Green Room

Reason: Everything you hear about prostitution and the Super Bowl is a myth

posted at 5:23 pm on January 28, 2014 by

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.

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In late 70s or early 1980s the entire N.O. Saints cheerleading team got hauled in by vice squad.

viking01 on January 28, 2014 at 5:51 PM

Well, shoot. Why bother going to a Superbowl then?

dentarthurdent on January 28, 2014 at 5:56 PM

I can see sporting events in third world countries being a draw for prostitutes, but I don’t really see it in the US.

Count to 10 on January 28, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Much like the violence spike during the Super Bowl; completely bunk.

thebrokenrattle on January 28, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Well if the GOP has their convention in Las Vegas there will be tons of hookers around to ummm entertain the politicians. Will there be bus loads off “female entertainment” at hotels for the superbowl, you betcha. They go where the money is.

simkeith on January 28, 2014 at 7:12 PM

the article is wrong, they do draw many out of town hookers, 100′s.

Kermit on January 28, 2014 at 7:47 PM

Let’s ask Eugene Robinson that question.

Steve Eggleston on January 28, 2014 at 8:10 PM

Just go ahead and legalize the world’s oldest profession. Sheesh.

John the Libertarian on January 29, 2014 at 12:15 AM

The crime here is the stupidity and/or rank dishonesty of media outlets which regurgitate whatever they like without critical analysis.

Jaibones on January 29, 2014 at 6:52 AM

“Myth”? No. A myth has a grain of truth. This is just your every day, standard liberal lie.

Squiggy on January 29, 2014 at 8:02 AM

Remember the one about wife-beating peaking on Super Bowl Sunday? Lie after lie. Straw-man after straw-man. Democrats must lie. It’s all they know, except that they would be tarred and feathered (at best) if their real incompetence became widely known. That, plus people might figure out they’ve sold their souls to the devil, for votes.

Squiggy on January 29, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Sex trafficking is a real problem and is unfortunately tied to the prostitution industry, whether legal or illegal.

But the call for facts and accuracy is a welcome one.

22044 on January 29, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Here is a better axiom: Everything you hear uttered by a feminist is complete bullsh!t 100% of the time.

Nomennovum on January 29, 2014 at 9:56 AM

I suspect that press-release journalism is at play here, where “facts” from organizations become part of reporting without critical research coming into play.

Indeed, along with such thing as Lancet Iraq civilian death counts and the “10 percent are ‘gay’” bullshcmidt. I have no doubt there is an increase in misc illegal activity during any such large assemblages of people – but 40,000 hookers is beyond absurd.

But if this Superbowl is looking like it will be sparsely attended, I say give the empty 10,000+ seats to the multitude of imaginary hookers!

whatcat on January 29, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Not a myth. The media still prostitutes itself. Bob Costas comes to mind.

Wade on January 29, 2014 at 6:57 PM

Just go ahead and legalize the world’s oldest profession. Sheesh.

John the Libertarian on January 29, 2014 at 12:15 AM

Better than a joint..

Wade on January 29, 2014 at 6:57 PM

I saw Eric Schmidt of Google interviewing some woman who was going on about how women make only 77% of what men make for the same job. And Schmidt knows this is complete garbage, but the ass just sits there and doesn’t challenge it.

bobs1196 on January 29, 2014 at 9:18 PM