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Here’s the thing: I believe in respecting other peoples’ opinions. I believe in checking my assumptions and challenging myself to see the other side. But there are times when someone is just plain wrong, and it’s okay to say that. In cases like Donald Trump dismissing the comments Trump made in the recently leaked video as “locker room talk,” it’s more than okay to call it out – it’s necessary.
Let me be clear. My outrage at Trump’s comments is not because of the lewd language. It’s about the idea he seems to hold that he, because of his celebrity status and power, is above consent.
Though we’ve heard differently from a number of athletes and coaches, let’s pretend for a moment that Trump and Aqib Talib, a player with the Denver Broncos, are correct and Trump’s comments can be explained away as a look into what is said regularly in locker rooms around the country. Does that let Trump and others who engage in this type of behavior off the hook? Nope. There is no place where statements bragging about kissing or groping women without waiting for their consent is acceptable. Because there is no place where kissing or groping anyone without waiting for their consent is acceptable. That’s sexual assault. Turns out, we have laws against that.
What Trump said, what he brags to have done, is serious. By brushing off his remarks as “locker room talk,” Trump and those who excuse him do two things: First, they downplay the severity of his comments by disguising them as normal, everyday conversations men have in all-male spaces. Second, they invite us to accept what’s said in those spaces as part of the “boys will be boys” rhetoric, meaning it’s not something for which we should hold men accountable.
The idea that “boys will be boys” is used to excuse a range of behavior from catcalling to rape, thereby normalizing male sexual violence and dismissing its impact on others. It is a concept that is, frankly, an insult to good men who don’t perpetrate sexual violence and who do take responsibility for their words and actions.
Look, I get it. It’s election season, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed or just plain fed up by the whole thing. But sexual assault is not a partisan issue. This is not about Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. This is about exhibiting respect for survivors of sexual violence by demanding accountability for perpetrators and the culture that supports them.
Flazingo photos, Creative Commons, Flickr