It took the election of the first U.S. black president to remind us of deep currents of racism running through American society. But there’s something Americans fear more than an African American president - a female one.
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However racist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic we Americans are, Trump has reminded us that there’s a sizable portion of us who live in mortal dread of mothers, sisters, wives, grandmothers, even the girl next door. What #GropeGate, the tape leaked to The Washington Post on Friday, reveals is something even more insidious than another “ism,” more pathological than a societal attitude and far creepier than traditional sexism— a full blown psychological disorder known as gynophobia.
Trump’s women pathology
The American Psychological Association defines it as a debilitating fear of women, and like other phobias, is obsessive in nature and often leads to fantasies of conquering the object of fear.
Look no further than Trump’s language when referring to women he deems a threat. “Blood coming out of her wherever,” he said last fall, alluding to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, after the Republican debate. “Too disgusting to talk about,” he said of Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during her the Democratic debate in January. As if his fear of women’s bodily fluids wasn’t enough, Trump had to diminish his opponent by using a word synonymous with rape culture and never before used by a candidate aspiring for the highest office in American politics - “schlonged.” And that’s just last year.
Women are his for the raping
So why are any of us really surprised by the Access Hollywood tape? On it, Trump doesn’t just objectify women in the classic manner of reducing her to body parts—“She’s all legs,” “big fake tits.” His is a particular form of sexist talk whose sole aim is to justify preying on women.
The most shocking thing about the Trump tape leaked to the Post on Friday is not the “lewd” or “vulgar” language the Republican candidate uses when he boasts of being entitled to “grab ‘em by the pussy,” but that he’s so shamelessly transparent in his belief that it’s his right to sexually assault any woman he desires. The thrice-married Donald Trump makes it clear that women are his for the raping.
Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a “terrific guy”
While he claimed in his non-apology apology Friday night that the man caught on tape 11 years ago with former Access Hollywood anchor and Today Show co-host Billy Bush (nephew of former U.S. President George W. Bush) does not reflect the real Donald Trump, it does. Just ask his close buddy, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, whom Trump has called a “terrific guy.”
His is the name you’re not likely to hear at tonight’s presidential debate, but he’ll be all over the news tomorrow when John Connolly and James Patterson’s book “Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice That Money Can Buy,” hits bookstores.
In 2005, the year Trump was caught on tape bragging of his right to assault any woman, including married ones like anchorwoman Nancy O’Dell (“I did try and fuck her”), Epstein was first investigated for sex trafficking of underage girls. He was arrested three years later in Palm Beach County, Florida, after investigators spent months sifting through his trash, interviewing witnesses and underage girls lured from the poorest neighborhoods in the area into a ring of sex slavery where they were allegedly sexually violated, battered and threatened into silence.
Private investigators had gathered enough evidence to indict Epstein for several felonies, including sexual molestation and four counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, according to court records. But in the end, the man whose private jet was always stocked with underage girls and dubbed the “Lolita Express” or “Air Fuck One,” and whose private Caribbean island was the backdrop to orgies attended by royals, politicians, businessmen and celebrities earning the moniker “Sex Slave Island,” only was charged with one count of soliciting prostitution, is a Level 3 registered sex offender, deemed a “threat to public safety,” and served a grand total of 13 months behind bars.
40 young women victims amid allegations of underage rape
According to the book, court filings by Federal investigators “identified 40 young women who can be characterized as victims.” Among them is Jane Doe, the plaintiff who withdrew her lawsuit against Trump in September and re-filed it last week with a new witness, alleging he forced her to perform sexual acts four times in 1994 when she was 13 years old.
The claim alleges that the fourth time, Trump tied her to a bed and raped her in a “savage sexual attack,” as she pleaded for him to stop. He also struck her in the face and warned her that if she didn’t remain silent, her family would be “physically harmed if not killed.” He also threatened that if she said anything, she would disappear like “Maria,” a 12-year-old girl who was forced into the third incident with Trump and who hadn’t been seen since.
Jane Doe’s court filings also included a sworn statement that Epstein also raped her and “attempted to strike me about the head with his closed fists while he angrily screamed at me that he, Defendant Epstein, should have been the one who took my virginity, not Defendant Trump . . .” These were corroborated by a witness, Tiffany Doe, a party planner for Epstein from 1991-2000, who submitted a sworn declaration in which she discussed how it was her job to solicit adolescents to work for Epstein’s parties, recruited Jane Doe from the Port Authority, and personally witnessed the four sexual encounters detailed in the lawsuit.
Given Trump’s stunning admission on tape, as he pops Tic-Tacs in preparation for his next prey, that he can’t help himself and just starts kissing away, these claims seem even more credible. The first hearing against both Trump and Epstein is set for December 16 in a U.S. District Court in New York, more than a month after the presidential elections. And though Trump hardly needs any more ammo against him at this point, it’s worth noting nonetheless.
Money and influence have, until now, bought them immunity
The case is a prime example of what this election is really about—how America regards women. Jane Doe represents the powerless, Trump, the entitled, as summed up by his now famous statement caught on tape: “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” Or just listen to the way Trump and Bush refer to actress Arianne Zucker, who’s waiting to escort them to the soap opera set. “It looks good.” Not she. It.
After they get off the bus, Bush encourages Zucker to give Trump a hug. It’s the most stomach-turning moment of the tape. Bush acts like the de-facto pimp in a transaction that’s all about male power and female humiliation. It’s a clear case of predator and prey, with Bush and Trump in on some vile joke and Zucker left unawares, like the 40 underage girls the Feds have identified in the case against Epstein, but who remain victimized by an old guard of men whose money and influence have bought them immunity from their crimes.
There are those who will say Bill Clinton was just as guilty as Trump in his philandering. But Clinton is not the one currently summoned to court in two months for a rape allegation, nor is he running for President.
The long GOP war on women
For now, the echoes of the leaked tape have prompted a flurry of exits among many prominent GOP leaders from Team Trump. Some are clamoring for Pence’s ascension to the top of the ticket. But Trump, in his typical fashion, is digging his nails in deeper and refusing to step aside. And why should he? The GOP and Trump deserve each other.
Trump is the culmination of their backwards, decades’ long war on women. And Pence would be perhaps an even more pernicious warrior against our gender. The proudly evangelical Pence has tried to pass the most draconian anti-woman legislation since becoming governor of Indiana. In 2014, Gov. Pence refused to comply with President Obama’s rules aimed to reduce prison rape. This past March, he tried to pass a law inhibiting women’s access to abortion based on the disability, race or gender of the fetus that thankfully was overturned by a federal judge. He also has slashed funding to Planned Parenthood, prompting an outbreak of HIV in his state. And those are just a few examples.
While many have derided last week’s vice presidential debate, it did yield one of the truest moments of this entire election season. Addressing their different views on abortion, Democratic VP nominee Sen. Tim Kaine asked Pence: “Why don’t you trust women?”
It’s a question we should all be asking Trump and the GOP.
Marisa Fox-Bevilacqua is a New York based freelance writer who has written for the New York Times, Haaretz, The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Elle, Billboard, InStyle, and Redbook. Follow her on Twitter: @MarisaFox