The Mythical Invasion of the Super Bowl Hookers

There's no reality behind the idea that some Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots wanders about the world from mega-event to mega-event, unimpeded by the usual logistics of transport and lodging.

ProstituteDark Sevier FoterMajor events such as World’s Fairs and the Olympics always provide an excuse for governments to “clean things up” in the host cities before the guests arrive. Police sweep people the leaders consider undesirable, embarrassing or just plain unsightly out of public view (and into jails or exile for the duration). The victims vary with the time and place: the poor, the homeless, unpopular minority groups, drug addicts and gay people have all been among them. The list always includes sex workers; even in countries where prostitution is legal (such as Greece or Brazil) the moralists feel compelled to purge the most visible manifestations of the sex trade from areas where visitors might encounter them. Xenophobia is also heightened by such events, as those so predisposed fear the prospect of strangers coming to town, bringing with them outlandish and alien forms of sin and crime. Together, these two factors may be the origin of one of the stranger (yet more persistent) myths of our time: the idea that some Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots, tens of thousands strong, wanders about the world from mega-event to mega-event, unimpeded by the usual logistics of transport and lodging which should make the migration of such a large group a daunting task indeed. 

The legend seems to have first appeared in conjunction with the 2004 Olympics in Athens. That’s telling because, though the rebranding of sex work as "sex trafficking" was already underway in prohibitionist circles in the late 1990s, the moral panic seems to have begun in earnest in January of 2004. In the months before the Olympics Athenian officials went through the usual cleansing procedure, raiding brothels for largely bogus violations of zoning restrictions. A Greek sex workers’ union complained that by making it difficult to work in legal brothels the city would increase illegal prostitution, and this was twisted by European prohibitionists into "Athens is encouraging sex tourism."

By the end of the year, the growing “anti-trafficking” movement was using bad stats to claim that “sex trafficking increased by 95 percent during the Olympics.” Within a few months, anti-sex worker groups made the bizarre prediction that approximately 40,000 women would be “trafficked” into Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Of course, nothing of the kind happened. Despite increased police actions (including raids on 71 brothels), the German authorities only came up with five cases of exploitation they believed to be linked to the event. 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 of police 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-old pimped 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”.

Not to be outdone, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared the Super Bowl “one of the largest human trafficking events in the United States”; in preparation for the Dallas game (2011) he organized a huge “task force” involving a dozen different federal, state and local agencies, and missed no opportunity to pontificate about "pimps" and Backpage.com. The total haul from all this effort? One would-be pimp who got the idea from hearing the myth on television.

But legends like this take on a life of their own, which cannot be ended by mere facts. By July, Indiana’s attorney general, Greg Zoeller, got the Indianapolis Super Bowl bandwagon rolling with the claim that the Texans had actually made “133 separate human trafficking related arrests,” a number obtained by dishonestly representing every vice arrest made in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex during the two and a half week period around the game as a “trafficking” case (the number has since become part of the narrative).

And while the hype around the New Orleans game last year was actually somewhat muted, Cindy McCain, apparently unwilling to wait her turn, is already beating the drum over “human trafficking” for the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix. Nor is the myth limited to the Super Bowl any more; in the past two years similar claims have been made about other large football games and sporting events ranging from the Kentucky Derby to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to hunting season in rural Minnesota.

The media has been largely complicit in spreading this lurid fantasy, but there have been a few dissenting voices. One is Pete Kotz of Village Voice Media, who interviewed me for “The Super Bowl Prostitute Myth” three years ago, and expanded upon that article for “The Super Bowl Prostitution Hoax” the following year. The latter piece has been quoted in several others since then, such as this year’s “The Super Bowl Sex-Trafficking Story That Just Won't Die” (which also references the GAATW report cited above).

Even if such articles weren’t easily located with a quick search, all a reporter with a particle of skepticism would need to do is go to Snopes.com, which has listed the story as false since February 2012. But because sex sells and what anthropologist and commercial sex researcher Dr. Laura Agustín calls the "rescue industry" brings in (at a minimum) tens of millions of dollars per year, there are quite a few people in and out of government with a vested interest in keeping the myth going no matter how destructive, absurd, and demonstrably false it happens to be.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope: an article in Canada’s National Post reports that some within the “anti-trafficking” movement itself have become disillusioned with the legend:

"There are no statistics whatsoever that show an increase in people being trafficked during these events," said Laura Murphy, head of the New Orleans Human Trafficking Working Group, host city of Super Bowl 2013…

"A lot of these numbers that have been popping up for the Super Bowl, we just really don’t agree with and we don’t know where they came from," said Giselle Rodriguez, outreach coordinator at the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

While the True Believers can be counted on to ignore anything skeptics or sex worker rights advocates have to say about the issue, they may listen to those they consider fellow travelers. With any luck the Super Bowl Prostitute Invasion story may finally be on the way out, and we can only hope that the “sex trafficking” hysteria of which it is a part will follow closely behind.

Maggie McNeill is a former librarian, stripper, call girl and madam who writes a daily blog called "The Honest Courtesan" which examines the realities, myths, history, lore, science, philosophy, art, and other aspects of prostitution. She also reports sex work news, critiques the way sex work is treated in the media and by governments, and is frequently consulted by academics and journalists as an expert on the subject.

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  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots would be a great name for a girl band. The Go-Go's of the new millennium!

  • kris713||

    what Patrick said I'm shocked that a mom able to get paid $5552 in four weeks on the internet. did you read this site link ..,.,..,.,.,., jobs80
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  • Austrian Anarchy||

    The Barney Miller Harlot Reel for your entertainment. Every single hooker, hustler, escort, midnight cowboy, call girl, and other from the series.

  • OldMexican||

    Maggie McNeill on the Mythical Invasion of the Super Bowl Hookers


    Leaving aside if hookers are hoping on buses and bandwagons to get to the game on Sunday, the hysteria is being wrapped and presented as a human trafficking story in mainstream media and especially on Fox News, as if women and girls were being snatched from mall parking lots and shipped out to New Jersey.

  • Dweebston||

    Just because they aren't literally tethered to those buses and roadhauled there doesn't mean they're freely choosing that profession. They're enslaved by economic necessity, and any man who takes advantage of their bondage is a rapist.

    Or something like that. It's difficult to know whether I'm caricaturing or actually quoting feminists.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Dweebston,

    It's difficult to know whether I'm caricaturing or actually quoting feminists.


    Huh! You could be quoting some social conservatives who spew the same drivel to justify keeping that trade illegal.

  • Dweebston||

    True. Bootleggers, meet Baptists.

  • Dweebston||

    (Did we fulfill our Fair and Balanced(tm) obligation? Can we get back to bashing progressives? God knows I'm loathe to abuse our good friends the socons on the right, despite their being promoters of many causes we're explicitly against, but I suppose we've appearances to maintain.)

  • SIV||

    SNOCONZ!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

  • Sevo||

    "as if women and girls were being snatched from mall parking lots and shipped out to New Jersey."

    All in all, I'd rather be in Philly.

  • Choadintheroad||

    "the hysteria is being wrapped and presented as a human trafficking story in mainstream media and especially on Fox News"

    What kind of an imbecile watches that nonsense and/or cares about it? More hookers, less retarded old Mexicans!

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I'm a bit surprised that none of the political party presidential conventions were mentioned. They seem to be identical stories, but they go back much farther to at least the 1970s. Stories of how the Republicans have more money and are kinkier, etc. They read as if the writers "just knew" how these things went.

  • PRX||

    this is why I prefer the Pro Bowl.

  • Mike M.||

    I just put a Benjamin on Team Jerry, and I don't even know who's on the team!

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    I always take the over but this year it's 89! That's the highest I've ever seen other than the Arena League.

  • Dave Krueger||

    From what I've seen, prostitution prohibitionists are not the least bit concerned about the truthfulness of their claims. To them, the ends justifies the means. They know that their sensational lies will be picked up by the major media outlets whereas the less sensational truth will be largely ignored. In other words, exciting lies will always have a bigger audience than the plain dull truth.

    This ranks right up their with the myth that the average age at which women become prostitutes is 14. That gets repeated incessantly, even though it's utter bullshit, a fact that the prohibitionist are quite aware of.

  • Dweebston||

    See also: Superbowl spousal abuse, the unaccountable wage gap, the one-in-four rape stat...

    Truth isn't merely subjective, where modern feminism is concerned. It's a hostile influence to be beaten back on every front.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I don't know, isn't that about the time they trade sexual favors for the right to wear some dude's letter jacket?

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    We already have more than enough call girls here to handle an extra couple hundred thousand people.
    But I could see a big infux when the SB is held in places like Indy or Minn.

  • Dweebston||

    You wouldn't want them overwhelmed, would you? They'll be beating off customers with both hands.

  • BakedPenguin||

    **rimshot**

    Or, just this.

  • Dweebston||

    What

    what am I looking staring at?

  • Jayburd||

    I doubt there would be a substantially larger demand at these events. Another case of empire building by unethical bureaucrats, fundraisers, and grant seekers. But I do remember stories of ladies following logging camps and hanging out in the parking lot of a Hanford nuclear construction site.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    You'll find more prostitutes walking the streets near Disneyland on any given Friday than the weekend of the Super Bowl.

  • Jayburd||

    Why is there a market outside Disneyland? That's interesting.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    I imagine because of the large, year-round stream of tourists and the large number of cheap motels that surround the area.

    Plus the local communities of Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and parts of Anaheim are low-income and very run-down. Beach and Harbor boulevards in particular are notorious for this.

    Every now and then you'll hear on the news about the Anaheim police busting a prostitution ring.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I was told they were Disney Princesses. Was I mislead?

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    No.

  • airforce||

    I don't know about the "Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots," but when I was stationed at Fort Sill more than 30 years ago, I was always amazed at how many hookers showed up outside the main gate on military paydays. I was told they brought them in by the busload, and I can believe it.

    And no, I didn't appreciate it. I didn't like having to fend off a couple hookers while taking my wife and children out to dinner. Don't get me wrong, I think prostitution should be legal, but I don't think car salesman should accost me on the street, either.

  • Dweebston||

    Agreed. Legalize it, get the hookers off the street. I don't see a guy on the corner for my booze, I see the guy at the corner store.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    When I worked in film production, I would drop off our rented 5-ton truck in Hollywood, usually around 3AM. The rental lot was on Santa Monica Blvd @ La Brea. Every goddamn time, there were the ugliest tranny hookers (Flintstone girls) selling it on the sidewalk. On more than one occasion, I was approached and asked if I wanted to, "Smoke crack and fuck." I was finishing a 20-hour day on set, it was 3AM, I was pretty much a zombie, cold, tired, and wanting to go home and climb into bed with my wife. Leave me alone, please. Some people are just rude.

  • Dweebston||

    Some people are just rude motivated entrepreneurs!
  • Mark22||

    Maybe you should just rent your trucks in a classier part of town and get home to your wife earlier?

  • Mark22||

    I, for one, welcome the time when "Lost Tribes of Gypsy Harlots" can, in fact, wander the world unimpeded. I think that would be a good sign of global economic and social progress.

  • prolefeed||

    the idea that some Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots wanders about the world from mega-event to mega-event

    Hookers and strippers do tend to move about from town to town a lot, since part of their appeal is sexual novelty, and staying in the same town too long means that many of your potential customers have already seen you and moved on to fresh new providers.

  • DEADBEEF||

    Maggie,

    Just to note - as I'm sure you're already aware - the myth goes back as far as the 2000 Olympics in Sydney (see e.g. here: "... an estimated 10,000 women were imported during the 2000 Sydney Olympics"). I'm not sure whether the claim was actually made at the time or whether it's been applied retroactively, but it's an... interesting coincidence that this BBC report from February 2000 cites the same 10,000 figure as the estimated total number of sex workers who were active in New South Wales at the time.

  • Cyto||

    At least the Olympics has the plausibility of being a two week long event with hundreds of thousands of visitors.

    Claiming more than a few hundred out of town hookers for a football game with a total attendance of around 70,000 is just silly. Even the if every attendee decided to hire out a walk on the wild side it would hardly justify 20,000 sex workers.

  • DEADBEEF||

    In the run-up to Superbowl XLIV in 2010, some anti-trafficking groups put out estimates that up to 100,000 "women and girls" were going to be trafficked to Miami for the game. It's still being quoted today.

    That this implied one-and-a-third trafficked sex slaves for every man, woman and child in the stadium went largely unnoticed.

  • DEADBEEF||

    Also interesting to note that the same schtick was wheeled out for the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales. It didn't catch on, presumably because no-one believed that golf, being a rather genteel sport, could possibly attract a horde of marauding sex-crazed fans big enough to make it worth the gypsy harlots' time.

  • Alan||

    Well of course you won't see any evidence of human trafficking now. After over 100 billion preteen sex slaves were imported for the World Cup, and they so outnumbered those attending the games that the price for their services fell and over 39 billion of them died of starvation due to a lack of income, the pimps won't take their slaves anywhere near the big events these days - though a few "cleaners" usually show up just in case there is a repeat with an accompanying need to secretly dispose of the dead.

    The story about the hunting season in Minnesota, however, might be true.

  • RishJoMo||

    Man there is nothing like a quick blowjob from a hot call girl!

    www.Anon-VPN.com

  • Jon Lester||

    I think the hooker invasion force will number in the dozens, and only a handful will even get noticed by law enforcement.

  • JD3||

    Hey ignorant government, yeah, I'm talking to you!
    Let the oldest profession operate in a free-market without forceful interference.
    Stop hampering the economy with your absurd BS.

  • pob||

    before I saw the check ov $4298, I didnt believe that...my... sister was realy earning money part-time at there computar.. there moms best frend has been doing this for only 23 months and just now took care of the loans on their appartment and got a top of the range Acura. you could try here W­ o­ r­ k­ s­ 7­ 7­ .­ C­ O­ M­

  • Diana12||

  • pob||

    up to I saw the check of $9317, I be certain that my mom in-law was actually erning money parttime from there labtop.. there neighbor had bean doing this for under and as of now repaid the dept on there place and purchased Ford Mustang. view website W­ o­ r­ k­ s­ 7­ 7­ .­ C­ O­ M­

  • pob||

    Piper. I see what you mean... Steven`s rep0rt is impressive... last thursday I got Ford Mustang after having made $9565 this - 5 weeks past and just over 10 grand lass-month. with-out any question its my favourite-work Ive had. I started this three months/ago and pretty much immediately was bringing home at least $80.. per hour. use this link W­ o­ r­ k­ s­ 7­ 7­ .­ C­ O­ M­

  • madamimadam||

    Here is an example of the continued propagation of this myth I found on "Stars and Stripes" and written by:
    Michael Riley
    Bloomberg News
    Tweet
    Published: January 31, 2014
    http://www.stripes.com/news/us.....s-1.265015

  • pob||

    uptil I looked at the paycheck ov $8739, I accept that...my... father in law had been trully bringing home money part-time at there labtop.. there best friend had bean doing this for under twenty two months and by now cleared the mortgage on their appartment and purchased Lexus LS400. learn the facts here now ➤➤➤➤➤➤ www.works77.ℂℴ¬m

  • julia14juli||

    my best friend's sister-in-law makes $70 /hour on the computer . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her check was $12532 just working on the computer for a few hours. you can look here

    =========================
    http://www.tec30.com
    =========================

  • ibcbet||

    They seem to be identical stories, but they go back much farther to at least the 1970s. Stories of how the Republicans have more money and are kinkier, etc. They read as if the writers "just knew" how these things went.

  • CZmacure||

    I suppose all the arrests that happened are made up too. Those children and sex slaves probably chose their "profession". It's in USA Today - not exactly a bastion of conservative thinking: http://www.usatoday.com/story/.....n/5207399/

  • @Cincinnatus1775||

    "Sixteen Juveniles Recovered in Joint Super Bowl Operation Targeting Underage Prostitution" http://goo.gl/GPpNaA How many children is too many, and how many traffickers and pimps didn't get caught?

  • cheap soccer jerseys||

    I also didn't like having to fend off a couple hookers while taking my wife and children out to dinner.

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