When Trump describes his remarks as “locker room banter,” and contends that “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course,” that does not seem in any way out of the realm of possibility. Boys are boys, even when they’re supposed to be grown men. And while I’ve never been one, I have some clue about how some of them talk when they think the girls aren’t listening.
At the same time, Trump’s comments are remarkable for their grossness, in particular for the way they fuse sexual availability and celebrity entitlement. He is interested not only in commenting on women’s attributes, but in how his power allows him to conduct himself.
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump tells Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.” This is not merely demeaning women by objectifying them; it is demeaning women by reveling in being able to control and dominate them, or at least preening and pretending that he can. There is a major difference between assessing whether a flat-chested woman can be a ten, and talking in terms of unwanted touching, if not outright sexual assault.
“Grab them by the p—y.” I covered the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, and the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky impeachment proceedings, and I still cannot believe I am typing this sentence about a candidate for president of the United States, or that you will be able to read it, even in redacted form, in The Washington Post.
Though some of the cable commentary has noted the remarkable phenomenon of something approaching an apology emanating from Trump himself, the sorry-if-anyone-was-offended nature of the phrasing is entirely inadequate to the language at issue. Is there someone who would not find his comments offensive? If Trump himself cannot acknowledge that this kind of language is beyond the pale of acceptable, he needs a good talking to from Ivanka.
This was not Trump, as he lamely argued earlier in the week, talking sexist for the cameras. This was Trump being Trump. If, as he continually insists, “there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do,” we’re all in big trouble.
To imagine how men talk behind closed doors, to know the kinds of things that Trump has said in the past, is one thing. Hearing a tape like this — hearing it over and over again, as I have on cable since the story broke a few hours ago — and think about this man becoming the president of the United States is another.
Trump has bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his supporters would stay loyal. Now we get to find out.