This week in women’s issues: “Just words”
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By Annika Jensen, Editor-in-Chief
Let me preface this article by saying that I am a sexual assault survivor. I spent nearly a year in an unhealthy relationship in which I was coerced into sex, guilted into sex, manipulated into sex, and forced into sex in addition to being groped in public, derided in person and via text message, and made to feel that I was the impetus behind my partner’s threats of suicide. I still struggle to understand that I am not at fault for anything that happened to me and to reconcile my assault as something that happens to one in every five women. I could not grasp how someone could even fathom sexually assaulting their partner and wriggle out of the blame just to do it again.
I grasp it now. I grasp it in the form of a presidential nominee who was recorded in a professional setting saying that he could get away with sexual assault, who described his comments as “locker room talk,” as if rape culture is simply a pastime for powerful men to perpetuate after a workout; who insisted that they were “just words,” even though just words are those that children hear and eventually learn to believe, those that Brock Turner’s father uttered in an attempt to nullify the heinous crime his son committed against a woman whose life was utterly altered by somebody else’s “just words”; who was accused of raping his first wife but was acquitted because you “can’t rape your spouse.”
As a sexual assault survivor, these are not just words, they are the root of every anxiety I feel when I smell the noxious sweetness of Jagermeister and the reason I flinch when I’m tapped on the shoulder. They are the only encouragement little boys need to flip little girls’ skirts up. They are an excuse for anyone who has ever looked for one because if the Republican nominee for president says it’s okay, I guess I won’t get in trouble.
Remember the “fondler” from two years ago? Locker room talk: “I can grab whoever I want.” Every email from Bill Lafferty? Locker room talk: “I just want to get laid.” My assault? Locker room talk: “She’s mine, and she has to do what I want.”
So no, you can’t just grab her by the pussy. You can’t kiss her without asking, and even if you do ask, you can’t kiss her unless she says yes. Your power, your money, your influence are no free pass to a woman’s body, and they are no excuse.
You claim that you respect women, you just don’t want them to have ownership over their bodies or the power to make decisions about their sex lives or self love or confidence in their professional life or safety at the workplace or sufficient maternity leave or an argument against you or equal speaking time at a national debate or the opportunity to lead a country.
Locker room talk is a manifestation of rape culture, and rape culture is a problem that will not be distracted by empty rhetoric. The real threat to women in the United States isn’t coming from Mexico; it’s running for president.