#SVYALit: No, It’s Not Normal Locker Room Talk and Yes It’s Important That We Say That (Out Loud Even)
THIS POST IS ABOUT SEXUAL VIOLENCE
“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 pussy. You can do anything.”
2016 Presidential candidate Donald Trump was recorded saying the words above. Since the tape was released, many, many people have excused the words and declared them “Locker Room Talk”.
To be fair, I have never been inside a male locker room. Not once.
But I do know a man who talked like this. He was the man who spent my 8th grade year molesting me. Like Donald Trump, he held a position of power. And like Donald Trump, he felt that he could say and do whatever he wanted. He did not view women as fully human. He viewed them as beneath men. They were objects placed upon this Earth for his sexual pleasure and personal amusement.
Someone I follow on Twitter recently said, “I can not respect a person who does not recognize my humanity.”
That’s what this is about, respecting the humanity of another person. In this case, men recognizing, respecting and valuing the humanity of women.
We know that many men – though yes, not all men – don’t respect and value and recognize the humanity of women. We know this because the sexual abuse statistics affirm it. Approximately 1 in 4 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime. Their perpetrator is 5 times more likely to be a man. 90% of the time it will be someone they have some type of relationship with; someone they know and trust.
Words matter. They reveal our character. They also shape and influence culture. Our young people today are listening to what’s happening around them. For example, did you know that hate crimes have risen since the 2016 election have started? “A new report published by Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding has documented an upsurge in violence against Muslims in the United States coinciding with the 2016 election campaign.” (Source)
And now, we are forced to grapple with a wide variety of people very publicly trying to rationalize and explain away sexual violence as if it is less important than issue, a, b, or c, whatever that issue may be.
But here’s the deal. Every time you try and defend or downplay these casual remarks about sexual violence, you are contributing to a culture which has made sexual violence possible. You are saying that the worth and safety of each and every sexual violence victim is less important than whatever your key issue is. The economy? The Supreme Court?
What’s more, every victim/survivor of sexual violence is now forced to listen to people try and justify what happened to them instead of hearing the people around them – the adults that make policy that determine their fate and well being – disavowing sexual violence. They need to know you care; they need to hear you say that this is not okay. They need you to stand up against sexual violence.
That means that the 14-year-old I know who was raped at knife point is forced to hear over and over and over again that what happened to her can be rationalized or justified.
That means that my neighbor who is forced to live across the street from the man who molested her is forced to hear over and over and over again that what happened to her can be rationalized or justified.
That means that the 1 in 4 teen girls who live in your neighborhoods, go to your churches, bag your groceries, and walk the halls of your schools are forced to hear over and over and over again that what happened to them can be rationalized or justified.
They hear you saying that what happened to them is just locker room talk.
And our teenage boys are listening. They hear you say that this is normal “alpha male” or “locker room” talk.
They hear you, our leaders, our policy makers, our spiritual advisors, our adult mentors, saying it is perfectly normal and acceptable for a man to talk like this. So now they will.
They will walk into the locker room and talk like this.
They will walk down the school hallways and grab their classmates by the pussy.
Every 109 seconds, another person experiences sexual assault. – RAINN
Because they hear you saying it is okay. They hear you trying to rationalize it. They are listening.
Because that is what we’re saying. When we won’t stand up and say that this type of speech and behavior is unacceptable, we are saying that it is, in fact, acceptable. We are normalizing sexual violence. Is that what we want our history books to say about the 2016 election? That this is the year where we normalized and rationalized sexual violence for the next generations of our children and children’s children’s children.
Not me. I stand against normalizing sexual violence.
Sexual violence is never okay.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence, please contact RAINN for support.
TLT, along with many authors, librarians, and sexual abuse survivors, has been committed to raising awareness about sexual violence in the life of teens through the #SVYALit Project. You can read those posts here.
Filed under: #SVYALit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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