Monday, February 4, 2013

The Superbowl and Human Trafficking (Or, In Which I Rain on the Human Rights Parade)

Ahead of this year's Superbowl (Go Ravens! by the way), I saw a lot of talk on Facebook and elsewhere online about the expected deluge of prostitutes into New Orleans, many of them underage, many of them trafficked in against their will to service attendees at the Big Game.  This was a national shame, we were told, and we needed to pray for mercy and grace to turn back the tide.

I think this is commendable.  Human trafficking is a terrifying reality of Our Modern World.  Not to be too melodramatic about it, but I know this first hand, and I have no doubt it was present at the Superbowl.  It's great that this issue is starting to break into the public consciousness.

That said.

Several of the more popular posts on this issue, including one in TIME Magazine, made some claims that just don't pass the smell test.  I draw the following quotes from a piece in the Huffington Post:

“When it came time for the Super Bowl, Clemmie Greenlee was expected to sleep with anywhere from 25 to 50 men a day."

“According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010 and 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl.”

By now, your mental math alarms should be ringing, but let's break it down.

A little over 74,000 people attended the 2010 Superbowl in Miami. Let’s say another 36,000 people came to Miami because of the game, but did not actually attend. Let’s say that, instead of sleeping with 25 to 50 customers a day (not an unsurprising figure, by all accounts), each of the 10,000 prostitutes slept with only one customer.

That would make 1 out of every 10 game day visitors – including all the men, women, children, and elderly people in that category - a john.

Conclusion: Either NFL fans are superhumanly lecherous, or these statistics are totally wrong.

A similar story comes from Atlanta, where city police warned in 2004 that 1,000 Asian women and girls were being forced into prostitution.

The total number of trafficking victims rescued by Atlanta police in the following two years after receiving a $450,000 grant from the Justice Department?


As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says, "Had agency leaders questioned the estimate, they would have found it defied common sense. If it were true, one in eight of the city’s Asians would have been sex slaves."

Dear Justice Department: You gave them a $450,000 grant without questioning the estimate??  I have brilliant, unemployed friends who will question estimates for you all day for a fraction of that!

Interestingly enough, the 10,000 Superbowl prostitutes figure also seems to have originated with a city police department, this one in Miami.

Isn’t human trafficking horrific enough without making up absurd numbers like this?

If my math is off or I'm being counterrevolutionary by pointing this out, please let me know.

That is all.  The crusade may now resume.

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