Jezebels: Race & Sexual Exploitation of Black Women in America

In my last post, I made a few substantial claims – one being that African American girls and women were more likely to be trafficked compared to any other race, specifically whites. I also went on to express my frustration on how the system continuously fails these marginalized victims and how the United States deliberately neglects to protect black girls.

Although the facts and my opinions were based on present day, historically, black women and girls have been victimized and sexually exploited by white Europeans predating The Jim Crow Era. 

The U.S. Senate estimates that 200,000 to 300,000 domestic minors are at risk for sexual exploitation each year.

The Racial Roots of Human Trafficking

In addition to being exploited, African American women and girls are disproportionally prosecuted for prostitution and trafficking offenses. But where are their stories being told? Where are the rehabilitative services for these victims? The affirmation of them as victims? 

It feels like a never ending cycle which I’m attempting to find and fit all the pieces, because for every why question that is answered, it follows with another why

In the United States, black youth account for approximately 62% of minors arrested for prostitution offenses, even though Blacks only make up 13.2% of the U.S. population.

Jasmine Phillips 

To be clear, this is not only referencing the experiences of cisgender, heterosexual black girls, but the inclusion of gender-nonconforming, queer, and transgender girls.

For the majority of black girls that are arrested after being exploited, they are almost never assumed to be the victim. That forms a conclusion that the justice system is racially coded and that there is a large connection between African American girls and women who are exploited in the commercial trafficking industry, and how they are perceived by the justice system.

When it comes to race, statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicate that over half of minors arrested on prostitution charges in America are Black. 

With these statistics, why are policy makers and the government not acknowledging the environmental factors that force these minorities into these industries? It’s time we stop living in comfortability and start recognizing the harsh realities that have not been fully addressed. 

So I did some research. 

Racial fetishes drive the supply of, and demand for, commercial sex with people of color.

Cheryl Nelson Butler 


Europeans created this concept of African American females as Jezebels. They were viewed as sexual objects – “innately oversexed and overly fertile”; seductive and lewd. Jezebels were created by Europeans to justify their exploitation of black women and girls for their economic benefit and personal use while white women were viewed as pure and respected. 

Black women came to represent the modern Jezebel who was a symbol of lust, sexual immorality, ‘innate wickedness,’ and even ‘disobedience to God. This stereotype created a “gendered allegory of sexual racism” and deemed Black women unworthy of legal protection from sexual exploitation. 

The Racial Roots of Human Trafficking


Many mixed women of color were pulled into a formal agreement called the placage– which involved being financially supported by a wealthy white European in exchange for sexual services.

These introductions and agreements took place at Quadroon Balls, a sex market where black slaves were often stripped naked and examined to determine whether they were healthy and had the ability to reproduce. These mixed women were called quadrooms, a person who was one-quarter black and three-quarters white.

This public exploitation of black women justified enslaving these women, by convincing themselves that black women were sub-humans – of a lower order of being than human. As a result, women were raped and used as breeders, and young girls were encouraged to practice in preparation to continue the role of their mothers. Once they became of age, they’re mothers would put them on display and negotiate formal agreements with white Europeans.

I can’t even begin to understand what a child experiences when being sexually exploited for economic purposes. Even more, how a young girl could possibly process being conceived by an owner who uses her body for breeding purposes.

Each time a woman reproduces, she just proves to white Europeans that she has an unfulfilling, sexual appetite and is less than human. The commonality of our history and today is the stigmatization of black women. 

“Black women were viewed as intellectually inferior, culturally stunted, morally underdeveloped, and animal like sexuality. White Europeans believed they were ‘civilized and rational and blacks were barbaric and deserved to be subjugated.”

The Jezebel Stereotype

Is this why African American women and young girls are disproportionally criminalized and prosecuted after being exploited and sold? Is it because they aren’t white women and girls, seen as the better version of a women – a victim worth saving?

In what world is it your place to determine someone’s value, determine a black woman or a black youth’s choice based on their perceived options, or determine whether you feel they’re worthy enough. Those in the justice system have one social responsibility – and that is to protect and provide support to these minorities, and take the initiative in learning to understand the complexities of these groups narratives. 

You know what happens when that doesn’t happen?

Black women and girls who’ve been exploited suffer higher rates of suicide, health issues, substance abuse, and psychological disorders. This isn’t a small thing – exploitation that goes unaccounted for or those that lead to being criminalized result in too many domino effects. Continuation of exploitation in prison, delayed mental abilities, self-destructive behaviors, isolation, continuation of abuse, feelings of unworthiness, not having anything to live for, DEATH. 

Black women are not seen as innocent women in need of support but are instead viewed as manipulative and parasites to society.

Jasmine Phillips

What you’re really saying to these minorities is that they don’t deserve protection, is that really the message you want to convey?