Welcome to the Locker Room
Donald Trump has laughed off his comments about grabbing women by the genitals as “locker room talk.” One of his weasely defenders, the C-list actor Scott Baio, said that women need to realize that this is how men talk when women are not around.
Maybe some men. But definitely not all men. And I would suggest that it is actually a minority.
I was in a fraternity in college, and I spend seven years in the military after college. So I spend a good deal of time in situations where there were no women around. Maybe not in an actual locker room, but pretty close.
I admit that in these situations many men do say sexist and inappropriate things about women. From my experience of over ten years I’d say that a majority of men might make a crude comment about a women, like “nice ass” or “I’d do her.” But only a few would make the kind of degrading and extended comments that Donald Trump made to Billy Bush.
The first thing to note is that most of the time in a situation where there is a group of guys together, most of the conversation is not about women or sex. Most of the talk is about sports or the news. I college there was a good deal of talk about college. In the military most of the talk was about our jobs. If we were planning a mission, the talk was about the mission.
But there is also no doubt that in many of these situations women and sex would come up. In a group of a dozen guys, there was typically one guy who would do most of the bragging. Occasionally two guys would get into a competition, but more often than not, one guy would dominate. Clearly the Alpha Male, or Alpha Male wanna-be. Clearly Donald Trump.
There would usually be one or two guys that would add in, often encouraging the Alpha Male. They were the minions. Think Billy Bush.
About half of the remaining guys would laugh along. Often it was nervous or uncomfortable laughter. These were the bystanders. They wanted to fit in, be part of the group. They didn’t want to raise the ire of the Alpha Male. That was me.
And then there were usually a couple of guys that didn’t say anything. They sat there trying to ignore it. That wasn’t me, so I can only guess at what they were thinking. Some may have been appalled, others completely uninterested in the whole male bonding thing. But again I have no idea.
On a few occasions, and it was on very few occasions, someone would challenge the Alpha Male. Usually when this happened it was in a joking manner, a laughing “you’re full of shit.” When this happened a minion would usually jump in to defend the Alpha Male. If the challenger persisted the Alpha Male would respond. And if the challenger continued, a minion would change the subject to deescalate the situation and protect the Alpha Male.
On even fewer occasions the challenger would be direct, as in “shut the fuck up, we’re all sick of hearing your shit.” In those rare situations the Alpha Male would in fact shut up.
In both the fraternity and in the military the presumptive Alpha Male and his minions would form their own clique. They were never very popular. They were never really leaders, and they were never really Alpha Males. They were big mouth sexist creeps. Or weasels. And most of the other men knew it.
So do “guys” talk like Donald Trump and Billy Bush on the bus? Sure some do, but most don’t.
But I think the guys that do talk like that, men like Donald Trump and probably Scott Baio, soak up the praise of the minions, and hear the laughter of the bystanders, and think that everyone is joining in the fun. They’re not, because the reality is that most men don’t talk like that.