“Girls Like Us” by Rachel Lloyd is a harrowing journey into the dark world of commercial sexual exploitation, challenging the notion of prostitution as a ‘choice.’ Lloyd exposes the harsh reality faced by minors coerced into this life, debunking societal myths with compelling arguments. Her book is a clarion call to recognize the victims, often children, ensnared in exploitation, lacking the autonomy to choose their path, pushing for a reevaluation of our understanding and response to this global crisis.

According to Rachel Lloyd, a vulnerable family that strips its members of love is one of the main risk factors that unite both groups of society. Sexual exploitation is believed to be the attribute of the lower strata that perceives it as the shrewd way of earning money due to the possible absence of education. Nevertheless, the author of the book reveals the statistics, showing that children from the middle class are even more likely to find themselves in the pimp’s arms. The reason is that lack of understanding in the family of any welfare causes inner wounds that demand some remedy to heal them. In this case, the best example that can help explain such a statement is the life story of Rachel Lloyd herself that eventually pushed her to the creation of GEMS center. Indeed, her awkward age coincided with her mother’s alcoholism that ruined all relationships between the closest relatives.

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Lloyd’s closest person in the life looked for some salvation from loneliness in wine and beer, believing that the most important goal to achieve was to find a husband. Based on this way of thinking, many women are ready to bear any inconveniences in a man’s behavior as they are of the opinion that women themselves must try harder and work on relations even if some inconveniences imply the good old alcoholism like in Lloyd’s case. Then, poor single mothers seem not to realize that alcoholism is not the aspect of human nature that requires a compromise like the habit to add some alcohol in their coffee. Moreover, such an aspect either demands an immediate break-up or treatment, without having to wait for the one to decide to fight this problem. Thus, in multiple tries to find true love or a father for the only child, or simply to make their life more meaningful, women are very easy to forget about the feelings and longings of their children whose only fear to lose their mother’s love gradually becomes real.

The need to be loved is as natural as breathing, and that is why, when finding love becomes more and more difficult, children are especially persistent in finding a replacement. Girls, in particular, perceive any man, who offers them an ice cream, as someone who cares for them. Blinded by this attention, they are in a great danger of becoming pimps’ victims. In the case of commercial sexual exploitation, man is always the center of the problem because many girls have a perverted notion of love and man’s love in particular, as they are often raped by their brothers, step-fathers, or they simply suffer from outrage from the early years of their lives. This risk factor also predisposes girls to a further sexual exploitation as long as they endeavor to find another kind of love that does not hurt, or if accomplishing this goal, they consider violence as a natural part of relations between a man and a woman.

Complexity of Choice

In her book “Girl Like Us”, Rachel Lloyd talks about the possible reasons that push young girls into commercial sexual exploitation by older men in society. From the book, one can see that most teenage girls have fallen into commercial sexual exploitation due to the social challenges they encounter, yet no one is ready to listen to them and, at the same time, love them. These young adolescents are forced to make decisions that, as they think, could bring some lasting solution to the challenges they face daily. Thus, young girls encounter challenges and difficulties in their lives, but society always terms it that they have made their own rightful choices to join the commercial sex industry.

Lloyd explains that most teenage girls in the commercial sex industry make choices that are complex in nature because of the hardships they face. Some of them lack parental love, care, and attention; some grapple with looking for finances to cater for their parents who are always high on drugs or alcohol. Moreover, mothers of some girls are even the commercial sex industry themselves. Additionally, some of these young girls have either been raised in foster homes or group homes where thy had been exposed to either violence or exploited sexually. These challenges, faced by young teenage girls like Rachel Lloyd at the age of 13, force them to make difficult choices and plunge their life into more danger than before. For instance, when Rachel Lloyd was in the first grade, she was disturbed by the fact that she did not know her father and her stepfather was brutal to her mother and to her. This thought always bothered her until the moment when she decide to look for the love she wanted from her father in older men. This implied that she had made a choice of getting into the ‘life’.

Rachel Lloyd openly states that there is a hole in her heart that yearns for the love of her father. Consequently, she was vulnerable enough, which prompted her to join the commercial sex industry at a tender age. Nevertheless, she was not aware of the complexity of the choice she had made to enter this industry at her age as she only wanted fatherly love from older men. Tiffany also did not understand the complexity of her choice to join the sex industry. She openly finds Charming, who later becomes her pimp, as understanding and loving. She ran away from the group home, where, as she explained, she had lost her virginity to her boyfriend when she was only nine. She explains that the social workers at her group home always knew her as a silent girl who kept all things to herself. She is fascinated by how she is open to Charming, and she does not hesitate when he welcomes her to his home to live with her and love her. These scenarios highlight that the social life challenges of poverty and neglect in addition to abandonment have forced young girls in the United States to join the commercial sex industry quite early in their lives.

While reading Rachel Lloyd’s stories, the reader would discover that the majority of teenage girls, who had joined the commercial sex industry, had not made this choice on their own as society put it. Moreover, it was the result of the challenges in lives of these children. These young girls joined this industry with the hopes of changing their lives, being recognized, loved, and finding a home to live. Unfortunately, they were brutally handled by their pimps as some were gang raped, some eventually killed their violent pimps, while others started using drugs or turned to theft. Lloyd told that some of the young girls left the ‘life’ because of their cruel pimps, some were left with fatherless children, while some were even arrested. The cruelty and the miserable life they led under their pimps had forced them to make choices of leaving the ‘life’.

Paul Farmer’s concept on structural violence is related to the choices that Lloyd and other girls have made while entering and leaving ‘life’. From the stories that the author of the book gathered from the girls she had talked to, one could see that the violence in their homes had prompted them to leave them and start roaming the streets. The same violence by their pimps forced them to leave the ‘life’.

Slavery, Exploitation, and Violence

Pimping is quite accepted in the USA as the media, especially television, pay much attention to them. Such a media recognition has attracted the attention of many young men who aspire to become pimps. The culture of pimps gave rise to the hip-hop culture that is also highly liked by many Americans. This culture has been glorified significantly as most of them, as seen on TV or in music videos are sexy, fashionable, and handsome. For instance, 50 Cent released his platinum selling song P.I.M.P in 2003, where he described one of his dancing girls as a pimp who had a stitch in her head. This song prompted Reebok to reward him with a 50–million-dollar contract and later Vitamin water rewarded him. Such scenarios indicate that pimpimg is a highly accepted culture, and most male teenagers want to become pimps.

In her book  “Girl Like Us”, Rachel Lloyd clearly asserts that slavery, exploitation in addition to violence, as manifested through prostitution, have become the mainstream in the media, hip-hop, and popular cultures as they embrace the portrayal of pimps as being normal. From the numerous stories that Lloyd gathers from the young girls, who suffer from sexual exploitation, one can read that pimps recruit all young girls into the ‘life’. These girls explained that pimps could beat them violently o take their hard-earned money from them. Thus, they could force these girls to do unimaginable things, but when girls were paid, they had to give all their money to their pimps.

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Lloyd described another incident, showing slavery, exploitation, and pimps violence, when she worked as server in one of Munich’s largest strip clubs. Lloyd’s friend Bella explained how pimps would take a woman to a strip club, force her to strip, and then, they would take away all money that a woman was given for her work. Despite the fact that Bella has described to Lloyd what happens in such clubs, one of the pimps takes her to a strip club, forces her to strip, which she reluctantly refuses to do. Lloyd was relieved when the man offered to drive her to her apartment, but later, he forced himself into her house, raped her, and told her that he had been fair in his actions. Although the man does these heinous acts to the young s woman, she still calls him his Romeo and she is his Juliet.

Lloyd also meets another young girl who has always had the desire of being a famous actress who would win an Oscar award, although she fears that her dream is not likely to come true because of the pimp culture that has been adopted by most rappers. After the presentation, being a fan of award ceremonies, she eagerly watches the 78th Academy Award. To her astonishment, the award for theBest Original Song is given to a song “It’s Hard Out Here for Pimp”. The song, according to the girl, denigrates women and glorifies a pimp, who is a hustler trying ‘to get by’, which the Academy does not comprehend. This event has made a historic moment for the hip-hop music that draws its origin from pimping. Naima, for instance, was forced to tattoo the name of her pimp all over her body. At the same time, several girls, who were only 15-16, were found murdered by their pimps in various parts of the USA such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most pimps have their fathers, who used to be pimps, uncles, or brothers. Some of them mostly have multiple girls on the streets, and they sell them to men who own brothels, stripping clubs, escorting agencies, and online ‘adult services’. These pimps exploit women and earn their living from the violence that women, who are forced to engage in prostitution, endure.

Rachel Lloyd implies that the pimp culture has led to the commercial sexual exploitation of young girls, while society has failed to understand that it is not the girls’ choice to become prostitutes. She asserts that the implication of this culture is that most women have lost their lives because of violent men; they have been exploited sexually and economically as pimps earn a living from forcing young girls to work as either strippers or prostitutes. The pimp culture has also led to the disrespect of women as seen in the songs of many hip-hop rappers.

Sociological Concepts

Sociological concepts of differential association, stigma, labeling, and master status are the issues that affect people who undergo a rehabilitation in an attempt to change their lives for the better. Rachel Lloyd has founded an organization, known as Girls Educational and Monitoring Services (GEMS), to help rehabilitate the young girls who have survived the brutality of being commercially sexually exploited by men. In her book, Lloyd says that the American legislature has not helped in the passing of legislations against the acts of brutality, committed to young girls. Her organization is a non-profit organization, and she manages to run it despite the fact that she traces her origin from Germany and she has no formal education. Lloyd encounters various challenges as she tries to rehabilitate these girls, as most of them are labeled, stigmatized, and isolated by others.

Some of the sociological concepts, according to Rachel Lloyd, are as follows. Girls receive threats from their former pimps. These peoples keep trailing these girls, and often, some of them even send people to drag the girls back to the streets. This master strategy is viewed as a sociological concept that affects the girls who have stopped being sexually exploited. Their pimps still want to control their lives and unfortunately, girls become their prey due to fear that they will lose them to other girls. However, Lloyd urges the girls, whom she has sought to help, to ignore their former pimps.

Another incident occurred when Lloyd was invited to the White House by President George Bush to sign a law that would outlaw child trafficking. After the session, Lloyd and her friends prepared for a photo session with the President. Unfortunately, one of the Republican lobbyists, Jeffrey Winter, shouted at her “Long way from the streets eeh!” Lloyd noted that she felt as if she had been slapped hard. He even ordered her to get her hands off him. Rachel was so deeply affected by Winter’s words that had they forced her to remember her life 15 years ago. She remembered her humble beginning and these words demoralized her so much, but she knew that anybody could be welcomed in the Oval Office. Thus, one could see that Winter had used such sociological concepts as labeling and stigmatization when he said those words to Rachel Lloyd who tried so hard to change and forget her bitter past.

Rachel Lloyd also faced the same embarrassment from her ex-boyfriend, which made other people, who had heard his sentiments, stop calling her. Lloyd remembered that once, when she attended some conference, she was openly called ‘a former prostitute’, which frustrated her as she was in the company of other girls she had saved from the brutal hands of their pimps. Another humiliating incident occurred when at a press conference, New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was seen paying too much attention to lascivious detail in the escort agencies and high-priced girls. This attention was accompanied by comments and jokes that dominated the coverage. Lloyd said that this was an embarrassment to her and her girls who now had new lives. The same week, she received many rude and insensitive calls from the media. A week later, a woman Margaret B. Jones, a young memoirist, who had claimed biracial heritage from the streets of South Central LA, was exposed. This incident was quite painful for Lloyd, and the woman had some difficulties, explaining herself to the public.

These sociological concepts had stigmatized Rachel Lloyd and her girls as they were always labeled, as seen during the events in the Oval Office and a conference. Whenever these young girls face such humiliating moments, their self-esteem is lowered, and they will never have the confidence of seeking justice for being oppressed and exploited by their pimps. The girls are reminded of their dark past, and some are likely to relapse as they are isolated by society. They are forced to live in the past as society puts it that it is their choice to be in the sex industry. Apart from that, some government officials are among the men who traffic girls, buy them, and later call them dirty, thus frustrating their efforts of ever seeking justice.

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Abandonment of Prostitution

Rachel Lloyd argues that the term prostitution should not be used in regards to underage girls who have found themselves involved in it. She says that in the sex industry, the acts of prostitution by young girls should be called commercial sexual exploitation. Thus, Lloyd argues that it is not the girls’ fault but the circumstances and their hard lives they have forced them into the sex industry and onto the streets at their young ages. She collected these reasons after she heard her girls in the GEMS Organization narrate about their ordeals. The girls ran to the streets as they lacked parental love and attention, some were neglected and abandoned. Some girls did not know their fathers and they opted to look for fatherly love in older men by dating them. Some had to endure the violence of their pimps for so long as they had shelter.

The challenges that the young girls faced had forced them into the streets. Therefore, Rachel Lloyd says the children do not practice prostitution but instead, she terms them ‘Commercial Sexually Exploited Children’. Another reason why the practice of using young girls in the sex industry should not be called prostitution is that the legislature has not heeded to her call to stop child trafficking and indulgence in the sex industry. Lloyd claims that society does not understand the challenges that such girls have gone through and it keeps labeling them and referring to them as prostitutes, based on their past.

After reading this book, my perception about prostitution has changed as I have had a glimpse from Rachel that there is a difference between prostitution and the use of children in commercial sex. Thus, prostitution is when an adult woman willingly joins the sex industry for her own personal gains. On the contrary, sexual exploitation is what children encounter when their brutal pimps exploit them sexually for their economic gain.

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