Editorial: "Locker-room talk" is a poor excuse
At Sunday’s debate, Donald Trump on several occasions dismissed as “locker room talk” his boast that he could sexually batter women with impunity because of his fame.
While Trump has said he apologized for the language he used on an “Access Hollywood” video, his repeated claims that it’s all just “locker room talk” reveal his lack of sincerity.
Sexually aggressive comments create an environment that put people – especially women – at risk. That’s why high school coaches spend time teaching student athletes that words matter, a lesson that Trump has missed in his 70 years.
“We are showing our boys and girls that words matter just as much as actions. No longer is ‘boys will be boys’ an excuse to say things that demean girls or boys,” Gabriel Claire, head wrestling coach at Jefferson High, who is participating in an El Paso Independent School District program called “Coaching Boys Into Men.”
This isn’t political correctness run amok.
“Sexually charged conversations objectify vulnerable members of our community. That's unacceptable,” Claire said. “Our schools are safe spaces for all students and no one should be subject to language that looks to embarrass or demean them. Our student athletes are being trained to become leaders in our community, and it's important to teach them that words have consequences even when they're said in locker rooms.”
Stephanie Karr, the executive director of El Paso’s Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, deals every day with the fallout from what Trump and his enablers dismiss as “locker room talk.”
"’Locker room talk’ shapes social norms and plants the seeds that normalize violence against women. These seeds grow into a culture where men feel entitled to objectively comment on or fondle women's bodies,” Karr said. “This behavior, if unchecked, continues to grow and can escalate to aggressive sexual assault.
“If we continue to allow politicians, business leaders, professional athletes and movie stars to get away with such dehumanizing statements and violent acts, then we are complicit in creating dangerous and hostile environments for women,” she said. “We can no longer dismiss ‘locker room talk’ if we wish to create a society where women are free from violence.”
Regardless of political stance, we should all be able to agree that Trump’s cavalier boasting about sexual battery is horrifying and has no place in our culture.
The other response from Trump and his enablers – to point to Bill Clinton’s appalling actions – is an attempt to distract, and irrelevant to the propriety of Trump’s actions.
The implicit message in the “locker room talk” excuse – made explicit by some of Trump’s supporters – is that “boys will be boys.” That is inaccurate, appalling and dangerous.
The objectification and sexual targeting of women has taken a horrific toll over the years. We must move past that.
We can start by accepting that vulgar and sexually aggressive language can and often does lead to abhorrent behavior. We must reject efforts to minimize or justify such language.