There I sat with my three young daughters, excited for a break from football, anticipating top-notch musical entertainment.
Or so I thought.
I suppose I should have known better, but I didn’t. There certainly was no warning from the NFL or the Super Bowl Halftime Show sponsor, Pepsi.
But there should have been.
Within seconds, I knew the “performance” was in bad taste. A couple minutes in, it was clear this hyper-sexualized show was not going to improve, and I had to get it off my television. The dancing, the (lack of) clothing, the lyrics, even the performers’ facial expressions, were all sexualized. The only place one might expect this type of “entertainment” would be in a strip club. Certainly not on primetime TV, not to mention during an iconic athletic event viewed by more than 100 million people, many of whom are children.
As we watched America’s Funniest Home Videos for the duration of the Halftime Show, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d just seen. It was nothing less than objectifying of and degrading to women. How anyone could call it “empowering” to females is beyond me. It was just the opposite — it depicted the exploitation of women.
What really made me shudder was to think about the connection between what was depicted on stage and what was happening all around Miami last weekend: human trafficking for sex.
Did you know that sex traffickers converge on the cities that host the Super Bowl and other large sporting events each year? They are drawn by the influx of male visitors and promise of increased demand for commercial sex. And do you know what drives an increased demand for commercial sex? To a large degree, it’s pornographic images and hyper-sexualized “entertainment.”
According to the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, the United States is the number one consumer of sex worldwide. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion a year at the expense of 40 million victims.
And it’s not just women. Twenty-five percent of trafficking victims are children. All victims are abused. They are forced and coerced to sell their bodies for sex against their will.
One victim is too many.
As I reflect on what I saw on the Super Bowl Halftime Show, I’m disturbed and outraged for much bigger reasons than what I must shield my children from on primetime TV. My deepest regret is knowing that the sexualization and objectification of women being “sold” on that Halftime Show stage was also being sold outside the stadium in the form of human trafficking.
So, what can we do about it? Must we just accept the fact that the Superbowl Halftime Show will forever be a hyper-sexualized, inappropriate performance off-limits to families and children? Must we all prepare with remotes in hand, ready to change the channel next year?
Yes, and no. Yes, because every parent should be on guard for what could be streamed directly into our living rooms during the Halftime Show—or any show—and be ready to take quick action.
But no, because there are many policy solutions we can support as well. Coincidentally, President Trump announced last Friday that he would request a $42 million budget increase in February to expand support for victims of human trafficking, to boost investigations and the prosecution of traffickers. We applaud him for this action and for the continued attention the Trump Administration gives to human trafficking in our country.
In addition, FPA supports policy proposals to curb human trafficking state by state. We are working with state legislators and allies to introduce and support our model legislation to require increased reporting of human and sex trafficking aimed at improving law enforcement and education efforts to combat this modern-day slavery. This is just one example of how public policy can help end the scourge of human trafficking.
But I believe there is something more immediate than public policy that you and I can do to affect change on this matter. It’s quite simple, but the results could be significant.
I hope that you will take a few minutes to join Family Policy Alliance and me as we speak up for a nation where families thrive and life is cherished, and especially for the victims of human trafficking who can’t speak for themselves.
Standing with you,
Director of External Relations