How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Fed Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking

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I watched the Super Bowl Halftime Show on Sunday, featuring Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and scores of dancers. Some people called it “dazzling” and “amazing.” But others, me included, would call it troubling.

Before I highlight some of the obvious issues with what took place on Sunday night, I’d like to point out that it was impossible to see J Lo and Shakira and not want to drop my french fries and seriously consider working out a bit more. But then I remembered that I’m eight months pregnant and running around after my toddler every day counts as exercise.

But jokes aside, Sunday night was appalling.

It’s becoming more widely known that the Super Bowl and sex trafficking are notoriously linked. The crowds the event draws, and the distractions it can create, makes the “big game” a horrifically bad issue. In fact, nearly 200 people were arrested last year in connection with 2019’s Super Bowl in Atlanta. But it’s not just the Super Bowl that’s a problem. It’s the world-wide epidemic of sex slavery that the real culprit. And the United States is one of the biggest contributors to this horrific industry.

How, you ask? Well, one way is in the connection between viewing pornography and sex slavery. According to Fight The New Drug, “the porn industry fuels real people being sexually abused and exploited at the hands of family members, traffickers, and pimps. The collective billions of clicks to porn content directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling videos of their sex slaves to porn sites.”

This is a terrifying reality, particularly because pornography is more accepted, and more available, than ever before. And the Super Bowl’s halftime show—which many noted riffed on J Lo’s film sex-industry-themed film Hustlers—fed right into that narrative. You don’t believe me? Well, so many people were buzzing online about the titillating halftime performance that Pornhub felt the need to tweet that they did not sponsor the event. What does that tell you?

But it’s not just this year’s show that’s the problem. Let’s not pretend that J Lo and Shakira are the only performers that have ruffled some feathers. It’s our culture. It’s our view of sex and empowerment. We watch something like this year’s halftime show and are told that objectification and hyper-sexualization are liberating. That it’s better to exploit ourselves then to let someone else do it for us.

But is it? And what happens when our actions and entertainment choices, those we think are setting us free, are actually enslaving millions of people around the world? “Liberty” always comes at a cost.

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