Reason: Everything you hear about prostitution and the Super Bowl is a myth
posted at 5:23 pm on January 28, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
It’s an Olympic Games myth, Reason’s Maggie McNeill explains, that has attached itself to the Super Bowl largely through lazy research at media outlets. As a result, New Jersey residents might be on edge waiting for an Invasion of the Itinerant Hookers that will never materialize:
The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which closely investigated the myth in its 2011 report “What’s the Cost of a Rumour?”, was unable to find a credible source for the “40,000” figure; it seems to have simply been made up. But it has doggedly persisted since then, accompanying virtually every major sporting event including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the 2012 Olympics in London. Despite massive police crackdowns (costing about £500,000 in London), no significant increase in prostitution (coerced or otherwise) has ever been found during these large events.
By 2008, the myth reached the United States, where it became attached to the Super Bowl (taking the place, perhaps, of the fading but equally spurious claim that domestic violence skyrockets on the day of the game). The story in Phoenix that year largely took the form ofpolice statements that they had “received…warnings about an increase in prostitution and [were] prepared for it,” but by the following year police and other officials in Tampa had turned the rumor into a campaign…which bagged exactly one quarry, a 14-year-oldpimped by two rather clueless individuals on Craigslist under the heading “Super Bowl Special” (a detail regularly repeated as part of the prohibitionist catechism since then).
The Florida Department of Children and Families supposedly “rescued” 24 other people (though this is unsubstantiated). But that number pales beside the grandiosity of the claims that “‘tens of thousands of people‘—most of them young girls—[were] sold into the sex trade during Miami’s Super Bowl in 2010.” Miami was the first instance of the full-blown circus-like hype which has characterized the buildup to the game in subsequent years, where members of “anti-trafficking” groups descend in droves upon the host city to “raise awareness” and “rescue victims”.
I am nowhere near as sanguine about legalization of prostitution as Reason would be, but that’s really a separate issue. This is just bad policy being driven by bad reporting that has taken on a life of its own, as most urban legends do. In some part, I suspect that press-release journalism is at play here, where “facts” from organizations become part of reporting without critical research coming into play.
Trafficking is a bad enough problem without mythologizing it. Stick to the facts, please, and common sense.