Quit It with the Idea That Sexual Assault Has Anything to Do with Appearance
Yesterday, amidst a slew of allegations of sexual assault, Donald Trump defended himself from one in the most odious and on-brand way: by essentially pointing out that the woman wasn’t attractive enough to assault.
Natasha Stoynoff is a writer, who in 2005 interviewed Trump for People Magazine. She shared her experience of being assaulted by the Republican presidential nominee to the publication:
Now, I’m a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me. But Trump is much bigger — a looming figure — and he was fast, taking me by surprise and throwing me off balance. I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.
Trump was not done, and was not deterred. They soon resumed their interview.
I tried to act normal. I had a job to do, and I was determined to do it. I sat in a chair that faced Trump, who waited for his wife on a loveseat. The butler left us, and I fumbled with my tape recorder. Trump smiled and leaned forward.
“You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?” he declared, in the same confident tone he uses when he says he’s going to make America great again. “Have you ever been to Peter Luger’s for steaks? I’ll take you. We’re going to have an affair, I’m telling you.”
When men ask why women don’t come forward, it’s this, this exactly. We condition ourselves and are conditioned to accept, to self-blame, to minimize. To carry on with a task because we’re afraid to make waves, worsen things, get fired. We’re afraid of being seen as liars or “whores.”
But, like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed.
“You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. Tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”
The idea that a woman is too ugly to rape is a commonly used attack against victims who come forward, or in threatening women who discuss rape at all. Last year, a British politician was removed from his position for saying “Not sure anyone would even want to think about it looking at her lol” in response to allegations he’d assaulted a 21-year-old student. Former UK deputy prime minister Lord John Prescott, defended himself against sticking his hand up a woman’s skirt, saying she was “built like a bloody barn door” and that, had he assaulted her, the “fucking house would have fallen down.” In response to the rape allegations against Bill Cosby, Damon Wayans said “And some of them, really, is un-rape-able. I look at them and go, ‘No, he don’t want that. Get outta here!’” In 2014, Brazilian congressman Jair Bolsonaro said of a political opponent that he “would never rape her” “because she is not worth it, because she’s ugly, she’s not my type.”
Myth: Women provoke sexual assault by their appearance. Sexual attractiveness is a primary reason why a rapist selects a victim.
Fact: Rapists do not select their victims by their appearance. They select victims who are vulnerable and accessible. Victims of sexual assault range in age groups from infants to the elderly. Sexual attractiveness is not an issue.
Rape and sexual assault somehow remains up for debate, as though its legitimacy as a crime is something that should be discussed rather than simply understood. And there is a reason for that. Rebecca Solnit explains:
We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.
Here I want to say one thing: though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn’t mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.
And we know, we know, we fucking know: not all men. But as we keep begging you to hear us tell you, YES ALL WOMEN. It doesn’t matter what we look like, how we’re dressed, where we are be it a plane, train, or any other public place. It happens to us. It keeps happening to us. This is not up for discussion. This is not up for debate. It is real. Hear us. Just fucking hear us.
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