Essex column: Real men aren’t gropers
Many efforts are underway in America to help boys grow up to be good, respectful men and for girls and young women to be comfortable asserting control over their bodies and to know that they have every right to not be measured by their appearance, to not need to tolerate catcalls and come-ons.
So imagine how difficult it is to teach budding young men that such conduct is wrong in programs such as Glenwood Springs High’s “Coaching Boys into Men” project when a presidential nominee is known for doing all those things and brushes it off as a “distraction” and “locker room banter.”
I was lucky, I guess. My father, who was not rich or powerful, never exhibited disrespect or entitlement toward women.
He tenderly kissed my mother goodbye every morning and kissed her when he came home every night. It was a behavior that I noticed, that stuck with me and that I have replicated.
How men behave and talk teaches their sons and nephews and neighbor kids how to behave and talk. The words we use reflect our thinking and influence our actions. One of the best ways to change behavior is to train ourselves to use language that reflects the way we want to act.
Perhaps it was because of how Dad treated Mom and because I never heard him comment about a woman’s appearance or anatomy — never, not once — that I was a little dismayed when I was exposed to locker room banter in middle school, and have never been comfortable joining in.
In August, I wrote that Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric toward immigrants had given people permission to say the things they learned as adolescents are inappropriate. I didn’t emphasize his language about women, but on Friday, it became clear that, no matter how the election comes out, Trump is not done teaching all the wrong things.
I don’t think his cravenly desperate apology successfully wiped away his words in a 2005 recording in which he bragged how he conducts himself toward women he finds attractive — which essentially described criminal sexual contact.
It’s not an excuse that some other testosterone-overdosed pig said and did even worse things, even if that pig once was president. Bill Clinton’s conduct doesn’t excuse Trump’s, nor does that of JFK, FDR, Warren Harding or Thomas Jefferson.
That we have had presidents in the past who have used their power to seduce or coerce women surely doesn’t mean that, eyes wide open, we want another one. I hope, if for no other reason, for our sons and daughters, that we want to be better than that.
Trump’s 2005 comments, which fit a clear pattern of how he regards women, put him in a league with creeps like Anthony Weiner.
And no, nothing Hillary Clinton has done is comparable in any way. Let me predict the Facebook comments on this column: Benghazi, email, Benghazi, email, Benghazi, etc.
BS. Benghazi was a tragic terror attack not unlike the 13 attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts that left 60 dead under George W. Bush, or the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing that killed 241 American servicemen under Ronald Reagan.
Every president’s and every secretary of state’s tenure in the modern world will include foreign policy failings, terror attacks and errors in judgment. Thinking that those things would end in a Trump presidency is just delusional — look at the failings in his business record, the guy who enriched himself as he bankrupted casinos and still lost nearly $1 billion in a single year.
I’ve never heard anyone say, “I want to be a terrible role model for children. I want my son to think he has a right to women’s bodies, and I want my daughter to think that men have a right to lay hands all over her, or whatever, as they please.”
Or, as Trump, then newly married to his third wife, put it:
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful … 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. Grab them by the [crotch]. You can do anything.”
If you’re offended by the language, I’ll note that it’s not mine but that of a man (by genitalia if not emotional development) who seeks to be leader of the free world.
In the realm of sexual conduct, a lot of people make errors.
There’s a huge difference between an indiscretion or affair — which Trump has had openly and is not the issue here — and a pattern of demeaning, entitled, predatory conduct toward the opposite sex.
And, come on, there’s also a huge difference between being a predator and being the predator’s spouse. Ask yourself: Is it common for a betrayed spouse to blame and even attack the other woman or other man? Is it understandable? Would you?
Back to my dad.
The behavior he modeled helped me teach my son to be respectful toward women, which, by every account and observation I have, was successful. As men, that’s surely among the most important things we do — to try to raise good men. It is one of the most respectful things we can do toward women.
Now we have still more evidence that rich and powerful doesn’t equal good and has nothing to do with respect.
Randy Essex is publisher and editor of the Post Independent.