Men must learn from Donald Trump

It’s become increasingly apparent that Republican nominee is, among many unsavory things, quite possible a serial sexual predator. More than a sleaze, not just a creep – Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE is a man who views women and girls as sexual playthings, toys to be fondled and coveted, and he has no problem enacting his sexual whims on the women around him.

While sitting next to a woman who was a complete stranger on a plane, Trump reached over and groped her. He has kissed women on the mouth with little introduction. Trump would walk through dressing rooms to watch contestants in his beauty pageants dress and undress. He is spectacularly creepy when it comes to discussing his daughter, and even creepier when making physical contact with her.

What makes all of this so alarming isn’t that it’s surprising, it’s not. It’s that many of us can easily imagine men (and, more rarely, but still significantly, women) who fantasize of doing similar things. And that we can then imagine some of them acting on those sorts of fantasies.

These revelations about Trump also made me think of the Brock Turner case in California, a crime that disturbed me greatly, but one that I viewed quite differently before now.

In Brock’s case, I saw him as plainly guilty, and was outraged by the leniency he was shown particularly in light of his victim’s testimony against him (which may be one of the most important pieces of writing about sexual violence that I have ever read as a man, and one that I strongly encourage all men to read themselves). But I never thought of Turner as a sexual predator.

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Brock got drunk at a party and walked away with a young woman who was also attending and had too much to drink. He walked them into an alleyway where he raped her while she was unconscious until two men passing by the scene intervened to stop him. He got let off relatively easy because the judge saw him as a promising young man who made a horrible mistake. Brock only served only three months in prison, will serve three years of probation, and will be registered as a sex offender.

His victim will feel forever violated. But I didn’t think of Turner as a sexual predator. Brock’s case was something that I could easily imagine happening to friends of mine, both from the position of Brock and that of his victim. His acts are things that I know, in the back of my mind, probably have happened to or been committed by people I know. And I recognize now that was why I didn’t think of Turner as sexual predator.

The truth is that Donald Trump, Brock Turner, and all men and women who commit any form of sexual assault aren’t so different. We may not think of people like Brock as predators because they may not prey on others often, and may not have mean to prey on someone at all. But people like Brock have forced sexual contact on a victim who did not or could not or would not consent because, in their mind, their pleasure mattered more than the sovereignty of another person.

Today, we are taught more regularly and explicitly about affirmative consent. I had to take an online course about it for the graduate program I’m in now. Some people (especially men) like to make fun of affirmative consent. They think it’s ridiculous as a concept. After all, “No one asks someone if they’re okay with having sex – it kills the vibe. You just know.” Or asking, “Why should you be asking for consent all the way through? How can someone change their mind halfway through?”

Men who criticize affirmative consent in these ways portray it as this odious requirement, or an effort to make it easy for people to lie about rape and get others in trouble. But it comes across as boys who can’t stand any sort of impediment to their sexual satisfaction. Affirmative consent simply means knowing that sexual contact is wanted – that one person is not an object, not a plaything, not some toy.

We – meaning men – must learn something from Donald Trump and Brock Turner. Their actions show us how repulsive it is when affirmative consent doesn’t take place. Their victims’ stories should shake us from whatever doubts we may have about its importance. It can be easy to take Trump’s controversies and say his case is an example of how sexist and violent people were in the past. But Turner’s case should remind us that these problems are still alive in well in the millennial generation. A large part of that is because many men continually refuse to take the concept of consent seriously.

So, to my fellow men, let’s make sure everything we have seen and learned in 2016 will remind us why that has to change.

Voss is currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy in Ann Arbor. He graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Louisiana State University in 2014 and has worked in Democratic campaign politics and economic development. Follow him on Twitter @JacksonVoss


 

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