Let’s Get Real

A woman modeling a 'bag' dress. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

For the past couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk in the news about the leaked tapes of Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women inappropriately. Everyone’s focus appears to be on the words, with no one paying much attention to the fact that he was bragging about doing it. He didn’t say “I’d like to…” He said he’d done it.

No woman came forward when the tapes were released. I believe they were letting his words speak for themselves. However, In the second Presidential debate, Anderson Cooper forced Trump to address whether he had actually assaulted women:

“We received a lot of questions online Mr. Trump about the tape that was released on Friday, as you can imagine,” Cooper said. “You called what you said was locker room banter. You described kissing women without consent, grabbing the genitals. That is sexual assault. You brag that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”

Trump demurred, saying Cooper didn’t understand his 2005 statements.

“No I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it, but this is locker room talk,” Trump said, before launching into a diatribe about the Islamic State and Hillary Clinton’s deficiencies as a candidate.

Cooper, though, was not content to let him dodge the question.

“Just for the record though are you saying that what you said on that bus eleven years ago that you did not actually kiss women without consent or grope women without consent?” Cooper insisted.

“I have not,” Trump eventually said.

Trump’s denial is reportedly what pushed at least some of the women to go public with their claims.

Since these women have started coming forward to claim they were groped by Trump, their assertions are meeting a lot of resistance. The conservative talking heads are claiming that due to the timing of these allegations, this has all been staged by the Democrats. People are skeptical because the women who are coming forward saying that Donald Trump groped them waited so long to say anything. Trump himself has used the appalling defense that these women aren’t attractive enough for him to have groped.

I believe there may be some argument for the timing of the release of the tape. After all, we’re in the last month of the ugliest Presidential race I have ever witnessed. However, I don’t think these individual women were rustled up by the Democrats to testify that they were assaulted by the now candidate. I think these women came forward to speak a truth that is difficult for today’s society to accept.

How do you explain to those who haven’t lived through it how prevalent groping was 30-40 years ago? How do you explain that, in most cases, it never occurred to women to say anything when they were groped? Not because a woman found this behavior acceptable, but because it was just the price you paid for being out in the world. It wasn’t that you didn’t think the powers that be wouldn’t believe you, it was that you knew they wouldn’t care.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I do not think I am unique in these experiences. I developed hips in the 6th grade and that was the same year that teachers started pinching my butt. Multiple teachers, in different schools, felt it was okay to pinch a student’s butt as they walked by. It never occurred to me to say anything to anyone about these incidents; I just made sure I was never alone with those teachers again.

Many years later, after I was married, I had my chest grabbed from behind by one of my married co-workers. Yes, I read him the riot act. No, I didn’t say anything to anyone about it.  Not only was I worried about how my then husband would react, I didn’t see how my saying anything would change anything. Once again, I just made sure I was never alone with that man again. At the time, instead of being morally outraged, my feelings were more hurt that someone I considered a friend would do that.

In today’s world, none of the behavior I experienced would be tolerated. Today, I wouldn’t hesitate to holler loud and long if any of those things happened to me. I also know that I harbor no ill will towards any of the men who felt comfortable touching a woman’s body without her permission. But, if any of them were in the public eye and were to deny ever having touched a woman inappropriately, I too, would stand up and speak.

I am amazed that more attention hasn’t been paid to Trump’s assertion that he couldn’t have groped these women because they’re not attractive enough. Does society still not understand that sexual assaults have nothing to do with attractiveness and everything to do with anger and power? Does being attractive make it okay to be assaulted?

In one study, “Attribution of responsibility for rape: The influence of observer empathy, victim resistance, and victim attractiveness,” by Deitz, S.R., Littman, M. & Bentley, B.J. Sex Roles (1984) 10: 261. doi:10.1007/BF00287780, which looked at the link between attractiveness and physical resistance, and how juries perceive the victims of sexual assault they found that: “Victim resistance and attractiveness effects were significant in that subjects responded least favorably to the unattractive rape victim, particularly when she resisted the rape by fighting with her attacker.” 

The implication of the above study is that in 1984, if society considered you unattractive, then it was harder to believe an assault would take place. Donald Trump is betting that this bias still exists.

If you haven’t lived through times that were different than today, it’s hard to understand the different rules we lived under. It may be hard for you to comprehend what women were expected to tolerate when they left the safety of their homes. I am grateful that times are changing, but that does not change our history.

Trump’s groping of women in the past speaks to who he was back then; his denial of what he did speaks to who he is today.


What are your thoughts?