Is Locker Room Talk The Silver Lining of Trump’s Campaign?

“No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk.” This is what Donald Trump told moderator Anderson Cooper last night during the second presidential debate after Cooper asked if he realized he was bragging about sexually harassing women in the lewd recording released last Friday. “I am not proud of it. I apologized to my family, I apologized to the American people. Certainly, I am not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.”  

He then pivoted to ISIS in a sloppy attempt to deflect the question before finishing up with this: “Yes, I am very embarrassed by it and I hate it, but it’s locker room talk and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We are going to defeat ISIS.”

Setting aside the fact that he sounds insane, let’s talk about, well, locker room talk. Trump used those three words three separate times as a justifier for the offensive comments he made in 2005.  It’s a cheap excuse that almost says more about his character than the comment itself. And one that also mischaracterizes all men in one fell swoop.

“Locker room talk” as a catchy phrase perpetuates the toxic notion that a) men need only be respectful of women when women are around and b) this kind of behavior is so ubiquitous we should all shrug it off. Here’s another way to put it: Trump believes integrity only matters when there’s an audience to see it, and he thinks we all feel that way. If that isn’t a dangerous pillar around which to build a presidential campaign, I don’t know what is.

His inability to understand the gravity of his own remarks speaks to his identity as the worst kind of manipulator. The statement he made last Friday after the news exploded rang all the wrong bells. Writer Leah McElroth took to her Twitter on Saturday to break it down here. It’s worth a read.

But he did more than reveal the nature of his integrity in that Friday statement and subsequent apology last night, he also took down his entire gender in the process. Here’s a man who has promised to protect every American, to fight for every family, to fix every problem in this country and make it great. And yet he doesn’t understand a core tenet of human decency: respect. For women and all the girls who are learning their value, certainly, but also for his fellow men and all the boys who are learning how to wield their power.

On the other end of Trump’s proven ignorance, though, is something less likely to make your head mysteriously separate from your body out of disgust: the millions of men and women who are now united by a common enemy. Take author Kelly Oxford’s tweet from Friday, in response to the lewd recording, that called for women to share their personal experiences with assault with the hashtag #NotOkay.

And then, soon after:

The response? An outpouring in the tens of millions and still growing. Sharing personal anecdotes of sexual assault is an act that is riddled with unfounded shame, but following the Friday fiasco, staying silent clearly seemed more shameful. In a Q&A with the Washington Post on Saturday, Oxford hit on something really important, which is that maybe the best thing we can do is use this wave of bigotry to bring us closer together and educate others. Every storm has a silver lining, right? Maybe the silver lining of Trump’s campaign is a newfangled urgency among men and women to support both themselves and each other. Have you felt it?

Photo from Crazy Stupid Love, 2011.

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  • I just want to have all of the political (and non-political) conversations with you, Haley! Your comments on this entire election have been SO on point!

    • Anne Dyer

      Agree! Beautifully and thoughtfully stated.

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you Sonia!!!! This election is slowly killing me…your comment is giving me life rn.

  • Andy

    That photo though 🙂 #whatwouldgoslingdo

  • (first of all, respect! for Kelly Oxford.)

    The other silver lining, though only worth mentioning for satirical purposes: my Slovenian comrade, Melanija Knavs, has learned a new English expression. Pussy bow. Unintentionally.

    • Haley Nahman


  • Another silver lining … bring them on:

    • Mariana

      This is so awesome!! This make my portuguese politicians so boring ahaha

    • Haley Nahman

      I love this so much

      • Talk about comic relief … 🙂

  • Audrey Fromson

    Spot on. In condoning “locker room talk” Trump is sending a message not only to girls and women, but to boys and men. This is a dangerous road and an antiquated, out-of-date comment.

  • Jenna

    Seriously? When men are together, they act like pigs. I mean really. Now we have to control personal, private speech? I know women whose sex talk is worse than this. I’m certainly not condoning this but get real. Are we living in 1916 or 2016? I think this is the least of our problems right now.

    No hate please. This is a persona opinion about life all around us today.

    • His private speech shows his real character. Did you read the article? He’ll pay lip service to certain ideals in public to gain popularity. Locker talk where other men reinforce that it’s okay to sexually assault a woman is definitely a problem as all the women that have been sexually assaulted can tell you.

      How many times has women’s sex talk turned into blatant bragging about sexual assault? Or encouragement to sexually harass or otherwise demean an entire gender? I’m curious what kind of people you must hang out with.

      • Jenna

        As a woman, I would never condone anything like this. Ever.

        But really? Sexual assault? I think one candidate is connected to someone who actually did “assault” without consent, multiple times and said candidate went after those women. I was an adult in the ’90s so I’m pretty aware of it.

        And I can bet $1 million, women have gone after T (as unattractive as he is) and celebrities, in general, in the same manner.

        I’m not getting into this on a website. And don’t want to get negative. I’m on the same page for most of what you’ve said.

        Thank you for the conversation.

        • Ah, I see where you’re coming from now. You feel that any negative discussion of Trump’s actions is an endorsement of his opponent.

          I’m coming from the perspective (and I believe this article is too) that unwanted “pussy” grabs and kisses (even from a man that other women may desire) being dismissed as locker talk is problematic.

    • kay

      i think you’ve brought up a really important aspect of this discussion, and i get what you mean about private speech- there are really important arguments for being understanding of off the cuff remarks. but no one is talking about “controlling” or making a law against what donald said, people are merely answering back. if he can say that, which he can, then everyone else is free to comment on it, and disapprove, and say their reaction to it. the expectation that what he said will go unremarked is an expectation of privilege. it sounds like this issue is a distraction from what is important to you, but for other people this is a very important issue. what you are hearing from them is their reaction to what he said- now you know how strongly a lot people feel about that kind of language. you choose, and donald chooses, what to do with that information. no one is choosing for you, no one is controlling what you or donald say or do in the future.

    • pamb

      Just to check, I asked my husband if he and his friends talk like this when they get together. Big nope. No bragging about doing what they want to women without their consent. No trying to get with married women. They are in their early 50s, Trump was 59 at the time.

    • rachel

      Do you know women that use “vulgar” words, or women that discuss touching men against their consent? Because the vulgarity is not the problem.

  • Kelly

    My husband wrote an article on his experiences in locker rooms and, if I do say so myself, it’s an important look at this topic from a (feminist) male’s perspective

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you for sharing this! Was a super good read

  • Victoria Smith

    perfectly summed it all up!

  • MT

    “Trump believes integrity only matters when there’s an audience to see it, and he thinks we all feel that way.”

    This is the basic thing that I’ve been trying to articulate for a few days now. It’s not that Trump is a vile shitlord, exactly, but that he (like so many vile shitlords, arguably all) thinks he is completely normal in regards to his shitlordyness. He thinks ALL men talk about women that way (perhaps in part because no man has ever heard him talk this way and been like Dude, that is gross, what the fuck is wrong with you? Or at least not early enough in his life for it have any impact.). He thinks all wealthy people are using legal but corrupt tax loopholes to avoid contributing to society. He believes all people in the construction industry do things like refuse to pay vendors and declare bankrupcy whenever it’s convenient for them. He thinks it’s all perfectly normal and he’s just better at it than other people and that’s why he’s “successful”.

    What’s interesting is that I work with a lot of right wing NRA birther types (which is hell), and they’ve spent the whole election cycle coming in the day after debates or other milestones talking about how grrrrrreat Trump is and how evil Clinton is and this Monday there was SILENCE. It gives me hope. A sliver of hope.

  • Patrick F Spencer

    Hey guys, Patrick Spencer here. Sending rape threats to women online is just good ole locker room talk for me! I threatened to shove my cock down a passed out woman’s throat and sent a woman over thirty rape threats online. I think telling someone I “would have fun raping” them is normal. I’m the Mount Greenwood Chicago version of Brock Turner. My urbanized hillrod community don’t care since I’m white.