Sorry, Donald. That’s Not Locker Room Talk
As a former football player, I’ve spent my whole life in locker rooms. I’ve been in locker rooms as a prep, college, and professional athlete, and currently as a high school football coach. I’m privy to what locker room talk is in different capacities. Locker room talk is when a group of athletes discuss topics that are most interesting to them without judgment. The topics vary from what just happened at practice that day, current events, their relationships, and yes, women. I want to be very clear: talking about “grabbing” women “by the pussy” is not locker room talk. It’s talking about sexual assault, and anyone who hears this kind of talk and is complicit in not stopping it is encouraging it. I’ve never heard that kind of talk in any locker room I’ve been a part of.
Donald Trump was caught on tape in a 2005 recording with Billy Bush degrading women and explaining how he believes that sexual assault laws do not apply to him. Trump talked about kissing, groping, and violating women in that conversation and justified his actions by saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” Bush agreed and kept Trump talking and bragging about more deplorable behavior. By laughing and agreeing, Bush encouraged Trump’s behavior and let Trump feel justified by his actions. By being complicit, Bush perpetuated Trump’s false belief that his actions were normal. And he perpetuated rape culture.
Men Like Trump and Bush Are The Reason Why Women Feel Unsafe
What Trump and Bush were discussing is not locker room talk, but the fact is, that type of conversation exists―from jerks like Trump and Bush and others―and it can be much worse. There are men boys (I won’t call them men) who believe that their status puts them above the law. Those boys are the same people who have big parties in the hopes of getting girls and women intoxicated and taking advantage of them. Those boys are the reason why girls and women under the age of 100 need to navigate parties and other social situations with their friends and and told to always take care of each other and “never leave a girl behind.” Those boys are the reason why I’m worried about my women friends at social gatherings. Those boys are the reason why my teammates and I had to confront and stop predators at parties and bars. Those boys are the reason why I still need to do so.
Why Men Must Speak Out Against It
As men, we need to be vocal and speak out against this type of language and behavior. We need to refuse to stay complicit and refuse to stay passive when we hear it. If not, we are perpetuating and normalizing that type of behavior for the younger generation. We need to show support for our sisters, moms, daughters, and friends because sexual harassment is part of their daily lives. We need to teach boys that men don’t treat women this way, but also, human beings don’t treat each other this way. Even for men who try to be decent human beings, it can be hard to comprehend what women endure on a daily basis, because the types of behavior they encounter―from cat-calls to assault―are something we’d never do. I’d NEVER do. But we have to be aware that it happens. It happens to every woman.
Key: Teach The Next Generation, Break The Cycle
As a high school coach, I have the opportunity to teach the kids on my team about life lessons in addition to football. It’s a unique position because I’m not their parent or teacher, but I spent as much time with them. Sometimes, more. I view it as an honor. Coaches develop a different type of deep relationship with their players because of the commitment and accountability it takes to be part of a team. I begin each Monday with a discussion on a trending news topic, and this week’s conversation was about Drumpf and sexual assault. The kids had lots of questions. The Trump tape gave me the opportunity to explain the difference between “locker room talk” and what Trump said.
My players had all heard about it―and heard the pundits on the news talking about it―but they still had questions. They asked great questions about Trump’s comments, sexual assault, and consent. I gave them answers from a legal perspective (I’m also an attorney), and from the athlete perspective (they are influenced by how athletes behave). I explained experiences that my friends have had with sexual assault and how common it is. I shared how it may affect women throughout their lives, and how these young men can stop it while in high school. As men, we need to continue teaching young men how to spot sexual assault and show them how to stop it. We need to talk about how these conversations and actions can perpetuate rape culture, and what that means. When our boys, men, athletes, and society refuse to accept sexual assault is just a “normal” part of “locker room talk,” we will be taking a step in the right direction.
Adam Juratovac is a former student-athlete and a social media educator and coach. He is the founder of AthletesLTD, a platform that allows athletes to share their stories for the benefit of their communities. He has worked with over 100 professional athletes to help them use social media to establish their brand for successful partnerships. His debut book, ‘Student-Athletes And Social Media’ teaches student-athletes to leverage social media to build their personal brands for collegiate and post-collegiate success.