Myths That Won’t Die: Sex Trafficking And The Super Bowl

While no one disputes the idea that any sex trafficking is too much sex trafficking, and that people caught in that evil trade are usually there unwillingly, there is ample reason to dispute what has become an annual refrain: that the Super Bowl attracts the highest level of sex trafficking.

Like the lie that domestic violence is highest on Super Bowl Sunday, this claim seems targeted at sports-loving men. Those animals!

Some attribute the genesis of this lie to then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (now a candidate for Texas Governor) who, in 2011, said that the Super Bowl is “commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” However, others have noted these stories go back at least 2 years earlier.

But there simply isn’t any evidence this is actually the case.

From The Gospel Coalition: FactChecker: Super Bowl Sex Trafficking and Other Myths

Human trafficking is one of the greatest evils of our age. But contrary to the claim of Abbott — and journalists who repeat the claim every year — there is no evidence that sex trafficking increases during the Super Bowl.

According to the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, police departments in cities hosting the Super Bowl deny that sex trafficking increases around the game:

2008: Phoenix police Sergeant Tommy Thompson: “We may have had certain precincts that were going gangbusters looking for prostitutes, but they were picking up your everyday street prostitutes. They didn’t notice any sort of glitch in the number of prostitution arrests leading up to the Super Bowl.”

2009: Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis: “We didn’t see a huge influx in prostitutes coming into Tampa. The arrests were not a lot higher. They were almost the same.”

2010: Miami police said they arrested 14 for prostitution. Those figures are not uncommon for large cities during a seven-day period, experts said.

2011: Public information officer Sherri Jeffrey with the Dallas Police Department: There were “zero arrests for trafficking in the time frame surrounding the Super Bowl.”

Sports on Earth: The Sex Trafficking Super Bowl Myth

The persistence of the Super Bowl sex-trafficking myth can be credited to the theatrical quality of its anecdotes. McCain’s activism originated with an experience she had while shopping in Calcutta. She heard noises under the shop floor and looked down. “I could see all these little eyes looking up at me, and I realized it was probably 30 little girls, looking up through the floorboards at me,” she said. “I realized at that time that it was very serious, and these girls were either enslaved or being trafficked, but the kicker was [that] I walked out of that shop, and I never did anything.” Afterwards, McCain approached Arizona governor Jan Brewer to propose taking action on trafficking, and the state’s Task Force on Human Trafficking was created.

The Wire: The Super Bowl Sex-Trafficking Story That Just Won’t Die

In 2012, The Houston Press’s Peter Kotz thoroughly tore apart that story, explaining that law enforcement officials in the cities where past Super Bowls occurred never actually saw increases in prostitution busts or the number of trafficked prostitutes, even despite increased efforts to catch johns, pimps, and traffickers. “We didn’t see a huge influx in prostitutes coming into Tampa. The arrests were not a lot higher. They were almost the same,” a Tampa police spokeswoman said in 2009, and a police spokesperson in Phoenix said in 2008 that there was nothing out of the ordinary: “We may have had certain precincts that were going gangbusters looking for prostitutes, but they were picking up your everyday street prostitutes,” and not foreign women “imported” for the event.

National Post: Sex and the Super Bowl: Is the big game really a magnet for prostitution and human trafficking?

“This myth trivializes trafficking … and wastes needed resources that could be used to actually address trafficking,” said Julie Ham, author of a 2011 study on human trafficking and major sporting events for the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.

“This is part of a larger moral panic about trafficking, which reduces all trafficking to sex. All trafficking is not about sex,” said Pardis Mahdavi, professor in anthropology at Pomona College, Cal., whose research focuses on human trafficking.

There Are No Exceptional Sins

Ask yourself this: Do you consider some sins worse than others?

Then consider this: What is sin, and how might one sin qualitatively or quantitatively exceed another?

Sin is rather simply defined as a transgression of God’s law. God has given instruction, and we act contrary to His instruction. That’s sin.

What is the result, the wage, for sin? Death. Not simply the end of life here on earth, but an eternal death for our eternal soul. Eternal absence from God, and not just absence, but separation; an enforced absence that cannot be remedied.

If sin is the transgression of God’s instruction, and the wage of all sin is death, then how can there be levels, or grades, of sin? How can one sin be more “saintly” than another.

Now ask yourself again: Do I consider certain sins to be worse than others?

There are verses that speak specific cautions regarding certain groups of sins, and we in modern American evangelicalism and fundamentalism find these groups of sins nicely coincide with our own favorite lists of to-be-specially-demonized sinners: drinking, sexual immorality (especially homosexuality), and… that’s it.

The temperance movement used intemperate (imagine that) hermeneutics and loose theologies to turn one of God’s special blessings of love for His children into an inherently sinful pastime comprised entirely of addicts and not-yet-addicts.

The culture sweeping sexuality under the rug made any deviance not just another sin, but a special sin, and Paul’s abundant warnings in scripture were just as misinterpreted as other passages to support the special sin category for these sins.

What we’ve forgotten is that sexuality is an inherent part of our lives and our selves, comprising key aspects of how we relate to each other. Our mores say less about sex and much, much more about our cultural hangups.

What we’ve also forgotten is that Paul never said homosexual or any other sexual sin was any worse than any other sin.  Paul dealt with cultures that were dealing with a rise in homosexual behaviors much like we are today, and he gave clear warning that homosexuality is a sin, just like it is today. Not THE sin, not a special sin. A friend tried to argue that because homosexual behavior is especially prone to certain medical issues, that was evidence for God’s especial dislike for those who participate in that lifestyle. But stresses and excesses and many other unbalanced and unchristian behaviors have accompanying medical issues as well, and yet somehow we accept the glutton and the cad and reject others.

There is no special ring of hell reserved for the sexual deviant. The homosexual is just as much a sinner as the unfaithful heterosexual. In fact, the base status of sexual relations, the only blessed and sanctified and acceptable state of sexual relations is between the married woman and her male spouse, and the married man and his female spouse. Any deviance from any of these particulars is sin, and to reject one of the particulars is just as sinful as to reject each of the particulars.

The status of a Christian is not that they do not sin, it is not that they have not sinned. The status of a Christian is that they are relying on God’s grace to forgive them of their sin and to aid their avoiding sin, and to come alongside in their repenting sin. We are, each and every one of us, still sinners. Yet for those of us who are saved, we are characterized not by our own sin, but by God’s everlasting grace.

So ask yourself: Are there really any exceptional sins?