When the nice guys gaslight us

When the nice guys gaslight us

Men might not hear the Trump-like locker-room talk in their lockers and their lives. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there — it is, and it’s all too common.

When supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called the recording of him bragging about assaulting women “normal locker-room talk,” respectful, courteous men across the internet replied in unison, “That's not normal!”

Even my husband joined in, telling me, “I've spent plenty of time in locker rooms, and I've never heard anybody brag about sexual assault.”

To my husband and well-meaning friends: I get it. We should not accept this behavior as “normal.”

But in your denial, you are unintentionally gaslighting multitudes of women who know it to be rampant.

I am pleased that your locker rooms have been so civil, no doubt because of peer pressure from good guys like you. However, our experiences speak to a reality in which this kind of “locker-room talk” must be commonplace.

* * *

There's plenty of evidence that talk promoting rape culture may be “normal” within the sweat-streaked walls of locker rooms across the United States.

In a study published earlier this year by the journal Violence Against Women, more than half of college athletes who responded to a survey at one university admitted coercing women into sexual acts.

We can cite cases like Brock Turner, whom the press consistently named the “Stanford swimmer,” rather than the “Stanford rapist,” and judges like Judge Aaron Persky, also a former Stanford athlete, who issued a slap on the hand for Turner's rape conviction.

Or we can look to Brandon Vandenburg, who raped a passed-out woman in his college dorm and then watched while his football teammates did the same.

So when supporters called Trump's remarks “normal locker room talk,” I considered the claim feasible.

No more gaslighting - this is real.

* * *

Trump is no athlete, and rape culture extends far beyond the locker room. If you have doubts, take a look at Canadian author Kelly Oxford's Twitter thread #notokay.

The complicity of the guys on the bus is almost as disturbing as Trump's violent rhetoric. Billy Bush eggs Trump on, first escalating his lewd commentary, then making Arianne Zucker the butt of their joke by urging her to hug them, the men who have been objectifying her. And the others laugh, snicker, or remain silent.

C'mon guys, what were you doing?

The day after my husband made his “that's not normal” comment, he sat in our dining room, reflecting on the conversations we'd been having about rape culture and my own experiences with men violating my body.

“I've been thinking. Even though I've never heard anybody brag about sexual assault, there are many times that I hear men saying things about women that are just not okay, but, maybe because of peer pressure, or because I don't want to get into it, I don't say anything. I think I need to start saying something.”

I felt a wave of relief at his announcement. I felt a little bit better.

So here is my request: Men, be our allies. If you would never speak disrespectfully about women, please don't allow other men to do it. Object, argue - stand up for us! If you have never heard this kind of talk, or if you have never seen evidence of abusive, hurtful misogyny, then please pay attention. Listen harder, because men who act like this are all around you, and all around us.

Women can do anything, and you know it. We can be anything; maybe even president of the United States.

But we cannot stop this violence on our own.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates