On the heels of New York magazine’s moving interview and photo project with nearly three dozen women who’ve publicly accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, The Daily Beast published a reminder this week that Ivana Trump once made similar accusations against her then-husband, Donald. According to the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump by Harry Hurt III, Ivana says Donald once tore at her hair and clothes while forcing himself on her; Ivana then cried all night in terror and later called the incident “rape” to friends and, eventually, lawyers, during the couples’ divorce proceedings.
Ivana soon walked back her claim, saying she didn’t mean “literal or criminal” rape. And this week she called the story “totally without merit.” Trump’s lawyer, meanwhile, took a much weirder approach to deflecting the story, threatening a Daily Beast reporter – “what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting” – and claiming, wrongly, that one cannot rape one’s spouse.
Regardless of what happened that night, what’s undeniable is that Donald Trump is a sexist pig of the first order. As Anna Holmes detailed in The Washington Post in 2011, before these allegations reemerged, Trump has a stunning track record of misogynist behavior: vetting Miss USA contestants for perceived hotness, bragging about keeping Ivana’s “arrogance” in check, calling female journalists who criticize him ugly, sneering at women for having sex while preening about what a stud he is for doing the same, and joking about how wives are things to be discarded when you get tired of them.
And then there are his comments about his daughter, Ivanka: “[S]he does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if she wasn’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
Trump’s continued presence in the Republican race has in some ways been a godsend to the Democratic Party (not to mention late-night hosts). Now, with this erupting scandal, it’s also an educational opportunity for the rest of us: We have a chance to talk about what, exactly, makes men rape.
This is what’s been missing from the conversation about rape that’s been so prominent in the media in recent years. Most of the focus, understandably, has been on victims: what they need to survive, what kind of justice they’re seeking, what it takes for them to be believed. But we’ve hardly spoken at all about what’s running through a man’s head when he chooses to force himself on a woman, even though that is, in many ways, the central question here – if men chose not to rape, it wouldn’t happen in the first place.