When E. Jean Carroll came forward with sexual assault allegations against U.S. President Donald Trump almost 25 years after the incident is alleged to have occurred, I knew that we’d be in for the same old victim-blaming that we’ve become so accustomed to over the past few years. What I didn’t expect, however, was the banal defence that Trump gave the media, which was that he couldn’t have raped Carroll because she’s simply “not [his] type.”
Even for Trump that was gross. I read that quote over and over again. Even a week later, the implication of his words burrows into my subconscious, smouldering with those ghastly news stories that I’ve tried so hard to avoid.
Rape has never been about attraction. Instead, it has, and continues to be used, as a weapon used in the pursuit of power. We have to stop thinking of rape in terms of sexuality, which serves only to shield the perpetrators and blame the victims.
Let’s bring it back home for a moment. In July 2018, a female reporter wrote an editorial alleging that Justin Trudeau groped her at the Kokanee Summit in 2000. Trudeau claims to have remembered it differently. Although comparing a Canadian scandal to an American scandal is like comparing a light gale to a hurricane, there are some immediate parallels to be drawn.
Trudeau’s controversy ended in the most Canadian way possible — with an apology. Trudeau went on to say that, “I don’t recall that the reporter was coming across as having been traumatized or distraught about it, but definitely that whatever physical touch or whatever had occurred in that moment was definitely not welcome, and definitely inappropriate.”
He also stated that, “Part of this awakening we’re having as a society, a long awaited realization, is that it’s not just one side of the story that matters, that the same interactions can be experienced very differently from one person to the next.”
Trump insinuates that a woman deemed attractive enough can expect rape, and should even take it as a compliment.
Though it is problematic how Trudeau originally seemed to victim-blame the woman who had accused him of inappropriate behaviour, there were three important things that could be taken away from Trudeau’s subsequent statements: 1) the need for accountability, 2) the need for acknowledging the gravity of such situations, and 3) that when it comes to unsolicited sexual advancements, the victim’s experience must be honoured and acknowledged.
Back to the circus: Trump’s reaction to Carroll’s accusations is part of a very dangerous pattern. Whether you believe Carroll’s allegations or not is irrelevant. The president ultimately implied two very damaging notions: that there is an excuse for rape, and that rape is entirely about sex.
By saying that Carroll is “not his type,” Trump insinuates that a woman deemed attractive enough by a perpetrator in question can expect rape, and should even take it as a compliment. The calculated way in which Trump speaks to his “type” says volumes about his respect for women, regardless of whether or not he committed a federal crime.
There is absolutely no scenario in which a woman is deserving of rape. The notion in itself is not only unconscionable, it’s absurd — like arguing that an owner of a fancy car should expect to have it stolen.
Rape involves sexual contact, but many psychologists assert that the act of rape is chiefly connected to power, or the lack thereof. The act of raping a person is a method by which to gain power over another using strength, prowess and fear as weapons. Often, rapists are driven to action because they were once victims themselves. By making rape about sexual attraction, Trump is voluntarily proclaiming ignorance to the true nature of one of the more grotesque issues facing society, and ignoring the link between rape and power.
In recent years, nobody embodies the idea that rape is about power more than Harvey Weinstein. Today, Weinstein’s crimes are infamous. He used sexual assault to exert his power over an industry where people, particularly women, live in constant fear of having their careers and reputations shattered.
Even more recently is the case of Jeffrey Epstein, a man who Trump once called a “terrific guy” before denying any association with him. The billionaire, who always seemed to have a taste for much younger women, was recently arrested for allegedly being part of a sex-trafficking ring. After Jennifer Araoz came forward with the allegation that Epstein had raped her when she was only 15, further investigation revealed that Epstein had allegedly been sexually abusing minors for over a decade. He was described using the promise of modelling careers to lure young girls.
We need a sense of urgency in acknowledging rape for what it is: a violent, despicable misuse of power.
These two horrific examples demonstrate a means of gaining power over other human beings by manipulating and destroying sexual experience for their victims. These men have willingly employed methods of control, fear and force to shape young women and children into becoming the ultimate victims, thereby relinquishing all future control they could have over their minds and experiences.
To say that the rapes in these cases were because of attraction is glib: to say that a combination of unnatural sexual appetites and a desire to exact complete power over other human beings is exponentially more accurate.
Regardless of whether or not you believe Trump’s rhetoric, it’s important to recognize that he holds considerable influence, and that the way he characterizes rape and sexual assault is how many Americans and Canadians alike will choose to understand it. We need a sense of urgency in acknowledging rape for what it is: a violent, despicable misuse of power that needs to be punished accordingly. Without vital accountability, and a greater sense of the true nature of these crimes, we will only have more scandals and ruined lives to look forward to. It’s time that we call a spade a spade, and through this, gain a better understanding of what we can do to alter the stakes entirely.
I, for one, would like to read more news stories of moral, accountable politicians, and less of the people in power abusing their stature to exact the suffering of others. The example that this would create is something that the moral fibre of our future generations depend upon.
Have an opinion you’d like to share on HuffPost Canada? You can find more information here on how to pitch and contact us.
More on HuffPost: