Why Do Misogynists Like Donald Trump Love To Talk About How Much They Respect Women?

There is a fundamental contradiction in our attitude toward sexual violence — and Donald Trump embodies it perfectly.

After I watched the second debate, beat my breast in mourning, and wiped my tears off my laptop screen , I realized which part of Trump’s soul-killing word diarrhea I hated most.

It was a line I have heard, practically verbatim, from not one but multiple men whom I have confronted for sexual harassment: “I have great respect for women. No one has more respect for women than me.”

Give me a fucking break. 

“No no,” this logic goes. “You, woman, are wrong. I could not possibly have assaulted/harassed you, you see, because I, Mr. Important Sun Shines out of My Ass Misogynist, respect women. Not only do I respect women, little lady, I respect women more than anyone else in the entire world. More than bell hooks. More than Gloria Steinem. And certainly more than you.”

On one hand, these words from Trump’s orange lips are so blatantly hypocritical they make my head explode into a thousand tiny glass shards. How can someone so sexist that Tic Tac the mint company issued a statement against him claim to respect women?

But actually, if we examine our culture’s broader conversation about sexual assault, Trump’s statement that he “respects woman” is more normal than we’d like to think.

Everyone loves to say they are against sexual assault and rape. Hell, plenty of rapists say they are against sexual assault and rape. Yet while 91% of Americans believe that “women should have the same rights as men,” sexual violence remains so normalized that many still consider raping an unconscious woman not “real” violence but “twenty minutes of action.”

We can see this even in recent coverage of Trump’s comments. As many have very ably said in the past few days, perhaps even more fucked up than Trump’s words are conservatives’ (and some liberals’) responses to them.

There’s the problem of where, exactly, our priorities are as a country. Trump has said all kinds of vile, racist, quasi-genocidal shit about people of color—you may just remember a little proposal to, oh I don’t know, ban Muslims from entering the country—yet Trump still received his party’s endorsement. 

Apparently, appealing to horrendously racist images of hordes of “criminal” Mexican people and “terrorist” Syrian refugees is a legitimate form of political rhetoric. But, as CNN political commentator Symone D. Sanders writes, making “vulgar” comments about white women is just too much:

Finally, we’ve seen trenchant criticism of conservative politicians’ bullshit logic that Trump’s “lewd” comments are problematic because they “corrupt” America’s image and “demean our wives and daughters.” As Family Values Dad in Chief Mitt Romney tweeted,

The problem with Trump’s comments isn’t vulgarity. It’s not “outraging the modesty” of married women. And it sure as hell is not that the women Trump has admitted to assaulting are daughters.

The problem is violence. The problem with sexual assault, and sexual assault apologia, is violence.  

I know: Duh. But much conservative and mainstream commentary on Trump demonstrate that we as a society are still missing the point that sexual violence is wrong because it is an attack on a human being’s autonomy and dignity

Not because it besmirches some guy’s daughter. Not because it “corrupts” the (apparently sparkly clean??) face of America. Not because it’s “lewd.” 

Which brings us back to this question of respect. How can Donald Trump, how can the same politicians happy to imprison us for asserting autonomy over our bodies, claim to respect women?

The answer lies in the word itself. They’re not talking about “respect.” They’re talking about “respectability.” 

Plenty of men who sexually harass, rape, and abuse would tell you with a straight face that they “respect women.” What they mean is this: I respect women who are respectable. I respect women who are white. I respect women from my religion. I respect women from my family. I respect women who fit my own sexist, racist, classist horrible criteria for what and who a woman should be. When a woman oversteps this—whens she is too sexy, or of a different race or class, or my wife who has “taken the wrong tone” with me—then she is not respectable anymore. 

This is plain and simple bullshit.

Listen, it’s not that hard. If you are against sexual assault, you are against all sexual assault, not just forms of sexual assault that fit into your comfortable understanding of the world. You are against sexual violence in colleges and you are against sexual violence in prisons. You are against sexual violence in the corporate workplace and you are against sexual violence at Guantanamo Bay.

And if you are truly against sexual violence, you are against systems of domination that allow some people to be so oppressed that our culture hardly imagines them having dignity and autonomy in the first place. If you are truly against sexual violence, you are against white supremacy, and you are against patriarchy, you are against capitalist exploitation, you are against colonialism. If you are truly against sexual violence, you must—we must—adapt a broader resistance against the violent systems that fundamentally undermine human consent. And if you are truly against sexual violence, you would have been against Trump from the beginning. 

Contrary to the statements of all politicians ever, there is no “common ground” on this one. Either you believe that every single human being has a fundamental right to live free from violence, or you’re full of crap. You decide.

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing her masters.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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