Every year, a remarkable thing happens: Like clockwork, as the Super Bowl approaches, anti-trafficking organizations trot out the same debunked statistics. Law enforcement agencies use those statistics to hold theatrical raids and “rescue” operations. Calls of “save the children” ring out across the national media and everyone gets to feel good about their efforts to “end demand” by arresting those who labor within the Sex Trade and their clients.
Of course, other remarkable things happen around the Super Bowl.
It is a well-known fact that more people purchase big screen TVs and return them after the Super Bowl. It is a well-known fact that the Super Bowl halftime show has been more than a year in the making, and involves incredible amounts of time, talent, and treasure to create these performances. The celebrities invited to take part in the halftime performance architect for sometimes decades after the performance. It is a well-known fact that the price of beer goes down just a little bit - regardless of what form you purchase it in - and there is almost breathless anticipation about what the Super Bowl commercials will be. They are rated and reviewed ad nauseam, compared to the previous year and the year before that and all the way back to when super bowl commercials were “a thing”.
Beer prices both skyrocket and plunge.
If you had the privilege to actually attend the Super Bowl in Las Vegas this year, you paid $19 for a beer and $13 for a premium hotdog. An order of Nachos - which we might gently remind you is nothing more than chips and cheese sauce - will have set you back $14. If you bought your beer at a local gas station or grocery store, the price varied but you probably were able to purchase a king's supply of beer for the change you might find in your sofa. If you plan to attend a sports bar to watch the game, the beer specials undoubtedly include wings and a desperately tired, overworked and under compensated server who has girded their loins in dreaded preparation for the onslaught of fans willing to pay grotesquely inflated drink prices, but are often not prepared to inflate their tips accordingly.
If you went to the Big Game, or if you already live where it was played, you might have had an opportunity to attend a Next-Level Super Bowl Celebration that can range from $175 to simply walk in and sit down to $800 for a more intimate setting with a sofa, a gourmet meal and a selection of more than 100 hand crafted beer selections.
And while none of this may be “phenomenal”, no one questions the “data” behind these “remarkable” Super Bowl happenings. No one draws the line between supply and demand for beer, chicken wings or Big Screen TV’s during the Super Bowl. There’s “Not A Penalty” - to appropriate the current anti-trafficking rhetoric - for returning a big screen TV purchased a day, week, or even a month before the watch party. And no one loses their mind and sets up campaign style billboards when someone states that “they only watch the Halftime Show (or the hyped commercials) because they just “aren’t into football”.
Why? Because that is the Universal Economic Law of Supply and Demand.
The supply and demand of beer doesn’t really change all that much around the Super Bowl. Beer is around pretty the same price much all year, maybe a little more or less on 3 day weekends, and the sale of beer on the single Big Game Day may increase but it's also going to significantly decrease on the following Monday, and the overall success of general beer sales will be reflected in an annual number that manufacturers hold up against their previous years sales. Three Day weekends will drive up the demand for beer and therefore it drives down the price. Not the availability, mind you. Only the price.
The price of beer is going to fluctuate based on the demand for it.
Those folks who are out there buying electronics are likely going to see some discounted retail prices before the Super Bowl Sunday and retailers fully expect a few returns but they also know that many folks simply won’t return the TV because they ended up liking it, its too heavy or bulky, or maybe they just don’t have anything else to hang over the holes in the wall that were used to hang it.
Demand for large electronic devices doesn’t dramatically increase or decrease overall around the Super Bowl even though the price may go down slightly and retailers won’t go out of business if they take a few of them back as buyers have remorse for making such purchases.This is a small risk for retailers to take in the face of traditional capitalism.
Celebrities are already celebrities and - with the notable exception of Janet Jackson, who found herself ostracized from public performances after the “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 with Justin Timberlake - don’t tangibly suffer if a coveted - and occasionally controversial - Super Bowl Halftime performance doesn’t go well. They will continue to perform in stadiums and appear on the cover of People Magazine. Demand for their non-big game performances might briefly go up and their ticket prices…well those could go either way and will probably not have anything to do with their Halftime Show performance.
Because sometimes things just don’t have anything to do with each other.
This is certainly the case with Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. The only thing they have in common is increased eyeballs and lots of speculation. There were not hundreds of thousands of children being traded into Glendale, AZ this year or any other year, or any other city with the intention of trafficking anyone. The anti-trafficking lobby has been spinning this tale for a couple of decades, and it’s been disproved time and time again. But with both Media and Law enforcement agencies lapping at the heels of these harmful narratives, it always turns out to be a very tangible demonstration of the criminalization of people living in poverty, people who are using drugs, people who are homeless and people who need to eat and feed their families. They go to jail, lose their car, lose their home, and become entangled in a criminal justice system. And by applying the economic law of Supply and Demand to this manufactured "phenomena" to the trading of sex, we know for a fact that increased demand drives prices up and decreased demand drives prices down. Not availability...only the price. And the driving down of prices for sexual services during these campaigns only creates more dangerous circumstances for those who may not even know the Super Bowl is happening. They may be willing to engage in riskier behavior that could cause harm to their already fragile living conditions. They will have to take more clients which inherently creates more risk. An increase in police surveillance and well-meaning (sic) rescuers raises their chances of being arrested...not "saved".
An eloquent tweet the week before the Super Bowl said it best…
“It's perfectly ok to admit you were wrong about the increase in sex trafficking around the Super Bowl.”
Want to know more about the follies of Supply and Demand Economic Theory and Super Bowl Rhetoric?
Read previous posts from us here:
On the Super Bowl, Safety and Solidarity, by Chris Ash
Or read more from Elizabeth Nolan Brown and Stephen Lemons here:
Super Bowl Sex-Trafficking Myths Return, Elizabeth Nolan Brown
And they're just as wrong and dangerous this time around.
And don't forget to read:
Anti Trafficking Review about Debunking the Myth of ‘Super Bowl Sex Trafficking’: Media hype or evidenced-based coverage by L Martin and A Hill