Automatic: A term denoting the victim’s “automatic” routine when his/her pimp is out of town, in jail, or otherwise not in direct contact with those s/he is prostituting. Victims are expected to comply with the rules and often do so out of fear of punishment or because they have been psychologically manipulated into a sense of loyalty or love. All money generated on “automatic” is turned over to the pimp. This money may be used to support the pimp’s concession/phone account or to pay his/her bond if in jail.

Bottom: A female appointed by the trafficker/pimp to supervise the others and report rule violations. Operating as the trafficker’s “right hand,” the Bottom may help recruit and instruct victims, collect money, book hotel rooms, post ads, or inflict punishments.

Branding: A tattoo or carving on a victim that indicates ownership by a trafficker/pimp/gang.

Brothel: Apartments, houses, trailers, or any facility where sex is sold on the premises. Most brothels have security measures to prevent attacks by other criminals or provide a warning if law enforcement are nearby. The “security” also serves to keep the victims in. The places often are guarded (and open) 24 hours a day, but some have closing times at which point victims may be locked in from the outside. Victims may be kept in this location for extended periods of time or rotated to other locations every few days.

Caught a Case: A term that refers to when a pimp or victim has been arrested and charged with a crime.

Choosing Up: The process by which a different pimp takes “ownership” of a victim. Victims are instructed to keep their eyes on the ground at all times. According to traditional pimping rules, when a victim makes eye contact with another pimp (accidentally or on purpose), s/he is choosing that pimp. If the original pimp wants the victim back, s/he must pay a fee to the new pimp. When this occurs, the victim will be forced to work harder to replace the money lost in the transaction. (See Reckless Eyeballing)

Circuit: A series of cities among which prostituted people are moved. 

Coercion: Under the TVPA, coercion is defined as (A) threats of serious harm or physical restraint; (B) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or (C) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.

Commercial sex act: Under the TVPA, commercial sex act means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC): In 1996, the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children defined CSEC as sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object. CSEC includes the prostitution of children, child pornography, child sex tourism, and other forms of transactional sex where a child engages in sexual activities to have key needs fulfilled, such as food, shelter, or access to education. It includes forms of transactional sex where the sexual abuse of children is not stopped or reported by household members, due to benefits derived by the household from the perpetrator.

Daddy: The term a pimp will often require his victim to call him.

Date: The time and place where a prostituted person is scheduled to meet a buyer, known as a “john.”

Debt-bondage: An illegal practice in which traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (often relating to the victims’ living expenses and transport into the country) and that they must pledge their personal services either for labor or commercial sex to repay the debt.

Demand-side approach to combating sex trafficking: This approach focuses on targeting the demand side of sex trafficking by enhancing and encouraging enforcement of penalties against those who buy commercial sex.

Domestic trafficking: Refers to the trafficking of U.S. citizens within the United States. Most often seen in the sex trafficking of persons by a pimp.

Exit Fee: The money a pimp will demand from a victim who is thinking about trying to leave. It will be an exorbitant sum, to discourage leaving. Most pimps never let their victims leave freely.

Family/Folks: The term used to describe the other individuals under the control of the same pimp, who generally plays the role of father (or “Daddy”) while the group fulfills the need for a “family.” (See Wifeys/Wife-in-Law/Sister Wife and Stable)

Human trafficking: The illegal trading, either nationally or internationally, of human beings for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor; a modern-day form of slavery. It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, and second largest, tied with the illegal arms industry and second only to the drug trade.

Involuntary domestic servitude: A form of forced labor involving domestic workers in private residences. Such an environment, which often socially isolates domestic workers, is conducive to exploitation because authorities cannot inspect private property as easily as formal workplaces.

Involuntary servitude: Under the TVPA, involuntary servitude includes a condition of servitude induced by means of (a) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that, if the person did not enter into or continue in such condition, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint or (b) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.

“John” (aka Buyer or “Trick”): An individual who pays for or trades something of value for sexual acts.

Kiddie Stroll: An area known for prostitution that features younger victims.

Labor trafficking: Under the TVPA, labor trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery (22 U.S.C. § 7102).

Lot Lizard: Derogatory term for a person who is being prostituted at truck stops.

Madam: An older woman who manages a brothel, escort service or other prostitution establishment. She may work alone or in collaboration with other traffickers.

Out of Pocket:  The phrase describing when a victim is not under control of a pimp but working on a pimp-controlled track, leaving her vulnerable to threats, harassment, and violence in order to make her “choose” a pimp. This may also refer to a victim who is disobeying the pimp’s rules.

Pimp: A person who controls and financially benefits from the commercial sexual exploitation of another person. The relationship can be abusive and possessive, with the pimp using techniques such as psychological intimidation, manipulation, starvation, rape and/or gang rape, beating, confinement, threats of violence toward the victim’s family, forced drug use, and the shame from these acts to keep the sexually exploited person under control.

  • Finesse Pimp/Romeo Pimp: One who prides himself on controlling others primarily through psychological manipulation. Although he may shower his victims with affection and gifts (especially during the recruitment phase), the threat of violence is always present.

  • Gorilla (or Guerrilla) Pimp: A pimp who controls his victims almost entirely through physical violence and force.

Pimp Circle: When several pimps encircle a victim to intimidate through verbal and physical threats in order to discipline the victim or force her to choose up.

Quota: A set amount of money that a trafficking victim must make each night before she can come “home.” Quotas are often set between $300 and $2000. If the victim returns without meeting the quota, she is typically beaten and sent back out on the street to earn the rest. Quotas vary according to geographic region, local events, etc.

Reckless Eyeballing: A term which refers to the act of looking around instead of keeping your eyes on the ground. Eyeballing is against the rules and could lead an untrained victim to “choose up” by mistake.

Renegade: A person involved in prostitution without a pimp.

Seasoning: A combination of psychological manipulation, intimidation, gang rape, sodomy, beatings, deprivation of food or sleep, isolation from friends or family and other sources of support, and threatening or holding hostage of a victim’s children. Seasoning is designed to break down a victim’s resistance and ensure compliance.

Sex industry: The sex industry consists of businesses that either directly or indirectly provide sex-related products and services or adult entertainment.

Sex tourism: The World Tourism Organisation, a specialized agency of the UN, defines sex tourism as “trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination.”

Sex trafficking: Under the TVPA, sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 U.S.C. § 7102; 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(a)).

Squaring Up: Attempting to escape or exit prostitution.

Stable: A group of victims who are under the control of a single pimp.

Staying in pocket: A slang term for the practice of forbidding prostituted women from observing street or establishment names or general surroundings during ""dates"" in order to keep them isolated.

T visa: A type of visa allowing former victims of human trafficking to remain in the US if they agree to assist law enforcement in testifying against perpetrators. Aside from a willingness to testify, the visa is available to people who would suffer extreme hardship if deported to their native countries.

The Game/The Life: The subculture of prostitution, complete with rules, a hierarchy of authority, and language. Referring to the act of pimping as ‘the game’ gives the illusion that it can be a fun and easy way to make money, when the reality is much harsher. Prostituted persons will say they’ve been “in the life.”

Track (aka Stroll or Blade): An area of town known for prostitution activity. This can be the area around a group of strip clubs and pornography stores or a particular stretch of street.

Trade Up/Trade Down: To move a victim like merchandise between pimps. A pimp may trade one girl for another or trade with some exchange of money.

Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report): Produced by the TIP Office, the Report tracks the anti-trafficking efforts of every foreign country. The U.S. government uses the TIP Report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to target resources on prevention, protection, and prosecution programs. In the TIP Report, the Department of State places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in § 108 of the TVPA.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) (2000): The TVPA was the first comprehensive federal law to address human trafficking. The law provided a three-pronged approach to combating human trafficking: prevention through public awareness programs and a monitoring and sanctions program led by the Department of State; protection through a visa and services for foreign national victims; and prosecution through new federal crimes. This legislation was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, and 2008.

Turn Out: To be forced into prostitution (verb) or a person newly involved in prostitution (noun).

Wifeys/Wife-in-Law/Sister Wife: What women and girls under the control of the same pimp call each other. (See Family/Folks and Stable.)