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The Players’ Ball events are as sleazy as the criminal practice that they celebrate pimping or as President Bush appropriately called their crime: modern-day slavery. This year marked Chicago’s 30th annual pimps’ party a $300-a-ticket event that included the women they control, the people who enable their human slavery to continue, and the “pimp culture” they promote through music, videos, media and other aspects of the entertainment industry. The blatant glorification of prostitution includes awards for various “pimps of the year” [person who made the most money by prostituting women] as well as commercial videos and interviews with celebrity pimps.

But this year, the pimps didn’t prevail; protesters got more attention than the flashy “players.” Maywood, Illinois, the unlikely location of the Chicago event, organized a protest including survivors of prostitution, activists, advocates, legislators, community leaders and social workers. The mayor in Maywood, Henderson Yarbrough, said that the protest was planned to free victims from “the chains and restraints of the pimps who are a detriment to the health, safety, welfare and economy of the village as a whole.”

Protestors wore signs: “Pimps leave our town.” “Pimps don’t play here.” “Slavery Still Exists.”

Donna M. Hughes, professor, University of Rhode Island, called the ball a “celebration of slavery” and told about pimps whose “promises turn into beatings, rapes and torture as young women are forced to earn monetary quotas every night.” Former prostitutes told about the abuse they faced from pimps like those who were to be honored at the ball.

The survivors objected to the term “players” as a description of the criminals who profit from kidnapping, racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion. These criminals, said the protestors, profit from sex trafficking and assaulting women and children.

Amazingly, the Players’ Ball is openly advertised and supported by celebrities and corporate sponsors. In fact, the Chicago event received unprecedented hype including the presence of so-called “bishop” Don Juan, who claims to be the “king of pimps” and prances around in a flamboyant manner wearing flashy suits and ostentatious jewelry. Once a pimp, Don Juan now pretends to be a preacher, but he continues to promote the pimps’ party and to cultivate the pimp persona.

Perhaps the worst features of the balls are the attitudes of the pimps who enjoy giving advice and expounding on their philosophy. One pimp described his job as teaching girls that “it’s better to get paid for it than to do it for free.” Another stressed the importance of letting the girls know, “I’m the boss, the daddy. She brings the money home.” They share a common view that a pimp has to show the woman that “she’s good for only one thing.”

The worst attitude, though, comes through in the advice: “You have to control a woman’s mind without physical abuse by selling her a dream. Besides, if you beat a woman and destroy her face, how can she get your money?”

Even so, almost 90 percent of victims are physically abused and more than 80 percent are sexually abused. Girls typically must earn $500 a day and virtually all of it goes to the pimp who pays her pocket change, while he earns upwards of $200,000 per year per girl. These earnings, of course, don’t usually get reported; instead pimps engage in money laundering and income tax evasion, despite the fact that they openly advertise in newspapers, tabloids and on the Internet.

From one-third to two-thirds of the victims (depending on location) enter prostitution before age 16. The pimps and/or the johns subject these girls to constant violence over one-third suffer broken bones at some point and more than half sustain injuries to their mouth or teeth. More than two-thirds have hurt themselves or tried to commit suicide. Around 20 percent of the victims have been raped more than 10 times. Probably the most telling statistic of all is that nearly 90 percent of the women want to escape prostitution. Often, the girls are recruited into prostitution because they are homeless and then they are kept under the control of the criminal networks through brainwashing, coercion, force and abuse.

So, why have a pimps’ party to glorify a violent and demeaning criminal subculture? One of “Bishop” Juan’s sons, Mike, claims that the party is a “family business”; it’s not just for the prostitutes and pimps. Besides, off-duty Chicago police officers provide security.

Other supporters of the ball use the tired old euphemisms that the pimps are really entrepreneurs who boost employment; after all, the “ladies of the night are doing it because they want to do it.”

This year, though, dozens of protestors testified that prostitution is not glamorous or cute; it is a crime and those who profit from terrorizing teenage victims are not “cool.” In fact, by 10 p.m. this year, only a couple dozen partygoers had arrived for the ball.

All in all, it was a good night for the protestors!

For more information:

For a report on the protest, see Donna M. Hughes’ article from December 3, 2005.
Maywood Players’ Ball Stirs Protest
Suburbs Residents Protest Pimp Party
Players’ Ball an Offensive, Ironic Insult

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