It’s Not Just “Locker Room Talk”

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Danielle Martin Co-Editor-in-Chief (Note: This editorial does not necessarily represent the viewpoints of all writers of The Forum.) If there’s one thing I learned from freshmen year Affective Ed, it’s that I’m a feminist. When Dr. Denevi asked any feminists in my section to raise their hand, there was only one hand raised, and it belonged to Ms. LC. When Ms. LC explained that a feminist is someone who believes that women deserve the same political, social, and economic rights as men, the remainder of the girls’ hands shot up. Donald Trump is not a feminist. In his October 7 apology statement, Trump claimed, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” If Trump believes this statement to hold any truth, then that statement may terrify me more than any other statement that he has made so far in this election. A man who gives Howard Stern permission to call his own daughter Ivanka “a piece of a—” does not respect women. A man who brags about sexually harassing women is not a feminist. For those of you who missed the Washington Post’s leaked video of Donald Trump and Billy Bush from 2005, Trump’s comments include the following: “I did try and f— her. She was married.” “I moved on her like a b—.” “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful— I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Grab them by the p—. You can do anything.” According to the Department of Justice, groping women without their consent constitutes as sexual assault, defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.” When Anderson Cooper confronted Trump during Sunday’s presidential debate with allegations of sexual assault, the dialogue went as follows: “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals,” Cooper said. “That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” “No, I didn’t say that at all,” Trump responded. “I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk.” After Trump’s continuous denial during Sunday’s presidential debate, Mindy McGillivray, Summer Zervos, Kristin Anderson, Rachel Crooks, and Jessica Leeds all publicly came forward and accused Trump of sexual harassment—from unwanted advances on airplanes to at his one-year anniversary with wife Melania. Trump has chalked up his crass and degrading comments to “locker room talk” and said, “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we are facing today.” For a presidential candidate to claim that sexual assault is not a pressing issue in America today further demonstrates the pervasiveness of rape culture in our country. According to NSOPW, 70% of sexual assault cases go unreported, 75% of female victims are victimized by someone they know, 18% of women in the United States have been raped during their lifetime, and 35.8% of sexual assault victims are between the ages of 12 and 17. These are statistics I expect to be eye-opening to some readers and young voters, especially given the lack of dialogue surrounding sexual assault at Latin. One common misconception of sexual assault is that victims are limited to women. In a school that rarely discusses sexual assault, many—myself included— are guilty of overlooking cases where men and boys are the victims. In the spring of 2016, Alexandria M. Vera, an eighth-grade teacher at Stovall Middle School in Texas, turned herself into the police after continuous sexual abuse of one of her students. She was released on $100,000 bond, and the media didn’t give the case nearly as much attention as Brock Turner. Rape is rape, no matter the gender of the victim. In addition to economy, health care, and national security, the negligence of these rape cases further indicates the pressing importance of sexual assault in this election and this country. But for the purpose of this article, in light of Trump’s recent derogatory comments towards women, I will speak of sexual harassment in contexts when girls are the victims, though our country and our school should extend these conversations. The only time I can remember that we opened the floodgates to these conversations was when Lucy Limanowski tackled a Forum article last year on sexual assault at Latin. I, too, have both heard stories and been a witness to unwanted sexual advances. These instances tend to follow the same pattern: the boy comes to school the next Monday bragging to his friends while the girl is labeled a “slut.” We chalk it up to “boys being boys” just as Trump chalks his comments up to “locker room talk.” But being catcalled, labeled a “slut,” and receiving unwanted messages is not something that any girl at Latin—or any girl period—should ever have to swallow as “locker room talk” while our president moves on to discuss “more important issues,” however pressing they may be. Just as I hope Trump realizes the serious nature of his comments and their implications, I hope Latin will raise awareness to this sexist behavior that undeniably exists in our school and in our country. But perhaps more startling than what has happened at Latin, is what hasn’t happened but could happen. Not to demean anyone’s experiences—sexual harassment does happen at Latin—but it’s not nearly as bad as it is at other high schools or on college campuses. For the most part, Latin guys are good guys; I’ve seen them call ambulances, drive girls home, and text girls to make sure they’ve gotten home unharmed. We tend to take advantage of our close-knit community and rely on our peers to get us home safely if we find ourselves in comparable situations we can no longer control. Even in a non-sober state, girls are not “asking for it”—we are never “asking for it”—but we all need to be aware of what could happen if we pass out at a party. It’s sad, it’s scary, it’s sexist, but we must face the world that we live in: a world where only 12% of rapes on college campuses are reported to law enforcement, where 30,000 women in college were raped in 2006 alone, where former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner only served half a six-month sentence after raping an unconscious woman, where a presidential candidate coins sexual harassment as “locker room talk.” Unfortunately, we cannot take the sense of comfort that our peers will get us home safely to college nor should we grow accustomed to it during our time at Latin. Boys, I encourage you to never talk about women the way that Donald Trump does, or to be a bystander to these comments the way that Billy Bush was. Girls, I encourage you speak out against sexual harassment and be conscious of the world we live in. And Latin, I encourage you to not wait until the second semester of our senior years to educate us on the microaggressions we hear every day but chalk up to “boys being boys.”]]>