A Harlem Sex Market: Pimps, Bottoms and the Nexus of Caring and Cash


September 23 | 2:45 - 3:45 PM | Room Ingman

Third-party work arrangements often originate in private social spheres (see Dank et al., 2014; Marcus et al., 2012; May et al., 2000). In sex markets, these overlapping spheres can foster a complex intimacy and economy nexus. Zelizer (2000) explores the sociology of purchases of intimacy using three approaches: ‘hostile worlds,’ ‘nothing but,’ and ‘connected lives.’ In the hostile worlds paradigm, if intimate and economic spheres collide, they are contaminated and chaos ensues. In the nothing but paradigm, spheres blend quite normally, but with a focus on uneven power dynamics. ‘Connected lives’ is where intimacy and economy co-exist through on-going negotiations some deeper connections form. Pimps’ perspectives about the economy and intimacy nexus map onto Zelizer’s three-fold typology.

Eighty-five third parties are interviewed in housing projects in Harlem about their labor, including their approach with sex workers. The crux of understanding this nexus is the relationship between a third-party and his ‘bottom bitch,’ (main sex worker). Third parties articulate specific management philosophies; however, their approaches are not static. Their intimate feelings for bottoms can develop over time or romantic relationships transform to friendship or distant business relationship. Based on comparisons of median weekly income, those who are more intimate with workers generate higher earnings.

Presentation Objectives:

·         To explore pimps’ perspectives about the rules of intimacy with sex workers.

·         To understand work/intimacy arrangements between pimps and sex workers.

·         To investigate how arrangements may impact pimps’ work conduct.

To explore how the rule of intimacy in this work arena impact economic returns.

About the Presenter