Last week, Robert Kraft, the wealthy owner of the New England Patriots went to a spa and had a happy ending. In the state of Florida, this sexual act between two consenting adults is illegal. The public discourse around Kraft’s notorious happy ending is made confusing by the assertion that “human trafficking” was a part of the equation. Under federal law, a person has to be laboring under force, fraud, and/or coercion, or be a minor in the sex trade, to qualify as a human trafficking victim. In this case, there is no evidence of trafficking and no one is being charged with those crimes.
So why all the hubbub about trafficking? Because in a world were sexual norms are evolving and we’re more tolerant of sexual liberation, the simple concept of sex for money doesn’t spark the moral outrage it once did. Laws that were put on the books alongside laws that made gay sex, or interracial sex, a crime are outdated. So, those who want to keep sex pure are forced to come up with another reason sex work is inherently bad and they used the (in this case false) story of human trafficking to do so. Human trafficking is a horrible crime. 70% of it in the US occurs in agriculture, domestic labor, and factory work. When we push fake narratives of human trafficking in order to keep consensual sex work illegal, we make the real victims of modern day slavery more invisible.
The Juniper Police Department has spent the better part of a year investigating three massage parlors and determined that once, every three days, a licensed, legally working masseur helps her client achieve ejaculation. Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars went to this discovery.
There were no complaints from the spa’s neighbors or passersby. The only complaint seemed to be that there weren’t enough hand jobs happening on the premises. More than half of the Yelp reviews expressed disappointment that they had wanted sexual contact but did not receive it. Some did receive sexual contact.
Some of that contact was with undercover police officers. Investigators from as many as three government agencies had sexual contact with women they later claimed on television were “sex slaves”. Ironically, after receiving their “investigatory services” they did not immediately rescue these “slaves” but rather let them go for several more months. This should concern advocates who still think trafficking was happening in Juniper.
After six months of gathering this footage, the police raided the establishment, confiscated money, and handcuffed everyone. They immediately published the long list of men suspected of having paid for sexual services in a transparent name-and-shame campaign. Because, at the end of the day, the whole fiasco isn’t about human trafficking, it’s about moral panic and sexual purity. What are the weapons of the puritanical? Shame and humiliation. If I were Robert Kraft and John Childs, I would fund litigation to penalize and prevent this gross abuse of power and publicize the conflation of sex work and human trafficking for what it really is.
Robert Kraft and the other men arrested did not bully a reluctant masseur into providing sexual services; rather, they went to an establishment well known for providing such a service and paid for it. Nothing about that should be a crime.
All of the women working at the spa were licenced masseurs and working legally. They possess up-to-date licences and work visas. The owners were in good standing. There may have been one woman sleeping in a private room on the premises, and she is being charged with prostitution and racketeering. She is not being treated as a victim. Many women have fled and are not cooperating with police.
Police should not be wasting time arresting adults who are engaged in consensual sexual activities. Legislators in all 50 states should pass legislation to decriminalize sex work. Maybe then they can make progress on helping actual trafficking victims whose stories may not be sexy or involve celebrity figures.