So the recent furore over the seemingly surprising revelations that Donald Trump is a sexual predator (despite him already having a pending hearing about the small matter of the rape of a 13 year old girl) has highlighted a massive problem with the way the world thinks about sexual assault. Feminists have been talking about the problem of sexual violence for years. The recent revelations and court cases that resulted from Operation Yew Tree exposed in no uncertain terms how powerful men are prone to abusing their positions to take advantage of the unfortunate women and girls around them. After the initial exposure of Jimmy Savile, there followed many more – a horrible tidal wave of abuse that has led to several arrests and many questions about the culture of an institution that allowed this to happen.
Trump’s vile comments about being able to grab any woman by the pussy demonstrate that this is not a problem relegated to the 70s. It’s not just the way things were back then but it continues to be the way things are now. Any woman can be a victim. This is a fact that we women know. We know because we are victims ourselves. We have all been groped in nightclubs and felt the unwelcome prodding of an erect penis in our backs in crowded places. We learn to move away quickly and silently, lowering our eyes and not making a fuss. If we are not lucky we can’t move away and we get touched again, encircled by men, grabbed, squeezed, penetrated against our will. We know this because we grew up as girls and we were chased around the playground by boys trying to kiss us. We know this because if we ever deign to fight back (I gave one of those boys a good kick in the nuts once) we are the ones who are punished. Even if we don’t fight back, we are called a slut, victim blamed, shamed and filmed and posted on social media for other men to mock.
These are not isolated incidents. They are part of a wider rape culture that allows a young white man to rape a woman behind a dumpster without even realising he has committed a crime. Brock Turner is no Donald Trump. He’s a young student who doesn’t need to be a millionaire to hold the same belief that it’s okay for him to “just grab them by the pussy”, his sense of entitlement to female bodies depressingly similar. Another recent report has just highlighted the high rates of sexual abuse and assault reported by female students in UK academia. This time it’s not the students, but the professors who are to blame. From the bottom to the top, rape culture is rife throughout all sectors of our society.
When women complain we are told that sexual abuse is an aberration, out of the ordinary – most men are just good guys, #notallmen do those things, so give us all a break. But when Donald Trump gets caught on video bragging about his disgusting behaviour, his vile apologists claim that it’s just ‘banter’ and that all blokes love a bit of sexual assault and they chat about it with their mates all the time. It’s totally normal behaviour. Get over it.
Well which one is it? It can’t be all men and #notallmen at the same time. And if the likes of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are right, and this is entirely normal behaviour for men, then why isn’t anybody listening to the women who have been saying this repeatedly? This is the world of Schrodinger’s sexual predator – simultaenously nowhere yet everywhere.