It’s hard to say how many underage girls and boys are working as prostitutes on city streets, as they generally give fake names and birth dates to the cops. By one estimate, there are 5,000 teens who are sexually exploited through prostitution in New York City each year, says amNew York. “It’s on the rise,” said Kate Mullen, a legal aid lawyer in Brooklyn. “People are not aware of how widespread it is that prostitution involves children. People say ‘Oh, wow, in Thailand people buy and sell children.’ I can show you four places in Brooklyn where people buy children.”
Part of the reason, advocates say, is the glorification of pimps and the objectification of woman in rap songs and videos. Last year, “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” won the Oscar for best original song. A citywide task force, which was established last year, is working with John Jay College of Criminal Justice to tally those in this shadowy world. The teens who get caught up in “the life” exist in a weird limbo. In the eyes of the law, they’re criminals. But some view them as victims. A girl or boy can be too young to give their consent to sex, yet be charged with prostitution. Even calling it teen prostitution rankles some. To understand how tough it is to gauge the number of teens arrested for prostitution, one needs to understand how often they lie about their age when they are arrested.