In Search of Demystifying the Victim-Offender Dichotomy in NYC Sex Markets

Amalia Paladino | September 23 | 2:45 - 3:45 PM | Room 2592

In this presentation, we explore the often-overlooked realities of individuals who participate in illicit sex markets and we dismantle widespread misconceptions about violent victimization and constrained agency as they relate to sex trafficking. Our discussion focuses primarily on: gender disparities in pimping and the relationship dynamics between pimps and sex workers; non-dualistic life experiences of sex workers who are both perpetrators and victims of violent victimization; and intimate partner violence experienced by sex workers whose abusers are unaware of their participation in sex work. We discuss the findings from two ethnographic studies conducted in New York City between 2011 and 2014. The first study, led by the first author, involved a comprehensive examination of the life histories of 15 female and 15 transgender street sex workers between the ages 18 and 30. The second study, led by the second author, involved in-situ interviews with 85 male pimps/traffickers in Harlem housing projects. Findings suggest that misconceptions about the lives and experiences of individuals participating in illicit sex market may thwart public agency and community-based organization efforts to help victims of violence. The misguided “one size fits all” treatment of individuals in the sex industry may inadvertently push away individuals who both need and desire assistance.

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