|The Donald and ex-wife Ivana|
Donald Trump continues to rile the GOP presidential candidate clown car but not in the way that The Donald may have envisioned. Now, Trump finds himself akin to the insane GOP senate candidate who brought the term "legitimate rape" to the political discourse. With the Daily Beast having issued a timely reminder that Ivana Trump accused her ex-husband of raping her in 1989 during her divorce deposition, Trump has unleashed debate on whether one can rape one's spouse. Trump, of course, says that marital rape is an impossibility. Talking Points Memo looks at the new attention being brought to the GOP view of women and their subordination to me. Here are excerpts:
The Donald Trump news cycle is not ready to burn out yet, not while his lawyer, in a very Trump-like show of belligerence, told a reporter that spousal rape is legal when it most certainly is not. This week, the Daily Beast issued a timely reminder that Ivana Trump accused her ex-husband of raping her in 1989 during her divorce deposition. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen denied this by arguing “she felt raped emotionally” but not criminally, whatever that means.
“You cannot rape your spouse,” and adding, in direct opposition to reality, “There’s very clear case law.”
Thankfully, the response so far to this story is public outrage—causing Trump’s lawyer to quasi-apologize—because most of us easily grasp that there is nothing even remotely okay about throwing your spouse down and forcing yourself on them, as Trump was alleged to have done. There’s even been some stunned disbelief that it took until 1993 for all 50 states to ban raping your spouse. But we shouldn’t be so surprised, as there are more than a few people out there who continue to argue that it still should be legal to rape your spouse.
As Irin Carmon at msnbc.com writes, “There is a long history of conservative opposition to the very concept of marital rape, which is a fairly recent concept in law.” She cites conservative pundit Phyllis Schlafly, Virginia legislator Richard Black, and the infamous Missouri congressman Todd Akin, all criticizing bans on spousal rape. In most cases, they claim that they worry about the poor hypothetical husbands falsely accused by vindictive women during divorce proceedings.
But the fact that this attitude has a home in conservative circles shouldn’t really be a surprise. After all, resistance to the idea that all forced sex is rape is hardly limited to the question of spousal rape. Public discourse about sexual assault has been on the rise for years now, and the conservative punditry is still a reliable source of people spouting ignorance about rape that sounds more at home in some misogynist Internet forum than in supposedly mainstream media.
Like James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal playing the “rape is just drunk girls expressing regret” card. . . . . . Or George Will suggesting that a clear-cut case of rape can’t count because the victim willingly dated the rapist in the past.
While rape is on the extreme end of the spectrum, women’s basic right to bodily autonomy continues to be hotly controversial, with conservative forces mounting daily assaults on it. Giving women the right to say no to pregnancy is treated, in right wing circles, like it’s the harbinger of the apocalypse.
The common theme here is that women’s bodies don’t belong to themselves. The red state abortion assaults conducted under the banner of “states rights” imply that women’s bodies belong to those states. The attacks on contraception coverage in your insurance suggest that women’s bodies belong to their employers. Hell, there’s even one Republican suing to strip his own daughters of birth control coverage, with the legal arguments unsubtly suggesting that those bodies belong not to them but Daddy. The grotesque rape apologist arguments made by conservatives range from suggesting that your date has a right to override your “no” to the idea that, if you drink or wear a short skirt, you have somehow become public property, for any rando to do with what he wishes.
Trump’s role in the campaign is to take every gross conservative prejudice like this, and present it in its unvarnished, most grotesque form. It shouldn’t be a surprise that his team would pull the same stunt when it comes to communicating conservative hostility to female autonomy.