“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” – Donald Trump, “Access Hollywood” tape transcript, 2005
This has been an eye-opening week when it comes to exposing the attitudes that some powerful men hold about sexual consent and entitlement to women’s bodies. Both Donald Trump and Derrick Rose are in the spotlight for past incidents involving alleged sexual assault. If there has ever been a question in any of our minds that sexual violence and rape are rooted in power and dominance, these cases show it clearly.
This past week all news outlets covered how In Trump ’s case, he was caught on tape bragging to Access Hollywood interviewer Billy Bush about his behavior toward women he finds attractive. “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In his comments cConsent was out of the question, it did not matter if No question about whether the women in questionhe interacts with welcome this activity or if they, find Donald Trump attractive themselves or should have the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to these advances. It’s all about what Trump wants to do.
In a different case – NBA Star Derrick Rose went to civil court last week to face accusations by a former friend that he and two other friends came over to her apartment late one night and raped her while she was too intoxicated to consent. Rose made comments in a deposition in the civil lawsuit that he did not seek consent to group sex from his accuser the night of the incident and he even admitted not knowing the meaning of consent. It’s possible to conclude that Rose felt he was somehow in a position to decide for the plaintiff in this case that she would have sex with him and two other men despite a lack of consent.
Both of these situations, as most sexual assault crimes, involve people that use their power, like fame and status, to abuse more vulnerable people. They feel entitled to it.
Male sexual entitlement is the belief that men are owed sex on account of their maleness. The truth is, no one is ever owed sex. Ever. Not when they’re famous, not when they’re nice, not when they’re manipulative and definitively not because they’re a man.
And it’s not just women who are victims of assault at the hands of powerful people who take advantage of their status. Jerry Sandusky raped several boys at Penn State with impunity because his colleagues in the university’s athletic department were willing to either protect him or simply look the other way. Or cases where female teachers take advantage of male students abusing their position.
Both the Trump tape and Rose lawsuit clearly illustrate how the power dynamic comes into play in cases of rape and assault. Victims and potential victims are not the only ones affected by this entitlement. Power abusers who feel entitled to sex are being negatively impacted by their own false belief and acting according to those beliefs. If someone rejects them, they feel they have been denied what they believe is their right to get and their egos get hurt.
Because sexual entitlement is so normalized, even guys who care about consent and respect women can be guilty of it. Women can also be contributors by passively supporting these behaviors.
This is a critical moment for all of us to consider this culture of entitlement and do everything we can to dismantle it.