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Locker Room Talk? Not in Their Locker Rooms.

By: Shelby Anderson

At the second presidential debate, the phrase of the night was ‘locker room talk’.[1]  Just forty-eight hours before the debate, a video surfaced of the Republican presidential candidate Mr. Donald Trump making lewd remarks regarding grabbing women’s genitals without consent.[2] Many have stated these words were describing a sexual assault,[3] Mr. Trump mitigated the remarks by stating “it’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things.[4]”  Mr. Trump also took to social media just before the debate, stating in part, “I’m not proud of my locker room talk.[5]”  This phrase and the statements it represents sparked on social media and other media outlets both outrage and continued support for the presidential candidate.

Numerous current and former professional athletes have reacted to these statements on social media or in personal interviews.[6]  Portland Trailblazers guard CJ McCollum tweeted “I haven’t heard that one in any of my locker rooms.[7]”  Philadelphia 76ers guard Kendall Marshall tweeted “PSA: sexual advances without consent are NOT locker room talk.[8]”  Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James responded in an interview discussing what he has perceived in his time spent in locker rooms, stating “What [Donald Trump] was saying, I don’t know what that is. That’s trash talk.”[9]  Non-athletes have also spoken up against this characterization, stating that dismissing these comments as “locker room talk” promotes rape culture and that it is socially acceptable, equivalent to the phrase “boys will be boys.”[10]

There have also been supportive reactions to Mr. Trump’s characterization of sexual comments as locker room banter.  Dr. Ben Carson reacted to the phrase in an interview by saying he doesn’t think “there is any way you can justify it,” but that this type of talk regarding sexual conquests always happens.[11]  When the reporter stated she had not heard a discussion of that nature, Dr. Carson replied “maybe that’s the problem,”[12] suggesting this type of banter is shocking only because people don’t talk in this fashion.[13]  Also, Tom Brady (a known supporter of Mr. Trump) showed a neutral reaction.[14]  When asked about the ‘locker room talk’ statements, he smiled and left the press conference.[15]

Men and women seem to have become further divided after the ‘locker room talk’ statements.  Just two days after the second presidential debate, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight published two separate maps showing a Clinton win if only women voted, while Trump would decidedly win if only men voted.[16]  These maps sparked Trump supporters (both men and women) to start the trending Twitter hashtag #repealthe19th,[17] referring to the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920.[18]

Regardless of party affiliation, most can objectively agree we have hit a milestone in this country: the first woman to top the ticket of a major political party.[19]  Minimizing comments made regarding nonconsensual touching of the female genitals could inhibit the great progress our country has made toward gender equality.

[1] Steph Solis & Josh Hafner, The Phrase of the Night? ‘Locker Room Talk’, USA Today (Oct. 10, 2016, 1:18 PM), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/10/10/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-debate-by-the-numbers/91834986/.

[2] David A. Fahrenthold, Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005, The Washington Post (Oct. 08, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html.

[3] See Danielle Paquette, Anderson Cooper Told Trump ‘That is Sexual Assault.’ The Justice Department Agrees., The Washington Post (Oct. 09, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/09/anderson-cooper-told-trump-that-is-sexual-assault-the-justice-department-agrees/ (discussing Anderson Cooper’s statement at the debate that Mr. Trump’s remarks from the video are within the Justice Department’s definition of a sexual assault).

[4] See id.  These statements were made during the debate.

[5] Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Oct. 09, 2016, 6:13 PM), https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/785286990153543681.

[6] See generally Cydney Adams, Professional Athletes Cry Foul Over Trump’s “Locker Room Talk”, CBS News (Oct. 10, 2016, 6:39 PM), http://www.cbsnews.com/news/professional-athletes-are-not-happy-about-donald-trump-locker-room-talk/; Max Blau, Not ‘Locker Room’ Talk: Athletes Push Back Against Trump’s Remark, CNN (Oct. 10, 2016, 8:38 AM), http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/10/politics/locker-room-talk-athletes-respond-trnd/ (detailing social media posts of professional athletes speaking out against the use of the phrase “locker room talk” to refer to nonconsensual sexual acts).

[7] CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum), Twitter (Oct. 09, 2016, 6:28 PM), https://twitter.com/CJMcCollum/status/785290999610257408.

[8] Kendall Marshall (@KButter5), Twitter (Oct. 09, 2016, 6:44 PM), https://twitter.com/KButter5/status/785294936421773312.

[9] Cleveland.com, LeBron James Defines ‘Locker Room Talk’ YouTube (Oct. 12, 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVYjFt2foBM.

[10] See Danielle Moodie-Mills, OpEd: No, Donald It’s Not Just ‘Locker Room Talk’, NBC News (Oct. 10, 2016, 3:24 PM), http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/oped-no-donald-it-s-not-just-locker-room-talk-n663826.

[11] Adrienne Shih, Ben Carson on Donald Trump: ‘I’ve Heard People Talking Like That’, CNN (Oct. 11, 2016, 5:20 PM), http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/11/politics/ben-carson-donald-trump-tapes/.

[12] Id.

[13] Tina Nguyen, Amazingly, the Excuses for Donald Trump’s Comments About Women Keep Getting Worse, Vanity Fair (Oct. 11, 2016, 6:24 PM), http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/10/donald-trump-sexual-assault-defenses.

[14] Alex Reimer, Tom Brady Whiffs on Opportunity to Condemn Donald Trump’s Crude ‘Locker Room Talk’, Forbes (Oct. 13, 2016, 9:47 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexreimer/2016/10/13/tom-brady-whiffs-on-opportunity-to-condemn-donald-trumps-crude-locker-room-talk/#3abe0c36c447.

[15] Id.

[16] Louise Liu, Here’s How Nate Silver Thinks the US Election Map Would Look if Just Men Voted, Business Insider (Oct. 12, 2016, 12:04 AM), http://www.businessinsider.com/this-is-what-the-election-map-would-look-like-if-just-men-voted-on-election-day-2016-10.

[17] Seema Mehta, Trump Backers Tweet #repealthe19th After Polls Show He’d Win if Only Men Voted, Los Angeles Times (Oct. 12, 2016, 6:34 PM), http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-trailguide-updates-trump-backers-tweet-repealthe19th-1476299001-htmlstory.html.

[18] U.S. Const. amend. XIX.

[19] Stephen Collinson & MJ Lee, Clinton Nomination Puts ‘Biggest Crack’ in Glass Ceiling, CNN (July 27, 2016, 4:13 PM), http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/26/politics/democratic-convention-roll-call-day-two/.