Woodhull Freedom Foundation, as part of its Human Rights Commissions program, has released its findings on the facts – and fictions – behind the oft-repeated warnings of a dangerous spike in sex trafficking at the Super Bowl.

After partnering with SOAR Institute to conduct a careful analysis of the situation, Woodhull concludes that the dangerous uptick in sex trafficking is a myth, long encouraged, about a dangerous uptick in sex trafficking, long-encouraged by law enforcement, state/national governments and the media, has been continually disproven but continues to circulate – leading to confusion on all sides of the issue.

With Super Bowl LVI set to take place on February 13 in Los Angeles, California, experts are highlighting how this debate interacts with the broader socio-political landscape, the conflation between sex work and human trafficking, and the fulfillment of sex worker rights.

The report’s findings have found:

– While ads for sex may increase during the Super Bowl, instances of commercial sex and trafficking do not.
Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, found that claims about increases in sex trafficking during the event are false and may reflect false socio-cultural fears “about sexuality and sexual exploitation that depict men as aggressive and autonomous, and women as victims in need of rescue or as criminals who should be arrested.”

– The myth helps serve as a narrative to benefit nonprofits and NGOs fighting trafficking around these events, virtual signaling national/state/local governments, media and those who want to justify their social control measures such as increased policing and migration controls based on anti-prostitution ideology.

– The true victims of the ‘Super Bowl sex trafficking myth’ are human trafficking victims themselves. 80% of cases are in labor sectors outside of commercial sex.

Trafficking hysteria around the Super Bowl causes host cities to increase police surveillance, and thanks to the conflation between adult consensual sex work and human trafficking, much of these resources are used to police and arrest sex workers rather than engaging in prevention at the expense of those experiencing exploitation.

– Criminalization prevents those participating in commercial sex from reporting crimes committed against them for fear of arrest. 

Even trafficking survivors participating in commercial sex because of force, fraud or coercion fear criminal justice penalties if they come forward as a result of the massive stigma and risk of arrest surrounding sex work. In a criminalized environment, sex workers also have less agency to engage in safe sexual practices and less access to medical care.

– Increased policing has disproportionate consequences for communities with intersectioning vulnerabilities. Members of LGBTQ communities, communities of color, the unhoused, and immigrants are among those disproportionately targeted by law enforcement as sex workers.

Black adults make up over half of the people arrested for loitering for the purpose of prostitution in Los Angeles, even though they are only 8.9% of the city’s population.

-Human trafficking is a problem that persists year-round.

As the Polaris Project pointed out in 2019, encouraging hysteria around specific events detracts from the need to establish effective, holistic policy responses rather than sensationalized rhetoric.

Woodhull Freedom Foundation exists to fight back against laws that suppress sexual freedom and to advance sexual rights. Woodhull works at the intersection of many movements and campaigns, often in coalition with other organizations and communities, in order to achieve political, cultural, and social change. From #BlackLivesMatter to #MeToo, from reproductive justice to racial justice, from free speech to sex worker rights, Woodhull stands at the intersection of many movements and campaigns in order to affirm, protect, and advance sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.

To learn more about the facts and myths about ‘Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl’, visit WoodhullFoundation.org.