By now, you’ve probably heard or heard of the tape of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump with Billy Bush. In case you missed it, here’s a delightful snippet:
Trump: 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.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
I’m not going to lay out all the things wrong with this and with Trump’s apologists. People much smarter than me are already doing that and, honestly, I don’t have the time or interest. But also, I am a book person who writes for a book site, where we talk about books. So let’s talk about books — one particular book featured in the below meme, to be precise.
I’ve seen this pathetic attempt at cleverness shared in different forms, including hundreds of twitter accounts passing off exact quotes as their own original thought. Initially, I dismissed it as the desperate grasping of straws by frantic sycophants it is, but after seeing it a couple too many times and a little nudging from my editor, here we are. So let’s talk about why this comparison is utter malarkey.
It’s Not the Words
Virtually no one — certainly no one who reads erotica — is upset by Trump’s “naughty” words. I was raised by a sailor and a mechanic. I have made seasoned construction foremen blush with my own words. “Dirty” words are not the problem.
The culture they create and promote is.
Trump’s words aren’t “just” words, either. They’re lines straight out of a sexual predator’s playbook. They indicate, encourage, and excuse actions defined, very clearly, as sexual assault.
If Trump had said “grab them by their delicate lady parts,” this would still be a huge problem. Believing that it is perfectly okay for grown men to laugh about sexually assaulting women is monstrous. It’s called rape culture and it is the problem, no matter which words are used.
Not to mention, if you want to get fact checky, the word “pussy” does not even appear in Fifty Shades of Grey. Take it from the lady James, herself:
— E L James (@E_L_James) October 9, 2016
Consent is an agreement between two or more people to engage in sexual activity. Consent is the bold, clear line between sexual activity and sexual assault. It’s also what’s missing in Trump’s recorded statements.
Consent is not immutable nor universal. A woman who enjoys sex at one particular time with one particular person has the right to say no at any given time to any given person, including those she has already had sex with. The people sharing and defending this meme are saying that because a woman has done nothing more than read a book with rough sex in it, she does not have the right to object to unwanted sexual advances from anyone. Because they have read words on a page arranged in a certain order, they are not allowed to be disgusted by the idea of Trump’s slobbery lips pressed unwanted against their own body.
That is unconscionable.
It should also be noted for those who haven’t read the book (which, I’m assuming, is everyone sharing this meme) that Ana signs a literal contract, providing clear, written consent. I’ll acknowledge that there is still discussion on whether or not that’s enough, and refrain from delving further into that topic, but it’s certainly more than Trump permits with his “don’t even wait.”
Reality vs. Fiction
Donald Trump is a real, actual person trying to be Leader of the Free World. He wants to hold the highest office in a country that prides itself on being the “greatest nation in the world.” His words are indicative of the ingrained opinions and attitudes of a man who not only exists in the real world, but wants to be one of its most powerful people. We have real proof of an aspiring Commander In Chief expressly advocating forcibly touching women against their will for his own pleasure.
Christian Grey is a fictional character in a fictional book, which women willingly read with a full understanding of its fictional status.
This meme implies that women do not have the intelligence to tell the difference between a fictional fantasy and assault. Comments on these posts are saying 100 million women are too dumb to separate fiction from fact.
No one would imply that if a person enjoyed The Hurt Locker, they have no right to object to being forced in close proximity of a bomb as it ticks down. Men do not volunteer to be shot at every time they watch an action movie. Fans of The Godfather don’t automatically sign up to have a horse head placed in their bed. Everyone understands this, except when it comes to women having control over what happens to their body.
This meme is a pathetic attempt to deflect the blame onto women and gaslight them. It is the newest form of “she was asking for it” and “why did you flirt with him if you didn’t want to have sex with him?” and “did you see what she was wearing?” It’s taking aim at an easy target, a much-maligned but extremely popular book loved primarily by women, to slut shame readers into silence and submission.
This is a stupid meme about a very serious subject that deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, not snotty, half-baked false equivalencies. The Presidential nominee of a major party is caught on tape bragging about committing criminal sexual assault and his supporters’ best defense is, “yeah, but some women read a book that is almost, kinda, but not really like what he said.” I don’t want to live in a country where reading a book — any book — means I give up my most basic human rights. So let’s all make sure America doesn’t become that country, because I really don’t want to move to Canada. (I think 70 degrees is “cold.”)
This may surprise you: While I have taken to Book Riot to defend my beloved romance genre (twice), I’m actually not even a fan of the Fifty Shades books. It’s just not my thing. However, I believe the people who have enjoyed them have every right to and they certainly shouldn’t be expected to give up future rights to free speech and, you know, not be sexually assaulted.
In conclusion, I leave you with my favorite words ever written by E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades series:
@JennyDornan Oh boy… They are nothing alike, though I do wish Donald Trump was fictional.
— E L James (@E_L_James) October 9, 2016
You and me both, EL.