A male manager of a brothel is called a pimp; a female brothel manager is known as a madam or a shimp.
Street prostitutes may or may not have a pimp. The relationship between pimp and prostitute is often abusive.
Pimps often target vulnerable women and young girls who have run away from home, initially offering themselves as lovers or father-figures. After introducing their victims to prostitution, they often use beatings and drug addiction to maintain their victim's dependency.
Pimps are also commonly low-echelon drug dealers.
In the United States, urban pimps and prostitutes constitute a colorful subculture. This sub-culture has been portrayed, with varying accuracy, in a number of Blaxploitation films. Typically, American pimps are shown dressed in wild, flashy clothes. American pimps are also know as "Macks" and often refer to their business as "The Game".
Pimping is a sex crime in many jurisdictions. In 1949, the United Nations adopted a convention stating that prostitution is incompatible with human dignity, requiring all signing parties to punish pimps and brothel owners and operators, and to abolish all special treatment or registration of prostitutes. The convention was ratified by 89 countries with the notable exception of Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
The number of pimps, and the level of dependency to them suffered by prostitutes, seems to be higher in areas where prostitution is illegal or heavily restricted. In places where prostitution is -- at least de facto -- largely unrestricted, the power of pimps seems to decrease, since the prostitutes are less in need of the protection offered by them.
In Shakespearean times, the word "fishmonger" was an euphemism for pimp.
The term "pimp" is sometimes used figuratively, as in poverty pimp.
- U.S. DOJ guide to street prostitution
- FBI press release: Twelve pimps sentenced for prostituting children