Although I have never had the opportunity to be a part of a locker room with the “rich and famous,” I have been in my fair share of locker rooms over the years. I believe it is safe to say that Donald Trump’s attempt at covering his tracks by claiming that the glorification of his own sexually assaultive behavior was simply “locker room talk” is not only repugnant, it is undeniably wrong. What Mr. Trump is suggesting is that locker rooms across this country are filled with men who do nothing more than sit around and plot the best way to sexually exploit and assault women.
The term “locker room talk” itself reeks of misogyny by assuming that all locker rooms are only for male athletes — ignoring the millions of female athletes, students and fitness enthusiasts who use locker rooms every single day. Many athletes have begun to point out the obvious: that locker rooms are not hot beds of sexually exploitive behavior or places where men freely plot their next sexual assaults. What you will hear if you walk into any locker room in this country, professional or amateur, is male and female athletes talking about the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and enjoying the camaraderie of sports.
What Mr. Trump has done is minimize his own behavior by attempting to normalize it, as if it happens all the time, so it is acceptable. As an uncle, a brother, a son, and as a man, I refuse to allow Mr. Trump to placate his own sexually exploitive words and actions by lumping us all together. I reject the notion that this is something that all men do. It is insulting to claim otherwise.
Are there men in this society who brag about their sexual exploits or talk in crude ways about women? Absolutely. Are there men who brag about sexually assaulting women (even if they do not acknowledge their words or actions to be sexual assault)? Undoubtedly. But this behavior must be condemned, not normalized, because this type of talk directly contributes to rape culture. With the Trump tapes, this was not a man talking to another man about a consensual sexual relationship. This is a predator, talking to a (now suspended) talk show host about how best to use their celebrity to sexually assault women and get away with it. If you question how Mr. Trump’s words are turned into action, simply type in #NotOkay into your Twitter search bar, and you will find brave women across the globe sharing their stories of survival. This is not about politics; this isn’t really even about Donald Trump. This is about showcasing the ways that men can be part of the work to end sexual violence by speaking up and speaking out against this kind of assaultive language and actions; it’s about addressing sexual assault and rape where it is normalized and minimized, within the words and conversation that perpetuate the behavior that we must end.
Dr. Timothy J. Holler is an assistant professor of criminal justice and faculty affiliate for the Center for Applied Research (CFAR) at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. He is also a member of Blackburn Center’s Men As Allies group.
Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of Blackburn Center.