There are a lot of Super Bowl myths. No, sewer systems in major cities haven’t been knocked out of service by millions of half-time flushes. No, it is not the top day of the year for domestic violence.
As Kate Mogulescu explained in Saturday’s Times, there’s another myth that is both false and destructive. No, prostitutes and sex traffickers don’t descend en masse on the cities hosting the Super Bowl. There is no documented surge in the sex trade during big sports events; it just looks that way on the police blotter because politicians spread the myth, vow to keep it from happening in their city and send cops out to round up the usual suspects.
“Sex trafficking” has come to replace “prostitution” at the press conferences of pols and police, because forcing women to sell their bodies is worse than when women decide on their own to sell their services. But the distinction is fading from common usage. And when cops gripped by Super Bowl fever go out and arrest hundreds of prostitutes, like they have in New York this week, the punishment falls on independent sex workers and the victims of trafficking as well. None of them is helped by an arrest record. The victimizing of victims by police is even worse on Super Bowl weekend because the justification for the infliction of this pain is based on a myth.