How do you think the current election, in particular, has changed the national conversation around sexual assault and objectification? "It's been really incredible to see. After the book came out, and I was talking about all this stuff, and then everything that’s happening with Trump and his accusers, it both horrifies and heartens me. It horrifies me that this is still happening on such a global scale and that certain men get away with this, and that women put up with this. But it heartens me that women are starting to feel like they can talk about it, that they can come forward, and there is some sort of support structure for them. "I remember when the Access Hollywood tape came out, and pundits on CNN immediately labeled it sexual assault. They had the right language. I don’t think that would have been the case five or 10 years ago. I really don’t. I think that the work that feminists did, especially feminists online, really laid the groundwork for a moment like this, in which people are talking about this in a serious way. It's like, no, this is not normal behavior for men. Absolutely not, this is not 'locker room talk.' This is sexual assault.
I think that the work that feminists did, especially feminists online, really laid the groundwork for a moment like this, in which people are talking about this in a serious way.
Do you think that the fact that this election has involved such frank dialogue about sexual assault has forced men to reckon with these issues themselves? "I've been really glad to see so many men come out and say, no, absolutely not, this is not normal male behavior. This is not how men talk. Because one of the biggest lies that bolsters rape culture and that makes assaulters and abusers believe that they're in the right is that all men would hurt women if given the chance — boys will be boys and that sort of stuff. "So it's important that people hear men say that. I've also heard from a lot of men who say they understood that sexual harassment was a problem, that women got sexually harassed. What they didn’t necessarily understand, up until now, was just how incessant it was. That there’s an unforgiving, never-ending-ness of it, that it happens so often, that it can be so bad. And I think that that realization for men has brought about a big shift." I’ve heard people say that what Trump said on that Access Hollywood tape was “just words” and therefore not a big deal. Whether or not Trump committed the alleged assaults he’s accused of, how do you think rhetoric like Trump’s — so-called “locker room talk” — influences women in this country? "It's horrifying and scaring us, because so many of us have been grabbed in that way, so many of us have been assaulted in that way. When we hear someone talking like that, we understand that it's not ‘just words’ because it's the experience of our lives. So we know better than anyone that these aren't ‘just words’; these are things that happen to women." Do you think there are generational differences in the way women interpret Trump’s language? Is his way of speaking more normal to an older generation? "I don’t think so. I've spoken to my mother about this, I've spoken to other older women, and I think that older women and younger women alike are horrified by his comments. Do I think that his comments would have been considered more acceptable 10 or 20 years ago? Yeah, I do. I think that there would have been less outrage, because there was less of an understanding of what assault is. "And the other thing that’s been really interesting to see is people understanding and talking about the fact that sexual assault and abusive behavior is not just grabbing someone's genitals or breasts. There are all sorts of ways that men cross women's physical boundaries, and I think that it's really important that we're having a conversation about that, because for so long it was like, okay, he kissed you, and you didn’t want him to and you tried to push him away. Big deal, at least he didn’t rape you. There's this idea that if it's not a violent, physical, penetrative assault, then it's not really sexual assault. And, of course, that’s not true."
There's this idea that if it's not a violent, physical, penetrative assault, then it's not really sexual assault. And, of course, that’s not true.
"Ultimately, it's about bodily autonomy, and the ability to have humanity and dignity and control over your own body. And both issues deal with that in really profound ways." And why do you think people have such a hard time seeing that link?
"Unfortunately, I think it's because still, to this day, we don’t see women as full human beings. Hence the name of the book, Sex Object. We still very much objectify women, we don’t see women as full people, and that’s reflected both in the fact that there is so much sexualized violence against women and that we have policies that enshrine that idea into law. Once we're pregnant, we're not really people; we're just missiles carrying a future baby. So I think that, broadly, we haven't really grappled with the reality of that dehumanization yet."
We still very much objectify women, we don’t see women as full people, and that’s reflected both in the fact that there is so much sexualized violence against women and that we have policies that enshrine that idea into law.