This week, Dose did a live stream called “Locker Room Talk,” a reference and response to Donald Trump’s defense of his horrifying 2005 brags about kissing and groping women whether they liked it or not. The video itself is worthy of pages and pages of discussion and analysis, and says a lot about the world we live in.
While I was watching, the comments made by a lot of watchers (most of them men) made me sick to my stomach. I have hopes that in the future, sociologists will incredulously ask themselves, “Did humans in the the 21st century really treat women as less than men? As less than people?” For historical evidence, they will turn to the comments on this video, and those comments will provide massive insight into the way Americans—men and women—rationalize sexism.
I’d like to start this analysis by breaking down the three types of comments I found to be the most common and problematic responses to the women’s stories.
1. “You’re only coming out NOW, 10 or 12 years after your ‘assault?’ You’re so full of shit.”
It’s really easy for men, and in particular cisgender white men (like me), to imagine how the pain and outrage of being physically threatened or attacked would galvanize us into action. Reporting the situation seems like a no-brainer, and many of the comments questioned the women’s stories because the commenters could not comprehend why the women hadn’t come forward when their attacks occurred.
The answer, of course, is in the comments themselves. Women feel silenced because of our culture’s knee-jerk reaction: “I don’t believe you.” By asking the question, “If these women are telling the truth, why did they wait so long to come forward?” the people asking that question become the problem.
Women who are afraid of having their reputations destroyed, who are afraid of revenge actions by their attackers, who are afraid of reliving their traumas by reporting them: Why would they come forward when the the odds seem pretty good that they’ll be labeled “liars” and “exaggerators?”
2. “This isn’t a real issue.”
Wow. What the fuck, right? Do these people also think starvation isn’t a real issue because they get three meals a day? That police brutality isn’t an issue because cops are generally friendly to them? Simply put, somehow (and God knows how) a bunch of men on Tuesday listened to human beings share their most painful experiences, shrugged, and said, “So what?”
There are a lot of issues in the world. But it takes a special kind of privilege to point to a person and say, “What you experience on a daily basis doesn’t matter as much as this other thing.” It takes the kind of privilege that’s based in a human’s supreme confidence that he will never personally experience the issue he’s labeled as “inferior.” This kind of immunity to the issue makes it all too easy for men to ignore it—to pretend it doesn’t exist. Because unless we actively engage with the issue, the odds are very good that it will never impact us on a personal level. Imagine a world where women could live their lives with such confidence that their bodies would never be disrespected or violated.
I don’t presume to know what it feels like to live life as a survivor of sexual assault. But I hope that even people who are unlikely to be touched by this issue on a personal level can recognize that it is a devastating, life-altering thing that happens on a daily basis, and that doing what we can as a society to prevent it and help victims to heal is important.
3. “As if anyone would bother with [description of woman’s appearance]. She isn’t hot enough to garner attention.”
Wow. Of all the types of comments seeking to cast doubt on these women for coming forward, this category of shaming made my skin crawl the most. I don’t even know what to say about it. The kind of person who can knowingly tune in to a group interview and immediately begin assessing the bodies of the people in the room on some sort of scale of “rape-ability” is truly an indicator of the world we live in.
For those who cock an eyebrow at the phrase “rape culture,” here it is. Thisis what it looks like. It looks like a bunch of men on the internet with their real names on display announcing, shamelessly and without fear of consequences, which women are and aren’t worth the time and effort to sexually assault.
All three of these categories of comments indicate to me a singular discomfort men feel when faced with rape culture.
It indicates that men feel, as individuals, that they are good people. And that to point out to them that they’ve lived their lives within a rape culture is some kind of attack on them on a personal level—because, as good men, they would have noticed and done something about it if it were true.Therefore, to these men, the culture cannot exist — otherwise it would force them to question their place in that culture. It’s twisted logic at its finest.
The only ray of hope in this mess were the few comments from enlightened men.
There was one comment, I think, that most succinctly wraps up my own feelings, and what I’m trying to get at in this piece. It was written by a watcher named Jimmy Dagenais:
Because listening and acknowledging is, at the very least, what a good man does.
A version of this post originally appeared on Dose.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.