Rape Culture at the American Presidential Debate

clinton-trump-debate2-1476064278At first, I didn’t understand my own visceral reaction to the final question of the American presidential debate last night, which I am sure was intended as a simple call for civility.

Then I realized it. How many women, when standing beside a known sexual predator, have been told, “Honey, say something nice to him.” How many times have I, personally, had that experience?

We live in a society where the feelings of a male abuser, especially a rich and powerful abuser, are given too much priority.

While many Christian leaders are justifying their continued support for Donald Trump by boasting about their own capacity for forgiveness, Trump has used his “apologies” not to actually apologize, but to justify his behavior as normal and use his platform to cement rape culture in our society. Even if you feel forgiving about past actions, certainly the present act of normalizing rape culture should give pause.

And we don’t need to make his female opponent say something nice to him as a requisite part of the debate, lest that unapologetic man feel bad.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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14 Responses

  1. Vajra2 says:

    Thank you for making this powerful connection.

  2. Ziff says:

    Great point, April. Nobody should have to make nice to that awful abuser.

  3. Rob Osborn says:

    It was highly inappropriate but it isn’t “rape culture”.

    • Rob, it is always a good idea to look up the definition of a term before you tell a woman that she doesn’t know what she is talking about.

      Here is an article that explains in more detail how excusing such remarks as “locker room talk” is rape culture: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/oped-no-donald-it-s-not-just-locker-room-talk-n663826

      • Rob Osborn says:

        Im just not sure its rape culture. Yes its crude and Trump absolutely disgusts me, but I guess my view on “rape culture” gets lost in the fog due to semantics. For instance- I worked for a temp agency years ago and they sent me to the ZCMI distribution center off of 9th west in SLC. I was put to work in one of the returns rooms at the warehouse with about 6 other women. And boy did they talk dirty! They talked continually about how they saw this or that man and wanted to just strip his clothes off, then they would giggle. I had one of the women even come on to me and wanted to go have sex. I declined the advance, requested a different job and that was the last of that job. But never would I call that “rape culture”. Would you? Why is it “rape culture” if guys talk about wanting sex with women but when women speak the same way no one cares?

      • Yes, Rob, I would say that the workplace you described had symptoms of rape culture.

    • Leah Marie says:

      The #1 way people are complicit in rape culture is denying what it is. Brushing off things like this is the most vital part of rape culture’s survival. We could’ve conquered this problem long ago, if not for men like Rob Osborn obfuscating the truth every time a woman brings the topic up.

      • Andrew R. says:

        By “the problem” do you mean rape or rape culture?

        I don’t think we will ever stop rape.

      • Andrew R., one of the main reasons to combat rape culture is to reduce the prevalence of rape. While you may be right that we will not reach the point where rape disappears altogether, I think reducing the prevalence of rape is a valid goal, and a feasible one.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Absolutely it is a valid goal. And whilst you are correct that “rape culture” assists rapists in muddying waters, and giving rapists the idea that women are less than them, and therefore prey, unfortunately there are other things that have an affect.

        The difficulty in proving rape is not going to go away. It would be nice, but unfortunately so long as we can’t be sure we shouldn’t be locking anyone up. Also women who claim rape when rape didn’t happen also have a part to play in assisting rapists since they stop actual rape victims from wanting to come forward.

        And the single biggest factor is the idealisation of casual sex on TV. People falling into each others’ arms, with no asking if it is OK. Violent sex portrayed as desirable, etc.

        So many things, I am not sure we can stop rape. But we certainly can be more respectful of women, and treat them with that respect – in all situations and all locations (even the locker room).

      • False reporting of rape is uncommon. Much more common is choosing not to report rapes that did happen, because reporting a rape is no picnic for victims, who are often accused of lying. Part of the reason that people do not report rape, and therefore, rapists go free and continue to rape, is because people do not believe victims and perpetuate the myth that there is some sort of epidemic of false reports.

      • Here is some information about the rate of false reporting for rape, which is no higher than for any other kind of crime: http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf

        Another aspect of rape culture is that rape victims are less likely to be believed than people reporting other kinds of crimes.

  4. Moss says:

    Normalizing sexual assault as “locker room talk” is absolutely rape culture. It is literally creating a culture where rape is acceptable and normal.

  5. Bbell says:

    No comment about the Clinton family sex assault victims in the crowd?

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