While there has been no shortage of sex trafficking panic in the media leading up to Super Bowl 50, there has also been a refreshing plethora of reasoned reporting regarding the oft inflated and falsified statistics that anti-trafficking organizations tout around major sporting events. Friends, I am no statistician, and I will not waste this post on statistical arguments for whether or not sex trafficking is happening around major sporting events. I think it’s clear that many different kinds of labor trafficking do happen around the Super Bowl and other major sporting events because it happens everywhere all the time. But, not at the level of, say, 10,000 child sex slaves in need of immediate rescue/incarceration/return to abusive situations. As an Aquarian, an INFP, or whatever other woo woo descriptor you can think of for someone who is “emotionally intelligent,” I’d instead like to talk about my anecdotal observations on American football fans, and how likely I feel they are to hire anyone for sex.
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, or “Bronco’s Country” as some folks like to call it, home of the team currently en route to the Super Bowl. My own family’s love for yelling at the TV during a Broncos’ game determined my personal distaste for the sport—as did some realized misandry and unrealized classism. For many years of my life, my opinions on football fans were often based on my own uncomfortable childhood and the Broncos fans I saw around me; football fans were lovers of patriarchy, capitalism, violence and, worst of all, the status-quo. With these sorts of stereotypes in mind, it’s easy to understand where a lot of the assumptions may come from around the Super Bowl sex trafficking myths.
What’s interesting to me now is that the stereotypes I placed on football fans earlier in life are now similar to the stereotypes I place on most of those involved in the anti-trafficking industrial complex. Let’s take Kathie Lee Gifford for example, who recently got into a Twitter battle with trafficking survivor and sex worker rights’ activist Meg Munoz over the idea of sticking a microchip in her daughter to prevent her from being sex trafficked. I admit I don’t actually know whether or not she’s a football fan, but I’m going to take her marriage to New York City Giants’ player Frank Gifford as a sign. For me, Gifford is emblematic of a large demographic of football fans: white, female, Christian, and (perhaps dangerously and overly) concerned about the wellbeing of her children. Definitely not the sort of person to hire a sex worker, trafficked or not…though I wouldn’t have put it past Frank, may he rest in peace. One difference I see between her and the majority of football fans, however, is money.
Now obviously, a lot of folks who attend the Super Bowl are going to be wealthy. It’s my understanding that the tickets are expensive, plus most people will have to travel to it. That doesn’t change the anecdotal fact, though, that I know a working-class lesbian who saves up to attend the Super Bowl whenever the Broncos will be playing in it. I kid you not—this woman has a savings account especially for this purpose. She’s also the sort of person who gets as much pussy as she wants, and thus I doubt she hires sex workers. Here’s another piece of anecdotal information I have for you: most sex workers I know hate it when a major sporting event comes to the city they’re working in. The reasons I’ve heard vary; while some workers report an influx of bad or dangerous clients, still others report a lack of business surrounding the event, including the days before and after. And while I have never worked in a city while a major sporting event happened in it, I can confirm that my client for this Sunday canceled after realizing he had scheduled our appointment for the same day as the Super Bowl.
My point is that we all have a tendency to judge a book by its cover. And while I think it’s often appropriate to judge a wealthy, old, white dude as an entitled butthole who likely hires sex workers with impunity, you can’t necessarily judge football fans that way. Because football fans are actually way more diverse than that.
No matter how many people are trafficked around major sporting events, the fact remains that survivors, sex workers, and everyone in-between are thought to be voiceless on this topic. And this sits at the crux of why I still have a tendency to dislike football fans—despite my self-reflection on my preconceived notions. When people would rather hear the opinions of men who are completely uninvolved in the reality of sex work over the opinion of an actual sex worker or survivor, I’m going to go ahead and say that some of my assumptions about patriarchy, capitalism, violence and the status-quo are not so far off from reality.