One of the benefits of a nation that welcomes people from around the world is that there are many diverse cultures that make up what it means to be an American. It is a sad fact of life, though, that there is one specifically prevalent culture in America that targets one major demographic and because Donald J. Trump is the Republican candidate for the presidency, rape culture is now front and center if the media would make it a national issue.
In its most basic form described by a very simple definition, “rape culture is the normalization of sexual assault in a society.” Another definition is “a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.”
That definition fairly explains all of the horrendous “rape apologists” rushing to defend or excuse the sexist Republican candidate for president. And it describes the American social norm perpetuating the idea that women are sexual objects, and that sexual objectification is simply a fact of life; so there is nothing “wrong” with Donald Trump’s behavior, or nasty “rape” talk. It is talk that perpetuates rape culture primarily because when it occurs no-one challenges the attitude the Trump-types exude when talking about women.
Trump’s talk was not locker room chatter, not in any typical locker room, and not the kind of talk normal locker room men would comport or allow to go unpunished. However, it is the kind of talk prevalent among a certain class of males; males that feel entitled due to wealth, family name, power, connections or celebrity. Remember, it wasn’t just Trump’s claim that he could “move on” or “grab” the genitals of any woman he wanted and do anything his perverted mind dreamed up, it was his justification that because he is rich, a “star” celebrity, and powerful that he and his class are entitled to “the right” to sexually assault women. It is not unlike the reasoning television celebrity Bill Cosby used to explain away his years of sexually assaulting young women. And in Donald Trump’s case it excused his assaults on his wives, strangers on airplanes, beauty pageant workers and women sitting in bars.
The truth is that if men like Trump were challenged, or beaten to within an inch of their perverted lives, when they boast about their sexual predation bona fides, that culture may cease being an attractive option for men like Trump. When Trump boasted to Billy Bush about his unwanted advances on unsuspecting women, Bush should have at least feigned outrage and besmirched Trump’s character and told him what a real man would do if Trump acted like an animal around a woman. Instead, he laughed in apparent agreement and encouragement leading one to wonder if he didn’t “high five” Trump for his “achievement;” he certainly wasn’t appalled like any decent human being.
The rape culture is perpetuated in many ways, but none more so than the “rape apologists” rushing to defend the perpetrators whether they are rich celebrities like Donald Trump, high school football stars carrying around an unconscious rape victim, rock celebrities or television stars. Of course there was no shortage of Trump defenders who excused his lewd description about how he commits sexual assaults according to the Justice Department definition.
It is exactly that kind of defense by his supporters and campaign surrogates using “creative excuses that normalize and minimize sexual assaults” That perpetuate and normalize rape culture. And it doesn’t matter who is guilty whether it is Donald Trump or any other male sexual predator. A despicable example was the co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign, Carl Paladino, who excused Trump’s remarks about sexually assaulting women as “something all men do, at least all normal men.” And according to rape culture, if it is “something that all normal men do” then it must be permissible in society and women who object must be sick, or at least they don’t really comprehend what “legitimate rape” entails. Yes, just uttering the words “legitimate rape” perpetuates America’s rape culture that sexual predators like Donald Trump thrive in.
There has always been a culture promoting rape in America simply because the nation is and always has been dominated by patriarchs that believe their “biblical superiority” over women excuses all manner of misogyny whether it is sexual assault, controlling women’s bodies, underpaying them, slut-shaming for using birth control or daring to come forward to unconcerned, mostly male, law enforcement to report a sexual assault.
In fact, another thing that makes rape culture “self-perpetuating” is that assaulted women are terrified to come forward and report their rapists out of fear of not being taken seriously or having “their characters ripped apart.” It is why so many victims stay silent to avoid having their motives questioned like Trump’s accusers or to avoid being accused of “asking for it.” As Laurel Raymond at Think Progress put it, “If we are to learn anything from Trump’s masterclass in rape culture, it’s that none of us [women] should keep quiet.”
If nothing else comes out of the revelation that Donald Trump is, by definition, a sexual predator and guilty of sexual assault according to his own words, it is possible that more Americans will become aware of rape culture and who is perpetuating it. It is true there are Republicans condemning Trump’s “remarks,” but one has to add that they are all the same Republicans guilty of perpetuating rape culture whether by slut-shaming contraception advocates or questioning the validity of a rape. It is something only a Republican still supporting Donald Trump is guilty of and as some people have noted are also guilty of wishing they were in Trump’s situation so they too could “move hard” on any woman with impunity because they are rich, famous or powerful.
Image: Gage Skidmore