“It’s just locker room talk” is how Donald Trump defends the video of him bragging about sexually assaulting women. He was simply boasting about his sexual exploits, he says, and the abuse of fame and money in order to gain sexual pleasure from women. Melania Trump argues that he was simply egged on by television host and nephew of president George H.W. Bush, Billy Bush.
It is dangerous to characterize such blatant disrespect for women, or people in general, as locker room talk. Even more worrying is the argument of Trump apologists, whether they be lackeys such as Rudy Giuliani or supporters at his rallies, that this is just how men alk.
Male-only spaces, whether they be locker rooms or all-boys’ schools, should not justify bragging about sexual assault. Separation from females does not justify denigration of females; in fact, a person’s absence from the room is not an excuse for disrespect or bragging about assaulting them.
As someone who spent his schooling in all-boys’ private schools, I am familiar with the environments Mr. Trump is alluding to. I presume Trump is familiar with them, too, as he spent much of his childhood in military boarding schools. Occasionally conversations at my high school would take a vulgar, and at times outright sexist, tone. Some people shared in these attitudes but grew out of them. If they were shown a tape of the conversation they had, they would be ashamed. These conversations were had by young people on the cusp of adulthood. They were adolescents acting in a hyper-masculine fashion to be what they thought a man was, their presumed version of manhood. For teens beginning to understand their sexuality, braggadocious talk of sexual conquests is overcompensation for their own frustrating insecurities. It is a worldview which is often corrected through family, education or basic life experiences. Empathy and human understanding are the cure for these juvenile worldviews.
Others do not grow out of their attitudes. Trump is one of them. Trump bragged like a 14-year-old at the tender age of 59. Just as Trump’s brash exuberance is like that of someone’s fantasy of winning the lottery, his attitude toward sex embodies the ill-informed fantasies of a 14-year-old. He brags to daytime TV hosts of his ability to force himself on women, thinking that only his breath makes him unattractive to women his daughter’s age. A 14-year-old may imagine himself as a rich and powerful man with all the women he could want; Trump thinks like that.
Put into practice, this juvenile attitude creates someone who gropes women on planes, while leaving a tennis tournament, or female reporters conducting interviews. It is someone who sees a women from a bus and has an obsequious TV host set up a hug with an actress. A man who treats younger women as accessories. Indeed, he once joked that he would be dating a 10-year-old girl he passed on an escalator. Real masculinity does not justify such gross disrespect, let alone sexual assault. Trump will finish his ill-gotten time in the sun hounded by women he has abused. The image of “locker room talk” allows for Trump and his lackeys to shield themselves in a cult of rough, unthinking masculinity, a masculinity which creates the kind of ignorant, loudmouthed brute who calls a female opponent a “nasty woman.” Trump’s worrying tendency to argue that the charges were false, because they were too unattractive to grope, should worry everyone. He did not grope these women, for they were not worthy of being groped – why conquer that which does not deserve to be conquered?
We have had many Republicans renounce their support for Trump over this tape. The most common excuse from middle-aged men has been that they have wives, daughters, grandmothers, etc. It is a pity that they could not find any LGBTQ cousins, or friends who were people of color, to have empathy for. But this is a digression. What was missing was a Republican coming out and saying that they do not want Trump as a role model for their sons, that they want to teach their son a lesson that a man who treats women like Mr. Trump does has no place in public life. Trump demonstrates the dangers of failing to challenge this juvenile approach towards women masquerading as “masculinity.” Decades of going unchallenged, combined with wealth and celebrity, create the entitled mindset that lets him think that he can get away with it. Melania was right when she called the Trump tape “boy talk,” for that is what it was–the talk of an entitled, rude, insensitive, malicious, spiteful, 70-year-old boy.