Sexual assault is not a prize or a victory; neither is it something to be bragged about even if it didn’t actually happen.
Processing the pictures above was emotionally difficult. They were shot for a special project a few years ago and I’m thankful to say that what appear to be bruises and abrasions on the model’s face are just an incredibly good makeup job. There are others from this project, a fight scene in particular, that I still can’t stomach. Never mind that I know the assault is fake, that no punches were actually thrown, that every step was carefully choreographed. The images are still disturbing.
I know there is perhaps some sexist bias in what I’m about to say, but I was raised to respect women. My father gave us no choice. He started by setting a strong example in how he treated our mother. We never heard him so much as raise his voice to her. He demanded nothing less from my brother and me.Being disrespectful to our mother was a capital offense and the quickest way to get a belt applied to our tail ends.
So, when I look at the recent news and see apologists such as Pat Robertson attempting to excuse a discussion of sexual assault as nothing more than macho talk, I’m not just disturbed, I’m angry.
Being Macho Is Nothing To Brag About
Eighth-grade gym was when I first encountered someone trying to act macho. There was one bully in particular who figured out that offensive language bothered me and was constantly using that as a means of torment. As strange as it may seem now, repeated use of the word “fuck” could almost bring me to tears (partly because I wasn’t sure what the word even meant).
The locker room was the worst. There, this loud, unruly, frequently suspended classmate would attempt to brag about how “macho” he was. He would tell in graphic detail tales of his alleged sexual exploits with different girls in our class. Each afternoon was a new claim about a different girl.
No one bought his act. First, everyone knew he was lying about his conquest. He was called out on that fact more than once, and on at least two occasions I can remember, he took a punch to the face when the wrong guy’s girlfriend was mentioned. Every last one of us was interested in sex, mind you — we were 14-uear-old boys in the 70s. We looked forward to experiencing it for ourselves. Still, the whole macho thing wasn’t cool. If anything, acting macho was a good way to get your nose bloodied.
Bad Excuses For Bad Behavior
Who would have ever thought that all the way here in 3016 we would have a presidential candidate who not only brags about committing sexual assault but then attempts to defend it with claims of “just acting macho?” Even a year ago, when it was already clear that this election cycle was going to fly off the rails, I don’t think any reasonable person would imagine such horrible words coming out of a candidates mouth.
What is unquestionably worse, though, is that people are defending both what was said and what allegedly happened. There can be no more certain sign of complete and utter moral decay that for someone like Robertson, someone who has made a career of claiming to represent the most popular deity in the United States, to defend such disrespectful, disgusting, and distasteful discussions as nothing more than, “being macho.”
Mind you, I never liked Robertson in the first place, something else I learned from my father. Even n the early days of the 700 Club, Poppa called Robertson a charlatan who was siphoning money out of the pockets of those who already had the least to give. Still, to actually sit there on television and endorse bragging about sexual assault is so far beyond the pale as to completely remove any thin shred of integrity the old codger might have had left. There is no excuse for sexual assault and no room for those who tolerate it.
Sexual Assault Is Not A Joking Matter
What may be most disturbing is that so many apologists for the candidate are treating the subject of sexual assault as though it were a humorous topic. Their complete dismissal of the seriousness of the matter is an affront to every woman on the planet. I am mind-blown by the flippancy with which too many people are responding to the candidate’s statement.
Fortunately, women are fighting back in a very powerful way by telling their stories. British author Kelly Oxford called for women to tell their stories of sexual assault, and they have, by the thousands. Their stories are not easy reading. Accounts of sexual assault are not entertaining. In fact, having read a few last night, I can only imagine how difficult it was for women to dredge up those horrible memories.
We have talked before about the problem this country has with overcoming a persistent rape culture. Treating sexual assault as though it were some kind of adolescent right of passage reinforces that rape culture. As we continue to allow such conversations to exist we continue to put every woman on this planet at risk.
We Know Better
Some have attempted to dismiss the candidate’s remarks as merely locker room banter. I can imagine there are still some locker rooms where such misogyny is still tolerated, but those locker rooms are the exception, not the rule. Want to know what a professional locker room is like? It’s LeBron James picking up the towels his teammates left behind. It’s the Colts dancing after a victory.The locker room is also the seen of a lot of crying after a loss and challenges among teammates when someone fails to pull their weight.
We all know that sexual assault is wrong. Being macho has never been cool and has never been an excuse. There is no reason to tolerate this among anyone. We would punish any teenager we caught acting up like this. We certainly have no reason to tolerate it from a presidential candidate or his supporters.
Dismissing sexual assault is disgraceful and so are those who excuse it.