What we can learn about consent from Stormy Daniels’ sex with Trump

sunny kumar / Flickr How Stormy Daniels Out Trumped Trump...
sunny kumar / Flickr

When Stormy Daniels sat down with Anderson Cooper for her highly rated 60 Minutes interview, she gave us way more details about sex with our president than I wanted to know. (I didn’t need that visual of Stormy spanking Donald Trump with his pants down, thanks.)  However, there are some other sordid details she shared that gives us a look into how Trump does sex—and why it’s in everyone’s best interest to do the exact opposite.

There’s no question that the biggest part of this presidential scandal is the subsequent cover-up of the extramarital affair. However, there’s something important in her description of her encounter with Trump worth talking about—especially during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the #metoo era.

I’m not saying that Trump sexually assaulted Daniels—she said very clearly that it wasn’t the case and it’s not my place to argue otherwise. I do think his behavior is related to the practices and beliefs that normalize and facilitate sexual violence. In this case, look at how Trump initiated sex with her. He doesn’t ask; he just acts—and Daniels clearly felt cornered.

After dinner, Daniels went to the bathroom and found Trump in his underwear waiting for her on the bed. The transcript:

Anderson Cooper: And when you saw that, what went through your mind?

Stormy Daniels: I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, “Ugh, here we go.” (LAUGH) And I just felt like maybe– (LAUGH) it was sort of– I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone’s room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, “well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.”

Yikes. Would anyone want to have sex with someone with that mindset? “Well … bad things happen” should not be going through anyone’s mind right before having sex.

Anderson Cooper: Did you want to have sex with him?

Stormy Daniels: No. But I didn’t– I didn’t say no. I’m not a victim, I’m not—

Anderson Cooper: It was entirely consensual.

Stormy Daniels: Oh, yes, yes.

The absence of no does not equal yes. This is why embracing “yes mean yes”—also known as practicing affirmative consent—is so important. Affirmative consent means it’s your responsibility to ensure that potential sexual partners proactively are saying yes—and thus consenting—to sexual contact. It’s the standard for consent on California college campuses, according to a law that defines it as:

“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

Seems like a reasonable expectation, right? It feels fair to urge people to be mindful of others’ boundaries and to make sure there isn’t a no; it’s about getting an enthusiastic yes.

Trump clearly doesn’t play by that rules—and I don’t think it’s a mistake. Remember his “locker room talk” caught on an Access Hollywood hot mic? He said he doesn’t even wait to ask before kissing women because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” “You can do anything,” he boasted after talking about grabbing crotches without consent. Someone who brags about getting away with whatever they want doesn’t care about someone else’s yes or no. I’m sure he knows that he wouldn’t get many (if any) yeses if he asked for consent; that’s why he doesn’t bother.

During the interview, Daniels describes sex with Trump as an act of obligation rather than desire. Trump may have had the desire, but it’d be safe to say that he thought it was an obligation, too. Yes, Daniels consented to a private dinner with Trump, but that doesn’t automatically mean that she must consent to sex with Trump. This contractual arrangement very much falls in line with Trump’s general attitude toward relationships and governance: it’s only worth his time if he gets something out of it.

Over 20 women have come forward with horrid stories of a range of sexual predatory actions by Donald Trump. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. His disregard for consent is well-documented. He’s a man who just takes with no concern for how it may affect people.

Sex shouldn’t be assumed and it certainly shouldn’t be seen as an obligation. Trump is an awful businessman, a horrible president, and a terrible husband. He’s definitely an awful sexual partner.

So as we wait for the legal shoe to drop in the  Stormy Daniels case, let’s remember this important takeaway: when it comes to sex, don’t be anything like Trump.

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