It’s hard to know where to begin with what we've heard in the last several days. First, a candidate for President of the United States is heard graphically describing how he kisses and gropes women without consent and, when confronted with the video, says it was just "locker room banter." Then, defending the candidate on Twitter, a prominent supporter referenced sales figures for "Fifty Shades of Grey" as evidence that women aren't offended by such comments or behavior. So, wait...women can't distinguish between a work of fiction and reality? Fans of thriller and mystery novels secretly harbor a desire to be murdered? What?!
Perhaps he was embellishing. He has since denied having acted as he described. But what he described himself doing to women is sexual assault. He described using his privilege and his power to sexually assault women and get away with it. It's not okay to do it; it's not okay to brag about doing it; and it's not okay to dismiss his comments with another version of the "boys will be boys" excuse, which is exactly what calling his statements "locker room banter" is. Doing so only serves to normalize sexual assault, and contribute to a culture in which victims aren’t believed and there are no consequences for offenders.
FCASV has spent thirty years amplifying the voices of survivors, helping communities understand the terrible reality of sexual assault and just how common it is. Once again, we have all been provided an opportunity to engage with the painful reality of sexual violence and recommit ourselves to ending it. Writer Kelly Oxford used this opportunity very effectively, inviting women on Twitter to share stories of the first time they were sexually assaulted. Millions of women replied. Please check out #notokay; you’ll find it worth your time.
Finally, as often happens when a public figure says something egregious or uninformed about sexual violence, a reporter contacted us and asked for our thoughts. In an email follow up to our conversation, he wanted to know why I "refuse to believe that men actually talk like that in locker rooms." I pointed out that I believe some men do, but that most men don't. However, I've not spent even one second in men's locker rooms. If you have, and you know that men DO talk like that, then tell that story. Hold other men accountable for their sexism and misogyny. But, if you and the men you know DON’T talk like that in locker rooms – or anywhere else, then be outraged that a presidential candidate implied you do and say something about it. Amplify your voices. On Twitter, use #NotInMyLockerRoom. Millions of women would like to hear from you.