Content warning: This post contains discussion of sexual assault and rape culture.
That’s how Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, describes his lewd conversation eleven years ago with Billy Bush. In this conversation he brags, in vulgar and de-humanising terms, about kissing and groping women without their consent.
Let’s be clear.
Kissing and groping women without their consent is sexual assault.
Bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent is bragging about sexual assault.
Billy Bush, these days NBC’s Today Show host, has been suspended from his job while an investigation is conducted due to his part in the conversation.
And what of Donald Trump? Is he suspended? If only we could all be so lucky.
Appearing at the second presidential debate today, Donald Trump had this to say in response to Anderson Cooper’s question about the tape:
“You have bragged that you sexually assaulted women, do you understand that?”
As Brené Brown tweeted in response to Donald Trump’s original apology (and I used the word apology loosely):
This is what rape culture looks and sounds like.
Rape culture is a culture in which the sexual assault and rape of others is both pervasive and normalised because of attitudes about sexuality and gender.
Phrases such as “locker-room talk” being used to dismiss a description of sexual assault? This is rape culture.
Apportioning some or all of the blame for rape onto the victim because of what they were wearing, whether they’d been drinking or were just out at night on their own? This is rape culture.
Suggesting that women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” is rape culture. Believing there is a difference between types of rape that make one way “legitimate” and the others…what? Invalid? Imagined? Invented? This is rape culture.
Trivialising rape. Denying the widespread existence of rape. Refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence and rape.
Rape culture. Rape culture. Rape culture.
But Donald Trump has plenty of supporters despite his boast. He has a multitude of people defending his comments. Why? How? It doesn’t seem possible. It’s certainly not rational.
And yet it is. Because it comes down to culture, and particularly the way culture is communicated, shared and transferred. Culture is the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a group or society. So how is rape culture perpetuated? The same way as any other culture.
- Behaviour Expectations – how do we know what is acceptable behaviour? We look at those around us. We observe people in leadership positions. We identify how those people are behaving and we conform. We may conform to varying degrees, and we may like to believe we are unique, however, conformity is a means of social acceptance and at its most basic level, a survival instinct.
- Education – we instinctively teach people who may be attempting to enter a group how to comply with the culture through the use of social pressure. Acceptance into social structures has enabled survival and evolution of people through group advantages, while those who have been rejected have had to fend for themselves.
- Communication and modelling – Any parent will tell you that kids pay less attention to what they say and more attention to what they do. We have platitudes such as ‘actions speak louder than words’ in our society and we have them for a reason. People copy.
A long time ago, I was part of another culture. Religious culture. I know who Jesus is. I know what he preached. And while I am not currently a member of any church, my choice of religion could best be described as kindness. Loving-kindness.
Having spent this evening watching the debate while chatting with my step-daughter via text about her assignment on equality, all I could think of was a particular song that used to be played on a local Christian radio station.
“Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow”
Donald Trump’s comments aren’t just locker-room talk. This type of “talk” sets (ridiculously low) behavioural expectations, it educates society on what is an acceptable way to treat other humans and it communicates what will be tolerated, expected, condemned, revered, exonerated, accepted, or rejected.
Donald Trump, despite these offensive remarks, despite his disrespect for so many individuals and groups of people (but in this particular instance, women) despite all this, still has an enormous conservative religious following.
I don’t know what sort of Christianity his supporters subscribe to, but I know that neither Donald’s behaviour, nor that of those defending him, looks anything like Jesus. Which reminds me of the lyrics to another song.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Brennan Manning.