Donald Trump, Sex, and the Death of Propriety

Donald Trump, 'Pussy,' and The Death of Propriety

Once upon a time, there was a presidential candidate who said the best way to pick up women is to "grab them by the pussy."

This is a story we will likely tell future generations who may ask how we became such a swiftly unmasked casually vulgar society. They may wonder if it was the internet, pop music, or hyper-sexualized video games. But we will look them in the eyes and say: "No, my little son of a bitch, the reason we talk however the fuck we want is because in 2016 a presidential candidate suggested the best way to pick up women is to 'grab them by the pussy.' Now go eat your dinner, fuck-face."

Congratulations, Donald: We are in a post-asterix world and we couldn’t have done it without you. Profanity is sacred when delivered from your mouth. The word "pussy" rolls off your tongue as if we shouldn’t ever be ashamed to say it.

And women shouldn’t, actually. What I learned from Donald Trump is that women shouldn’t ever be ashamed to say "pussy." I learned this because everything he does must be interpreted like a Rorschach test that only shows positive images. I also learned this because something in me changed. Some tightly wound part of me that had never written the word "pussy" online was liberated. "PUSSY!" I screamed in the locker room. "PUSSY!" I yelled down the street.

I am a journalist and we don’t use such words. Or we didn’t, until now. But today is pussy liberation day. 

When Trump’s comment was uncovered it went instantly viral. It was covered by The New York Times, the Daily News, pretty much every paper in America. It’s hard to tell though what offends people most. For some it’s clear: Trump is perpetuating rape culture; he is part of a not-so-secret society of men who treat women as objects. He is a dirtbag, hung by the noose of his own sick behavior and loose lips. 

However, for others, the most offensive part of his comment may lie in the fact that he used the word "pussy" or even referred to female genitals at all. As a rule, it would have been much more acceptable had he talked about grabbing "dick," or even used the very common expression: "grab X by the balls." That expression even has a positive connotation, as in "grab life by the balls."

But "pussy" is really something we don’t talk about in polite company. However, there was a presidential debate scheduled last night, during which one candidate was asked point-blank about pussy. He was angry to be confronted and barely apologetic. 

While intensely disturbing, stranger still is that it is Donald alone who has elevated "pussy" to a matter of national debate. It takes a misogynist man to make it OK for women to say "pussy" on the air or write it on Twitter. Hillary Clinton has one, but rarely speaks of it in such terms or at all. I have not heard Clinton mention her vagina or anyone else’s genitals once during this whole election — imagine that! 

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has taken language from the street and from the pornography he has appeared in and tossed a lowbrow wrench into our well-heeled system. He claimed that he sought to erode "PC" culture, but it seems he has taken the kitchen sink of decorum with it as well. It is not that he is different from fellow video star Billy Bush or any of hundreds of frat boys who hang offensive banners each year to ask women about their gag reflexes. He is no different from the song I heard on the way home from a bar where a man groped women without being kicked out. 

Lyrics: "You call her Stephanie / I call her Headphanie / I don't open doors for a whore / I just want the neck, nothin' more." The song is by Young MA, an out lesbian rapper. We are all implicated in the proliferation of rape culture. As Ariel Levy writes in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs, women have assimilated and incorporated rape culture into our own language and actions, at times as a twisted expression of liberation. 

Trump’s language is replicated throughout our culture. Usually the only way we hear about sex is from a brutal masculine perspective, even if it's a woman rapping. We have no idea how to talk respectfully about sex in this country and can barely even acknowledge its existence. Politics is the last place we speak about sex, and when we do, it’s always in some form of scandal: Anthony Weiner. Rudy Giuliani. Bill Clinton.

For decades, politics has been about finessing a message. Trump has no message and no finesse, and what we are left with is a stark look at our own culture. What we are left with is pussy-grabbing.

But what we are also left with, is a world in which I no longer feel discomfort in saying the word "pussy."

Trump has forced me to be more honest about myself. To acknowledge the unacknowledged hidden parts. To be as unapologetically female as I have ever been. He has forced me to take a position. He has placed me in a position with his words. He has brought into the open misogynistic truths women have known forever. He has given credence to thoughts women are called "crazy" for thinking: that some men actively want to rape. That they applaud each other for it, even. 

Beneath the surface, sexism, sexual harassment, and discrimination have festered in our country like a disease. However, I believe at the core, this is not how we would like to see ourselves. It’s not even how we would like to exist, nor is it the best way to foster sex, if that is, in fact, Trump’s end goal. 

My patriotism stems from the belief that while perhaps we have created and live in a country of inequality, we are always striving for that "more perfect union," a phrase itself tinged with sexuality waiting to be unleashed.

Mr. Trump, we are striving for consensual "pussy-grabbing," between people of all genders. We are striving for open discussion of sexuality, “a dyke for president ... a person with AIDS for president ... a fag for vice president, ” as Zoe Leonard wrote in her popular 1992 poem. We are striving to be able to speak radical truths without hatred and aggression.

While it would have been nice to reach this place of radical truth without being faced with brutality in the form of a presidential candidate, sometimes it is only under the force of such brutality that we rise up, not as who we wish to be, but as who we actually are. So thank you, Trump, for making me great again. For allowing me to realize my own greatness in the face of that which repulses me. 

ELIZABETH DALEY is an Advocate contributor covering feminism. She can be found on Twitter @FakePretty.

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