In a shocking turn of events, Donald Trump continues to be exposed as being Donald Trump. In a now-infamous recording of a 2005 conversation between Trump and Billy Bush, we get an unfiltered account of Trump’s approach to approaching women. They are definitely of a different timbre than things he normally says when he knows he’s being recorded, other than the fact that they’re pretty much exactly the same.
So now we collectively again hie to our fainting couches and attempt to deal with this latest totally expected revelation. It’s befitting, really, as this is possibly the worst election of all time.
Rich: At no point in Trump’s career has he been recognized as a skilled wordsmith or nuanced speaker; the man is a lusty word cloud with a mouth attached to it. Nothing that he says should shock us at this point. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t be offended by the conversation that, fittingly, took place as Trump and Bush were on their way to the set of “Days of Our Lives.”
In that conversation, we learn that a woman being interviewed for a position with the Trump Organization said to the Donald, “I think you’ll find I’m a very willing employee. Working under you, I think, could be mutually beneficial.” Actually, no, that was from Trump’s cameo on “Days of Our Lives.” What Trump said was that being a star allowed him to skip right past normal seduction and simply grab women and kiss them, even grope them without invitation.
I’ve never lived in the rarified space Trump occupies, but if what I remember from my younger days is accurate, such strategies are generally unwise, definitely disrespectful, and generally defined as assault, particularly the assertion that he could grab women by their kitties. Moreover, as a man who spends time crafting sentences, his crassness and vulgarity offends me on another level, namely that he also assaults the English language, but that’s not the issue here.
Treating women as objects, as playthings devoid of minds and emotions, is not only an awful approach to relationships, it also serves only to debase oneself. When you view women not as a complement to yourself, but merely as wet holes that exist to provide you with sexual gratification, you become more animal than man. That’s no way to go through life, all impulse and base satisfaction with no actual beauty entering the fray.
There’s another problem with that approach, and it’s revealed by the fact that there is likely some truth to Trump’s assertion that the conversation was all “locker-room banter,” a form of communication known for being a little lewd and loaded with bravado. While Trump suggests he gets women with sheer persona and force, the bravado — the specific story included in the recording — paints a different picture, one with a little less lewdness. In that story, Trump recounts trying to woo a married woman. By taking her furniture shopping.
Unless that’s a euphemism (and the man known for spewing forth whatever thoughts enter into his brain isn’t a man given to crafting complicated euphemisms), Trump’s actual approach was the exact opposite of what he claimed worked for him as “a star.” He didn’t grab this other man’s wife and force himself upon her, he attempted to woo her. Also, in Trump’s own telling, he failed. Then he proceeded to insult the woman’s appearance, at least her appearance after Trump’s attempted seduction.
It’s tempting to say “Sad!” Really, though, it’s just sad. A man in the running for the presidency not only views half the population as playthings, his ego is so fragile he is compelled to claim that he gets those playthings by emulating a gorilla. It’s an ugly way to view the world and an ugly way to present oneself, but it also invites us to turn the mirror back on ourselves. For it is not only Trump who views sex as conquest, as a meaningless act between two people. We as a society began espousing similar sentiments long ago. Now, we’re seeing just how ugly a world in which we don’t view sex as an act of of beauty, of complementarity between the sexes, can become.
Mollie: In addition to all the things you cite, Rich, I’ll only add how sad it is that Donald Trump bared his soul with the purpose of impressing Billy Bush. Of all the Bushes to try to impress, Billy has to be the worst choice.
I have to admit I’m more than a little surprised at the over-the-top reaction this tape has engendered. Trump lost the support of tons of Republican leaders in the Senate and the House. The media didn’t have much of a mind to lose, but they are apoplectic with rage. Even normal people are saying that this tape changes who they’ll vote for.
Maybe I paid more (read: too much?) attention to his Howard Stern interviews and other bawdy commentary over the years, but this audio didn’t strike me as meaningfully different from anything else we knew about Trump. I was appalled by his claim to have tried to sleep with a woman who was married. I was appalled by his coarse language when talking about how he feels sexually entitled to women in his midst. But, then again, I was appalled by similar comments when I first heard them many months ago. All these people jumping ship now, as opposed to months ago, struck me as more concerned by his diving poll numbers than his consistent view that he’s entitled to mistreat women as sexual objects.
In addition to bragging about trying to bed a married woman, it was Billy Bush asking the actress they encountered to hug them that most skeeved me out.
To that end, my biggest critique is with some of the reactions I saw. In the “Trump Corrupts Absolutely” category, let’s put the “all men talk this way” bull-hockey. I’m sure all men are sinful and all men have spoken about women in a way that denies women their full dignity, but what Trump did was beyond the pale even for an insecure high school student trying out his “big man” approach.
I have a father, a brother, a husband, and many guy friends. They’re all pretty normal. Sometimes they’re even a bit ribald. But none would speak the way Trump spoke. Particularly when being recorded. Or the way Bill Clinton and Vernon Jordan spoke. Or Ted Kennedy spoke. Or any of these entitled sexual predators who treat women as property. Or heck, even how this Trump critic speaks, apparently.
Some social justice warriors were upset that men responded by saying that Trump’s comments bothered them “as a father.” They should just be bothered as humans, they cried. I have mixed reactions to this. On the one hand, come on. Caring about other people because you see them in relationship to you is what makes you human. When I was dating and trying to break up with someone, I’d always think about the men in my family and how I wished girls would treat them when they were dating.
It helped me be nicer and more direct with men. This is not a problem, but a good thing about how relationships can help us become better humans. On the other hand, there was something else about the way some men spoke that bothered me. I actually loved Mitt Romney’s statement, but check it out:
Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.
Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 8, 2016
I’m not offended or anything, but saying “our” wives and daughters makes it seem like Romney isn’t speaking to women but just to men. Maybe he is speaking out this way precisely to admonish men. But there is something alienating about this type of framing. Not a big deal, but just something to think about.
Most people didn’t care about this audio as much as people in newsrooms and on Twitter did. But there were two problems with the overall reaction from Left and Right. On the Left, the problem was pretending to care about sexual predation and objectification when never raising a word about Bill Clinton having a prominent role in his wife’s campaign and never reacting negatively to Hillary Clinton’s long-time role in disparaging the women her husband abused. Or even looking askance at Clinton’s own sexual objectification of others.
I joked that their newfound turn to sexual conservatism was welcome, and many responded that their only problem was with Trump’s claim that being famous means “they” “let” you just make any sexual advance you want. They perceived this statement as an admission of sexual assault. They didn’t have generally harsh words about trying to bed a married a woman or vulgar language so much as what they perceived as much worse. As for the Right, many seemed to excuse the predation and attitude of entitlement, as they have for Trump throughout the campaign.
The concern is that the Left’s sudden prudishness will only last until November. The fear is that the Right’s conversion to sexual libertinism might be genuine.