In the 1960s through to the ‘80s, locker-room talk was a heavy topic through, well, locker-rooms throughout the United States. The UK and other Western societies hadn’t quite adopted the same macho testosterone-fuelled as present in the football changing rooms, allowing the States to spearhead, coin and shape the now-controversial term into what was one of the many stereotypes of the popular subculture of ‘jocks’.
As ever with a term created through social cultures, I turn to the good old Urban Dictionary for the ‘first’ definitions, or moreover, the definition it once held (to a slight degree of dubious exaggeration). “The crude, vulgar, offensive and often sexual trade of comments guys pass to each other, usually in high school locker rooms.” The definition, made by a user named “SpyderNinja” back in 2009, then went on to add “It exists solely for the purpose of male comedy and is not meant to be taken seriously.” Before adding a not-so-cute example:
“Jenny overheard me calling her a cum dumpster when I was out with the guys last night. I told her it was just locker room talk and she totally forgot about it.”
One major thing to point out here – it is not the threat of doing something, nor the promise, nor the bragging of sexual assault and self-gratification, instead the labelling of one individual in a sexual manner. Here’s a few ‘good’ examples that some of my friends in America sent; “She looked really hot today, I would love to fuck her”, or “Have you seen the look she gave me? I bet she’d be great at blowjobs”. When I asked them what locker-room talk wasn’t, they all pretty unanimously pointed to one man’s infamous controversial leaked tape. Donald Trump.
The exact transcript of the leaked 2005 conversation between Donald J. trump, the current Republican nominee/ presidential candidate, and Billy Bush, doesn’t make for pretty reading. But for the interest of the topic of article, I’ll provide some of the key points made, and dissect them as to whether or not they are locker-room talk, as defended by Trump in his Second televised presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.
Trump: “I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
Analysis: Two disturbing points emerge from this one line, firstly the fact that Trump openly admitted to “move on” and try to “fuck her”, despite it ‘failing’, and secondly the fact that she was married. It makes things all the more distressing to know that at the time, Trump had just married his third wife, Melania. Not locker room talk.
Trump: “I moved on her very heavily in fact”.
Analysis: Whilst it cannot be said for certainty, body language experts have suggested that this movement is largely predatory in behaviour, asserting oneself as a wholly dominant individual derived through power. Given the context that she rejected Trump’s advancements, this adds to the uncomfortable situation. Not locker room talk.
Trump: “The all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big, phony tits and everything”. And later “Your girl’s hot as shit”.
Analysis: Finally, locker room talk! Whilst still disturbing in the aftermath of the advancements, as there is no promise or recollection of sexual engagement, and is merely an observation, this does in fact constitute as locker room talk.
Trump: “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her.” Then “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait”.
Analysis: Within this whole group of announcements, Trump once again crosses the line of locker room talk and into the realm of premeditated sexual assault. By physically committing to consuming Tic Tacs, and the foreshadowed threat of “kissing her”, the presidential candidate removes any chance of this being passed off as locker room talk, especially coupled with the closing “I don’t even wait”, potentially connoting a disregard of consent.
The "Grab Her by the Pussy" Comment
Trump: “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy”.
Analysis: Ah, the infamous line. This is, without a doubt, the one line that screwed the Republican over. It goes without saying that, as is the general consensus with the majority of the voting population in America, including Trump’s own republican peers, this does not constitute locker room talk. This clearly suggests sexual assault, as the controversial figurehead has been grilled on multiple times over the past two weeks. By using your power and fame to elicit sexual activity, under only that pretense, this could be argued to be grooming behaviour, coupled with the sexual assault of grabbing a female’s genitals.
Bush: [to Arianne Zucker, the female in question] “How about a little hug for the Donald?”.
Analysis: The one word that springs to my mind, and the one I have heard being repeated throughout almost every media outlet – both conservative and liberal in delivery, is ‘creepy’. Wholly creepy, given the fact that the pair had, just seconds before, been discussing the sexual assault of the actress. However, Zucker does consent to this and the pair do hug, but under the context of the previous discussion, it only heightens the creepy atmosphere in hindsight.
Bush: “Now, if you had to choose honestly between one of us. Me or the Donald?” then “Seriously, you had to take one of us as a date”.
Analysis: Once again, just creepy. Whilst it doesn’t instigate sexual assault as the points above, it does just look really bad in hindsight, not to mention awkward. Luckily for Bush, this could pass under the blanket of locker room talk, however critics argue that it is a form of sexual harassment. Zucker refuses to answer throughout the short discussion between Trump and Bush about her, other than a quick “I have to take the Fifth [amendment] on that one.” As before with Bush, this isn’t locker room talk, nor is it actually locker room talk, but instead just creepy.
In conclusion, the leaked discussion is undeniably wholly detrimental to the careers of the duo. Thankfully, not everything in the conversation consisted of a sexual assault-fuelled pit of despair, with clear and evident signs of some true locker room talk dotted around. Whilst Bush is lucky in the fact that his cousin is the former President of the United States, Trump is feeling the harsh aftermath of it through dropping poll ratings, especially within middle-class female voters. On the plus side, Bush lost his job as the host of the today show, as well as large-scale condemnation, even from Trump who suggested he had “heard worse from Billy”. Was the conversation ‘locker room talk’ as widely rebutted by Trump? No. Was it creepy? Yes. Was it detrimental to his presidential run? Probably. Through my Twitter handle @goldennike11 I ran a series of polls with the following results, backing up the verdict that we’ve all heard over the past two weeks:
“Do you think ‘grab her by the pussy’ is ‘locker room talk’ typical of men, as suggested by #Trump ?” Yes – 17%. No – 83%.
“Do you view him [Trump] as better, the same, or worse agter his ‘grab her by the pussy’ comments in 2005?” Better – 0%. No change – 44%. Worse – 56%.
Interestingly, following the second presidential debate, I polled the following:
“Did Donald Trump save himself from the 2005 sexual assault tape situation in tonight’s presidential debate?” yes – 50%. No – 38%. Undecided – 12%.