At Sunday night's debate, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had no choice but to reckon with comments he made in a recently leaked video in which he talks about grabbing a woman "by the pussy." Though Trump owned up to his mistakes in an official apology video early Saturday morning, shortly after, he issued a statement calling the conversation "locker room banter."
And on the debate stage, he stuck by it.
But those familiar with the trappings of rape culture weren't so easily placated. Twitter user Alison Flierl pointed out that Trump's comments are part of a spectrum of attitudes and behaviors that normalize sexual assault and allow it to thrive — like in the case of Brock Turner.
"Dismissing Trump's behavior as locker room talk is why we have young men like Brock Turner," she wrote during the debate.
In his apology, Trump argued there's a "big difference" between words and actions. His comments, he suggested, were far less harmful than the actions of Bill Clinton, who Trump says has "actually abused" women. If that's so, Trump would likely see leaps and bounds between himself and Turner, who was found guilty on three felony charges of assault for violating an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.
Trump's repeated insistence that his comments are nothing more than "locker room banter" seems to suggest he believes his words are empty. Since Trump believes he would never act on them — though allegations against him say otherwise — he seems to think the words themselves have less weight.
But, as Mic reported on Friday, Trump's remarks constitute the very definition of sexual assault: "Sexual contact without a person's explicit, affirmative consent is rape."
Even if Trump never had and never planned on doing the things he described in the leaked video, his comments contribute to a culture where men see women foremost as objects to which they're entitled — objects they can treat however they like. And, as history has shown, they're likely to get away with it. Turner's dad dismissed his son's assault of a woman as "20 minutes of action." In the media, Turner was continually referred to as a "former Stanford swimmer" instead of a sexual assault convict.
"Locker room banter" is just another one of these euphemisms — a way to minimize the consequences of comments that make light of sexual assault.
And if the Republican nominee for president can get away with it, what's stopping anyone else?
Oct. 10, 2016, 2:51 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.