The US Presidential candidate Donald Trump has this week attempted to laugh off offensive comments about women as “Locker Room Talk’. It’s a stock phrase but what meaning does it have, are locker rooms a hot bed of men talking about sexually assaulting women?
The short answer is no. Having spent most of the last twenty plus years changing in various locker rooms up to four times a week I can say I have never heard anything like that. Most of the locker rooms, at gyms and fitness centres, are populated by people who if they heard someone speaking like that would give that person a slap. It’s just not done.
Sure there is some cussing and there are times when women are discussed. Comments about the attractiveness of a celebrity, a joke that someone had a plane ticket booked “Now Brad is out of the way he thinks he has a chance with Angelina Jolie.” Sexist comments, sure, but no more than you would hear in any public place, I’ve overheard far worse in a bus queue between two teenagers.
The sort of men you find in locker rooms are just that, men. Not little boys or overgrown teenagers but men. In a gym there is a certain level of implied respect. You respect everyone else and they respect you. Break that and you are made to feel unwelcome. Talking disrespectfully about someone, anyone, would break that respect.
Playing on a team you have to respect your team mates. How many times have you read about a professional football player, rugby player, cricketer, baseball player, basketball player or even a darts player being ostracised by the locker room for something they said? Do a search and you will find many examples. Would you want to be on a team with a man who boasts about committing the sort of crimes that made Jimmy Savile infamous?
The example wasn’t chosen at random. A Louie Therioux documentary where he spoke to some of Savile’s victims aired the week before Trump’s comments came to light. In it three different women stated how Savile grabbed them and started to kiss them, the exact some behaviour that Trump was describing. When Anderson Cooper accused Trump of joking about committing sexual assault he was right. Trump was boasting about committing the same acts as the most prolific sex offender in history.
Many sports stars have used social media to slam Trump’s use of the phrase ‘Locker Room Talk’. All of them point out that talk of that nature is unacceptable. In or out of the locker room. Many recounting times team mates, or even themselves, were banished from the locker room for far less.
There is no such thing as ‘Locker Room Talk’ if you wouldn’t say it in public then you shouldn’t say it in the Locker Room. Locker rooms are a place where men can be men, and that means they are a place of respect, honour and comradeship. A place that shows the best side of masculinity, not the worse.
As for me, the last heated discussion I had in a locker room was about which supermarket sold the best doughnuts.