There’s been a lot of media coverage in the last week of the Twitter ‘feud’ between Demi Moore and Kim Kardashian. Yet, the glaring omission from all the articles, blogs and commentary is any real analysis of Demi’s point — that we glamorize and glorify pimp culture, use terminology that seems to legitimize the practice, and in doing so, ignore the fact that pimps are modern-day slave-owners.
I’m the founder and executive director of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, the nation’s largest service provider to girls and young women who’ve been commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked. Every day, I witness the impact that pimps have on the lives of girls in this country. Girls are left with physical and psychological scars from the brutal tactics of adult men who prey upon some of the most vulnerable children in our society and then sell them for profit over and over again.
Demi, and her husband, Ashton, have met some of the girls GEMS serves, heard their horrific stories about being under pimp control and have taken action. They launched the DNA Foundation with the goal of ending child sex trafficking both in the U.S. and abroad and recently, donated a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant to support GEMS services for survivors of domestic trafficking. Both Demi and Ashton have been raising the alarm about the epidemic of child sex trafficking that’s happening right here in the U.S. to American girls for over a year now, and yet it’s an exchange with Kim Kardashian that has garnered the most attention.
Kim Kardashian, like most people in this country, is probably totally unaware of the harsh reality of pimping and thinks of it in the context of a Jay-Z song, a 50 Cent video, an Oscar-winning song and movie, or a caricature from the 1970s. I’m sure if Kim knew the real stories, tears and scars behind the glorified images of pimps, she’d think differently about the language she used. I’d encourage her and anyone else who uses ‘pimpin’ as a verb to watch our Showtime documentary ‘Very Young Girls’ to learn the truth about pimp culture.
Ultimately though, this issue isn’t about Kim or Demi. It’s about the girls and young women whose lives are systematically destroyed by pimps and traffickers. It’s about changing our societal acceptance of pimps and ‘pimpin’ and calling it what it really is: trafficking and slaveholding. Over 100,000 children in this country are exploited through the commercial sex industry each year and the median age of entry into the sex industry is estimated to be between 12 and 14 years old. If those facts haven’t been enough to start a national dialogue about domestic trafficking of girls in the U.S., perhaps a Twitter exchange between two celebrities will be.