Donald Trump has made more than a few troubling, derogatory comments about women over the years. With his sexist attitudes toward women well-documented throughout the campaign, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the GOP presidential nominee boasted in 2005 that he "can do anything" to beautiful women — including kiss, grope and "grab them by the pussy" — because he is a celebrity. The Washington Post released audio of the conversation on Friday, leading Trump to issue an "apology" that minimized his comments as "locker room banter."
While on set filming a segment for Access Hollywood, Trump gloated to then-host Billy Bush that he "[doesn't] even wait" to start kissing a woman if he finds her attractive. The leaked audio also includes Trump describing how he "tried to fuck" a married woman, whom he "moved on ... like a bitch."
"You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them," Trump said. "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 them by the pussy. You can do anything."
Unlike previous examples of the candidate's chauvinism, though, his newly unearthed comments aren't just objectifying and misogynistic. Whether he was bullshitting or accurately describing the way he interacts with women, Trump's portrayal of forcibly kissing and groping women by their genitalia without waiting — for a hello, a sign of interest or anything resembling consent — is the definition of sexual assault. Sexual contact without a person's explicit, affirmative consent is rape.
The candidate's insistence in the tape that he can do whatever he wants with women because he's a star typifies the male entitlement and victim-blaming at the heart of rape culture. It's the sort of thinking which has underpinned sexual assault by college athletes like Brock Turner, whose status as a Stanford swimmer helped him evade a lengthy sentence for sexual assault, and by men like Bill Cosby, whose fame helped him victimize dozens of women for decades.
Outrage over the leaked audio has led many media outlets to assume this could be the end of the Trump campaign, but that is unlikely. Trump has made it this far in the election even after calling women "bimbos," "pigs" and "dogs," saying women who have abortions should be punished and questioning pregnant women's abilities in the workplace. Men like Trump come to believe they can behave as they do — exploitatively, without fear of punishment — because they can get caught more than once and still become the Republican nominee for president.