When most people think of Super Bowl Sunday, what comes to mind? If you think tailgate parties, watching the big game at home with a crowd, Super Bowl commercials and half time, cooking special foods, you're pretty typical-- but did you know that part of the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl involves watching out for pimps who come into town who want to sell kids for sex?
According to recent news stories, a Super Bowl can typically bring 10,000 sex workers into town, according to Jerry Strickland, communications director in the Texas attorney general's office, who was quoted in a Reuters story that ran last month on Yahoo News. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, "The Super Bowl is a magnet for child sex traffickers."
For many game attendees, the macho, party-time atmosphere of the weekend fuels behaviors that might not fly back home, but a local Texas group called Traffick911, founded by a church-going Fort Worth, Texas mom named Denna Graves, wants to be sure that buying underaged teens for sex isn't part of the picture.
Graves, a member of Southside City Church in Fort Worth,has teamed up with at least 25 other organizations, many of them faith-based, to launch a campaign for this Super Bowl called I'm Not Buying It. With a slick media kit, downloadable web materials, a Facebook page (with more than 3,000 members), and a set of powerful PSAs (one featuring Dallas Cowboys player Jay Ratcliff), Graves and company have set out to make sure this Super Bowl Sunday doesn't involve adults buying sexual services from kids, who, according to Graves, typically have a life expectancy of just seven years if they don't get out of the life. The Change.org petition Traffik911 launched, for example, has over 78,000 signatures.
As someone who has supported coverage of youth sex tafficking in my city, Oakland, CA, it's admirable to see the amount of press and coverage Graves and her group have been able to generate on this very real and significant problem. However, as a sex-positive feminist, I have to take a step back in my mind when I see how many of Traffick911's partners are almost all faith-based Christian organizations.
As much as I support rescuing children, I have to ask whether Graves and company believe that rescued children who a in the early stages of pregnancy should be able to have abortions, if they wish, and whether they are comfortable working with sectarian groups who support same-sex marriage, identify as queer, homosexual or gender-fluid, or who don't embody traditional marriage and family monogamous values.
Or, to put it another way, is there really a danger that the Super Bowl is a mecca for sex trafficking, or is this a shrewd way to build on emotion to gain attention and funding for what is, after all, a very worthy cause?
Susan Mernit, Susan Mernit's Blog
follow me on twitter: twitter/susanmernit
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