Robert Kraft, the 77-year-old owner of the New England Patriots, made national headlines last weekend when he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at a Florida massage parlor. Authorities charged Kraft with two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution.
Police secretly planted undercover cameras in select parlors to record interactions between men and the female employees. They issued hundreds of arrest warrants after pulling in the nets on a six-month sting operation. Apparently, the women working at the parlor are Chinese nationals who were abducted and forced into sexual slavery.
On one hand, there’s nothing new to see here. Unfortunately, the “world’s oldest profession” is a dehumanizing vocation and a lousy substitute for intimacy.
Even more tragic are the thousands of women who—as in this case—are stolen and forced into the work as slaves. The men who brazenly aid in sustaining the market go largely unconfronted worldwide. Tragically, more energy will be spent worrying about the Patriots’ first round pick in the upcoming draft than the problem of sex trafficking happening around them.
Most of us feel practically helpless to affect this reality. It’s much easier to avoid the subject entirely.
What about our boys?
But what effect does a moment like this have on our junior high, high school, and college-aged sons? What is their response when the most visible owner of the most successful team in the most popular and influential sports league in our country gets caught soliciting sex from a Chinese woman held against her will?
One of my colleagues raised that question. My first thought was, They won’t care a bit—especially if they don’t like the Patriots! I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic—I meant it.
Boys today swim in the morally ambiguous waters of our culture. Too often they lack the ability to build an argument against something—even something they intuitively know is wrong.
At worst, some may only think it’s “wrong” because he got caught. At best, some will conclude that “Sex with a prostitute is bad,” but lack further insight as to why.
The “I could care less” response may be one we’ve grown accustomed to when dealing with our sons. But let’s not be lulled into our own apathy by that response. Our boys desperately need help to think more deeply about moments like this one.
They need encouragement that being disturbed about both prostitution and sex trafficking isn’t prudish. It’s understanding the nature of evil and calling it out, something we’re poorly conditioned to do in our cultural moment. They need a moral vocabulary to address these types of situations, not just thoughtless judgment or apathetic detachment.
This disturbing news about Robert Kraft will undoubtedly serve TMZ and ESPN headline fodder for several months. But for us, we might consider teaching our boys some of the ignored implications of “just another” publicized scandal.
15 things to grieve when prostitution makes the news
We can use this list to introduce them to a conversation. To understand how this situation should produce some measure of grief in all of us as human beings.
1. We should grieve that most of the talk around this incident involves the reputation of the New England Patriots and its ownership. Not the moral fabric of our nation.
2. We should grieve that a 77-year-old man, worth $6 billion and surrounded with privilege and power, chooses to exploit a woman for illicit sex in a massage parlor.
3. We should grieve that these women were forced into the sex trade through lies and broken promises. And yet they are considered less than human by others because of what they do.
4. We should grieve that a father in China had his daughter kidnapped and shipped to another country by sex traffickers. And he remains helpless to do anything about it.
5. We should grieve that the woman involved in this will be a nameless afterthought. She’ll be morally judged while still socially abandoned.
6. We should grieve that many other women in our country arrive at a place in life—for whatever reason—where performing dehumanizing sex acts with strangers becomes a viable vocational path.
7. We should grieve that media will salivate over the celebrity angle. Instead of calling out, judging, and attacking the thriving evil of the multi-billion dollar sex trafficking industrial complex.
8. We should grieve over national hypocrisy that endorses every sort of sexually deviant behavior. This moment is news not because of the women being abused but because the central character is a celebrity.
9. We should grieve that the social media response to this news is layered with comedic memes, trash talk about the Patriots, and laughter that Kraft got caught. Instead of deep sadness for the brokenness surrounding everyone connected to this situation.
10. We should grieve that a spokesperson for Kraft said they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity” in spite of the recorded evidence. We should grieve the failure to immediately accept responsibility and accountability. And that the besetting issue will be framed in legal terms rather than human, moral, or social terms.
11. We should grieve that an elderly man in our country finds himself seeking to satisfy a legitimate need for intimacy in such a sadly illegitimate manner.
12. We should grieve that his four sons and extended family will have to sort through the implications of his choice. Not only regarding personal reputation but also personal direction.
13. We should grieve that modeling an indulgent lifestyle makes it difficult to challenge his own players toward higher accountability.
14. We should grieve because what powerful men desperately need—and rarely find—is confrontation and accountability to live with virtue toward women.
15. We should grieve that our sons live in a cultural moment where pornography is so normalized. So much that this incident might not even be wrong in their minds.
That’s plenty of raw material for both reflection and grief.
Let’s talk to our sons about this Robert Kraft incident. They’re already hearing about it, but what will they hear from you?
If we can initiate a conversation, maybe we can solidify their framework for responding well in the midst of cultural apathy. And we’ll foster a pattern of open accountability and support as we raise them in a world riddled with temptation.
Copyright © 2019 Ed Uszynski. All rights reserved.
Ed Uszynski has a PhD in American Culture Studies. He and his wife Amy speak at the Weekend to Remember Getaway. You can find him on twitter @Uszynski32.