Hello, my beloved friend. I have more to say than will productively fit in a Facebook comment, so I am writing a full letter to you about the Donald Trump meme you posted.
First, let me say that I am writing this because I know and love you. I know you as a wonderful, big-hearted, loving man. I know you as a fierce opponent of injustice, and a fighter for truth and freedom.
I know you love and protect the women in your life.
And I know that when we spoke last night, you did not see how your attitude to Donald Trump’s “grab their p*ssy” behaviour could possibly contribute to the harassment and victimisation of the women you love.
For those who want to “cut to the chase”, here are some of the dangerous myths that are contributing to the current epidemic of sexual assault. Scroll down for the explanations:
Myth #1: Sexual assault only happens to a particular kind of woman
Myth #2: Admiration equals sexual desire
Myth #3: If she doesn’t fight back, she wants it
Myth #4: If it wasn’t proven in court, it doesn’t count
Myth #5: 50 Shades of Grey is relevant
If you want to skip all the discussion of the problem and go straight to solutions, scroll down to:
How To Protect Your Daughter From Men Like Donald Trump
How The Conversation Started
For the sake of other readers (who may be directed here by other women who have been struggling to communicate this), I will start from the beginning.
So, we began with you posting this on Facebook:
There is info in the Bonus Points section to how this meme itself contributes to the ongoing harassment and victimisation of women (which will inevitably affect the women you love, if it hasn’t already) later on. But first, let’s summarise the discussion in the comments under your post.
I said that it is not “naughty words” women are objecting to; it is unwanted sexualised touching (aka sexual assault). Donald Trump could have used the politest language in the world, and if the content of his speech was still “celebrities can get away with sexually assaulting women just because they are stars, and that is a good thing”, American women would still be outraged.
Your reply was “nobody was forced”. You asserted that they were all part of his fan club and therefore “wanted it”.
Some of the women Donald Trump was referring to were actually AT WORK. They were contestants and employees in a reality TV show of which Donald Trump was the celebrity judge. They were not star-struck fans choosing to associate with him in hopes of getting some attention from him. They were required to associate with him as part of their profession.
When this was pointed out to you, you did say that it would be inappropriate for Donald Trump to grope those women.
For the sake of readers who didn’t see our exchange, I want to make it quite clear that you are not defending any situations in which Donald touched a woman in unwanted sexual ways when she was relating to him in a professional setting.
Your final statement, after which you refused to discuss anything further, was:
“1. There was no proven touching.
2. Even if touching was performed, it was within the fan club, which makes it welcomed.”
What I don’t think you see yet is that your assumption that any woman who is a fan of Donald Trump would welcome his sexual touch is part of a pattern of incorrect and dangerous beliefs about women.
As you are not a woman, this might not bother you, but you have a daughter. Young men right now are reading memes like the one you posted, and comments like the ones you made, and that reading is preparing them to force unwanted sexual touching on your daughter in a few years’ time.
i am sorry to make such a blunt and unpleasant statement. I really wish this was not the situation.
But I have been a young woman, and I have raised three young women, and I could write a hair-raising book about the many and varied ways in which these toxic beliefs have directly affected me and my three daughters alone.
However, I don’t need to do that.
9.7 Million Stories Of Sexual Assault
After the Donald Trump tape went to air, a woman called Kelly Oxford created a twitter hashtag #notokay, for women who wanted to share their experiences of being groped in the manner that Donald Trump described. At last count, 9.7 MILLION women had tweeted about personal experience with this phenomenon.
Not all women are on Twitter, and not all women on Twitter feel comfortable sharing such things. Therefore, the actual number of women with direct, personal experience of unwanted groping is likely to be much, much higher.
They don’t use hastags so much on Facebook, but stories of “grab them by the pussy” like this one are emerging in response to the Donald Trump tape there, as well.
I hate to labor the point, but to think your daughter will magically be immune from this epidemic if you “raise her right” is just delusional.
Myth #1: This Only Happens To A Certain Kind Of Woman
It is tempting, I understand. to imagine that the women who get groped by Donald Trump are a particular kind of woman. His “fan club”.
In your words, “He was talking about women surrounding him being – umm – easy to get. Which is truth. Just think for a moment what kind of woman surround celebrities and billionaires.”
If you can imagine that there is a particular kind of woman who INVITES this kind of touching, you can reassure yourself that your daughter would never be that kind of woman, and therefore she is safe.
It is a very understandable emotional short-cut. But if you take it, you won’t be able to protect your daughter.
Now, there is no denying that some women are attracted to powerful men. Bill Clinton took advantage of that fact, as I am sure Donald Trump has, to secure consensual sex with beautiful women. That is not the issue here.
It is a long way from that undisputed fact of human nature to the assumption that ANY woman in the vicinity of Donald Trump must be desperately longing to have him grab her vagina.
The women surrounding Donald Trump are generally there because it is their job, not because they are in his “fan club”. They are the employees in his golf club (the thin ones, because the ones he thinks are too fat have to hide out the back when he comes by), the production crews on The Apprentice and other TV shows, contestants in beauty contests he is judging, and so on.
Even those who are socialising with Donald Trump, and who like or admire him, are not necessarily welcoming of his sexual touch. Some are, for example, happily married in a monogamous relationship, with no desire to stray.
Donald Trump has sexually touched a number of married women, and not all of them were happy about it. (I allow that some may well have been.)
In short, Donald has said he doesn’t stop to check what kind of woman she is before he kisses her, or grabs her pussy. “Good Women”, “Virtuous Women”, “Women of Good Character”, whose only moral flaw was to be attractive-looking in Donald’s vicinity, have received unwanted sexual touch.
The important thing to remember here is that this is not about Donald Trump. He is just one man. If he was the only person doing this, there would not be 9.7 million tweets on the #notokay hashtag. There are thousands, if not millions of men operating on these toxic beliefs about women.
As a celebrity, Donald Trump is a role model. As a role model, he is saying that it is OK to treat women as objects. And you are justifying his behaviour by saying that the women he treats as objects are a particular kind of woman who wants to be treated as an object. You are saying that if a woman is this particular kind of woman, she will always want to be treated as a sex object.
Young men are learning this attitude from you right now. Today. On Facebook.
What happens when one of those young men decides that your daughter is this particular kind of woman?
Myth #2: Admiration equals sexual desire
We have already agreed that some women find powerful men attractive.
This does not mean that ALL women find powerful men attractive.
Nor does it mean that any particular woman finds ALL powerful men attractive.
Nor does it mean that a woman who admires a powerful man must be admiring him in a sexual way.
Newsflash: women sometimes admire men for their work – for example, their their art, music, or inventions.
Women sometimes associate with a successful man because they find his conversation interesting, or his life work inspiring. (Okay, this is unlikely to be the case with Donald Trump, but we are taking this wider than just The Donald.)
Sometimes women network with powerful men, just like men do, to develop professionally, learn more about their field, and expand their professional network. Men don’t expect to have to provide sexual favours in exchange for this professional development. Crazily enough, women don’t either.
Sometimes, especially in their teens, young women become genuine fans of a particular celebrity. They may want and hope to get to spend time with that celebrity, to be noticed, and even praised by that celebrity. That hero-worship STILL doesn’t mean that they want sexual contact with that celebrity.
This particular myth is the main reason why college athletes sexually assault women at a much higher rate than the average college male. They assume that any woman who admires their sporting prowess must therefore be “up for it”, sexually.
Some are. But some are not.
So, what happens when your daughter is in the cheerleading squad, and the team has a big win? Will the linebacker stop to ask himself whether or not she is “up for it”?
MYTH #3: If She Doesn’t Fight It, She Wants It
I can’t believe I have to go into this, but when I asked you about a woman being assaulted in a professional setting you said the groper “would be slapped in the face”.
You don’t slap your boss in the face. Not if you want to keep your job.
You don’t slap the judge of your Miss Universe contest in the face. Not if you want to stay in the contest.
You don’t slap a man taller and heavier than you in the face. Not unless you have a clear line of exit and other people around that you know will step in if he escalates the violence.
You don’t slap your major client in the face. Not unless you are independently wealthy.
You don’t slap a man in the face who is well-known for ruining anyone that crosses him in any way available to him, usually both financially and through public smearing of your reputation.
You don’t slap the quarterback in the face. Not if you want to be able to walk through the halls of school on Monday.
You don’t slap you professor in the face. Not unless you are quite sure the University has a properly administered professional misconduct process.
By default, the person who gets punished in these situations is the woman. We all learn that by the time we are sixteen. Maybe twenty-one if you have a really sheltered life.
Unless you are 100% sure there is a large enough group of powerful people who will intervene to support you through the process, making a fuss about unwanted sexual touching only ever makes things worse. Instead of having a handsy guy to deal with, you have a pissed-off, vindictive handsy guy to deal with, and often half a dozen of his friends as well.
I won’t even talk about the “fight, flight or freeze” reflex, that kicks in and makes women freeze in threatening situations. Like when some guy randomly grabs your vagina and you have no idea how far he is willing to go, and with how much violence.
Will your daughter be 100% sure that there are enough powerful people on her side that she is safe to slap the dude? Who will those people be?
MYTH #4: If It Wasn’t Proven In Court, It Doesn’t Count
You really went there?
If someone gropes your daughter, the chances are she will never tell YOU, much less the police. She has been told her entire life that things like this only happen to a particular kind of woman.
What were you doing there? What were you wearing? You must have given him the wrong impression. And so on, and so on, and so on.
If you really want to protect your daughter, you need to make it safe for her to tell you when shady shit happens to her. If she goes to high school in the USA, shady shit IS going to happen to her.
If she is lucky, she will be well supported by you and other adults to understand that it is the attacker’s fault, not hers, and that it doesn’t make her a bad person.
If she is lucky, it will be minor shady shit like having her bra strap twanged or her butt groped in the canteen line, not major shady shit like being date-raped or being slipped a roofie at a party.
Ninety-nine percent of the sexual harassment and sexual assault that is going on is NEVER EVEN REPORTED TO POLICE, let alone prosecuted. If those two Swedish students hadn’t caught Brock Tyler in the act of assaulting an unconscious young woman, she would never have even known what happened to her. She would certainly not have been able to provide the kind of evidence required to prove anything in court.
What gets proved in court is just the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Go read the #notokay hashtag (or this #notokay summary article) and ask yourself how many of those assaults would have been proven in court.
If you put your head in the sand, you are not going to BE THERE for your daughter when she needs you. She will have deal with the shady shit all alone.
Will you be the kind of Dad she knows will have her back in these situations? Or will she have a lifetime of memories of you saying “nothing was proven in court” and “that kind of woman welcomes it” and “she didn’t slap him in the face, so she must have wanted it”?
Myth #5: 50 Shades Of Grey Is Relevant
Reading a novel about BDSM is related to having your vagina grabbed unexpectedly in real life in the following ways:
2. Not at all
3. Drawing a blank here, too.
Bonus Extra Points
Reducing a confession of habitual sexual assault to “using naughty words” is called MINIMISING. This sends women the message that the invasion of their bodies is not particularly important, compared with the use of crude language.
Fantasising about BDSM is not the same in any way as wanting to be sexually assaulted. (Why do we even need to SAY these things in 2016?)
Even a woman with an active sex life involving BDSM might not want Donald Trump grabbing her pussy.
If we follow this logic, every woman who read 50 Shades of Grey on the train was begging to be groped by random strangers. Maybe the person who made this meme genuinely believes that.
How To Protect Your Daughter From Men Like Donald Trump
1. Acknowledge that men like Donald Trump exist.
2. Acknowledge that their groping can be unwanted.
3. Acknowledge that nice girls and good women are sometimes subjected to unwanted sexual touching.
4. Blame the toucher for the touching, not the woman.
5. Do this for ALL women, all the time. Not just women you know. Not just white women. Not just articulate women. Not just middle and upper-class women. ALL women. ALL the time. If the touching was unwanted, the toucher is responsible. He should have made sure it was wanted before he did it. Without exception. Every damn time.
6. Say all of this to your daughter whenever the issue is in the news, or in the local community gossip.
7. Say all of this to every young man who comes into contact with your daughter. Bonus points for showing them your shotgun.
8. Say all of this to any adult you meet who spouts any of the dangerous myths we have talked about today. Every adult saying this shit is literally contributing to the next batch of girls getting raped on college campuses.
9. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter who you are, and how much the other person seems to like you, you can never ASSUME that anyone consents to any sexual touch. NEVER.
(Once you are in an established relationship, you will probably develop consent shortcuts, but especially the first time you do any particular act, there should always be an explicit, out loud, verbal agreement. And the absence of any intoxication, of course.)
10. Teach everyone the bottom line until you are exhausted, and then teach it some more. Teach it to your daughter. Teach it to your daughter’s friends. Teach your daughter to teach it.
One day, you can teach it to your daughter’s kids. And I pray that by then, the world is a better place, and the need is less urgent.
I know you don’t want to think it could happen to your daughter.
I didn’t want to think it could happen to my daughters, either.
But when it did happen, at least they came to their parents for help. Many of their friends didn’t dare to even tell their parents something had happened, for fear they would be blamed.
I would like to think that we could protect our daughters from unwanted sexual touching for their entire lives. We can’t.
But we can do the next best thing. We can support them in dealing with it. And we can work to make it less common in the future.
By the way, the youngest age I saw on the #notokay hashtag was eight years old.
Start the conversation with your daughter today. Before it is too late.
(Footnote: I know this whole topic produces huge cognitive dissonance for you, because I am connecting public events with your intimate circle, your family, and it is emotionally more comfortable to keep them separate. It is easier to imagine that the outside world’s nastiness can’t touch our children because they are specially protected.
This won’t go away just by people denying it is a problem. It will only go away when MEN start saying to other men that this is not OK. In larger numbers than the men who are defending and justifying it.
If you are not yet willing to directly confront men who treat women with disrespect, that’s understandable. You can at least stop defending and justifying their behaviour by posting memes like this.
I know you might decide to hate me instead of hating the tidal wave of unthinking sexual abuse out there. I hope you don’t. I hope you can find it in your heart to direct your anger into action, doing something to change this horrible situation, instead. Change the situation in whatever ways you can, and thereby actually make the world a safer place for your daughter.
P.S. Even if you decide to hate me for saying all this, I will always love you. And I know that underneath, you will always love me, too.)