A Rape Joke Told to Thunderous Applause

In this election cycle, it’s been a battle of pundits and forces some tend to view as apocalyptic (there’s been threats of actual demons), and a thousand takes written on the embers of American values.

This has been, in many ways, the election year the meme gains dominance. From the embattled trenches of Internet subculture and your racist aunts Facebook page, comes a menagerie of “sassy” sayings and comebacks for “liberal whackadoodles.”

One of these is this gem:

The meme is based in part on the E.L. James “mommy porn” novel, a genre that speaks less to a plot laden with mothers and more an audience of middle-aged women reading with bated breath, and a Donald Trump video that professed his interest in grabbing women in their genitalia because he’s rich.

One of these things is a trashcan fire of idiocy who perpetuates and promotes sexual assault. The other is made of paper.

Please don’t think I’m defending the 50 Shades books. They’re ridiculous drivel, dirty novels dressed up in questionable BDSM that titilate. But they’re also fantasy. Some people like unicorns, some people like silver-tied billionaires with dungeon-like playrooms whose masochistic proclivities can be “cured” with the power of love.

Fiction is as fiction does.

To call 50 Shades of Grey problematic is an understatement, and people far more versed in BDSM culture have taken the time to elucidate the issues therein. But at the end of the day 50 Shades of Grey is a work of fantasy and Donald Trump, unfortunately, is not.

Why would women who readily curl into a cozy armchair, Kindle in one hand, wine glass in the other, be alright with the words of E.L. James spicy billionaire Christian Grey but balk at the “naughty words” of one Mr. Trump? Clearly these women are just fickle. That, for those whose attention has waned, is sarcasm.

50 Shades of Grey is a work of fantasy and Donald Trump, unfortunately, is not.

The issue is consent. The relationship between Christian and Ana was one of mutual consent. One of the greatest issues in the novel is when Ana does not exercise her safe word and Christian pushes her too far. It is significant enough of an issue that they break up over the situation. Why? Because even in a BDSM novel as poorly written as 50 Shades she is aware that the most important facet of a healthy sexual relationship is consent. Sex as a whole, and individual acts, are defined by enthusiastic consent. Christian did not have Ana’s, this is the crux of their falling out. Ana and Christian are two consenting adults exploring the boundaries of sexual role play with each other.

When Donald Trump talks about women in the much-maligned Access Hollywood tapes, he isn’t talking about a consensual relationship with a partner. He’s talking about grabbing a woman by her genitalia because she sexually excites him. Because he wants her. Because she’ll let him because of his wealth. His concept of their sexual encounter (and make no mistake, grabbing someone by the “pussy” is a sexual act) is centered on his own wants and needs to the detriment of others. This is the heart of the meme’s joke.

You may now laugh.

When I entered college, women on campus were invited to an event. Held in an old church, we sat in long pews and were told to look to our left. To our right. Over the course of the next four years, statistics held, one in three of us would be sexually assaulted. I sat alone in my pew.

I think of those women when I hear these kinds of comments — the women who were flashed in public as children, the women who have been groped or raped or stalked. I think of those women that Trump must’ve grabbed, the consent he never obtained. He is his own rape joke, told out on a national stage to thunderous applause.