The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Oct. 17 2016 5:37 PM

One College Football Coach Kisses His Male Players Before Each Game, and It’s Not Creepy

In the era of Donald Trump’s forced kisses and a campus sexual assault crisis that’s festered on college sports teams, it’s rare to read about locker-room smooches that have nothing to do with sex crimes. As such, a quick glance atthe New York Times’ report of the pregame football tradition at the University of Houston—players lining up for kisses from their coach—initially struck me as a piece about sexual coercion in college football.

Not so! By all accounts, these kisses are consensual and limited to the players’ cheeks. Coach Tom Herman says he’s been kissing his football players for the last decade of his coaching career, a logical extension of a recruitment promise most colleges make to prospective players and their families: that the coach will take care of his team members like they were his own sons.

Oct. 17 2016 3:53 PM

Nicki Minaj Says Melania Trump Is Not the Kind of Woman an Aspiring President Needs

Here’s an old phrase that is both sexist and anti-sexist: “Behind every great man is a great woman.” In a kind of fusty, first-wave feminist way, it calls into question mainstream historical accounts of male achievement by highlighting the wives who advised their powerful husbands and relieved their artist matesof all their responsibilities at home. Women play important roles in greatness; they just aren’t always recognized for their work.

Oct. 17 2016 1:32 PM

Calls to a Sexual Assault Hotline Have Surged Following Trump Allegations

As reports of Donald Trump’s alleged sexual assaults have flooded the media, many survivors of rape and abuse have seen traumatic memories resurface or felt renewed pangs of psychological turmoil. Calls to the telephone hotline of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) increased 35 percent in the days after October 7, when the Washington Post published an Access Hollywood video from 2005 showing Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women.

Oct. 17 2016 8:45 AM

This New Line of Toys Looks Like American Girl Dolls for Boys

The founders of a new line of realistic boy dolls are positioning their company as a corrective to the gender-segregated world of kids’ toys. Boy Story, funded in part through a Kickstarter that launched in April, looks a lot like American Girl dolls for boys: They’re properly proportioned, high-end dolls that each have a corresponding book about overcoming some kind of adversity.

Sisters Katie Jarvis and Kristen Johnson call the Boy Story toys “action dolls” and claim there’s currently nothing like them in a doll marketplace largely occupied by baby dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, and all manner of pink girl dolls. “While pregnant with her second son, Kristen set off shopping to buy a special playmate for her older son—to help introduce the new baby and all that,” the company’s website says. “She wanted a doll that was same-age, cool, and could withstand some serious play. Weeks on the hunt for an ideal toy, nothing turned up.”

Oct. 16 2016 8:00 AM

Donald Trump’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct Is an Outrage. Is It a Crime?

Sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump continue to multiply, seeming to confirm the candidate’s instantly notorious boasts about kissing and groping women without their consent in a 2005 Access Hollywood video. “It now seems very clear,” Michelle Obama stated in her eloquent address on Thursday, “that this wasn’t an isolated incident.”

Among the latest accusations to surface, Cathy Heller claimed that Trump grabbed and kissed her against her will in 1997. Kristin Anderson recounted that Trump “just stuck his hands” up her skirt in the early 1990s, touching her vagina through her underwear. Summer Zervos described Trump grabbing her breast and kissing her “very aggressively” in 2007. These allegations follow on the heels of other similar accounts involving the nonconsensual kissing and touching of various intimate body parts.

Trump’s despicable boasts, along with the increasingly likely prospect that they described an actual pattern of conduct, has generated righteous outrage. But commentators have largely overlooked an important fact about these allegations. In nearly every state, sexual contact without consent is considered a crime. And while the Model Penal Code’s sexual assault provisions are currently undergoing revision by the American Law Institute, a preliminary draft underscores that “the decision to penalize some sexual touching short of penetration is noncontroversial.”

To be sure, sexual contact statutes—like rape law generally—are woefully under-enforced. Even so, the existence of criminal sanctions for non-penetrative sexual touching is testament to how egregious the allegations against Trump really are.

To put this point in stark relief, consider the case of Jessica Leeds. Leeds recently reported that, on a flight decades ago, Trump lifted the airplane armrest between them and used his hands “like an octopus,” grabbing her breasts and trying to put his hand up her skirt. This behavior undoubtedly qualifies as a profound sexual violation falling on a spectrum that includes sexual objectification, degradation, and harassment. But it is more: the alleged airplane assault also constitutes a crime—in this case, a federal crime.

Federal law (which applies to travel through the airways) prohibits a person from engaging without permission in sexual contact, which includes “the intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing,” of the genitalia, breast, or inner thigh. While the statute is not invoked commonly, it neatly applies to facts that bear a striking resemblance to Leeds’s account. For instance, the 2008 trial of Yochanan Cohen featured the testimony of a fellow plane passenger who awoke from a nap to find Cohen’s hand on her upper thigh, moving toward her crotch. The woman described Cohen's hand as stopping at her “groin area” and “at the line of [her] panties.”

For a state court prosecution that readily brings to mind Trump’s alleged misconduct—including the accusations leveled by Summer Zervos—consider the 2010 New Jersey case against Peter Triestman. Triestman was the furniture store supervisor of a woman referred to by the court as N.P. One day at work, while suggesting that “the bed would look better with her laying on it naked,” Triestman put his right hand on N.P.’s breast over her clothes and tried to kiss her.” Triestman was later convicted of criminal sexual conduct.

These cases are aberrations in the sense that most sexual assault goes unpunished. Yet this should in no way obscure the criminality of the allegations occupying center stage as Election Day approaches.

Oct. 15 2016 2:45 PM

What We Know About Sexual Predators Can Help Us Understand the Trump Allegations

It’s been less than a week since the second presidential debate, where a glowering Donald Trump asserted  that he’d never grabbed women “by the pussy” or kissed them without consent, as he had bragged to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush in a viral recording from 2005. In the meantime, a steady stream of accusers has come forward with stories that seem to confirm Trump’s original account of his behavior. On Friday, a former contestant on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice said that Trump had repeatedly kissed and groped her without her consent, and another woman told the Washington Post that Trump had put a hand up her skirt against her will. The New York Times on Wednesday evening published the accounts of two women who describe being sexually assaulted by Trump. A People magazine writer wrote about Trump pushing her against a wall and forcibly kissing her on the mouth. A former Miss USA contestant told NBC News that Trump repeatedly kissed her on the mouth without her consent. Trump once bragged to Howard Stern about “inspecting” pageant contestants’ dressing rooms, and indeed other former contestants in the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe pageants—which Trump owned from 1996 until last year—have recalled how he would time his unannounced visits backstage to catch the girls naked. “Mr. Trump just barged right in, didn’t say anything, stood there and stared at us,” one contestant told The Guardian. She summarized his attitude as: “I can do this because I can.” (Trump and his campaign have denied all allegations of sexual assault and unwanted touching.)

In her 1975 book Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller famously argued that sexual assault can be more about exercising power than extracting sexual pleasure. There’s a certain species of predator, according to this line of argument, who believes that he’s entitled to whatever he’s able to take, and that he’s only as powerful as his most recent show of force. In the Access Hollywood tape, Trump said, “When you’re a star… you can do anything.” Brownmiller’s argument subtly flips this line of thinking: In order for the predator to succeed at being himself, he must get what he wants; to get what he wants is to prove he’s a star.

Psychologists have outlined at least two clusters of personality traits that are common among sexual predators. The first is “impersonal sexuality,” or the attraction to sex in the absence of love and intimacy. The second psychological profile “overlaps a lot with narcissism,” says David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. “The qualities associated with this cluster are an interpersonally exploitative style or strategy; a lack of empathy; a sense of entitlement; a sense of grandiosity.” Buss’ criteria seems potentially applicable to the Howard Stern interview, in which Trump boasts about barging into the dressing rooms of pageant contestants—some of them as young as 15, according to BuzzFeed—“because I’m the owner of the pageant. And therefore I’m inspecting it. ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”

An absence of empathy, however it may be expressed, can curdle into something more threatening. “Narcissists have extremely fragile self-esteem,” Buss says. One classic form of narcissism involves oscillation “between feelings of grandiosity—that they are the best, the most powerful—and feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.” When a narcissist is laid low, he may be tempted to push others down in order to lever himself back to his rightful place at the top. Former Newsweek journalist Harry Hurt III, in his book The Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, reported a story that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana had shared with a number of confidants: that in 1989, Trump, in pain from a scalp-reduction surgery performed by a doctor she had suggested, punished her by pulling out her hair, tearing off her clothes, and violently raping her. (In a note that Trump’s lawyers insisted Hurt include in his book, Ivana wrote, “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” Trump has denied the allegations.)

Of all the accusations against Trump, Ivana’s is in many ways the most disturbing. But the allegation that unsettled me the most was Jessica Leeds’ in the Times, where she contends that Trump groped her on a flight. I spent part of the summer reporting on sexual assaults that occur on airplanes, and I spent a lot of time wondering what kind of man thinks to commit that kind of crime. Rarely is our social contract to live and let live tested so intensely as it is on an airplane in flight: We climb into our uncomfortably tiny seats and ascend 40,000 feet above anywhere we could possibly escape to. And we trust that our neighbors won’t do anything to remind us that we are, in fact, trapped. For anyone to violate this deal betrays not only a lack of empathy, but also a sense of invulnerability—a confidence that the precarious social conditions of flight won’t rebound back on you, whatever you do. According to Leeds’ account, Trump felt himself to be above the rules. Decades later, the consequences of his alleged actions are finally coming in for a landing.

Oct. 15 2016 2:29 PM

Hillary Clinton Has a Power That No Man Can Take Away

In the fall of 1992, when I was a freshman at Yale and Bill Clinton was running for office, the best thing that happened to me was meeting Hillary Clinton. The worst was being raped by a fellow student who said he was going to run for president one day.

I tell the story of meeting Hillary all the time. I almost never tell the other one.

I’d turned 18 right before school started. This was the first election I’d paid any attention to, and I knew just enough about Bill Clinton to find him slightly disappointing. I was a lot more excited about Hillary. It’s easy now to forget how different she was from other candidates’ wives. She’d been a working mom and a working first lady in Arkansas. She was famously outspoken, and Bill said if he were elected we’d get two presidents for the price of one. When she came to campus to give a campaign speech, I signed up to volunteer, even though I’d have to postpone my first big exam.

After the speech, the campaign staffer in charge of the volunteers told us that Hillary would be coming by to thank us for our help. I couldn’t stay; I had to take that exam. I was so disappointed I almost started to cry. And then I did something uncharacteristically bold for me at the time: I found the staffer and told him about the bind I was in. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said, “but meet me in front of Battell Chapel ‪at 4 o’clock.”

I raced through my test and made it there just before Hillary’s car pulled up. Her staff arranged a receiving line: the dean of the law school, a couple of suited-and-tied professors, and me, still wearing my Clinton/Gore T-shirt and cutoff jeans. She greeted each of us and thanked me for helping with the campaign. Then we all sat together in the front row while she spoke to a roomful of lawyers about how, while studying law, she’d figured out which of the world’s problems she wanted to help solve. She was 44 and had already accomplished a lot, but she talked as though she was just getting started.

People say that Hillary is an uninspiring speaker, that she’s not a good storyteller, and that she fails to emotionally connect with her audience. But as a young woman, I was moved by her matter-of-factness and resolve. Choose a problem and do the work, she said. That was something I knew I could do.

When I thanked her campaign staffer afterward, he said, “One day, you’ll be in a position like mine. Just remember this, and give people opportunities whenever you can.”

* * *

This is the other story.

Let’s call the guy David. He was extremely smart and extremely conservative. He’d taped a Bush/Quayle sign to his dorm-room door, which was right next to mine.* We disagreed about everything except that we both loved Paradise Lost, one of the first things we’d read that semester. On a few nights after studying together, we stayed up late arguing about politics, and it was exactly how I’d imagined college would be.

One ‪Saturday night, David walked me home from a party and then he raped me. Afterward, he left so quickly he forgot his underwear beside my bed, leaving me to figure out what to do with it.

I thought the whole thing was my fault. I told a couple of my friends what had happened, and that was it. I tried hard to move on.

But it didn’t stop there. One night he trashed his room after seeing me talking to one of his friends. He told me he knew that what he’d done to me was wrong. As the winter wore on, he became increasingly threatening. He returned my copy of The Fountainhead with all of the rape scenes and misogynistic speeches highlighted. (Why had I even brought it to college in the first place? It was such an awful, disturbing book.) He came into my room when I wasn’t there and poured bleach into my fish tank. On Valentine’s Day, he nailed a dead mouse to my door by the tail, a “Roses are red” poem attached to it.

None of that was enough to make me report him. I felt ashamed. And I was scared of what he’d do next, if he found out I’d told anyone.

I found myself thinking about Anita Hill a lot. It had been only a year since Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings. I imagined coming forward to testify, 30 years in the future, if David actually ran for public office—if that ever happened, I’d need to be able to corroborate my story. I knew this was dramatic, but I also believed it was possible. Then–President Bush had gone to Yale. Bill and Hillary Clinton had graduated from the law school. So had Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill.

I told my counselor I just wanted her to know, in case anything worse happened, but I didn’t want David to find out I’d said anything. She believed all of it, which was a surprise and a relief. But she was only a senior, not much older than us, and this was 24 years ago. She agreed not to tell our college dean, but she did tell David’s counselor, who talked to David, who denied everything. Our counselors tried to help as best they could but ended up in a proxy war of “he said, she said.” I decided I had to go to the dean.

The dean told David he could finish the semester, as long as he stayed away from me. And sophomore year, he had to agree to live off-campus, so that I wouldn’t have to live in the same building as him again. My counselor told David privately that if she found out that he’d come anywhere near me, even once, she’d go straight to the New Haven Police, and they would not be nearly so lenient.

David never talked to me again. But not long before I graduated, one of his former roommates told me that he’d assaulted at least one other woman after me. By then, I understood that what he’d done to me wasn’t my fault. But if I’d been braver about speaking up, if I’d asked the university for more support or gone to the police myself, I might have been able to prevent what he’d done to another woman, or women. I spent a lot of time regretting that.

* * *

As I grew older, I saw that Clinton’s campaign staffer had been right. I was privileged to find myself in jobs where I had power to give other people opportunities, and I took that responsibility seriously. The more I accomplished at work, and the more generous I learned to be, the more confident and purposeful I became. I stopped trying so hard to make sense of everything that had happened to me—not just David, but all the things I couldn’t control—and focused on what I was capable of instead.

Meanwhile, I watched Hillary Clinton move on from standing by Bill in humiliating circumstances to become a senator, a presidential candidate, secretary of state, and then the first woman nominated to be president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton with her husband, Bill, in 1992.

Mark Phillips/AFP/Getty Images

The fact that the first female nominee has had to endure the indignity of running against a man as hateful and incompetent as Donald Trump is embarrassing and sad and terribly frustrating. But the longer this campaign goes on, the more inevitable all of it seems. I’m an editor at Harvard Business Review. Every week, I see new evidence of how difficult and profoundly unfair many workplaces still are for women. And yet, power is finally beginning to shift. Many American men see rights as a zero-sum game, and they now feel that they’re the ones facing gender discrimination.

Threats of sexual violence—including comments like the ones Donald Trump and Billy Bush made on the Access Hollywood bus, and the ones recounted by Trump’s seemingly endless wave of accusers—aren't just a consequence of the system that has kept men in possession of nearly every form of public power for hundreds of years. They are integral to that system.

So it makes sense that we are talking about rape and sexual harassment this much. It makes sense that this showdown is so sickening and painful. Of course Hillary has to remain composed and gracious in the face of Trump’s misogyny and Bill Clinton’s sordid past, and patiently remind us of everything she’s achieved. All professional women have to do this at times, to some extent. But Hillary Clinton is a master of the form. She’s had more practice at it than any of us.

Here is what I’ve learned from watching Hillary since 1992: She refuses to be defined by what has happened to her or by what other people have done. Again and again, she changes the subject back to what she wants to do, to what she can do, to the work at hand. She insists that what she does is who she is. And that gives her power no one has been able to take away, no matter how hard they’ve tried.

Every year or so, I Google David’s real name. I have never found any evidence of him on the internet, which means as far as I’m concerned he might as well not even exist. I hope he isn’t still hurting women, wherever he is. But at least I know that he’s never going to be president.

Hillary Clinton is.

Correction, Oct. 15, 2016: This article originally referred to a “Bush/Dole” campaign poster; the correct signage would have been “Bush/Quayle.” (Return.)

Oct. 14 2016 4:41 PM

Did Trump Just Say He “Wasn’t Impressed” by Clinton’s Butt?

At a rally in North Carolina Friday, Donald Trump took issue with the idea that, at the second presidential debate, he did something improper by lurking behind Hillary Clinton while she spoke. Clinton herself addressed Trump’s body language in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres this week, accurately calling it “odd” and “really weird,” and saying she could “feel his presence” behind her.

During his speech Friday, Trump revealed what he was thinking during those moments: This lady sure is unfuckable.

Oct. 14 2016 3:40 PM

When You’re a Doctor of Color, Many People Won’t Think You’re a Doctor

In a viral Facebook post, Dr. Tamika Cross, a Houston-based OB-GYN resident, describes a strange and horrific in-flight scene wherein she was physically blocked from providing medical care to a fellow passenger in need. She says she attempted to respond to a flight attendant’s call for help when a nearby passenger suddenly became unresponsive in his seat, but was told to sit down because they were looking for “actual physicians or nurses.” The full text is below:

I'm sure many of my fellow young, corporate America working women of color can all understand my frustration when I say I'm sick of being disrespected.
Was on Delta flight DL945 and someone 2 rows in front of me was screaming for help. Her husband was unresponsive. I naturally jumped into Doctor mode as no one else was getting up. Unbuckle my seatbelt and throw my tray table up and as I'm about to stand up, flight attendant says "everyone stay calm, it's just a night terror, he is alright". I continue to watch the scene closely.
A couple mins later he is unresponsive again and the flight attendant yells "call overhead for a physician on board". I raised my hand to grab her attention. She said to me "oh no sweetie put ur hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don't have time to talk to you" I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks.
Then overhead they paged "any physician on board please press your button". I stare at her as I go to press my button. She said "oh wow you're an actual physician?" I reply yes. She said "let me see your credentials. What type of Doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?" (Please remember this man is still in need of help and she is blocking my row from even standing up while bombarding me with questions.)
I respond "OBGYN, work in Houston, in Detroit for a wedding, but believe it or not they DO HAVE doctors in Detroit. Now excuse me so I can help the man in need". Another "seasoned" white male approaches the row and says he is a physician as well. She says to me "thanks for your help but he can help us, and he has his credentials". (Mind you he hasn't shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the "description of a doctor") I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling. (Man is responding the his questions and is seemingly better now Thank God)
Then this heifer has the nerve to ask for my input on what to do next about 10 mins later. I tell her we need vitals and blood sugar. She comes back to report to me a BP of 80/50 (super low, to my non medical peeps) and they can't find a glucometer. We continue down that pathway of medical work up, but the point is she needed my help and I continued to help despite the choice words I had saved up for her. The patient and his wife weren't the problem, they needed help and we were mid flight.
She came and apologized to me several times and offering me skymiles. I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don't want skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it's not right. She will not get away with this....and I will still get my skymiles....

Cross herself did not respond to Slate’s request for comment. Catherine Sirna, a spokesperson for Delta Airlines, stated, “Discrimination of any kind is never acceptable. We’ve been in contact with Dr. Cross and one of our senior leaders is reaching out to assure her that we're completing a full investigation.”

Amidst this investigation, Cross’ post has ignited widespread social media attention, including the Twitter hashtag #WhatADoctorLooksLike and a deluge of similar stories from other physicians of color.

“This scenario has happened to me several times,” Dr. Willie Parker, a prominent reproductive rights advocate and black OB-GYN physician, wrote to me. “The sad thing is I never see a look of contemplation on the face of these people when they write me off because I don’t look like what a doctor is supposed to look like.”

“I’ve also experienced something like this on a plane,” Texas-based OB-GYN Dr. Bhavik Kumar told me. “That someone would discriminate against who can and cannot provide emergency medical care based on the color of their skin is absurd.”

As a female Latina physician myself, the kind of behavior that Cross and others describe is all too familiar. I’ve been called “nurse” more times than I care to remember, but that’s nothing compared to a former black co-resident of mine, who—despite wearing her white coat at all times—had patients frequently ask her to collect their food trays or trash.

While only one-third of all U.S. physicians are female, among incoming medical students it’s nearly 50 percent. But the same parity does not seem to be on the horizon for racial diversity: According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, blacks and African Americans make up only 4 percent of the physician workforce. Maybe it’s this deplorable statistic that leads to life-endangering medical interference on planes—or maybe it’s just plain old racism. As writer Dr. Meena Singh puts it, “The white coat and doctor credentials aren’t enough for some people to ‘recognize’ a Black doctor.”

Oct. 14 2016 2:11 PM

Polish Party Leader: Women Must Birth Lethally Deformed Fetuses So They Can Be Baptized

Polish women aren’t out of the woods yet. Barely a week after the conservative government abandoned a proposal that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances, the Law and Justice Party has thrown its support behind a similar measure. Polish law currently allows for abortion in the case of rape, incest, lethal fetal deformity, or threat to the mother’s life. But Law and Justice Party Chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski recently declared that his conservative ruling party will propose a law establishing that even in “cases of very difficult pregnancies, when the child is certain to die, very deformed,” the mother will still be forced to give birth—“so that the child can be baptized, buried, have a name.”

Thanks to Kaczynski’s increasing authoritarianism, Poland is currently in the midst of a constitutional crisis, as the Law and Justice Party attempts to consolidate power by defanging the formerly independent judiciary. Kaczynski has also severely cracked down on press freedom in likely violation of European Union law. But his anti-abortion campaign may be the best example of Kaczynski’s disturbing crusade against democracy and individual freedom in favor of blind nationalism and religious conservatism. The Law and Justice Party’s initial abortion ban was so extreme that mass protests forced Kaczynski to retreat. But the party leader is obviously bent on using the abortion issue to solidify support among religious nationalists, and his new, purportedly narrower measure may prove more difficult to defeat.

Incidentally, a great number of American politicians share Kaczynski’s views on abortion—including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who opposes letting women abort severely deformed fetuses. Rubio is an anti-abortion radical who was somehow perceived as a more moderate alternative to Ted Cruz this election season. In reality, Cruz and Rubio hold identical views on abortion.

Of course, thanks to the First Amendment, Rubio cannot concede that his anti-abortion proposals have an explicitly religious purpose, as Kaczynski does. Where Kaczynski acknowledges that he wants to force women to birth deformed fetuses so they can be baptized, Rubio must wax blandly about a “culture of life.” But that’s about the only difference between the authoritarian’s and the senator’s stated views on women’s reproductive rights.