“It’s just locker room talk.”
“No, it’s not locker room talk at all.”
“But what about Beyoncé’s lyrics?”
Over the past week (though it feels much, much longer) the American public has been bombarded with a series of mediocre justifications for a presidential candidate’s boastful comments about sexually harassing and assaulting women, none more agitating than the Trump campaign’s insistence that his comments were commonplace among men, and therefore undeserving of widespread attention. The quickness and ease with which his surrogates settled on the ‘locker room talk’ excuse was truly fascinating to see; there is no doubt in my mind that his supporters think his remarks are justifiable within certain spaces.
And though their overarching point is indefensible, the thinking that led them to that conclusion is not wrong.
The insistence from professional athletes that Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” remark is shocking to their ears and somehow not reflective of their conduct is an insult to those of us with eyes and ears. If actions speak louder than words, then the almost-dizzying number of athletes, from the high school level to the big leagues, who have been accused of sexual misconduct rings loud and clear.
Just last August, former high school football player David Becker was charged with sexually assaulting two female classmates, which earned him two years of probation (so his life wouldn’t be permanently ruined, of course.) Former collegiate swimmer Brock Turner served only three months in jail for the same crime, with a similar explanation for the lenient sentence given by a California judge.
Derrick Rose, the longtime jewel of Chicago and former Bulls point guard, is currently embroiled in a rape scandal that becomes more and more frustrating as the details are released. The survivor alleges Rose and two of his friends gang raped her. While she was initially only known as ‘Jane Doe,’ a judge recently ruled that she must publicly reveal herself in court, despite both her and her lawyers’ fear that doing so would lead to public harassment.
‘Big Ben’ Roethlisberger, longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, has been accused of sexual violence as many times as he has won Superbowls (twice, to be exact.)
And who can forget former pro-footballer Darren Sharper who, also last August, was convicted of drugging and raping over a dozen women in multiple states. Less than a month into his 18-year sentence, the NFL nominated Sharper for the Pro-Football Hall of Fame.
While Trump’s invocation of ‘locker room talk’ may be unfair to the yet-to-be calculated percentage of athletes who understand and practice consent, the truth is that athletes rape—often—and the societal response either shames both accusers and would-be accusers into a corner of silence or ignores it altogether. It’s no wonder that Donald Trump thought it beneficial to tap into that same well of social immunity.
But Donald Trump doesn’t run, jump or throw balls into hoops for a living. The realm in which he is campaigning for president is purely political, and though the standard of accountability for sexual misconduct isn’t much higher, American society has made it clear that we will no longer tolerate assaulters and rapists in the Oval Office.
The ‘locker room’ has absolutely no place in politics, in fact, it shouldn’t even have a place within society at all.
Photo: Wiki Commons