Discussion: Pimps, Pride, and Politics

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Mon, 12 Oct 1998 16:17:35 -0700 (PDT)

For some reason, this message will not post, so I am forwarding it myself.
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From: "Victoria Marinelli" <vmarinelli@hotmail.com>
To: stop-traffic@solar.cini.utk.edu
Subject: Pimps, Pride, and Politics
Date: Thu, 08 Oct 1998 22:20:04 PDT

Carol Leigh writes:

"If I call myself a queer or a fag because I am homosexual, the terms
are still insulting and a form of attack when used by someone who is
targeting me in a negative way. The same is true for other terms that
have negative implications that have been used against various people...
The problem I have with the way the term pimp is used is that in it's
most negative sense..."

Perhaps it would be appropriate for us to have a "Pimp Pride" march
then. It would probably be terribly "fascist" of me to oppose such a
thing. Indeed, as Urvashi Vaid, the previous director of NGLTF
indicated in her interview with Sarah Shulman in "Girlfriends" some
years back, it would probably also be "fascist" of me to oppose a
contingency of bonafide Nazis who would choose to march in (in other
words: infiltrate) a gay pride celebration. As these ludicrous
distortions, taken to their logical conclusions, would have it, it would
be wrong of me to object (exercise my free speech rights) if a Nazi Pimp
contingency wanted to march. "Let's hear it for the goose-steppers!"
Meanwhile the ones being trampled are accused of censorship. (If
desired, see my piece in this Fall's Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review for
some elaboration on these themes.)

As the woman who founded one city's annual Queer Pride march (Olympia,
Washington, in 1991), I'm pretty well versed in queer identity politics,
and in the traditions concerning queer pride. I recall after that first
glorious rally one man taking the open mike, saying that he was a
pedophile. Previous speakers had included lesbians, gays, bisexuals,
and transgendered persons; therefore, he reasoned, his implied exclusion
from our community constituted nothing less than censorship and
oppression. The stunned terror in the faces of hundreds of men and
women, who had been brave enough to show up for our first march, told me
I was not alone in my objection. I took back the mike. There was a
moment of silence. Then I spoke, saying that we as a community would
not tolerate the behavior of sexual abuse perpetrators, masquerading as
our comrades in arms. That because the GLBT community was wrongly
criminalized, did not mean that correctly criminalized pedophiles had
the right to latch onto us, leeching "queer identity" from us in the

Not one other person stepped forward to object to the pedophile's
presence. They were too terrified. But in the weeks afterward, I was
virtually accosted in the streets by queer men and women who thanked me
for standing up for us, for refusing to let our community be slandered
and undermined.

And so, Carol, it is with pimps. Pimps are not prostitutes. I don't
know what's so hard to understand about that. If a serial killer is
found to have been sexually abused in his childhood, do we then say that
he is not a serial killer? Maybe he's a "ritualized death manager".
Prostitutes are raped, criminalized, forced into a caste. It's not at
all surprising that some of these women and men become pimps later --
what other knowledge, besides from systems of prostitution, have they
had access to? I don't want to repeat myself here -- I already
responded to some of this in my reply to John Davies' "Influencers" post
-- but I'm floored at the indignation being raised on stop-traffic (and
elsewhere, obviously) when it comes to confronting pimps.

While I am troubled by this, Carol, I am not unmoved by your arguments
that anti-pimping laws sometimes work against prostituted women. Almost
all laws work against prostituted women -- this is a feature which is
endemic to all societies reliant upon a prostitute-caste. But I also
know that anti-pimping laws have been very helpful for many prostituted
women. Obviously, we who are working in earnest against trafficking,
are going to have to get creative in response to these challenges. Call
me crazy, but I DON'T think that rallying to attack anti-pimping
legislation, as the organizations with which you are affiliated have
done, is a credible answer. Rather, those who would devote energy to
such enterprises are providing us with a clear indication of their
alliances, which no language of pride or politics can begin to

Victoria Marinelli

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