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‘Locker Room Talk’

How Donald Trump's comments perpetuate rape culture

Tory Heruska, Staff Writer

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“I moved on her like a b****, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. I did try and f*** her.”

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

-Donald Trump

Whether you’re a democrat, republican, libertarian or nonpartisan, the pending 2016 election of the United States’ President has probably caught your attention in some way or another. In fact, it has caught much of the world’s attention. North Korea has publicly stated its backing of Republican nominee Donald Trump. Germany’s foreign minister has described Trump as a “hate preacher.” Hillary Clinton has received cold words from Putin but is generally seen as the lesser of two evils in Iran. Whatever your beliefs, there has been chaos and controversy since the beginning of this election. However, one thing I find most can unite behind is a general concern about Donald Trump’s ‘Locker Room Talk’.

Now I realize Hillary Clinton has her faults, but I want to talk about Donald Trump in this particular piece. Hillary and the election out of the question, I want to focus on the effects of Donald’s words and actions and what America’s reaction says about our society. This is in no way meant to persuade anyone on any candidate’s political theories or policies. This is just taking a look at how I, an 18-year-old college student, have perceived as America’s reaction to Donald Trump’s recorded depiction of sexual assault and general misogyny.

Many, in listening to Trump’s vulgar comments about women, were unabashedly outraged. Kelly Oxford, a beloved social media blogger, was so upset she started a trend after hearing Donald’s comments. She tweeted, “Women: tweet me your first assaults,” and was replied to by thousands wanting to share their story. For these women, for anyone aware of rape culture, Donald’s words are so much more than locker room talk. They are a crime. The phrase ‘just locker room talk’ implies that vulgar speech about assaulting women is okay if it occurs in a private setting.

So what’s the problem? Are Trump’s private words really that harmful to anyone?  From a psychological perspective, the answer is a unanimous yes. There is a major problem with the mindset of both Bush and Trump as they had this conversation and it has nothing to do with either of their political stances. Their words convey that they feel entitled to women’s bodies. This kind of talk not only damages women, it damages both men the men who speak and hear the rhetoric. It perpetuates and normalizes beliefs that men are entitled to and have dominance over women. Trump’s defense saying this was just “talk” demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the tremendous power words have, especially considering the international stage Trump operates on. In stating this was “just talk” Donald dismisses reality: his words were not only vulgar but extremely harmful. Not only for him but for the thousands of people listening to him who now believe their own words, or indeed their actions, relating to sexual assault are okay or justifiable.

Personally, I’ve heard many of the men in my life try to find a way to rationalize and normalize his words. Though I believe they were trying to make him sound “normal” as in “okay” or “safe”, the reality that many men feel this is an acceptable way to talk about or treat women is beyond disturbing. Men, please take a step back and look at the effects your words and actions have. Ladies, if the men around you are rationalizing what Trump is saying and how he is attempting to cover it up, please take note of the red flag and seek out men who don’t think and perpetuate such divisive and destructive rhetoric.  Trust me, they’re out there. And they are pissed about this situation too. Well known athletes such as Jamal Crawford, CJ McCollum, Robbie Rogers, Sean Doolittle, Chris Kluwe, Dahntay Jones, and Kendall Marshall all took a moment via Twitter to speak up and say loudly and clearly, as people who spend quite a bit of their time in locker rooms, this is not normal and it is not okay.

Rape culture is everywhere. It is in the lyrics of songs I hear at parties, it is in the jeers that are yelled out from drunk men on street corners, it is in Brock Turner’s criminal sentencing. It is the reason I never go anywhere alone, the reason I have 911 pre-dialed if I ever have to walk after dark, the reason I am chronically distrustful of most men.  But up until now, for the most part, rape culture stayed out of polite discourse. I could handle switching the radio station when that song came on, I could handle leering comments on street corners, and I could even handle hearing about the 1 in 5 female college students who will be sexually assaulted on campus because I truly believed change takes time and society, in general, was shifting towards a more understanding and progressive outlook on sexual assault.

Donald Trump changed all that. Donald Trump’s comments were a cruel reminder that rape culture has not been banished to seedy bars or rap music. Donald Trump decided it was okay for this kind of vulgarity to exist on a national stage, from a public figure who is near becoming the leader of the free world. Donald Trump doesn’t see his words or actions as a major problem. Donald Trump has attempted to normalize the kind of sexual assault many women, many college students, live in paralyzing fear of. And many of us have listened. We have condoned, either actively or passively, Donald Trump’s descriptions of sexual assault.

So whether you’re a Trump supporter, Hillary supporter, or concerned citizen, an angered sexual assault survivor, or a disturbed onlooker, I think we can all call bullshit on his and much of society’s dismissal of this as “just locker room talk” and start the conversation about how we are still, in almost 2017, normalizing and dismissing male sexual violence. We, as a society, cannot afford the passivity surrounding rape culture. Every conversation we have about this, every time we sit down and explain to the men in our lives how much of an impact their words and actions have, we step, however slightly, towards a better future.

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‘Locker Room Talk’