Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a speech Tuesday declaring the Trans-Pacific Partnership a very bad thing. In fact, he argued that the Trans-Pacific Partnership represents the "continuing rape of our country" — yet another instance of Trump using the word "rape" when he's not actually talking about rape. The reality TV business mogul has a long history of using “rape” in this manner, which has never appeared to concern him.
Nor has Trump appeared to care when others do the same. Case in point: He happily accepted an endorsement from former basketball coach Bobby Knight. Knight said, “I think if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it” to NBC's Connie Chung in 1998. He later said that he wasn't actually talking about rape. (Sound familiar?) "Don't misinterpret me there. But what I'm talking about is, something happens to you, so you have to handle it — now," Knight said. Meanwhile, Trump was also happy to accept the support of convicted rapist Mike Tyson.
There are two major problems with Trump's statement about the TPP "rap[ing] our country." First, comments like this belie a fundamental misunderstanding of what a rape actually is. A rape is the violation of a person, of their right to sovereignty over their own body. It can refer only to unwanted or illegal sex perpetrated on an individual who does not consent, or is not able to consent to it. I do not think of “raped” as a colorful synonym for “pulled one over on.” You cannot “rape” an economy, or a governing body, or a rival organization in a trade deal. This isn’t just the meaningless splitting or rhetorical hairs, or even an inclination toward being too politically correct. This matters. When people distance the word “rape” from what it actually refers to, they dilute its impact. This makes it easier for people to see the act itself as something less horrendous than what it truly is.
Now, presence of the word "rape" alone doesn’t necessarily play into rape culture. However, I do believe it can certainly foster it (at least, based on some of Trump's previous remarks about sexual assault).
The bigger deal here to me is the subtext. By using the word in this context, Trump equates “raping” with “winning.” The loser — America, in this case — gets raped. The winner, the party doing the raping, is sly and smart and strong, while the victim, by allowing itself to be "raped" is helpless, weak, slow, stupid, and ultimately at fault. A loser. In Trump’s world, he is sick of America being “raped,” because those who get raped are losers. Does that mean he would prefer us to be making the very best deals that take advantage of our rivals, to be the ones doing the “raping”? Because that would make us winners?
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster, done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country — just a continuing rape of our country," Trump said. "That's what it is, too — it's a harsh word. It's a rape of our country. This is done by wealthy people that want to take advantage of us and that want to sign another partnership."
It is indeed a harsh word — referring to a specific, reprehensible act. Trump is using it inaccurately. But more than that, he’s using it irresponsibly.
Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster