A Quick Reminder That Sexual Assault Is Not About Lust -- It's About Power And Control

Listen up, Trump.
Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Colorado on October 18. 
Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Colorado on October 18. 

Sexual assault is Not. About. Attractiveness.

Assault and harassment is about power. A man, perhaps feeling insecure about his masculinity or entitled about his status, uses assault to assert control and dominance over a woman.

Yet Donald Trump and his team of surrogates can’t stop making the case that only “attractive” women are somehow worthy of assault.

“These aren’t even women he’d be attracted to,” Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, in an attempt to refute the growing group of women who’ve accused the Republican presidential candidate of assault. “Beauty is in the eye of beholder,” he said, as if to soften the blow.

(Watch him make this statement in the video below.)  

Cohen’s just echoing his boss. In the last week alone, eight women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Trump ― in response, those women have been ripped apart by Trump’s campaignrepeatedly told they’re too unattractive to have been on the receiving end of Trump’s affections. 

In a campaign speech in Florida on last Thursday, Trump denied the women’s allegations, calling them “false smears.” But he did more than deny the claims ― he insinuated that one woman, People Magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, wasn’t attractive enough to be hit on. “Look at her,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Earlier this week, People magazine corroborated Stoynoff’s claims with reports from six different sources. 

Sex is only part of the reason for sexually assault, which has so much to do with asserting one’s dominance and control over a victim. When a man objectifies, gropes or grabs women, he’s “proving” who is in charge. 

Trump himself explained it in the by-now infamous video of him from 2005.

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait...And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

Men who rise to more powerful positions often feel more entitled to this kind of behavior.

If you give people more power then they’re more likely to objectify and harass women and see them as objects. Professor Stefanie K. Johnson

“If you give people more power than they’re more likely to objectify and harass women and see them as objects,” said Stefanie K. Johnson, a professor at the  University of Colorado’s business school who studies gender.

Under this logic, a boss who makes a grab for his female employee is just demonstrating his bossiness, his entitlement to whatever he wants. 

There’s another disturbing thread of logic to the Trump argument ― that he wouldn’t assault an unattractive woman. The implication is: he would assault someone he found attractive.

Taking Trump’s argument to its logical end, you’d expect that only the most good-looking people wind up as victims of sexual violence. Of course, that’s absurd.

A wide and diverse group of men, women ― and children ― have been the unfortunate victims of sexual assault. 

Making assault and rape about “attractiveness” diminishes their experience. “By making the issue about sex and not about violence, this crime seems more acceptable and less severe,” explains the University of Michigan’s sexual assault and awareness center.

Talking about a victim’s attractiveness, also serves to blame THEM for the assault: If she weren’t so damn hot, I wouldn’t have done it, the argument goes. 

The argument about attractiveness is just an extension of Trump’s relentless misogyny: Women are either attractive “pieces of ass,” or they’re worthy of contempt. 

That’s not a world view that’s working very well for him anymore.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.



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