How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Fed Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking


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.

Who wrote this?

Kristin Smith is the most recent addition to the Plugged In team. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. When she's not writing or editing, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, Eddy, and running through Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods. She loves coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan), and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first baby, Judah.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the movie Priceless from the first time I saw it and even bought it for myself on DVD after Christmas last year, so I'm not saying I don't respect women or that I condone them getting assaulted. What I am saying is like it or not people get judged by the clothes they're wearing, and if a woman decides to wear skimpy or provocative clothing people will naturally judge them as nothing but objects and they're more likely to be assaulted then someone who is dressed more modestly in proper attire. It's all in how you're dressed, plain and simple.
mrhineha More than 1 year ago
So glad we decided to not watch the half-time show.  We have a 13 year old teen boy and we spent the time waiting for the game to start back up discussing why it isn't appropriate for women to wear skimpy clothes.  

This is how we are choosing to raise respect women and see them as "priceless."  I am not saying everyone will agree, but we wanted him to imitate Christ's love and not to degrade women or put them down. 

I would highly recommend the movie "Priceless" with Joel Smallbone (For King and Country) as one of the lead actors.  It changed my perspective on human trafficking.  

I will say we loved getting to watch the game though and this is a surprise for me since I am not a football fan by any means.  Loved getting to cheer on our Kansas City Chiefs.
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YetAnotherTeen More than 1 year ago
There is no excuse for rape. Your insistence otherwise is appalling. No one, NO ONE deserves to be sexually assaulted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The world would be a better place if women just started wearing more clothes in general.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apparently we aren't allowed to say words in our comments that are used in the article. Nice. So I'll make this short and blunt.

You are part of the problem. You look at two women and see them as objects because of how they dress. Look at Shakira and JLo as human beings and the world will get better. The end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Women in general need to stop dressing so provocatively, so then people won't think of them as such. I'm not saying all women out there need to dress like the Duggars, but there should be a fine line between dressing like a potato sack and dressing like a woman of the night.
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
Shouldn't we think of other people as human beings no matter how they dress?   Some might say that if people objectify women for dressing provocatively then its the fault of those people, not the women.  Isn't that also having people take responsibility for themselves?  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If a woman wants to dress sexy then gets in trouble for dressing that way it's her fault for choosing to wear certain clothes that way. Women have a responsibility for dressing a certain way that doesn't excite men in a negative way. It's not our fault if we objectify them, it's their fault for not dressing more modestly in the first place.
Isaiah Thacker More than 1 year ago
@ 3rd Anon:
Noooooo way. While I don't think this article objectifies anyone, the idea that a woman's poor choices give people license to treat her as subhuman (or worse) is still royally messed up.

Going out in excessively provocative attire could be compared to, say, riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Generally, it's probably unwise, and while it hardly guarantees you'll meet some serious misfortune, it tends to increase that likelihood. However, that doesn't give anyone the right to deliberately run you off the road, nor does it make it any less their fault (or their actions any less evil) if they choose to do so.

To use another example, actively angering a powerful mob boss is probably not the wisest move for the average individual... but it doesn't make his actions any less reprehensible if he has you "disappeared" later.

@Rocketshipper has the right of it. You're every bit as responsible for your actions as they are for theirs. One's foolhardiness does not excuse another's evil. Or, to use a more cliched phrase, "two wrongs don't make a right."
Isaiah Thacker More than 1 year ago
Nothing in this article treats the two people in question as "objects." All it does is call them and others out for the way they're (apparently) encouraging a twisted cultural aspect. Holding people accountable for their deeds is the exact opposite of treating them as objects: It's treating them as free-willed human beings who are (as a general rule) responsible for their own actions.

As someone who has only heard/read descriptions of the halftime show, I can't personally attest to how bad it was/wasn't (hence my earlier use of the term "apparently"). What I can say for certain, however, is that this article isn't phrased in a way that treats anyone as an object.

Side note: I do agree that it's curious how certain terms allowed in the articles aren't allowed in the comments...
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
Lelouch!!  Never thought I'd see his picture appear on pluggedin.
Isaiah Thacker More than 1 year ago
@Rocketshipper: I'm equally shocked to see someone who recognizes my profile pic. What a pleasant surprise.

Long live the emperor! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You're right two wrongs don't make a right, but at the same time women need to learn to start dressing more modestly, so then they won't get themselves in trouble in the first place. Basically if you're gonna dress like a **** then you're gonna get treated like a ****, that's just human nature sorry to say.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I decided not to watch the half time show and instead rewatch a video from one of my favorite YouTubers.

Time well spent I'd say.
The Mouse Of Non More than 1 year ago
I decided to skip the entire super bowl and watch the trailers in the morning. 

Which YouTube video is it by the way?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

What?! You missed a pretty good game Sunday night! (It was lightyears better than last year's anyway)

I watched It's Awesome Baby! from Scott the Woz.
The Mouse Of Non More than 1 year ago
Yeah, I heard I missed a good one!! I had been sick for like a week and had to be up early the next day for work, so I opted for extra sleep. I wanted the Chiefs to win, but didn't think they would. I had a pleasant surprise in the morning!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't watch it either. But I'm not much of a football fan to begin with.