Anti-trafficking group blasts Amazon over pimp manuals
Human Trafficking | Books sold at online retailer give detailed instructions on how to trap women in the sex trade
by Gaye Clark
Posted 8/09/16, 12:00 pm
The New Mexico Advocacy Coalition, a group of 11 nonprofits and churches that support sex-trafficking survivors, is petitioning Amazon to stop selling books that offer detailed instructions on how to become a pimp.
Christine Barber, director of Street Safe New Mexico, a group serving homeless women in Albuquerque, said the only thing more shocking than the books’ titles, are some of the reviews. “Required reading for the pimp in training. Written as an instructional manual, not an autobiography,” one reader commented.
“At first I thought, no way. This can’t be real,” Barber said. “How can this be a thing?”
A quick search on Amazon reveals at least 15 books, including one titled, The Gospel of the Game. The author, Jimmie Starr, is depicted hanging on a cross with a large gold chain around his neck, bearing the initials JS.
“He’s no joke,” Barber told me. “It shows how pimps truly feel about themselves—they think what they do is Christ-like. None of this is appropriate.”
While such books seem shockingly inappropriate fare for Amazon, the online retailer’s guidelines on book content are rather vague: “We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.” Another part of the guidelines note, “What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.” But it’s less clear how these guidelines are enforced.
Amazon has been accused of selling inappropriate and illegal books before. In 2013, the digital magazine Kernel reported “hundreds of e-books that celebrate graphic rape, incest, and ‘forced sex’ with young girls available for sale from online retailer Amazon.” The next day, the news outlet noted Amazon had quietly removed the specific titles referenced in its article, leaving 25 others on its virtual bookshelves.
And Amazon isn’t the only retailer selling pimp instruction manuals. Other titles, such as The Pimp’s Bible: The Sweet Science of Sin, are available at Jet.com, Barnes and Noble, and Walmart. Barber said her group may consider petitioning other retailers as well.
Amazon did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.
While anti-trafficking activists decry the sale of such books, several are required reading for Anaheim, Calif., vice squads and prosecutors. The Orange County Register reported police have convicted human traffickers using information gleaned from the books. The department’s unorthodox curriculum also includes the 1999 HBO documentary Pimps Up, Ho’s Down and articles from PimpFeet.com, a website that claims to “explain it all” to the would-be pimp.
Investigators with Anaheim’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking unit believe the material is part of the reason for their success. In 2011, the unit handled five sex trafficking cases. Now they average 60 a year.
Barber said the mandatory reading only proves her point that would-be pimps are using the books as instruction guides. By selling them, she added, Amazon validates the traffickers’ behavior: “Someone needs to tell them that’s not okay.”
Gaye is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course.