Andy Schmookler: Insurrection
Given Donald Trump’s sexually promiscuous nature, a question arises: Why would someone in his position who surely could get as many willing beautiful women as he wanted– with the money, power, and fame he’s long possessed, plus his alpha male manner — choose to go after unwilling women?
(There’s every reason to believe* the women who have come forward because:
- Trump himself has boasted – both on the 2005 tape, and on Howard Stern’s program – of doing the very things the women describe;
- the women giving these accounts seem entirely credible; and
- Trump’s denials lack credibility, as we have all witnessed Trump issuing patently false denials – e.g. his denying in the second debate his having encouraged people to seek out the former Miss Universe’s (non-existent) “sex tape,” and his denying in the first debate that he’d ever claimed that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, when the tweets contradicting his denials are there for everyone to see.)
The question of why he would force himself on unconsenting women raises other questions.
For example, it would be good to know from the women Trump groped: how did Trump react when they responded negatively to his uninvited sexual advances?
1) Did he seem disappointed, as if he expected or hoped for a more positive response?
All the women we have heard from were disturbed by Trump’s conduct. Are there women who would be OK with such uninvited sexual advances?
If yes, then Trump might be using sexual assault as a kind of recruiting tool, a means to identify those beautiful women willing to establish a sexual relationship with him on his abusive terms.
Trump has apparently engaged in ongoing abusive relationships. His first wife, Ivana, claimed in documents related to their divorce that Trump “increasingly verbally abused and demeaned [her] so as to obtain her submission to his wishes and desires” and that he “humiliated and verbally assaulted” her.
So might Trump sexually assault women to identify those who will accept such treatment?
2) But such a taste for abusive relationships would raise another question for the women he’s groped: Did Trump seem to get gratification from your distress?
Trump’s public behavior in other, non-sexual domains makes that seem altogether likely.
In Trump’s encounters with these beautiful women, sex seems to be the tool by which he displays his dominance by humiliating the other person. But we’ve seen his penchant for achieving the same goals in non-sexual situations: how else to describe his treatment of his Republican primary opponents, like “little Marco” and “low energy” Jeb, and “Lyin’ Ted”?
We’ve heard that Trump can be charming. But his way of coming on to these women shows no sign of charm. Every man knows that making a sexual connection with a woman requires a process of establishing trust and intimacy. Startling a woman by forcing a kiss on her, or by grabbing her abruptly in intimate and vulnerable places is virtually certain to fail to establish sexual intimacy.
Such an almost sure-fire losing strategy suggests that what Trump is after, in these situations, is not really about sex. It seems, rather, to be about using humiliation to demonstrate his power.
But before concluding that the humiliation of the women is the pay-off for him in these sexual encounters –I’d ask these women one more question:
3) Did Trump seem aware of how profoundly disturbing for you was your experience of his sexual assault?
Many have noted Trump’s apparent utter lack of compassion. So one wonders: how much it is that he doesn’t care about the feelings of other people, and how much he simply does not recognize what other people are feeling.
When he famously said, on the 2005 tape, that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” how did he understand in what spirit “they let you do it”? Did he think that because he’s a star, they are glad to get whatever he feels like imposing on them? Or did he understand that his celebrity gave him a power they felt unable to confront?
My guess is that his boast sought to conjure up the first version, because that emphasizes his glorious stardom, but that he understands that it is really the second, that his power enables him to get away with hurting the women.
As a candidate, Trump has shown himself to be a shrewd reader of his supporters’ feelings. Which leads me to bet he’s fully aware of the hurt he inflicts on the women he assaults.
*And a Quinnipiac poll has found that “the majority of voters surveyed in a new Quinnipiac University poll believe that Donald Trump sexually assaulted multiple women…”
Andy Schmookler – who was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District in 2012 – is the author most recently of WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World – and How We Can Defeat It.