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Donald Trump’s ‘droit du seigneur’

In medieval Europe, droit du seigneur referred to a legal right which allowed feudal lords to have sexual relations with subordinate women. This tradition, however, had older origins. The Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC) claims a similar custom existed among the Adyrmachidae in ancient Lybia, “They are also the only tribe with whom the custom obtains of bringing all women about to become brides before the king, that he may choose such as are agreeable to him.”

In 1762, Voltaire wrote a five-act comedy Le droit du seigneur, which was only performed after his death. In his novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), Mark Twain cites the practice in several parts including having King Arthur himself rule in favor of confiscating a young woman’s property because she denied her local lord his “right”.

Nowadays, with his inexhaustible panache, Donald Trump seems to be reviving that old custom. In the last few weeks, several women have come forward with serious allegations of unwanted attention from the unflappable Republican candidate. As he graphically said in 2005, when claiming that stars like himself could do anything they wanted with women, “Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

Not one to accept responsibility for his actions, when Trump was asked by moderator Anderson Cooper during the second debate with Hillary Clinton, “You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” he replied, “No, I have not,” and quickly changed the subject of the discussion.

In recent days, five women have come forward stating that Donald Trump had sexually assaulted them, and they probably won’t be the last ones. One of them, Jessica Leeds, told The New York Times that watching the second debate made her to want to punch Trump.
Leeds was seated next to Trump during a flight that took place three decades ago. At the beginning he lifted the armrest separating both seats, tried to touch her breasts and later he tried to put her hand under her skirt. She said that the incident had totally unnerved her. She was angry and frightened. “He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere. It was an assault.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich tried to justify Trump’s behavior saying, “The New York Times goes back over 30 years to find somebody who had a bad airplane flight.” An even more bizarre explanation was given by one of his campaign personnel who stated that the allegations couldn’t be true because at that time of the alleged incident airplanes hadn’t removable armrests.

First lady Michelle Obama, in an impassioned speech at a Thursday rally for Clinton, said she has been shaken by Trump’s comments. “This was not just a lewd conversation,” she said. “It was not just locker room banter. This was a powerful individual talking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior.” Trump dismissed these accusations saying that they were fabrications orchestrated by the Clintons, and that he head evidence of their falsehood that he was going to release soon.

All these incidents involving serious sexual misconduct and other unusual behaviors on Trump’s part point out to a complex personality with definite characteristics bordering on the abnormal. Many of Trump’s characteristics agree with what is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae known for his beauty. He was a proud, and even disdained those who loved him. Nemesis, In the ancient Greek religion, Nemesis was a goddess who enacted retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods).

Noticing Narcissus behavior, she attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water. He fell in love with it, not realizing that it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection he stared at it until he died. He is the origin of the term Narcissism, a fixation with oneself.

In 1899, Paul Näche was the first person to use the term “narcissism” in a study of sexual perversions. In 1911, Otto Rank published the first psychoanalytical paper specifically dedicated to narcissism, linking it to vanity and self-admiration. Three years later, Sigmund Freud published a paper exclusively devoted to this phenomenon which he called “On Narcissism: An Introduction.”

The DSM-5, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard classification of mental disorders used by professionals in the U.S. and in many other countries, includes the following symptoms of this disorder, which usually is not accompanied by commensurate accomplishments: Grandiosity; fantasies of power and personal attractiveness; self-perception of being unique; needing constant admiration from others; sense of entitlement; exploitative of others for personal gain; intensely envious of others and pompous and arrogant demeanor.

Anybody who has been watching Mr. Trump since the start of his campaign cannot fail to notice the striking resemblance of his behavior to include the above-mentioned characteristics. If he is not the poster boy for narcissism, then nobody else is. He feels that he has droits (rights), but he is not seigneur.

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Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

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