Not All Locker Rooms, But Yes, Some Locker Rooms

Donald Trump, the oleaginous pre-ejaculate that somehow gained sentience and is now running for president, is a bad dude who says horrible things. These things are not merely “lewd comments,” nor is it “potty-talk.” His comments form an implicit admission and explicit endorsement of sexual assault, which to most folks who have studied Trump for more than fifteen seconds, does not come as a particular surprise. And watching him in the debate stalk Clinton across the stage like the monster from It Follows (and then inexplicably dry-humping a chair, quite unlike the creature from It Follows) only enriches our picture of what a brutish, loutish abuser he is.

Here’s though, where it gets a little weird, at least for me.

Normally, the #NotAllMen crowd comes from the alt-right side of things, like, “Hey, don’t you dare talk about rape culture, because NOT ALL MEN blah blah blah,” and then the progressive side steps up to say, no, not all men, but yes all women, and yes some men. Clearly, certainly, surely some men, and clearly, certainly we need to talk about them.

Given that this entire election has been delivered to us through a portal leading straight to BIZARROLAND, that narrative has shifted somewhat, and it’s honestly a little uncomfortable for me. Now we have the alt-right and GOP side of things saying, “Well, pfft, pssh, this is locker room talk and all men do it,” thus effectively taking on the role of YES ALL MEN, while on the other side, the progressive side, you have a lot of dudes who are saying, NOT IN ANY LOCKER ROOM I’VE EVER BEEN IN, which is to say, they are taking over the position of NOT ALL MEN. Some of the vigorous advocacy of men in this regard has been almost flailingly defensive — things said like, real men aren’t like this, or I’ve never heard this kind of talk, ever.

Hm. Really? Really?

I’d encourage you to read into Kelly Oxford’s hashtag, #NotOkay — here’s an article about it, and note, it’s triggering. (Troublingly, this entire election is triggery.) She asked for women to tweet at her, effectively cataloguing their sexual assaults.

Millions responded.

Millions.

Now, unless we are to assume that these millions of women have been assaulted only by Trump and his cronies, I think it’s woefully fair to expect that these women are telling the truth and have been assaulted by everything from ex-boyfriends to husbands to family members to random men on public transportation. Which is to say, Trump is not a singular creature. He was not created in a vacuum. If there are millions of women assaulted, then there are millions of men doing the assaulting. We need to believe what these women are telling us.

I don’t know that in my life I’ve ever heard commentary like what Trump uttered at quite the level of pure, unmitigated rape culture he’s spouting — his words were, like I said, an admission and an endorsement of that kind of culture. It offered a clear picture of terrible men holding power and expressing that power not on behalf of women but rather, against them. Power serving as a weapon of desire and control.

But just the same, I’ve heard some nasty shit.

I’ve heard men talk about women as if they’re objects. Not people, but just disconnected body parts suitable only for lust. I’ve heard men take away a woman’s identity as a person and turn her into a receptacle for their urges. That’s not to say an admission of desire or an expression of proper human sexuality is bad — but when it comes at the cost of un-personing a woman? When it fails to form the recognition that the woman is a human being with autonomy over herself and her body? Nnnyeah, now we’re starting to get close to Trumptown. I never heard talk like this from close friends, no, but I’ve heard it from some family members, I heard it in high school, and in college, and at jobs. Early on in life I was not good enough to push back against it because that can be tough, and it requires courage that I didn’t then possess. But it’s there now, and I think it’s vital that men summon that courage when they can — and even when they can’t, to understand the danger in themselves and to raise their children (sons in particular) with the understanding of what this is, what it means, and how our sons can grow up to be better men to women and to one another. Because seriously, this shit is real. Toxic masculinity and rape culture are not separate from one another. Those two demons have their tails neatly entwined.

I’ll give you a good example — you ever heard any men give the friend zone talk? You know the drill: oh, I’ve been such a good friend to her, but she won’t date me, won’t sleep with me, oh woe is me, I am relegated to the friend zone. It’s shitty. It’s shitty because it assumes:

a) friendship is just a key to unlock a woman’s panties

and

b) that decency on behalf of the man means the woman owes him something for his efforts

It is on the same spectrum of what Trump said, just at the other end of it. Trump is speaking from a place of power — he’s rich, he has celebrity, he has unlocked that door and can walk through any time he likes, thank you very much. Friend-zoners are speaking from a place of perceived non-power — oh, I have no power, I’m a nice guy, I should be owed what a guy like Trump can take. It’s the same coin, it’s just the other side of it.

Nigel Farage, that blunt and clumsy thumb, says that this is just how men talk. All of Trump’s supporters are saying that, right? Oh, this is just how men talk, it’s just boasting, it’s just locker room talk. When they bring this up, our defense cannot and shouldn’t be:

“No, men do not speak like this.”

Because men do talk like this sometimes.

And some follow it up with actions, too. Or other men become emboldened by this kind of talk, and then choose to act accordingly. It normalizes all of it.

The trick is, that doesn’t make it okay.

It doesn’t absolve the sin. It does not change the problem. It doesn’t stop the fact that these “just words” are the backbone to actual actions, to a culture both personal and institutional that treats women like toys, like pets, like something you own rather than a person with whom you are equal. But they are real. This happens. One’s vigorous defense of NOT ALL MEN is not appropriate here. What’s appropriate is acknowledging the reality of this by listening to the women at the #NotOkay tag, and saying, okay, this is endemic. These are millions of women with millions of stories. Trump was not made in a vacuum. He was not born from some other place, some heinous clown-stuffed hell-realm. He isn’t a monster out there on his own — he’s a monster we know. And he’s damn sure a monster women know, and watching this election is reminding far too many women that they know guys like him. They’ve been stalked. They’ve been dismissed. They’ve been grabbed. And as men, I think it’s on us to not simply dismiss Trump’s comments simply because we want the purity of the political win. We want to believe that OUR SIDE isn’t like that, like no men we know could ever do such a thing, but statistically, we absolutely do know men like that, even if they’re not saying this stuff out loud.

This is real.

No, it’s not all men.

No, it’s not all “locker rooms.”

But it’s some of them. It’s more than we’d like.

Just ask women. And when you ask them? Listen to their answers.

71 comments

  • October 11, 2016 at 9:50 AM // Reply

    You nailed it. Thank you. We should not be responding, ‘Men do not speak like this’. We should be responding, ‘Yes, some men, probably a lot of men, speak like this. But that is wrong, absolutely, categorically wrong, Trump is way out of line, as are all the other men who speak like this. So what are we, collectively, as a society, going to do to put a stop to this kind of talk that objectifies and preys on women?’

  • It’s also not just about the speaking: It’s about not condemning or challenging the speaking when it happens. Normalization happens when the words are regularly spoken, and repeated, and turned into ritual that never goes unchecked or unchallenged. I don’t believe all men speak like this. But enough do. And too many of the rest do too little in the pushback arena. (Thanks for the post, Chuck.)

  • Thank you.

    (I have a million things I want to add – about how participating in #NotOkay made me realize how many stories I truly have, I only shared a small number of them – and about the time my son came home early from a friend’s house when he was 14 because “he didn’t like the way they were talking about girls so he left” and how I almost told him “well, boys your age are like that” – and how I was raped by a friend when I was 16 who admitted to the judge that I had said no several times but it wasn’t rape because I wasn’t screaming, even though, ya, I was crying a little. But these things I was going to add all come from the same place, from the same thing I want most to say to this post: Thank you.)

  • October 11, 2016 at 10:02 AM // Reply

    Especially back in the sixties, when I was in the Navy, yes–I did hear other men talk like this, and no–I didn’t challenge it. Thank goodness I was raised properly and didn’t join in, but I do take responsibility for not standing up. I was a 20-ish-year-old coward; that’s on me. I’ve since grown up.
    I agree, we must challenge every time we hear this sort of thing. Women are not property; they are not sexual objects; they are not receptacles. We as men must be better than Herr Drumpf and all who would reduce women to less than human.

  • I can see your point about the reversed polarities of #NotAllMen, but…
    Having played amateur team sports for literally decades, I’ve never heard anyone brag about believing themselves able or entitled to commit sexual assault.
    I’ve heard objectification, lustful fantasising, and various other strata of not-cool, but never have I heard someone openly and gleefully admit that they grab non-consenting women’s genitals. Not just that they would like to that, as some sort of hypothetical thing, but that they actually do it.
    That’s what Trump was saying. He wasn’t been lewd, he wasn’t airing some dark fetish of his mind, he was brazenly boasting about sexual assault.
    I think as well that it’s important within the masculine community to have voices saying that this is not ‘locker room’ talk, and that’s it’s not just how men speak to each other. Because to accept that would be to normalise sexual assault. That would be the boys-will-be-boys problem. M writ large.
    So while I accept that we need to acknowledge that all women are potentially victims of predatory men, and that far too many have been already, and that it’s reasonable for a woman to be cautious or hold apprehensions of how many think of them and act toward them, we also need to fight the narrative that this is normal male behaviour.
    Trump’s not a lone pervert, he is of a kind which exists in too great numbers in our communities, but he’s an outlier even there.

  • Calling Nigel Farage “a blunt and clumsy thumb” is far too polite. He’s the UK’s own version of Trump albeit with slightly more brains and political polish. He’s just as disgustingly xenophobic, which is why Trump brought him on board. Ugh.

  • Oh, and yeah, I didn’t challenge the not-cool shit I heard as a teen and in my early twenties, and looking back now I wish I had. But I also heard it a lot less as I got older, and the other guys in locker rooms got older, and maybe it’s that some guys never get out of that mid-late teen, early 20s chrysalis, not even by the time they’re 59 year-old.

  • I’m British, so I’ve just been catching up with some of this – Trump and Clinton in debate – if Trump gets to President, I don’t know what will help us. I am just so thankful that Clinton holds her cool.

  • October 11, 2016 at 10:38 AM // Reply

    Well spoken. I’m so glad you mention the ‘friend zone’ thing. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for YEARS.
    There has been so much talk about this topic, which is a good thing. This problem didn’t start with Trump, but he did bring it to light, which is what we needed. I’d thank the man, but I really don’t want to.

    It makes me sad that people got really confused about what was exactly wrong with what that man said. There was a lot of dismissal, there was outrage, and there was a lot of defense. I heard the ‘but women talk crude about men too’. Yes, some women do. I have not heard a woman talk about assaulting a man sexually, but I’m sure there have been women out there. The difference is… men aren’t raised to be afraid of women. I cannot think of a single woman who has NEVER in her life dealt with some type of sexual harassment. It can be little things, like some guy screaming some really terrifying things at you in the street, or following you home, to actual physical assault. I’m not saying no guy has ever had to deal with that, but it’s not a common problem for them. It is for us.

    And it isn’t the crude talk that’s the horrifying thing. People thought women were upset Trump used the word ‘pussy’. Seriously… I couldn’t care less. I wasn’t offended by that. It was the ‘grab’ that shocked me. I can tell you, it’s horrifying when a stranger grabs your genitalia. I’ve had it happen to me before when I was young in a bus. I didn’t dare to ride the bus alone after that for the better part of a year.

    I don’t want men (or women) to confuse ‘lewd talk’ with what Trump did. I think we all admired people for their physique, and that’s fine. I’ve surely made the odd remark about male actors torsos. Never in such a way that I would degrade the person, though. There is a fine line there. It’s okay to admire, it’s not okay to break someone down. Talking about what you want to do to a person explicitly crosses a border, and bragging about assault is just vile and promotes rape culture. Lust is fine. Admiring someone is fine. Joking about it, is still fine. But I think we all know in our hearts when we’re still being decent human beings, and when we’re just being douche canoes.

    • Co-sign, entirely, Chantal. Love the distinction being lewd talk and use of the word “grab”. I would add that once anyone grabs another person uninvited, it’s actually BATTERY. I know I’m quibbling here, but this is the time. If we’re going to change the discourse, we have to use different words. So, I’m gonna say out loud that over the years, the word “assault” has been allowed to stand for worse actions because it’s more generic. I believe it’s part of the subversive side of rape culture to downplay bad actions. The word “assault” came in handy, there. But when a person places unwanted hands on another person, that’s battery, which sounds worse, because it is.

      Assault is the threat of force.

      Battery is the actual force.

      Rape is the actual deed, not “sexual assault”.

      Let’s stop calling it assault when it’s battery and rape.

      • Totally agree with this. Using the term “sexual assault” to define the entire spectrum from a crude comment on the street to violent penetration lets people forget that everything on the spectrum is NOT separated merely in degree. It lets them avoid that uncomfortably blunt word, “rape.”

        Assault is the crude comment. Battery is the crude comment plus a grab, or a forced kiss. Rape is rape, and it’s not the same thing as “assault.”

  • Thank you, Chuck, for listening to women and for encouraging others to do so.

    This has been a rough week in, regarding this topic, what has been a rough life for a lot of women. The wisdom of this post tells me, though, that what it posits is true. And for any man out there who reads Chuck’s post and wonders what his own understanding means to women, don’t doubt your power to effect positive change with a positive viewpoint about this. And, yes, by “positive viewpoint,” I mean the one that aligns and allies itself with the way women see this issue because I think we’re right about this.

    There is great comfort in that paragraph where Chuck talks about women being grabbed because it’s empowering to have a member of the perpetrator group acknowledge the bad behavior. I’ve been wholly detained by the wrist (and not permitted to leave) by an upset grad school classmate who was losing an argument with me. I’ve been dismissed in so many meetings at work, I’ve lost count. I’ve actually been told to be quiet by a colleague because my viewpoint was different from his. I’ve dealt with things in the dating world that were atrocious. But I feel a little better reading Chuck this morning.

  • Regarding that’s #NotOkay, ironically, the hashtag is not okay (even though I adore and get behind the cause 100%–just would have chosen a different hashtag) because it says so much about how women are required to be polite, even as we back down pigs. “Hey, you were just repugnant right there. That’s not okay.” Men would afford themselves a good, old-fashioned, “F*** off.” Even a tamer, “Back off.” We’re stuck with, “That’s not okay.”

    Women are labeled bitchy because we don’t smile back, as if our Brain Time is not fully our own but is instead this blank thing waiting for (some) men to happen. It must remain blank and unused by us so that we can be ready to learn what we’re supposed to do, say next. We’re supposed to say, “Sorry my worrying about my disabled child and how his school day is going kept me from flirting back with you on the bus, or that my daydreaming or my mental grocery shopping or my dreaded cancer test results had the nerve to interfere with you reaching out with your MAN-titudeness and I fell down on my GIRL job and forgot to bump you to the head of the line, to the exclusion of my own life because you deigned to give me some of your good-good MAN-ness.” And, “Sorry I didn’t trash my good ideas at work when you showed up with your ideas, in recognition of my living my life waiting for your you-ness to appear.” In other words, we’re not simply the staging areas of men’s lives. We’re OUR lives.

  • My final comment:

    The thing that will surprise some men is that women really do appreciate fair and equal treatment. We should be able to take it for granted, but because we can’t and because we know what so many men are up against when society and culture tell them certain horrid behaviors are expected, we see fair and equal treatment as your reach across that weird divide, and we straight up like you better for it. We know you’re human and succumb to anthropological pressures like the rest of us. We know the figurative locker room is a big, sweaty, powerful place and that sometimes you can’t see for all the stink. When anyone can rise above the lowest denominator society offers them, it’s a win, and we’ll cheer for that and welcome it.

    I give doubting men one task: For one week, pay close attention to how often you see things like mansplaining and marginalization and belittling. For a week, see things as a woman would, look through a different lens. And gird your loins. Some of it ain’t pretty.

  • As a father and grandfather of daughters and staunchly anti-Trump, I agree with all of this. Anyone who views women as anything other than equal human beings is an odious waste of perfectly good chemicals, in my opinion. There is, however, one small generalization in your post, Chuck, that’s kind of sticking in my craw; the friend zone thing. Though it’s been a while (don’t think we even called it friend zoning back then) I’ve had a couple of times in my dating life where I was friend zoned. My issue is that not everyone who gives that ‘she won’t date me’ talk is doing it from a place of entitlement or some ill-perceived notion of sexual commerce. In my case, and the case of some friends of either gender, it wasn’t so much that I expected something for my efforts or affections or whatever, but that I just wished for it. It wasn’t frustrated expectation as much as unfulfilled longing. Unrequited love, if you want to get romantic about it. I think generalizing something like that does a dis-service to people that were just trying to cultivate a genuine relationship that just wasn’t in the cards.
    There, craw cleared. Thanks for all the great posts.

    • The issue there is, you went into a friendship shaped like a Trojan Horse — you put the friendship toward her, hoping that the prettiness of the horse would convince her to let what was truly inside it — meaning, your desire for a relationship beyond friendship — out.

      It’s okay to want a relationship with someone and be disappointed about it not working out that way. It’s less awesome when you want that, but don’t say you want that and instead initiate a friendship in the hopes of elevating that to the thing you really want. It’s really not awesome when you darken everyone’s door with that resentment, and talk about the friendzone thing, which again sounds like you (the general you, not the you-you) feel as if you were owed something.

      We all have unfulfilled longings, but to weaponize them and demonize the woman for not returning what was given is where that becomes a problem.

      • And, C.Screamin, we don’t always encounter someone as chivalrous, decent, and romantic as you. Sometimes, and even often, but not always. It can mean that even when they have the best intentions, once things don’t work out, that subconscious feeling a man might have that deep (deep, deep, deep) down, women are there to please sneaks out and leaks out. “Just friends” becomes burnt ego becomes lashing out because I can, because you’re a woman, and you failed in your Woman Thing when you didn’t choose me, which makes you guilty and means I get to punish you with my malcontent. In other words, they may not start out that way, but they finish that way.

        I’m happy Chuck brought this out.

    • I want to second this – this was my plight in college. I’d like a woman, I’d suggest we’d hang out, and find out that she thought we were just friends. I wasn’t using friendship as a trojan horse. what I thought was a date would turn out to be friends hanging out. I think it was in part because I wasn’t direct enough about my intentions (ironically, to avoid being too forward and aggressive), or I acted more like a pal than a potential paramour. I never thought the women were terrible or owed me anything, and I hope I didn’t weaponize it. My experience was this happened a lot to certain kinds of young men and women (Ie those a little more shy or socially awkward) in those early-twenty ages when you are trying to figure things out. I’ve also seen cases where friendships develop into something that has all the intimacy of a romantic relationship minus the physical contact, which can be really confusing and frankly painful to be involved in. When I first heard the friend zone comment a few years ago, it was totally alien to me, and didn’t reflect my experience.

  • I’m glad you mentioned power because that is what it is about. If the society allowed equal power to women or if women had the power to squash disrespect like a bug on the sidewalk situations like this would not happen.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been meaning to write about this, because I too felt that men need to accept the fact that this happens way more than they’d like to admit. I, for one, have been on occasion granted a “just one of the guys status” and have been present during talks like this. At first you laugh a bit (granted I now realize this was a big mistake, never again), then you start feeling uncomfortable, and eventually you leave. You don’t have to boast about groping a woman in order to participate. Just laughing at the stupid “Oh! I’d do her!” comment is enough. Then, when this talk happens in front of the 12-year-old little brother, they think it’s real! It needs to stop. Stop bragging about sexual conquests like somehow they make you a better man! And I hate generalizations Chuck, but just like the #NotOkay had millions of women respond, I’m willing to bet over 90% of men have participated in this kind of talk, even if it’s just laughing, at least once in their lives.

  • I’ve been debating with myself all morning if I should actually say what I am going to say. I decided that I would say this stuff, but I would say it anonymously. I honestly have never talked about this. I’d just about rather have a room full of strangers watch me get my yearly pap smear than say any of this, but I think sometimes the hardest stuff is the most important.

    Years ago I went on a date with a very nice man. He was in the military, and exotic, he was kind and nice and I was instantly connected to him. After our date, when he was saying goodnight, things took the turn that you’re probably expecting. It was rough, and brutal, and there was blood, and chunks of hair missing, and split lips, black eyes, the whole nine. I was in shock. I couldn’t process any of it. A few days later, he called me on the phone. I answered it (no caller-ID at the time), and he asked me on a date. I remember almost dropping the phone and just standing there, staring at the wall in shock. Then he says, “Hello? Are you there? I had a lot of fun last time…” and I said, “You really hurt me.” And he sounded completely and absolutely shocked, and years later I still don’t think he was faking the shock, and he replied with, “I thought women liked it rough.”

    I think if he hadn’t have said that last bit, I’d have been hurt, but I could have dealt with it. That last bit threw me in a tailspin and I spent the next (whatever) years of my life locked in a psychological hell. By the time I slipped out of it and realized I had to take care of myself, it was past the statute of limitations. My rape counselor at the time told me that only 10% of women raped actually deal with their rape, report it, go to counseling, admit it happened, etc.

    In the end, I am just one woman with a story out of… wow… so many of us.

    There is a huge problem here. First of all, if only 10% of women report their rape, and that’s already a TON of women, there is a huge chunk of women out there not reporting it. So no, it’s not all men, but it’s enough men to directly impacts a huge chunk of women, and many of these women still don’t feel safe, in our society, to step forward and say, “Look, this happened to me.” The statute of limitations, at least in my state (I believe they differ based on states) makes it tricky, as it did in my situation. It makes a lot of women feel like rape only matters if it happened within a certain time frame. It’s years later, and I still suffer severe episodes of PTSD from the whole thing. It never goes away.

    But the other issue is what he said to me, those words I will NEVER in all of my life forget. This incredibly (seemingly) nice man saying, completely baffled, “I thought all women liked it rough.” You guys, he’s not just some random weirdo, he’s one of those men that Chuck is talking about here, and/or one of those men in our society who has grown up with mixed viewpoints on women and sexuality, and it infected his life, and my life, irreversibly. These words, these few men, they impact lives directly and they are a symptom of a much bigger problem. There are enough of them out there that women like me are all around us… silent and still, holding our stories close to our hearts. It’s hard to talk about, harder to deal with, it’s a scar I will carry with me forever, but it’s there and it’s real, and I’m just one of many… a symptom of a society that has let these skewed notions on gender, sexuality, and intimacy flourish.

    Donald Trump isn’t the cause. He’s a man, much like the man I’m talking about here, who probably legitimately doesn’t have a clue that what he is saying promotes deviant behavior, and harms lives. He probably doesn’t have a clue that anything he’s saying is wrong. I hear his words, and flash back to those words said to me, “I thought women liked it rough….”

    No, they don’t, but there’s a gigantic chunk of people out there who probably think they do. Maybe they talk about it in locker rooms. Maybe they don’t…. but it’s there, and it’s a sick, festering boil, a social disease that infects everyone it touches.

    And the silent victims are all around us.

    I hope some of this – any of it – makes some sort of sense. I’m driving at a few points here and I’m doing it poorly in the extreme because this is so damn unbelievably hard for me to talk about, but here it is…. maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t.

    Thanks to Chuck for letting me post anonymously.

    • I’m so, so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for taking the time to talk about such a terrible and traumatizing experience.

      I cannot fathom how that man could imagine anyone want or enjoy black eyes and blood and torn-out hair. If he’d pulled that on some guy out on the street, he couldn’t pass that off as anything other than assault. Adding the sexual component in, it was obviously rape, and brutal at that. I wonder if it wasn’t that it seemed so _careless_ that made it even more devastating for you.

      I hope your rapist had a rude awakening via jail time at some point later on. He would have to be outrageously self-centered to not absorb even a tiny bit of the horror of what he was doing at the time. How utterly awful.

    • Anonymous, thanks for sharing your story with us.

      In a way, it’s more powerful that you shared your story anonymously because it represents that you could be any of us, any female we know. And I’ll add that cities all over America have *thousands* of untested rape kits because, let’s face it, solving these crimes does not seem to be a priority. It’s just a little too much of a coincidence that *thousands* of kits *everywhere* are untested. With science, DNA, and databases being where they are because of mandatory provision of DNA samples for people under arrest and/or who are convicted, these are potentially the *easiest* crimes to solve. Even if the perpetrator is difficult to catch, the average perp is probably in a database somewhere. We can find out who he is and try to get him off the street. But…the kit goes untested. So, maybe 10 more percent of the women speak up, but to what avail?

      [Chuck, I swear I’m done. I’ve posted a lot here today, but chalk it up to an extremely thought-provoking and sensitive post that really hit the nail in the dead center of its head. And struck a nerve.]

    • I can’t tell you how much I admire you for your strength in speaking about this horrific experience, I know how extremely difficult that is to do. There’s always this lingering fear that we’ll be blamed, disbelieved, dismissed. We know, deep down, or at least on good days, that it’s the attackers who are the dirty and damaged ones, not us, but still, that fear remains – at least it does for me. What you did took so much strength and courage, and for what it’s worth, I thank you for speaking out. I’m sure you’re making a lot of us feel less alone. Predators will often try to present some bullshit justification – ‘But I thought you wanted…’ ‘But you were wearing…’ ‘But you didn’t explicitly…’ It’s all just a smokescreen, thrown up because they know full well that it feeds into the horrible lies we’ve been told all our lives, about how women are and how men are, and about how it’s somehow our own fault when we’re attacked. And these predators all know that their excuses are, as we say in Danish, ‘not worth taking a dump in.’ What that shrivelled, toxic sub-animal did that night, and his sickening attempt to blame it on everything other than his own warped mind… I cried when I read it. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I hope that sharing your story here has been a positive experience, and thank you again for speaking out.

  • What really troubles me is the amount of men in my life who are justifying it as just words. “Oh he’s just talking. It’s not that big of a deal.” My own father, for instance. That earned him an unfollow and I don’t know that I can ever have a decent conversation with him. Every thing he says now just makes angry. How can you think that’s okay? The least Trump supporters can do is admit he was wrong. Just say he was an ass for that. If you still want support him, fine, but at least say, “He shouldn’t have said that.”

    • Trigger warning: statutory rape, pedophilia

      I agree that it’s NOT “just words.” I wish I’d never met the people I’m about to mention.

      My lab tech in college was devastated to discover his 24-year-old roommate was having sex with the lab tech’s 13-year-old sister. He felt betrayed on so many levels, and was completely repulsed. The roommate could not understand why the lab tech was so upset. Why wasn’t he happy? Why weren’t they still friends? Why couldn’t he keep sleeping with the girl? Why did people keep trying to have him arrested? After all, they both had agreed that really young girls were the absolute best. They were always talking about “No such thing as too young” and “sex before 8, before it’s too late!”

      The lab tech was decidedly a foul-mouthed, hateful troll who lived to offend people, but he assumed everyone knew he was an abrasive loud mouth. He perceived himself as “just talking,” and was deeply insulted that anyone took it at face value. Tragically, the roommate was a pedophile, who stuck around because the lab tech kept saying all the vile crap the pedophile was thinking. He interpreted the repeated conversations as agreement and permission to go after underage girls. He thought he’d finally found a friend who agreed with and understood him, and thought they were going to be brothers-in-law.

      Shudder. That poor girl. To live through such a thing, and to have such a family.

  • Thanks, Chuck. I remember being one of three women in my forestry tech class of thirty-four students. Every weekly bus ride to our practical field work had this kind of ‘locker-room’ talk. One girl joined in, while the other girl and I shared ear buds and tried to ignore it. I remember wishing I could be gay because I couldn’t imagine the horror of loving a man who might speak about women like that. I was young, and it took me a long time to realize it wasn’t “all men”. I am so relieved it isn’t.

  • I think we also need to keep in mind that, in some (well, many) ways, Trump is NOT like all men. He was born to privilege and his money has allowed him to take advantage of any gold digger that came along, never to be relegated to the friend zone.
    So, by his warped definition, he should therefore have access to ALL women who, since they are merely objects to decorate his arm, aren’t entitle to respect. It’s his due and he shouldn’t have to work for it. The locker room excuse is utterly beside the point and merely a handy excuse.
    His conceit does not allow him to interpret body language (clear on the bus tape, and every pic ever taken of him putting his lips on a beauty contestant), nor does he care to look for it.
    He’s a combination of rich kid and old school, irredeemable at this point in his life and unqualified for any public office.
    One only has to look at the debate to see that his prowling around Hilary was in part because she dared to step into HIS side of the stage, usurping his domain. He rarely followed her in “hers”.

  • @J Michael Melican, I get what you’re trying to say. I’d ask you to consider whether distancing yourself and creating some sort of heirarchy of ick when it comes to mens’ abusive behavior is helpful to eradicating rape culture and toxic masculinity.

    I contend that it is not. That whether Trump is an “outlier” is immaterial to this conversation.

    The stuff you outline is no more acceptable than Trump’s language and behavior. Your so-called outliers are emboldened by the things you described. Abusers and rapists litterally take that “locker room talk” as approval for their deeds. This is not some slippery slope fallacy; it’s a well studied and documented phenomenon. You are stepping towards normalizing the behavior that leads to the stuff you don’t want normalized. The implication is that there’s some level of objectification that’s ok.There’s not.

    Please listen – just because you never heard the level of vulgarity Trump displayed, that doesn’t mean some wannabe assaulter isn’t hearing those milder words and becoming bolder from their implicit approval.

    In distancing yourself from the behavior, it feels a lot like you’re trying to absolve yourself for not having done more. The takeaway I get from your message is more akin to: “ah, that wasn’t so bad. At least it wasn’t like what Trump did. I totally would have spoken up if was that bad.” Just like everyone thinks they would have been a resistance fighter in Nazi-occupied France or a fervent abolitionist had they been born in 1834 Georgia. It’s a narrative that’s about letting yourself off the hook, not about ensuring women are safe and supported.

    This conversation is not about you. I’m glad you’re uncomfortable enough to engage and I hope you’ll take this to heart.

    I have no desire for you to feel guilt. Guilt is unproductive. It leads to things like “confessing” your past inaction on a blog and little else changes.

    This request – maybe even a demand – that you learn to sit with the discomfort you were trying to alleviate with your comment. To realize you simply found a more verbose method of saying #NotAllMen. To understand that you recentered men in the conversation and added nothing that will move towards the eradication of rape culture and toxic masculinity. Literally nothing you said will make women safer or move the conversation forward.

    I don’t need to be assured that you’re a good guy. I need you to listen, learn and act. I, very literally, don’t care about your or Chuck’s or anyone’s past misdeeds or failings. To ask women to hear that is retraumatizing, decentering and a request for emotional labor. Great, so you figured out that you screwed up. No, thanks, I’m not playing the nurturer in this party. No woman should have to or be expected to comfort you over your feelings about how you’ve failed women.

    What can you do? We’ve been thinking ab

    *Speak up when you hear women being objectified. Even if you think it’s “not that bad.”

    *Undertand how many “not that bad” things have been inflicted on women all our lives – even while we are still girls.The accretion of all those incidents is a heavy thing to carry. Any time you decenter the conversation, the burden gets heavier.

    *Read feminist sources and lift up their voices instead of your own. You’ll be setting an example. This piece is great and all, but if it’s the only one you’ve shared, then it’s something to think about.

    *Spend time self educating so your feminist friends aren’t expected to give you 101 level education.

    *Listen when a woman tells you something is wrong and believe her. Nothing undermines trust more quickly than a rush to explain how it wasn’t that bad, that he (or you) didn’t mean it that way, or that it’s not what “real men” do. #NotAllMen-ing, whether you use 3 words or 300 is derailing. Always. With a simple “I’ve never seen a man behave like that,” you are putting your experience over hers, implying doubt.

    *Listen again when women explicitly tell you what we need from you and do it. Hold your thoughts and proposals. We’ve been thinking about this a lot longer than you have.

    *Don’t tell me what a great guy you are. Just get to work.

    *Don’t expect kudos, comfort or cookies (by all means, feel free realize how good it feels to make a difference and cherish those moments, those earned moments are way better than anything you can get by derailing). This is hard work. It’s not glamorous or fun. You likely won’t be a hero, an amazing savior, immortalized as the Man Who Broke Rape Culture. But bit by bit, like a chaos theory butterly, you’ll generate little pushes of wind that will, combined with millions of other little pushes, eventually contribute to a massive storm of change.

    The most useful tenet I’ve learned from social justice is that, when interacting with the folks who have less privilege than I do is to STFU and listen. Every time your fingers start to itch with the need to express your thoughts on the subject, STFU and listen instead.

    And again, fuck guilt. It’s useless. Just do better.

    “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

    ― Maya Angelou

    • Thank you. So many times this. It is NEVER a woman’s job to make a man feel better about his gender, his behavior, or what he wants to do with his penis.

  • It’s not that women don’t know that males (usually younger men) talk in these terms at times. It sort of like taking a dump. We all do it, us ladies just don’t want to know you do it.

    What is the line between objectification and lustful fantasizing and going over the line to espousing a rape culture? The difference is between wishful thinking and bragging I think. We all have fantasies. Wishful thinking expresses what you would like to do if you had the opportunity to do it. And usually the opportunity comes along with the consent of the object of your desires. That’s locker room talk.

    I’d hate men being beat up for having lustful thoughts, or engaging in some banter expressing them. It seems to me we head that way into political correctness especially with the #allmendon’t camp. Guys, we know you’re guys and we like that about you.

    But bragging that you are going to do this and that regardless of the object of your desires wishes in the matter crosses the line. Then you are talking about non-consensual sex. You are talking about assault and rape. And that is not acceptable.

    • Sorry. Not quite done yet.

      Working in corporate America, I heard a lot of talk from men expressing their fears that treating women in a friendly manner or a desire to see a woman socially would lead to charges of sexual harassment. Men seemed to be unable to separate a friendly social interaction with imposing themselves on women. Some of it, I think, was a backlash against women in the workplace. “If we are nice to them, they’ll use their special “woman card” to take advantage of us and compete unfairly in the workplace.” But other parts of it was genuine confusion about how far male power reaches and controls women’s actions in society to the level it truly can threaten women’s survival.

      We have to fix that. It’s okay to be a guy. It’s just not okay to hurt or threaten a woman to prove you are one.

      • I think this is so eloquently put. A society needs to be equal in all regards where gender, race, religion etc don’t matter. None of us should be afraid to be who we are as if we have to conform down to the same level because then where’s the diversity that makes life fun and interesting? Men and women do see the world in a different light and a greater empathy from us fellows would go a long way, but again its a balance, what would women think if all men suddenly withdrew all competitive instincts or no longer approached women for anything else other than for a commercial or business transaction (after all we wouldn’t want to give women the impression that the only reason we are talking to them is because we are trying to get laid). We cannot stop a woman from thinking that a guy is only talking to her because he wants something from her, this is an individual trait but there has to be a balance that does point out when a guy is being an ass and when we just bash and tar men with the same brush cos its easy to do.

  • I agree with most of this, however I don’t think that all uses of “not all men” rhetoric is inappropriate in this specific conversation — Especially given the number of Trump apologists I’ve seen asking some variation “what man hasn’t done this?”

    When people dismiss Trump’s comments as just locker room talk that “all men” do, there’s the obvious implication that his behavior is common and normal and… yeah, it is in fact endemic, and yeah, #someakawaytoofuckingmany men.

    But I’d argue that there’s often also the additional subtext that it’s natural and *inevitable* that men behave this way, and in this context pointing out that plenty of men are in fact capable of not bragging about sexually assaulting women is a push-back against that narrative that rape culture is the natural order of the world, and that men who partake can’t really help themselves because it’s “just what men do” etc.

  • Bear with me as I go off on a bit of a tangent. I’m working on a story right now set in Germany in the 1950s, and have been researching a lot for it. This involves an unholy amount of awkward denial and stony silence from older Germans who were fully aware of Nazi atrocities, with variations on the themes ‘don’t bring that up here, it will shame us all’ and ‘what are you talking about, none of us ever did that, we saw nothing, we heard nothing, we knew nothing about any of this, it’s nothing to do with us, shut your mouth.’ The silence, the denial, the evasions, they remind me in some ways of this cultural moment we are having right now, when a lot of people are standing up and rejecting rape culture and violence against women and the LGBT community – and a lot of other people are trying their damnedest to shut us up. I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone is a Nazi, nor am I trying to trivialise what the Nazis did. (I’m probably invoking Godwin’s Law on myself right now.) I’m just saying that the people I see bending over backwards in the media, trying to normalise and dismiss things like Trump’s disgusting statements, or offering support for that Stanford rapist, and the people in some other comments sections doing their best to scream and threaten and silence… well, it just looks a bit familiar, that’s all. We were all raised in this sexist and homophobic culture. We’ve all, to some extent, lived with this terrible, deadening silence about rape and sexual abuse for years and years. Maybe now, the moment has finally come to bring all the skeletons out of the closet.

    Chuck, thank you for your excellent post. It means a lot. A whole lot. And thanks also for providing one of the few remaining spaces on the internet (it sometimes seems) where we can have these conversations without drowning in Breitbart bile (Breitbile?)

  • What is happening is a discussion of whether or not there is a social responsibility to change what has been modeled before. It must. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, we need to say no to a world violence and exploitation. Sex is a completely natural urge. To find someone that you enjoy and want to spend time is a wonderful thing.
    Violence is wrong. Sexual violence is a tool used in war, on the streets, to victimize and hurt not only the woman but the men around them. It’s a seeking of power over someone else. It’s wrong. We need to point that out. We all, men and women, need to do what we’re doing right now. We are talking. And hopefully we are changing.

  • Thank you, Chuck. I shared a story with “notokay” and I was surprised by how many others I kept remembering. Sadly, I was not surprised by how many responses she’s received.

    I’ve never been beaten near death and left in an alley to die, so to my mind, I hadn’t been “sexually assaulted.” But the more I remember, starting in 4th grade and continuing now 40 years later, I have been silenced (often with my own complicity) and I have been touched and not-touched (which, as you get older and more invisible is its own form of weirdness — the #nothotenoughtofuckanymore camp — or something to that effect.)

    I remember boys and then teenagers and then men. I remember bosses and waiters and police officers. I can only hope that one silver lining of this incredibly long exposure to the vileness of Trump is that women speak, even when we think “well, it wasn’t THAT bad” and in our sheer numbers, men will listen and will help us have a different dialogue about this very important issue. It’s clear that he’s triggered things in many women, myself included, who thought we were “not abused”. But then we see him walk. And we hear him interrupt. And we see the dismissal in his snake-eyes. And we remember.

  • Trump has become a live, walking, talking caricature. It’s shameful that this man has become a respresentation of America to the world. It’s beyond disastrous for the country that out of millions of people he’s the one that floated to the top. Neither candidate is ideal. But one of them talks like a dictator wanna be. One disrespects women, the disabled, the press, minorities, religions (that he doesn’t follow). One of them has no idea how to be diplomatic, smooth, or how to negotiate. Aside from his obvious flaws, he’s a frightening man, with a bad temper, a foul mouth, and no idea of decorum. He’d shame this country on the world stage, daily. We’d be in a war over name calling.

  • It’s hard to understand how anyone can deny the existence of hateful comments (and those which threaten sexual assault) made by men towards women when they’re plastered so freely all over social media.

  • Nailed it, dude. I was more than likely guilty of some if this sort of talk when I was a teenager, talking about girls as objects, but immaturity should lead to maturity if one learns and grows. The fact that grown men will still talk like this owes to the fact that they never learnt respect for women, for whatever reason. This is an endemic problem that needs to be hammered home through the education system, at home, and through the courts.

  • Thank you, Chuck! I’m a 74-year-old woman who’s seen and heard a lot in my lifetime. Perhaps that’s why nothing much shocks me anymore, at least not in regard to language and sex-motivated behavior. The thing about this whole fiasco that made me laugh out loud was the righteous indignation spouted by so many men and women (especially those who are up for reelection). Either they live in some protected bubble so they don’t understand how it is out here in the real world…or they’re trying to gauge which side of the fence will get them the most votes. It’s all such a big mess…

    • Well, to be clear, I think it’s still shocking — particularly that a presidential candidate is saying this stuff. I also don’t think it’s righteous indignation, really, to be shocked by it. I just think it’s important to realize that Trump isn’t some rare bird in a walled garden. It doesn’t make him any less horrible. It just makes him more common.

  • When a woman talking about her experiences with men is met with a “not all men” statement, there are a few reasons why it’s wrong. It refocuses the discussion on the person objecting instead of the woman’s usually far-more-harrowing-than-a-dudebro’s-bruised-ego experiences. It robs her of her voice, it makes her story less important. In short, it is a derailment tactic. And, as such, I think that “Not All Men” is EXACTLY what is appropriate in this case.

    Women don’t need to hear that not all men are rapists, RAPISTS are the ones who need to hear that, because they’re the only ones who believe it. When Trump deflected criticism for his remarks by claiming it was “locker room talk,” the reasoning was that it was normal. Once it’s normal, it’s also two other things: excusable (how can men be held responsible for their actions when it’s all they’re capable of?) and therefore not all that bad. Not only does this Rape Culture Express desperately need to be derailed, it should be walloped off the tracks altogether.

    Yes, there’s a spectrum of harmful statements that all contribute to relevant skeevy-ness, and everything on the spectrum should be addressed. But I think that equating what Trump has said to talking about the Friend Zone/objectifying women is a failure to really comprehend the enormity of what he has explicitly condoned: actual assault. Yes, the other things are building blocks of the culture that allows this, but assault is not only a whole different ballgame, it’s the Martian low-gravity version of polo crossed with culring, and men should ABSOLUTELY stand up and say that that’s not normal.

    • WordPress kept cutting off the “Post Comment” button because my comment was too long, so here’s the rest of my reply:

      I don’t want to fail to emphasize that these other things aren’t also harmful, and it all interacts with itself, but it’s not exactly a standard stair step up in level of harmfulness. If you overhear a conversation – in the locker room, in your home, in the labyrinth of Ikea, wherever – where someone says something that objectifies women, and you hear another where someone literally BRAGS about raping them, you’d better believe one of them is a hell of a lot more urgent.

  • Donald Trump is a scumbag. But it’s almost orgasmic watching the Republican Party’s self-implosion over his candidacy. Did they really not see all this madness coming? They let the Tea Party crowd – headed up by such cerebral luminaries as Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent and the Duck Dynasty gang – take control. Now they’re upset?

    No, most men don’t talk about women like that in locker rooms. If anything, we talk about each other in lewd and lascivious terms. And the reason most men don’t talk about women like that is because most men don’t abuse or rape women. I know it’s politically incorrect to state that out loud – just like it’s politically incorrect to point out that Jews are not the only people on Earth who have suffered genocide and decimation. But it’s the truth – painful as it is. The truth is the truth. It’s interesting how that one piece of audio has generated so much concern about men’s behavior in locker rooms; considering how some female sports reporters have the audacity to barge into men’s locker rooms and then get pissed off because they’re not treated like ladies.

    And if anyone believes women are always genteel and demure in their conversations about men, I have time-shares in a Tijuana ski resort I’d like to sell you. I’ve heard more than a few women make lewd comments about men and our bodies – in public, in the work place and then brush it off with the proverbial, ‘Well, you do it to us.’

    Men are much more likely to be violent towards one another than to children or women; yet women are more likely to be violent towards children or men. Female-on-female crime is extremely rare. But, when an adult (usually White) female goes missing or turns up dead, law enforcement will move all Heaven and Earth to find out what happened. Although there’s more violence against males, we have the politically correct Violence Against Women Act. That was expanded a few years ago to include lesbian and transgendered women. So, for all 5 or 6 lesbian or transgendered women who are victims of homophobic hate crimes or domestic violence, there’s a special law to help them, too. Men (gay, straight, bi) are several times more likely to be victims of hate crimes. And that’s not including school yard bullying. Men are also victims of domestic violence, although few will stand up to admit it. They’ll just be laughed back into obscurity.

  • I can’t neglect that male children are much more likely to be physically abused and neglected and much more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment in schools. Selective Service (the most blatantly sexist law in this country) essentially treats we men as cannon fodder. We certainly can’t forget the death penalty, which is actually more sexist than it is racist. Then we have the special law banning so-called female circumcision, even though it never has been practiced in the U.S. Apparently it’s of no consequence that hundreds of infant and toddler males die or suffer permanent physical damage each year from botched penile mutilations carried out under the guise of religious freedom or cosmetic purity. Rest assured, if hundreds of adult females were dying each year in this country from some cosmetic practice, the U.S. government would drop whatever it’s doing and ban it without much debate.

    Violence is violence is violence. It doesn’t matter the gender, race, religion or socioeconomic status of either the perpetrator or the victim. It’s all wrong.

    Again, I know it’s politically incorrect to say out loud, but men and boys deserve respect, too. Now, can’t we just all get along?

    • October 13, 2016 at 4:15 PM // Reply

      @Alejandro De La Garza – I think you’re missing the point of the exercise here. This isn’t a ‘who gets abused worse’ contest, so please don’t turn it into one.

      • I didn’t know this debate was considered an “exercise.” Regardless I’m tired of people being forced to explain away or somehow excuse the actions and / or words of others who just happen to be like them in some way; in this particular case, men. Men across the country are suddenly being asked or forced to express their respect for women and express their disgust for Trump. In no way should any man be expected to explain the words and actions of someone like Donald Trump. He alone is responsible for his words and behavior. He’s am obnoxious jerk who thinks his money and notoriety give him a blank check to do and say whatever he wants. It’ll be a joy to see him defeated by – of all people, a woman named Hillary Clinton – come November 8.

        For the record, I’m voting for Jill Stein. I know she doesn’t stand a chance of landing in the White House, but I feel both the Democratic and Republican Parties have failed the average American on so many levels.

        • I believe that Chuck had made a post some time ago (I can’t seem to find it in his older posts) that a vote for anyone other than the Republican or Democratic nominee is a vote for one of them. In this case, a vote for Jill Stein becomes a vote for Trump, I suppose, since it takes away a vote that might otherwise go against him. Just saying. Neither Stein nor Johnson will garner a single electoral vote in all likelihood. If your state is solidly for one or the other, I suppose you should vote for the candidate that most closely aligns with your positions (of the four or five in the running). If it’s a state that’s “in play,” I hope voters realize what their vote actually accomplishes…

          • We can both relax, Scott. My state, Texas, hasn’t been in play for forty years. Beneath the bright crimson veneer, however, lies a frustrated and angry purple crowd. Right-wing Republicans have been able to hold onto Texas for so long because most Texans don’t vote. We had the lowest voter turnout in the last few election cycles. I’m embarrassed and ashamed by such low numbers and equally appalled my state helped to elect one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, George W. Bush. Yes, I AM embarrassed he claims he’s from Texas. (He was actually born in Connecticut and raised in Maine.)

            Yes, I’ve heard the argument against voting for a third party candidate. That’s just intimidation talk from party loyalists. I know Stein doesn’t stand a chance, but I’m not going to vote for one candidate just to keep another from getting into the White House. I did that in 2004 with John Kerry. I liked Bill Clinton, but I don’t care for Hillary. Still I’m not going to vote for her as a part of mob mentality.

            Both Democrats and Republicans have failed the American people. Clinton is part of the Washington establishment, and Trump is part of the 1% establishment. Either way, one of them will become president, and the average American citizen will still lose.

  • You are brilliant writer who Iove to read and worthy of being read. Please do not stop. I hate both candidates but of the two I would never vote for Trump he is a loaded gun waiting for an opportunity to make us all an idiot like him. I can deal with a lying lawyer and a replacement for most decent women. Cannot stand a lying sack of shut like Trump who is a poor excuse for a human. I would rather let my Dead Boston Terrier run this country. Thanks

  • Good post. And you are right, the “power” is what is troubling. I was only 15 when I first encountered a groping boss. When a woman is made to feel less than, or when a man uses his powerful position to intimidate a woman is at a disadvantage. No woman should be put in such a position.

  • “(Troublingly, this entire election is triggery.)” The point you made in a parenthetical statement is honestly the most poignant one for me, on the most personal of levels. I almost feel like I owe Trump a bit of gratitude, for bringing this issue into the mainstream and shining the brightest of presidential election-related spotlights on it. Literally every single person I know is now talking about sexual assault. And it’s a conversation that needs to happen. But then again, LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNOW IS NOW TALKING ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT. Everywhere. All the time. And though I can’t truly participate in the conversation at this time for the sake of my own well-being, I want to thank you. You have expressed the thoughts in my head that I haven’t been able to put into words.

    I’ve heard this kind of talk relatively frequently, even though I’ve never spent time in a men’s locker room. I’ve heard it in bars, in dorms, in random conversations on the street. I’ve lived through the consequences of the actions of those for whom it’s not just talk. (And really, is it ever “just talk” when you’re disparaging even a single person, let alone an entire population?) So, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. You have acted as a voice for those of us who can’t yet find our own. Be well.

  • October 16, 2016 at 9:26 PM // Reply

    It’s true, there exists a pulsating, tumorous mass on the face of male culture. And while I’ve never done consciously anything to perpetuate or condone it, I have known men, drunk on their barest modicum of power, commit vile atrocities against women in the name of masculinity – but also against other men who do not measure up to their deluded standards, bullying them into “toughening up,” thus ensuring the cycle continues. The perpetuation of hypermasculine abuse is an ouroboros, constantly feeding into itself.

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