Column: I've never heard Donald Trump's 'locker room talk'

Calls for Trump to step down after leak

Donald Trump called it locker room talk. It’s not.

I’ve been cadging quotes in locker rooms for more than 40 years, and I have never heard anything like the things Trump said in 2005 when he didn’t know a hot mic was recording his conversation withAccess Hollywood’s Billy Bush.

That’s the first thing I told my wife Friday evening when we heard about all this. I wanted her to know this is not how men talk when they’re together. They tell bawdy jokes sometimes. They make unkind comments sometimes. They talk about sexual conquests sometimes. But they simply do not talk about grabbing women by their genitals — bragging about sexual assault in the immunity of their inner sanctums.

It’s possible, I suppose, that athletes speak like this when reporters are not around. If they do, and teammates allow it to pass, they are no better than Bush, quietly complicit in a culture of malignant misogyny. But I simply don’t believe locker rooms are home to the sort of tawdry, repugnant, malevolent antagonism on display in that recording.

No one is saying locker rooms are paragons of progressivism. Gay slurs have polluted them for decades. That’s only now beginning to change, and the world is better for it. But it is worse for what it heard this weekend.

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte embellished when he told Bush a gun was pointed at his head in Rio. Perhaps Trump embellished, too, when he brags to Bush that stars can do anything. But he sounds very much like a man who has done what he says he’s done, who believes that his power and money allow him license to do as he chooses no matter who is hurt.

I often spend time chatting with other men when our wives are out of earshot. (The beach and the golf course are no more than a locker room without walls.) We talk about sports and beer for hours. My wife will ask what we talked about. When I tell her, she just sighs. Men don’t talk about anything real, she’ll say. And it’s hard for me to argue. We’re idiots. But I have never in my life heard anything like the smarmy discourse on that recording.

The things Trump said, the things that are echoing all over the internet and the TV dial this weekend, are deeply demeaning to women, profoundly so. But remember this: When he passes it off as mere locker-room banter, he demeans men, too.

Erik Brady was a founding member of USA TODAY in 1982 and has been covering sports for more than 40 years.

PHOTOS | Donald Trump


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