N ‘Ho on Friday evening at Plaza of Nations by distributing a fact sheet which describes what prostitution is — not the glossed-over version which is being promoted by English Bay Eye Care’s Pimp ‘N Ho event. We’ll hand these out to youth attending the event. We will also release preliminary findings from a study of prostitution in Canada conducted by Melissa Farley & Jackie Lynne. Prostitution in Canada is the result of both gender inequality and the colonization of Aboriginal peoples. This research is part of a 10-country study which documents the violence and racism intrinsic to all kinds of prostitution, including stripclub, lapdancing, brothel, and street prostitution. See some of this research at http://www.prostitutionresearch.com.
If (we hope) the event is cancelled before Friday, we will still be there, and we’ll celebrate. We’ll have dinner and a party for homeless women and youth at Plaza of Nations.
Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco
Justice for Girls, Vancouver
Prostitution Alternatives Counseling and Education (PACE), Vancouver
PROTEST THE MAINSTREAMING OF PROSTITUTION
Vancouver Canada July 20 2001
We join with the women and men of Vancouver who do not see prostitution as entertainment. Prostitution causes great harm to women and girls, especially poor women, and especially First Nations women. Raves which trivialize prostitution as “pimp ‘n ‘ho night – sexual attire desired” are teaching men to sell, abuse and rape women (which is what pimps do) and they are teaching young women that it is fun to be sexually exploited.
Corporate sponsors of events which promote prostitution deserve economic boycott and publicity regarding their advertising choices.
- Justice for Girls, Vancouver, BC. Canada
- Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE), Vancouver, BC, Canada
- Prostitution Research & Education, Vancouver, BC Canada
- Coalition against Trafficking in Women Canada
- Vancouver Native Health Service, Canada
- Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society, Vancouver, Canada
- Covenant House, Vancouver, Canada
- Theosis Ontario, Canada
- Council of Canadians , British Colombia Regional Organizing Office
- Escape, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
- Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution and Pornography and All Forms of Sexual Violence and Sexist Discrimination, Paris, France.
- Center for Traditional Medicine,
an agency of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, Olympia WA USA
- Living Without Violence and Exploitation – DIGNITY Listserve
(Representing 183 subscribers from 33 countries)
- The Angel Coalition Moscow, Russia
- Phoenix Women Take Back the Night
- Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
an NGO in special status with Economic Social Council of the United Nations
- Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco, California, USA
- Men for Gender Justice USA
- Creating Social Justice, California, USA
- Media Watch USA
- Equality Now, New York, NY USA
- Friends of Malaekahana, Hawaii USA
- International Centre for the Study of Violence and Abuse
The University of Sunderland, United Kingdom
- Breaking Free, St. Paul, Minnesota USA
- Victims of Violence Program, Cambridge Health Alliance
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
To contact any of these organizations, send your request to email@example.com, and clarify your interest in this issue, your message will be forwarded.
Michelle J. Anderson Villanova University School of Law Pennsylvania, USA
Tamara Bedic Twiss Butler Member National Organization for Women & Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, USA
Phyllis Chesler, New York, NY USA
Ann Cotton, Psychologist, Seattle WA USA
Nikki Craft Executive Director, ACLU, USA
Andrea Dworkin New York, NY USA
Matt Ezzell Women’s Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill USA
Wendy Freed, Psychiatrist, Seattle Washington, USA
Catharine A. MacKinnon Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Vicki Meyer, Women’s Studies, University of South Florida, USA
Linnea W. Smith, Psychiatrist and Member of North Carolina Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect
Linda Vogel, O’Brien, Oregon USA