Sexual assault is no joke.
(This blog post contains sexually explicit stories – no images. Reader discretion advised.)
I confess, when I first heard the story of Trump’s “hot mic” comments, my first instinct was to brush it off. As a man who worked in a UPS warehouse for 3 years, I’m very familiar with “guy talk”. Nothing was off limits – there was no filter.
“Hey, sorry I’m not keepin’ up! Yer wife wore me out last night!”
“Hey bitch!” “Who you callin’ bitch?” “I know you like it!”
“Hey, do you know what they call ‘rodeo fucking’?” “No. What’s that?” “It’s when you’re about to get with a girl, you reach around and grab her tit with one hand, put the other around the waist, and then whisper in her ear ‘yer the ungliest bitch I ever seen’, then you try to hold on for 8 seconds.”
And God have mercy on our souls for the things we said when a box of pornographic magazines busted open.
I saw the light
But this morning, our priest gave a sermon in part dealing with this topic. I was worried at first that she was about to get political. She and I have different political views, and I’m fine with that. As long as she is a priest, and not a political activist at the pulpit, she’s entitled to her political views and I think no less of her as a priest.
Fortunately, the sermon was only slightly political, and focused instead of the real victims of sexual assault. She spoke of how this recent news has opened up old wounds to men and women who have been groped, or worse. I quickly let my guard down and let her words in, and I’m glad I did. (This is why us sinners need church. He came not to call the righteous.)
I have a few close female friends in my life, and between them and family, I’ve heard stories of sexual assault, ranging from some jerk in a bar grabbing her in the wrong place repeatedly, to full scale rape. When I hear numbers like 1 in 5 women have been victims of sexual assault, I am at first skeptical. But when I think of the women with whom I’ve been close enough that they’d confide in me, I find that number more believable. Just in my life, it seems half the women I’ve known well have a story like this.
The problem with guy talk
Like my 23 year old self sweating my way through UPS to pay for college, Donald Trump was likely engaged in “guy talk”. But whether he meant to or not, his words, like the words of so many of us, contribute to rape culture. Sure, I’d never do that to anyone. But other people, hearing words like that from people like me, might take it a step further.
It desensitizes us. When comedians joke about prison rape – “Don’t drop the soap” – it desensitizes us to the roughly 20% of prison inmates who are raped. When Trump jokes about grabbing women (you know where), it desensitizes us.
I’m glad that Trump apologized for this. Tonight, as he debates Hillary Clinton, it’s inevitable that this will come up. Given Clinton’s sorted past, she hardly has the moral high ground. I’m not merely talking about her husband’s actions, but also her defense of her husband’s actions. I won’t blame Trump one bit if he counter punches her inevitable attack. I hope, however, that he will show humility and penitence for his comments 11 years ago.
How Trump should handle this issue tonight
I hope Trump will express genuine compassion for the victims of sexual assault. If I were advising Trump, I’d recommend that early in, he makes it clear that he is humbled by this experience, and it has forced him to do some deep soul searching. I’d advise that he then make addressing sexual assault part of his platform. He’s the “law and order” guy, right? He should therefore propose increasing efforts to bring rapists and other sexual criminals to justice.
Furthermore (and I hope Ivanka Trump is advising her father of this as I write this), we need to focus on education in order to prevent this from happening in the first place. I have before scoffed at third wave feminists when they say things like “teach men not to rape”. I still don’t think that alone is a solution, but I do think it is part of the solution. Don’t take those words too literally. Of course, in principle, we know rape is wrong. But yet we are desensitized to rape and other forms of sexual assault.
Trump should even reach out to Hillary Clinton. He ended last debate by saying that if she wins, “I’d absolutely support her”. He should now say that, win or lose, he will work with her, Joe Biden, and anyone else to end the rape culture and bring rapists to justice. He should then ask if Hillary Clinton would be willing to do the same. I don’t know if Trump will think to do this. He may just fall into his old ways and go on the attack. But I can always hope.
Does self-defense work? My story
Lastly, I’d like to share a story of my own. When I was 12 years old, I was a trouble maker. I was skipping school one day, and hung out with two other boys. One was about my age, the other was probably 15. The boys were joking about raping some girl. I didn’t take them seriously. But then they started joking about how they should rape me. I still thought they were joking. Then one of them grabbed me. From behind, he wrapped his arms around me. I struggled, and managed to gain enough wiggle room that I elbowed him in the stomach as hard as I could, and I took off running.
I’m glad I was able to defend myself. I don’t feel like a victim, I am not traumatized. I felt, and feel, empowered! I’d encourage women everywhere to take self-defense courses. Again, this is not the only solution! This is only part of the solution. I know that it won’t always work. But often it will. And I’d rather more rapists get elbowed in the stomach, than more people getting raped just because third wave feminists think that the only solution is to “teach men not to rape”. I don’t think those two boys who attacked me could have been “taught” otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong. But there are thousands of them out there, and some are even women by the way.
We need to put all solutions on the table and address every form of rape and sexual assault, including but not limited to someone breaking in and raping someone, groping in crowds or parties, frat boys taking advantage of the unconscious girl who had too much to drink, prison rape, child molestation, all of it! Whoever becomes president, I hope they will show more integrity than the Washington Post, who sees this as nothing more than a political opportunity, and instead takes sexual assault seriously.