Sex & The Super Bowl: Why America's Girls Will Lose on Sunday Night
“'Tens of thousands of party-minded football enthusiasts descending into a Super Bowl host city make it an ideal setting for traffickers of underage prostitutes.' He says that each year, 100,000 to 300,000 American kids, some as young as 12 years old, are exploited in the domestic sex trade, and the pimps use the Super Bowl and other major events like the World Cup to make a huge profit selling sex with children and adolescents."
Barbeque and beer. Chips and dip. Good friends and a wide screen. Rivalries and wagers. Arguably clever and decidedly expensive commercials. Super Bowl Sunday is an institution in America, with a buzzing build-up that spans the entire year.
In the midst of the bleak winter, a night of excitement, fun and relaxation with our faithful football-nation compatriots comes around to alleviate our post-holiday blues, giving us a reason to celebrate. Even if we are not normally fans of the Steelers or the Packers, or even the NFL itself, we generally will all make a party of some sort out of Super Bowl XLV. It’s just what we do.
But Super Bowl Sunday has another reputation, one that is not broadcast on FOX, but one that could possibly bring in more revenue than the Super Bowl ads themselves: underage sex trafficking. In a recent USA Today article by Rick Jervis about preparations for the big event at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington (in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area), Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that "the Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly. It's commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States."
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explains that “human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.” Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
The aforementioned USA Today article goes on to quote Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: “Tens of thousands of party-minded football enthusiasts descending into a Super Bowl host city make it an ideal setting for traffickers of underage prostitutes.” He says that each year, 100,000 to 300,000 American kids, some as young as 12 years old, are exploited in the domestic sex trade, and the pimps use the Super Bowl and other major events like the World Cup to make a huge profit selling sex with children and adolescents. "The traffickers try to seize that opportunity to do business," Allen says. In past years, incidents of domestic sex trafficking have spiked particularly during the Super Bowl, in the host city especially, but also in other cities around the country where fans are tuning in and partying.
Some people will read about this disturbing phenomenon and not think about it again, even as they enjoy Super Bowl festivities Sunday night. But Christ-followers cannot, must not forget the deeper reality lurking behind the sports commentary and stats, the funny ads, and the jokes and cheers. Instead, we might be inspired to recall Jesus’ use of Isaiah 61 when he first announced his ministry mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus lived a life characterized by an imperative to recognize and face reality, to invest in the plight others, and to address the suffering of the oppressed. He did not behave in a way that suggested waiting around for one day “bye and bye in the sky when no one will cry.” He lived his purpose with equal concern and action in every situation and every moment of his daily living. During the feasts and festivals of his community, Jesus often was drawn away from the laughter, camaraderie, food and wine to focus on injustices in the community, to tend to the healing of the afflicted, and to raise awareness and speak out against social norms, economic practices, and political power plays that hurt and enslaved vulnerable people. A celebration was not an excuse to check out and pretend as if the lighthearted tone of the event meant no systematic evil was being perpetuated in its midst.
We are called to do the same. It is not fun to think about or popular to talk about, but as Christ-followers we must encourage reflection on this issue, not only for the purpose of developing better ways to monitor the sex industry or to prosecute the “Johns” who purchase sex with minors and get away scott free (which ARE very important issues). But we also must go deeper to honestly examine our accepted social structures and our systemic commodification of the bodies of women and girls in our arts and entertainment, our media, our sports, and our general corporate and consumer marketing. We must grapple to figure out exactly what it is about our sporting events that regularly stimulates some people’s need for illicit sex, and why sex with underage, illegal, and often abused and traumatized girls seems to be part of an increasingly standard sports entertainment package.
We must investigate the roots: What drives men to purchase and consume girls in the same way they would purchase and consume a stadium dog or a bag of court-side popcorn, afterward tossing what remains into the refuse can with what feels like no consequence? Is it the adrenaline aroused by competition and rowdy crowds? The aggression of the game? The warped but socially prevalent idea that to “be a man” means conquering someone? That being a "winner" means taking whatever you want? Could it be the suggestively-barely-clad cheerleaders (I’m not sure what has happened to cheerleaders who are actually athletes, but it used to be considered a sport itself, not a sexy show) or all the beer ads pushing their wares on the bare chests of young women? Maybe it is some of these things, or none of these things, or a bizarre combination of all these things. Or maybe it has actually become part of the institution itself? Based on data disclosed by the FBI and state authorities, buying sex from trafficked adolescent girls appears to be a sick assumption many associate with celebrating such an event, much like some might associate football with barbeque and beer, chips and dip, rivalries and wagers. It’s just something they do, because they can.
Christ-followers can follow the model of Jesus and spend some time speaking out in our spheres of influence about this rampant, heinous crime. Most of us will not be on the streets of Dallas or Ft. Worth Sunday night, but will quite possibly find ourselves in a room of revelers watching the game. We don’t have to be a huge downer at the party, but do owe it to the vulnerable young girls in our country to say out loud, “Hey, have any of you heard that the Super Bowl is the single largest human trafficking event in the United States?...Yes, I’m serious...It is actually happening all over the country even as we speak.” We can also commit ourselves to praying silently during the game and possibly aloud with a group (or alone) at half-time and after the game for the protection, rescue, safety and well-being of our girls in America. After the commercials have been panned and the dip bowls are empty, hundreds - even thousands - of frightened, desperate girls will be trapped on the streets and in the hotel rooms surrounding the big game, hoping for a miracle.
Jennifer Danielle Crumpton is a third-year Master of Divinity student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Read the full USA Today Article here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-01-31-child-prostitution-super-.... Many organizations are working to combat sex trafficking spikes around sports events, and throughout the year. Read more articles and learn more by visiting the following websites:
“Ending Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the U.S.”: http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/AFNAP-toolkit
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-traffickin...
The Salvation Army Partnership to Rescue our Minors from Sexual Exploitation (PROMISE): http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-dynamic-index/F71E0...