Rape Culture, as demonstrated by Donald Trump

10.08.2016



I was 22 years old. I was single. I worked at a bar & grill and we spent most nights hanging out and drinking a few beers after work or going to the bowling alley. 

On one such night at the lanes, I found myself the object of the attention of a cute boy. It was supposed to be innocent. Fresh off a relationship, he was just your regular rebound. There wasn't anything special about him except that he was freakishly tall and thick. I'd never dated anyone really tall before.


After flirting with me from his lane all night, I handed him my number on a ripped off corner of paper and walked off.

The unusually bold move (for me) seemed to pay off. He called me right away. I don't think I'd even left the parking lot before a number I didn't recognize popped up on my phone. 

It was flattering. It felt innocent and sweet. I thought it was nice.

We hung out a few times. And on one ill-fated night, he changed my life.

I knew pretty quickly that there was something off about him. It didn't feel right and it didn't feel safe. I've always had good instincts. I pride myself on them and I use them every chance I get. On this afternoon, he came over and, more or less, pushed himself into my townhouse. I was getting ready for work and even though I had a few hours before my shift would start, I fudged that detail a bit and tried to shoo him off.

Look, it's sweet that you're here. Really. But I've got to get to work, like I told you on the phone ten minutes ago when you called and asked if you could come over and I said no.

He wouldn't leave. He lay, sprawled across my bed, while I pretended to hurriedly get ready for work. I'd already decided that I'd go to work early and hang out at the bar so I could get away from him as quickly as possible. 

He had this keychain. It's burned into my memory. It was some big, bulky thing on a metal clasp and he was pounding it, hard, against his thigh. He stared at me while doing it, methodically. It was clear that he was threatening me. 

Exerting his power. 

Prepping me.

At some point, he pulled me down onto the bed. He began to pound this keychain against my legs. I told him it hurt, so he did it harder. Faster. The exact details are fuzzy at this point, but that keychain I remember. That keychain scared me to death. That keychain spoke all sorts of words to me, and I knew I had no control at that point. 

So he raped me.

Did I say no? I don't remember. My internal narrative says I didn't, therefore I deserved it. But I don't know all the details because those moments were panic-filled. Did I cry for help? No, I definitely didn't do that. Did I make it quite clear that I wanted nothing sexually from him? Absolutely. Clear as day.

I've spent the last 11 years flip-flopping between denial, self-blame, anger, depression. I've inflicted harm on myself physically and emotionally. It's irrevocably changed me. It's irrevocably changed my relationships and most regrettably, it's impacted my marriage. He didn't take something small from me. He exerted his power over me, terrified me, told me in actions that I was nothing but a piece of meat to be used and abused. He took away the little innocence I had left and he threw me out like trash. He left me in pieces.

Why do women blame themselves? Why are we scared to turn in our rapists and why do we run through a million narratives in our head (If I hadn't been wearing this outfit, Did I say something that made him think I wanted it, Maybe I was too direct/forward, I didn't scream for help, Did I say no? I think I said no. But maybe I didn't say no. Did I say no?)?

Rape culture is why.

Beginning in middle school, I became privy to all sorts of "locker room" conversations. I had a lot of guy friends, plus it was middle school. Boys weren't shy about their sex talk in public. I heard the laughter. I heard the objectification. I knew from a young age that my worth was found between my legs. The boys made that clear. 

I heard the stories of the girls who'd "put out," and I watched as the boys laughed and high-five'd and congratulated and plotted their next sexual conquest. I have such vivid memories of specific conversations I overheard. Stomach-turning declarations of dominance and persuasion. 

No wonder my rapist thought he should force himself on me. After all, that's "locker room talk," right?  It's glorified. It's cool. It's high-fiveable.

These aren't the fairy tale stories of love and cherishing and romance. These are sexual abuse glorifications.

Most of them sounded so vaguely familiar to the Donald Trump fiasco that it sends chills down my spine. In case you're wondering what rape culture looks like, he's provided us with the perfect example

The conversation that took place inside that bus went a little something like this (my paraphrase - feel free to watch the whole disaster for yourself):

Trump: I tried to get in her pants. Bought her furniture. I hate to say it, but I failed. I tried to have sex with her. She was married, but I failed.

Laughter from several men in the bus  (rape culture)

Trump continues on his little tirade for a bit longer until an actress appears on scene, at which point all the men in the bus appear to be hooting and hollering, making sexually explicit jokes about how hot she is, etc. Acting like animals, basically (rape culture).

Trump then refers to this actress as a p*ssy. More laughter from those on board (rape culture).

Then he goes on to pop some tic-tacs in his mouth in case he starts kissing her. He explains that when he sees beautiful women, he just has to kiss them, without permission and immediately. He just can't help himself, apparently.

This, of course, is sexual abuse. A man forcing himself on a woman, whether it results in sexual intercourse or not, is unjustifiable and reprehensible. But instead of taking Trump to task, the other men in the bus egged him on, encouraged it. Laughed. Supported his behavior (rape culture).

And his last declaration is almost too disgusting to repeat, but since this is the man we are considering to run our country for four (or eight!) years, it bears mentioning: Since he's famous, the women let him do whatever he wants; you can grab them by the p*ssies if you want. 

Oh, my heart. I have two daughters. I know objectification. I know sexual trauma. The idea that this rape culture is continuing to flourish and I have to raise my daughters in this world ripe with such little regard for women's worth makes me sick to my stomach (see also: Brock Turner, John Enochs). The fact that this has happened and Donald Trump still might actually have a shot at winning (I mean, surely this isn't possible, but Trump has proven that nothing is impossible for him) makes me feel rather hopeless for future generations.

In case you aren't sure, if you are defending Donald Trump right now by saying that this is innocent "locker room talk," you are part of rape culture. 

I should be sleeping right now. It's 4:00 a.m. At 1:00, our daughter woke up in a coughing fit. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, after tossing and turning for a bit and not being able to get back to sleep, I reached for my phone off my nightstand. In pure self-punishment mode, I opened up Facebook. 

Like careening off the trampoline and falling to the grass on your back as a kid, I felt all the air sucked right out of my chest. I struggled to catch my breath. People I know, people I respect, were publicly defending Trump. "Locker room banter," they say. "At least he's not Bill Clinton," they say.

I fell apart. Shaking, heart racing, face on fire, tears falling at warp-speed. I unleashed years of hurt and shame and anger onto my husband in one fleeting moment in the middle of the night in the middle of our bed. Seeing people you know defending the very behaviors that have nearly destroyed you as a female does something to a person. Flips a switch. Turns a dial. It changes the story.

There are opposing sides in every election season. You'll argue with friends. You might even get angry from time-to-time when your emotions get the best of you. But usually, you can see past the rhetoric and focus on the bigger picture. You love your friends and family in spite of their differing opinions because you know at the end of the day, you all just want what's best for the country. 

Typically, Republicans and Democrats want the same end goals, but our beliefs about the paths we need to take to get there can vary. Hey, that's fair enough. We all want America to be great.

Donald Trump has ushered us into new territory. While it has always been a matter of nuances that have separated those across the aisles, today, we don't share the same end goals with different paths in mind. Today, you have two very different camps, and Donald Trump leads those who must view bullying as a necessary tool in a President's arsenal, misogyny and bigotry as defendable, hatred of those unlike us as quite American, outrageous objectification of women as justifiable, tax evasion as smart and almost unfathomable greed as a positive testament to the kind of leader he'll be. While I normally remind myself throughout campaign seasons that we all just want what's best for the country, things are different this election cycle. To stay silent as someone like Trump rises to power is to extoll his special brand of hate and fear-driven tactics. 

Yes, to defend Donald Trump right now is to be part of rape culture. I don't say that lightly. If you say that it was innocent locker room talk, you are part of rape culture. You help to foster the environment in which women get overpowered, raped, then blame themselves. They live with shame and guilt and self-hate, often until they die. It changes their relationships and their very souls. You normalize this behavior as men being men, silently condoning the continued objectification and sexual abuse of our daughters, wives, friends, grandmothers. 

I believe in grace. I believe in change. But to entertain a conversation about Donald Trump being a changed man is humorous at best. This is the narrative he has consistently displayed before and after he decided to run for President. He has defended his misogynistic attitudes and even doubled-down on the women he's attacked, so let's not even pretend to go there.

I've already seen people compare it to Clinton's affair. As if glorification of rape is on par with a mutual sexual affair (mutual sexual affairs that Trump has had plenty of himself). As if Clinton's husband's affair somehow calls her morals into question. This world, man. It's gone crazy. 

Telling this story is scary. There are only a few people in this world who know this story. It's painful and shameful and raw. But I'm telling it because it needs to be told. I'm telling it to take back some of MY power. Keeping it to myself for 11 years hasn't done anything positive for myself or my relationships. Telling my story may be scary, but it's empowering. It means taking tragedy and turning it into forward momentum. Using it as a tiny catalyst for change. It's not for everyone, I know. My grandparents' generation would be completely horrified at my "airing of dirty laundry," but it's a new day and age and I'm thankful for that. 

When we stay silent, we perpetuate a cycle of oppression. We must not stay silent. Now is the time to rise up and fight. Women, tell your stories. Talk about being groped and cat-called and objectified. Tell someone about your sexual abuse. Take back your power. Men, ask the women in your life about these experiences. Watch this video - this happens to most women at some point in their lives. Imagine if Donald Trump was talking about your daughter or your wife or your mother. It might be easy to shrug it off because you don't know those women and you want to vote your party line. But to stay silent is to take the side of the oppressor. Donald Trump is an oppressor.

Maybe you've got a story, too. I'd love to hear yours. 

I think this country could sure use a female President. A breath of fresh air at a time like this, when powerful men think they're God's gift to women and that women are their property. 

3 comments :

  1. Chelsea. You don't know me. I don't even remember how I found your blog...I have always admired your honesty and your tenacity - especially in the face of despair despair despair. My admiration for your bravery continues. Know that there is someone over here in Canada who thinks you are gutsy and one hell of a woman.

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  2. Oh... and I have my own rape culture story. On a date. We met online. He enjoyed drinking (he owned a bar). So did I. We met up at his bar & hung out with his friends and had a great time. We got drunk. We had a little make-out session which ended in me pushing him away and telling him that this was not happening - call me, let's go out if you want to see me. I wanted to go. We headed out through the kitchen. He stopped for one last kiss. And then... his hand was on my neck. Squeezing. I thought maybe his hand had slipped there? Maybe he meant to put it on my face but it slipped? But how do you excuse someone squeezing your throat so tightly that you cannot breathe let alone say 'Stop'? I ran out. I cried. I got a cab. He texted: "Next weekend. You're mine." Dude, if this is what you do on date # 1, I don't want to know what you do on date #7. And now for the rape culture: not from a guy, not from an acquaintance, but from one of my best friends. Shaking her head, clearly uncomfortable with my alcohol consumption on said date. "Maybe next time you go out with someone you don't know, you should stick to Starbucks and coffee. Actually, I could be NAKED and SPREAD EAGLE on his bed and that STILL does give him permission to choke me. Same woman who said: "Maybe you shouldn't go to his house on date #2... I mean obviously he is going to think you want to sleep with him," regarding a different dude/date. Really? I just thought we were going to hang out and watch some TV. How does that become, "I want to sleep with you?" This is an extremely well-educated (tenure-track science professor), well-travelled, liberal 40+ woman. This culture is pervasive and ugly and it hurts. Thank you again Chelsea. And sorry for stalking you. And sorry for the rant. :( blessings. KM

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    1. Oh Katya, I'm so sorry! Thank you for sharing your story. I can't believe your friend said that. Well, I guess I can if I'm being honest. I'm trying to process through some past hurts like that from people INCREDIBLY close to me. Rape culture is heartbreaking. Raising two daughters in this world is scary in that regard. :(

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