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Donald Trump and The Normalisation of Rape

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Donald Trump’s campaign for president is being closely followed in Britain, looked upon with distaste and derision by many. The businessman’s rise is being publicly mocked, but there is nothing funny about his views and potential power, nor is any true attempt being made by the UK to distance itself from his views.

As many will have seen, footage of Trump was recently released in which he boasts about sexually assaulting women:

Just kiss. I don’t even wait.

And when you’re a star they let you do it… You can do anything.

Grab them by the pussy…You can do anything.

This is sexual assault. He describes not waiting for consent and coercion, using his power to exploit women into “letting” him touch them.

Trump, however, argues that this is just “locker room banter”, a view confined neither to Trump nor to the US. Stood beside Trump is Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader supported by 3.8m people in the UK 2015 General Election. Farage justified Trump’s comments, dismissing them as “alpha male boasting”, albeit “ugly” which is just “the kind of thing, if we are being honest, that men do.” Farage normalises an attitude towards sexual assault which treats it as trivial, normal and almost as a conquest of which to be proud.

In the wake of this scandal, even BBC Radio 4’s Today programme chose to debate whether men needed safe spaces to talk about sexuality rather than addressing the actual, obvious issue raised by Trump’s comments: sexual assault and abuse of power. The respected media outlet turned a man boasting about his sexual assaults into a man who couldn’t speak freely about his sex life. There should be no conflation of sexual assault and sex. Laura Bates responded sharply on the programme:

it matters that someone at the Today programme has heard these comments, these outrageous comments made by Donald Trump, and gone ‘Hey, let’s have a debate about whether men should be able to have a safe space to say certain things about women. The reason I say that is because that’s why someone like Donald Trump can get away with saying this kind of thing and still be on the verge of becoming the most powerful man in the world, because we mitigate it, we downplay it and we brush it under the carpet.”

Furthermore, as Emily Crockett so aptly puts in her article,

this kind of cavalier treatment of sexual assault is the definition of rape culture. When men see sexual assault as a punchline, or even something to brag about, they take it less seriously when they see or hear about it happening, and they take women less seriously who talk about it.

Furthermore, Trump’s alleged rape of his ex-wife, Ivana, has failed to be brought forward in the aftermath of his comments. Ivana recounted the event in detail during a deposition. Under sworn testimony, Trump was said to have asked his ex-wife “if it hurt” and allegedly tore her hair out during the rape. Ivana later said of the incident: “As a woman, I felt violated I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.

It is unclear in what other ‘sense’ of rape there is. It is scary that people still think there are different definitions of rape. Furthermore, the grounds for their divorce cites Trump’s “cruel and inhuman treatment”. This information about Trump is freely available, but still it is not raised in the aftermath of his declarations of sexual assault.

The media has also failed to investigate and question Trump’s gagging order over his ex-wife. She cannot talk about him without his consent, and the fact that his Special Counsel at The Trump Organisation said,

of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse… It is true. You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.

(To avoid all doubt, marital rape is illegal. The marital rape exemption law was struck down in 1984 in New York. This is depressingly recent and it is indicative of the archaic notions of sexual assault that still exist today, sadly the UK is no better: marital rape was only formally criminalised in 1991, and we only got a definition of consent in 2003.)

Of course, rape culture doesn’t just exist in the US. The social attitudes that Trump has exposed run deep in the UK too. A student at Liverpool University is being investigated after using the ‘chat up line’:

1 in 4 women are victims of sexual assault. Would you like to be one of them?

This isn’t uncommon, with popular sites ‘Unilad’ which post  ‘jokes’ such as:

If the girl you’ve taken for a drink… won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85 per cent of rape cases go unreported. “That seems to be fairly good odds.

Moreover, popular ‘character’ Dapper Laughs (Daniel O’Reilly) joked that an audience member at one of his shows was “gagging for a rape.” He later justified his comments by saying he was never taught about sexual assault and that therefore the offence caused by his joke was the fault of those who failed to teach him. This final comment is dangerous, suggesting that those who trivialise sexual violence are somehow not to blame or have no responsibility over what they say.

These ideas spread into the treatment of offenders too. It is argued that they aren’t responsible for their crime because either:

A) They didn’t recognise their actions as being rape, due to its normalisation, or

B) They ‘misread the signals’ as they have only seen the ‘signals’ like silence or resistance in a comedic light.

The social trivialisation of rape means that events are not treated as the serious crimes that they are.

It’s no wonder that a jury of twelve people, usually offered insufficient evidence and manipulated facts by barristers, still cannot see a case of sexual assault or rape when faced with one at trial.

Rape culture is now our culture and this will not change until we start to separate sex and sexual assault, and stop trivialising rape.

With Support from your It’s Not Justice Team

To read Emily Crockett’s full article follow this link: