Despite what some athletes are claiming in the wake of Donald Trump’s defense of this past weekend’s bombshell release of a misogynistic exchange between him and Billy Bush from 11 years ago, locker room talk is a real thing. Playing football in middle school and high school, I definitely remember certain guys who were always trying to one-up each other with tales of their sexual exploits. Some of it was probably grounded in reality, much of it was surely exaggerated. Not everyone participated in this kind of talk, of course, and even back then I could tell that some guys who weren’t really like that were sucked into it and felt like they needed to compete in this way to be accepted. Some guys were just jerks who treated women as objects. Across the board, this kind of talk masked a lot of insecurities and emotional immaturity.
This is exactly what I hear in the new Trump video—two teenage boys putting on the facade of sexual conquest, one enabling the other and living vicariously through his bravado. The problem, of course, is that these are grown men and not teenage boys. And now one of them is running for president.
The other problem is that what Trump was bragging about amounts to sexual assault. And he clearly believed that his celebrity status made it okay for him to do such things—or at least brag about such things, whether they actually happened or not. Bringing it back to the locker room, the number of athletes implicated in sexual assault allegations indicates that this attitude is not uncommon. There’s real danger in locker room talk becoming more than just talk.
Like other aspects of this crazy presidential campaign, the silver lining of this latest controversy is a teaching moment for our youth—and, evidently, many adults in this country. Locker room talk is a thing. But it is no excuse. Even though there may be peer pressure to conform and join in, you don’t have to participate in this kind of objectification of other people. You have a choice. Don’t succumb to insecurities. You can be better than that.
And if you do get caught up in it, don’t try to blow it off by saying boys will be boys or girls will be girls. Locker room talk has real consequences and can lead to dangerous and harmful actions. This is an opportunity for true repentance, which by definition involves changing your heart and life.
(Repentance and redemption are themes of the 2017 Progressive Youth Ministry Conference. Check it out and get tickets here.)