Anybody remember Bill Cosby? How about Brock Turner? Stories of sexual assault that have sparked nationwide outrage and debate. Then came Trump.
This is not a political post. I can’t stand politics and can’t wait for the election to be over. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for or who I am voting for because that’s not what this is about. What this is about is the ‘locker room’ talk fiasco trending in America at the moment.
The Trump case goes further than Cosby or Turner.
In Cosby’s case, there was a general disbelief, and then, as evidence and stories came forward, a quiet distancing from the star. His show was dropped and his legacy slowly crumpled. It felt like an isolated case of abuse of stardom and the public, in general, seemed to turn a quiet blind eye.
In Brock Turner’s case, there was a general outrage as something as devastating as rape was written off as “20 minutes of action.” The dignity and respect of a woman was valued at 3 months in jail. As a culture, we started talking about consent, and the prevalence of sexual violence.
Trump went a step further. He chalked his vulgar speech up to locker room banter. You, know “boys will be boys.” In an effort to excuse his comments as no big deal, Trump essentially accused every man in America of being a restrained rapist.
His message was this: Guys do this all the time.
It has sparked conversation outside of politics. Women are coming forward with their stories. Wives are, for the first time, sharing with their husbands. The New York Times published an article outlining the stories of women who never came forward and now feel they need to, to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault. Because it is more common than we hear or we’d like to believe.
It is part of the culture- a sad, sick, and silent, part of our culture.
In the past few days, I’ve watched the conversation, jumping in only to try to silence those who would attack sexual assault victims. Wondering why they didn’t come forward sooner and calling them all- all of them- liars. The conversation has revealed some truths about our culture.
1. We demand proof that doesn’t exist
In most cases, you cannot prove sexual assault. If a man gropes me, unless that is caught on video, I have no proof. DNA on my shirt? He’ll say he bumped me. Saliva on my neck? He’ll say I wanted it. Actually, no, he’ll say I never told him I didn’t want it- because that’s the new definition of consent, which, by the way, also can’t be proven.
We won’t even talk about verbal harassment, stalking, upskirt pictures, and various other forms of non-contact sexual harassment that occur.
Yet, over and over, I keep seeing people say things like, “Well, when there’s proof.” or “I need to see proof.” In the court of public opinion, lack of absolute proof makes you an absolute liar.
And this is why women don’t come forward.
2. Porn does impact culture
The Trump tape has ‘porn influence’ all over it. The way he talks about women, the way he addresses their bodies, it all reveals a background of pornography use and exposure. In essence, that was the porn talking.
Our culture is saturated with the ideals of pornography. The idea that women, men, and even, in horrible cases, children are objects to be used for our personal pleasure. The idea that “no” actually somehow means yes.
Only in porn movies do you just walk up to a person and start kissing them without consent. Only in a culture influenced by porn is it funny to talk about grabbing a woman by her genitals. In porn movies, it’s acceptable for women to cry in pain, yell ‘no’ and still not be listened to, for women to be smacked around, called names, and tied up.
And for all the men coming to his defense saying, “Yes, of course we talk like that all the time” You’re not helping.
Men who respect women don’t talk about them like that. Prepubescent boys who are trying to impress their friends talk about women like that. Men raised on a gluttonous diet of pornography talk about women like that.
3. Rape culture is real
Some people get fussy when you talk about ‘rape culture.’ They get analytical about the actual definition of the word ‘culture’ and how, since we’re using the word wrong, the whole thing doesn’t exist. You’ll never find more dedicated linguists.
I was one of those women who scoffed at the idea. “I don’t live in fear of being raped. That’s ridiculous.” In a way I think it was because I dress modestly and don’t get drunk, which is really just a way to say I blamed victims.
Over the years, as I’ve become a more independent woman, I’ve realized the vulnerabilities that come simply with being a woman. I won’t run alone in the park. I ask to be escorted to my car. At a recent speaking event, when a group of drunk college guys tried to break into my room, I was thankful for a man at the conference who switched rooms with me. It’s not fear- it’s an awareness.
Women shouldn’t have to live like that. We should be able to live lives without thinking about what a man could do to us if we were left alone with him. I, for one, would love to live in a society where I didn’t feel I had to constantly question a man’s intentions.
Why is he looking at me? Where is he looking? Where are my keys? Is he following me?
Or where people didn’t question mine.
What were you wearing? Why were you running alone in the park? What did you say to him?
Unfortunately, that’s where we have found ourselves. It’s a sad commentary for us, for sure, but if anything good has come out of this Trump kerfuffle, it is that we, as a culture, are having these hard conversations. Having these conversations is the only hope we have for changing our culture.
My friends at Strength to Fight got their start giving presentations on how porn fuels the rape culture. Check out their site to bring a presentation to your group.