Super Bowl XLV is going down this Sunday, the sporting event of the year in which the majority of the nation comes together to overindulge in fried foods, and other artery-clogging snacks and dips, and drink beer while watching the best in the NFL battle it out for football supremacy (at least until September when the new season starts). I’m not mad at this at all; I enjoy good ol’ fashioned sports rivalry and copious amounts of onion dip.
However, the Super Bowl is as synonymous with overindulgence of food as it is with the overindulgence of sex. There’s the annual Lingerie Bowl, the salacious sexist GoDaddy ads, repeated uproar over sex-trafficking for players and tourists, and even now there is the “Porn Sunday” movement to help men cure their sex addiction on Super Bowl Sunday. All of these outputs stem from the same idea that men are sex-crazed beasts that only respond to sexual stimuli. Since the Super Bowl and football are assumed to be mainly of interest to men, it’s not a surprise that advertisers who spend millions of dollars for 30 seconds of precious Super Bowl ad time are appealing to the lowest common denominator through sexual imagery. Ain’t nothing new. But let’s focus on the activity and coverage leading up to the event.
In the last two weeks there have been numerous articles about “stripper shortages” in Dallas and in contrast there’s been huge concerns about trafficking of sex workers (particularly young girls) to meet the influx of players, coaches and tourists coming to Dallas. I was concerned too until Audacia Ray, a fierce sex workers’ rights advocate, posted this article poking holes in the assertion that sex workers will flood these cities and make them hotbeds for trafficking. Studies repeatedly have shown that cities hosting the Super Bowl, and other major sporting events such as the World Cup, have not seen a sharp increase in sex workers. There is no evidence supporting this at all, either scientifically or anecdotally, as clearly pointed out in the article. Audacia pointed me to one study which speaks to the bigger issues of a) the growing trend of linking trafficking to sporting events and b) assuming that sex workers are trafficked underage girls.
This study from the African Centre for Migration and Society regarding the recent World Cup in South Africa lays it out:
Yet, a much marginalised population has once again been overlooked despite civil society attempts to bring it into mainstream concern. Sex workers have borne the brunt of city “clean-up” drives, increased violence and insensitive public health campaigns, while falling victim to government-created “Vice Squads”. The World Cup has left many sex workers in a weaker position than before and resulted in a public misconception that sex work and trafficking are intertwined.
This is not to say trafficking of girls is not a serious and legitimate problem but we have to keep things in proper context. The problem here is that all this focus on a purported sex worker influx based on the assumption that these women were trafficked takes attention and resources away from girls who really are in danger.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have “Porn Sunday,” part of XXXChurch.com, a Christian evangelical movement to help cure men of sex addiction. It’s a non-profit run by Fireproof Ministries and they claim their mission is to “make you think, react, and to decide where you stand on the issues of porn.” They’re “not here to sling mud, but to shove the envelope and try and do some good.” But it’s clear they believe porn is sinful and the devil’s work. They have even enlisted some pro-football players including Matt Hasselbeck to speak about this issue via their online campaign.
While I support more mainstream attention to sex workers’ rights and child trafficking, it’s important that amidst the uproar there is fact-based discussion and analysis. However that seems to be lacking unless you’re pro-actively doing research. At the same time, I can appreciate discussion of sexual addiction and pornography’s role in it, yet shaming people for masturbating doesn’t seem like a productive way to shape dialogue. At the baseline, these two examples highlight Americans’ discomfort and simultaneous obsession with the realities of sex and sexuality.