The Year the Super Bowl Hooker-Palooza Myth Died

Hi Readers — Here’s my piece in the Huffington Post about yet another moral panic: hordes of hookers descending on the Super Bowl.

For insight, I interviewed Maggie McNeill, who blogs at The Honest Cortesan and wrote this terrific piece for Reason on the same topic. Here’s what she told me:

…unlike trade shows, big sporting events are actually not good for the prostitution business. “With trade shows, you definitely have an increase,” says McNeill, speaking by phone from the rural home where now she lives, happily married and writing full-time. “We liked to see trade shows, because this meant men traveling alone and they’re kind of partying a little bit. But with sporting events, you usually have a decrease in business because: 1) A lot of guys take their families and 2) A lot of the guys who don’t take their families are very young and they’ve used up all their cash getting a hotel room.”

Having been a madam in New Orleans during the 2002 Super Bowl, McNeill can attest, “We didn’t see any increase in business.” (The strip clubs, she says, did.)

So, why would a hooker waste time and money hoofing it to a one-weekend event where the prospects are dim, the rooms overpriced and the police on the prowl?

While we’re on the topic, here’s ANOTHER great piece, The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking, that ran in yesterday’s NY Times.  It’s by Kate Mogulescu who founded the Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society, so clearly she has no interest in downplaying the problem of trafficking. She just has a problem with the media distorting it. And also with the crazy idea that to “help” trafficking victims we arrest them!

As media distortion and moral panics are a constant theme here, it is my delight to present these un-distorters to you. – L.

And the trophy for Super Bowl panic goes to...

And the trophy for Super Bowl panic goes to…


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17 Responses to The Year the Super Bowl Hooker-Palooza Myth Died

  1. Emily February 2, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Okay, so, the Super Bowl has been happening every year since 1967, and I’ve been around for every Super Bowl since 1984, although, I don’t really pay attention, because I’m not a huge sports fan. I do, however, read the newspapers, and news articles on the Internet, and I occasionally watch the news on television, and I’ve never once seen a story about the Super Bowl (or any other sporting event) being a mecca of prostitution. This just sounds like an overblown story that’s been conjured up by some news network that got sick of the “Super Bowl happened, X, Y, and Z teams played, X team won” stories that happen every year.

  2. Emily February 2, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Wait, no, I’ve been around for every Super Bowl since 1985, because I was born in June of 1984. So, my chronological math is slightly off, but my point still stands–I’ve never seen anyone associate the Super Bowl with prostitution until now.

  3. J.T. Wenting February 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    another fallacy not addressed is the one that every (or even most) prostitutes are victims of human trafficking.
    Nothing could be further from the truth (though they do exist, especially in areas bordering porous borders with poor countries, like the US/Mexico border).

    The majority are in fact consenting adults, though a lot of them in some areas may be doing it for lack of other options to generate income (think drug addicts).

    If prostitution is to be illegal (and I wonder why, better to legalise and regulate it, so you have the legal means to enforce a safe and clean work environment), arresting prostitutes is a good way to get them out of business.
    Just fine them more than they’re likely to make as income, and keep them in jail for the night, and many will come to the conclusion it’s a net income loss.

  4. Jim February 2, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Emily the superbowl prostitution story has been around for at least the last 15 years where every year there will be a report on the army of hookers that are coming to town. The numbers are always awesome like when it was in Dallas a couple of years ago and the estimate for the number of hookers was like 4 times the number of visitors for the Superbowl. This story also gets huge traction every Olympics and World Cup.

  5. BL February 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    “So, why would a hooker waste time and money hoofing it to a one-weekend event where the prospects are dim, the rooms overpriced and the police on the prowl?”

    She really, really likes football? :-)

    Seriously, I’ve heard major party political conventions are where hookers really do well. Unlike the rest of us, they actually get paid for getting screwed by politicians.

  6. Tsu Dho Nimh February 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    It’s a year away from being hosted here, and Phoenix is already ramping up the hype about having to be on the alert for sex traffickers.

  7. Buffy February 2, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Interesting that almost all of the comments on the FRK facebook page are about rampant sex trafficking and accuse Lenore of not taking it seriously.

  8. Gary February 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    I *LIVE* in NJ, grew up about 10mi from Met-Life, work in the area and now live a little farther away. The BIGGER story is the “security” and you would think they were expecting China to invade, I was in our NY location Friday and had a flight of four each of Chinooks, Apaches and Blackhawks fly over our building and where my wife works Blackhawks were not much higher than the telephone poles and scared the crap out of everyone.

    The reports about the people jam because of security are starting already but to address the actual topic of the mass of prostitute, judging by the press coverage you would think they were being airdropped in like they were landing at Normandy.

  9. Reziac February 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    Someone says of prostitutes, “Just fine them more than they’re likely to make as income, and keep them in jail for the night, and many will come to the conclusion it’s a net income loss.”

    Hookers charge anywhere from $20 to $2000. So where do you set the fine? $200 is beyond what the $20 jobber can pay, but is nothing to the $2000 call girl. No, let me guess… with our current mania for ever-higher fines, I’d guess the max fine would be $10,000 or maybe even $20,000. (The same as the penalty for selling an animal in public in California. Yes, really.)

  10. Steve February 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    …and this is a Free Range Kids issue because???????


  11. Beth February 2, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    @Steve….because it’s Lenore’s blog and she can post whatever she wants?

  12. J.T. Wenting February 3, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    @Steve and because the “sex trafficking” angle inevitably leads to “children are being abducted in large numbers and forced into prostitution”.

  13. NotaSportsBallFan February 3, 2014 at 12:58 am #

    My local NPR affiliate (in the winning team’s home town) trotted out the Super Bowl sex trafficking story earlier in the week. They ran a locally produced segment that included an interview with Elie Honig, New Jersey’s director of the Division of Criminal Justice that wasn’t the least bit questioning of the premise.

    We’ve actually got local efforts to help real victims of sex trafficking without treating them as criminals. It sounds like New Jersey has bureaucrats who like publicity.

  14. pentamom February 3, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    @Steve because the Free Range issue is intimately tied up with the idea of false and overblown statistics giving an inaccurate picture of how bad, dangerous, whatever, the world is. Besides what others have said.

  15. Mark Roulo February 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Well, for a while the panic was that “More women are victims of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year.” (see for a rundown).

    We seem to have moved on to another exciting, but not particularly true panic.


  16. E February 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    According to this Reuters story, they found 17 juveniles that were involved with prostitution rings.

    From the story:
    “The bureau said some of those arrested claimed they traveled to the site because of the high-profile football game, which drew an estimated 400,000 visitors to the region. The minors rescued ranged in age from 13 to 17 and included high school students and children reported missing by their families, the FBI said.”

  17. anonymous mom February 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Just because a juvenile is doing sex work doesn’t mean they were trafficked. Runaways turning to prostitution–often lying about their age–is far more common than teens being forced by a trafficker into sex slavery. It’s tragic, but I don’t think it’s a situation we should conflate with sex trafficking or forced sexual slavery.