How Super Bowl XLVIII (Quietly) Supports the Sex Trade


As droves of football fans converge on New York for what’s arguably the biggest event of 2014 so far, Super Bowl XLVIII has been making headlines – just not in the usual way.

The Super Bowl casts a long shadow when it comes to how it treats women. The Super Bowl falls right in line with the fact that wherever large sporting events go, prostitution isn’t far behind. This is part of the counterculture during Super Bowl weekend – and some officials are quite vocal on the subject.

Last year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the Super Bowl the “single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” He had good reason to do so. Large events, particularly male-dominated sporting events, are magnets for drugs, prostitution, and apparently, strippers.

A study by the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee found that nearly two-thirds of Super Bowl XLVII attendees were male, and over 60% had no children with them. Almost 75% came from outside the New Orleans metro area. Local strip clubs routinely find this demographic to be a massive boost to their business.

Some NYC strip clubs are actually importing strippers from Russia to help “liven up the celebration” and meet the demand. Former Howard Stern co-host Artie Lange had some interesting things to say about it in TMZ. While it’s hardly a bastion of hard-hitting journalism, TMZ does provide entertaining coverage of the celebrity world.

Sex sells, and that’s the problem.

In anticipation of the big weekend, New Jersey officials ramped up efforts to curtail sex trafficking. Meanwhile, strippers are being imported from all over the world to help meet Super Bowl weekend demand.

It’s true that stripping and prostitution are not synonymous. However, in some opinions it’s dangerously close. The line is rather thin. You may not be selling sexual favors, but you are selling sexual fantasies. You can also look at the list of occupations and achievements available to a woman in America, and stripping really isn’t one of them. These professions clearly aren’t among the ones we glorify.

While law enforcement has stepped up (with a convincingly large enough PR machine) to stop sex trafficking in and around the Super Bowl, we’re still stuck in a perpetual loop. The issue isn’t really being solved. That said, the laws regarding sex trafficking are tightening. Last year, the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act was signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. It increases penalties for those engaging in trafficking, penalties that also provide help and resources to the victims.

Just this week, the Associated Press reported a bust on a New York prostitution ring that used advertising on public access cable TV and text messaging to reach its clientele. One might ask, are more busts during Super Bowl weekend really the answer? Certainly – more awareness of this problem is a good thing.

It’s a harder road to change the conversation. The bass is turned up so high, and Super Bowl parties are multiplying with little thought to how we treat (and view) women in this country. Legislation continues to be drafted in this regard, though it’s not always passed. And let’s face it, sex workers need advocates just as much as others in need.

Spokespersons for the Super Bowl aren’t saying a word about the “imported” strippers. It simply means bigger business for them. Remaining silent is easy. Sadly, silence is often as bad as doing nothing at all. Let’s hope that this discussion continues beyond the Super Bowl.