I would like to talk about the Trump sex-bully tape, along with the other recent tawdry disclosures, in a perspective that is non-political and separate from our current affairs. But first….
The political implications of the picture of Trump as sexual predator
Here are a few thoughts about the way we Americans tend to focus on such things in a political context. Starting with this observation: As citizens, our task in choosing a president is not to choose the all-around best human being, but rather to choose who will best lead the nation in constructive ways.
Those two may be related, but they are hardly identical.
It is not clear from an examination of American history how much correlation there has been among all our forty-some presidents between their sexual morality (or lack thereof) and how well they served the nation in office. Some of our greatest presidents, for example, have been unfaithful to their wives, while just recently (2001-09) we had a president about whom there’s not been a whiff of sexual scandal but who was – I would strongly argue – the worst, most destructive president in our history.
(I should note, however, that not all “sexual immorality” is the same: e.g. sexual assault is a whole different matter from marital infidelity. The latter is a betrayal of a presumed solemn promise to a third party, while the sexual assault is an act of direct aggression against another person.)
Although sex is surely a central aspect of our humanity, doing the right things, and doing them for the right reasons, covers a whole lot of territory of which the sexual dimension is only a part. And especially, when it comes to assessing a person’s suitability to be President of the United States, their private sexual character should not be our main concern.
That we Americans respond more intensely to a politician’s sexual misbehavior than we do to, say, the evidence that they would undermine our democratic system of government is regrettable but understandable.
It is understandable for evolutionary reasons: the value we place on a man’s not sexually abusing a woman has likely been brewing in our species for hundreds of thousands of years; but it is only a few centuries since the idea of a government based on the consent of the governed, and on constitutional protections of citizens’ rights, emerged.
The ancient idea is likely wired into our nature, while the new one remains abstract and cerebral.
So, no wonder Trump is being pilloried for his treatment of women much more intensely than he has been condemned for all the ways he threatens to demolish the American system of government, and the values that underlie it, were he to become president.
(In addition to which, American culture seems to be particularly inclined to regard morality predominantly in terms of sexual morality.)
All that being said, however, the 2005 tape is in fact highly relevant to what we as citizens should weigh about him—not so much because of what it says about his sexual nature but because it stands as confirmation of what we know – or we should know – about the overall nature of the man.
The ugly sexual content on the surface corresponds Trump’s whole modus operandi in life generally. His bragging about sexually assaulting women confirmed what we’ve seen in presidential debates, in his policy declarations, etc: the man is a bully; no sense of responsibility inhibits him from his using his power destructively; and he gets off on humiliating other people.
That pattern, more than the sexual aspect itself, is what should be our focus as citizens. And, we should keep in mind, it is as citizens that we are called to judge this man, Donald Trump, who is running not to be our son-in-law, but to be the person at the apex of power in the American system of government.
Apart from the politics:
But there’s another, altogether different and non-political perspective on Trump’s tape that I’d like to share. That perspective comes from another project that I’ve been pursuing in recent months (alongside my main work these days of trying to understand our ongoing political crisis).
The title of this other project is “The Sacred Space of Lovers.” (Let this be a little bit of “Previews of Coming Attractions.”)
The “sacred space of lovers” refers to the route to profound fulfillment that is available to us human beings in our lives to the extent we can bring together, in an intimate relationship, these several dimensions:
- Love, a word that itself has many dimensions, embracing many kinds of deep heart-felt connection, including romantic love, the love of friendship, and altruistic caring about the other;
- Sexual connection, which includes desire, passion and pleasure—a deep meeting between lovers at the level of the body;
- Openness (or intimacy), which entails the complete sharing of the whole self with the lover – without secrets or deception – so that the love that is given and received is from and for the whole, true self;
- Commitment and fidelity, so that the lovers rest secure in the specialness of their union, a union that constitutes a special and quite necessary kind of human relationship.
There are all kinds of reasons why this combination offers a path to one of human life’s most fulfilling experiences.* [See Note, below.]
I hope to take my exploration of this subject public in the form of a series of articles, in the months to come, after the political crisis has (I hope) subsided. That series, I presume, will unfortunately not appear here on Blue Virginia, because of a lack of direct relevance to the purposes of the site.
But here, with regard to that bombshell of a Trump tape, the perspective of “the sacred space of lovers” is indeed relevant. There hardly could be a more dramatic contrast, regarding the manner of expressing our sexual natures, than that between the “sacred space of lovers” way, and the way Donald Trump boasts about on that tape:
- Imposing himself on women without their consent – indeed often contrary to their wishes – demonstrates the very opposite of love;
- While he may be expressing his own sexual lust, he seems to be indifferent to whether there is the mutuality of sexual connection;
- This is sexual contact without any concern about intimate sharing of one’s true self; indeed, he seems wholly unconcerned about who the other person is, or what she thinks or feels—it is sufficient that she be outwardly attractive enough to stimulate his sexual desire;
- Not only is his invasive approach to sexual contact devoid of any thought of ongoing relationship, but the 2005 tape – coming just months after the beginning of his third marriage – tells us something about the limits to his sense of commitment and fidelity in his marriage.
While sex may not be a wholly reliable indicator of a person’s ability to provide good presidential leadership, it is plugged into something profound and central to our human nature. What has been widely described as “sexual assault” can be seen in the context of exploring the wholeness of “The Sacred Space of Lovers” as demonstrating a profound brokenness in the man’s sexual nature, and thus near the core of the man.
I will be exploring the “sacred space of lovers” — as a form of “Wholeness” – using the deep framework within which I explored America’s present crisis with “Brokenness” in my book WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST. These ideas include seeing how the human good (of which the deepest level might be called “the sacred”) can be understood in an evolutionary framework, i.e. as a result of a process that chooses life over death, and thereby crafts our inherent needs and motivations – and the paths to our own fulfillment – into a form that serves to perpetuate our form of life.
And I’m especially interested in how some couples are able — over the course of decades together — to create an increasingly deep “sacred space” to inhabit together: I’m interviewing couples whose marriages have become increasingly fulfilling with the passage of considerable time.)