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Can you image what sex with Donald Trump would be like?
Revelations about Trump’s sexual exploits regularly capture media attention. The latest exposé was revealed by The Wall Street Journal and involved his adulterous relationship with a former porn star, Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels), ten years ago. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, allegedly paid her $130,000 one month before the 2016 election to keep quiet about the alleged sexual affair. Sadly, the affair occurred just months after his third wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their child, Baron. In keeping with custom, Trump and his attorney denied the story.
Additional revelations purport that Trump and Ms. Daniels maintained their consensual commercial sexual relation for about one year. Mother Jones added further spice to the brew, shedding light of the future president’s erotic proclivities. Based on published emails, the twosome engaged in s&m play, with the former porn star “spanking him with a copy of Forbes magazine.” Most suggestive, the issue of Forbes appears to be the one in which the future president and two of his children, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka, appear on the cover.
This is but the latest episode in Trump’s history of what was long considered “illicit” or “perverse” sex play, something different, complementary to his sexual episodes. In January 2017, BuzzFeed published an unverified report from a former British MI-6 intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, that’s come to be known as the “dossier.” The study was conducted by Fusion GPS, a UK-based opposition research company, and funded in part by the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. The dossier purported that Trump, while in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, hooked up with a group of sex workers at the exclusive Ritz-Carlton hotel for a very special evening’s entertainment.
According to some sources, including Michael Wolff in his recently released exposé, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, the get-together involved s&m play and voyeurism, with Trump voyeuristically watching the prostitutes engage in “golden showers.” Wolff warns the Russian secret service likely videotaped the incident, “suggesting that Donald Trump was being blackmailed by the Putin government.” [Wolff, p. 44]
Once upon a time, a president’s extra-marital sexual relations were discreetly hidden, understood to be outside the bounds of acceptable journalism. John Kennedy’s innumerable affairs morphed from scandal to presidential lore after his assassination. Other presidential liaisons, once carefully hidden, are now public secrets, including those of Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt and Warren Harding as well as those of James Buchanan (the country’s only gay president) and Thomas Jefferson (fathered a half-dozen children with his slave, Sally Hemings). Bill Clinton’s dalliances led to impeachment – and reelection. Little media attention was paid to the more discreet sexual liaisons attributed to George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.
“Teflon Don” established a new standard of the presidential sexual persona, one that pushes the boundaries of the acceptable. Over the last couple of decades, Trump morphed from an up-market hedonist to a repentant moralist and, as president, relaunched the culture wars. His positions on a host of sex-related issues became more regressive, targeting those considered threats to traditional puritanical values, including transgender people, gay people and women seeking an abortion.
However, while reports of Trump’s sexual exploits did little to undercut his 2016 presidential candidacy, it likely contributed to the outing of movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein and helped fuel the subsequent male sex-abuse scandal now gripping the nation.
During the tumultuous 1970s, Trump was an oh-so-hip partygoer who pushed the boundaries of sexual experience. This was the era of Studio 54, the late-night celebrity nightspot located on West 54thStreet off Broadway that attracted anyone with a name, money or a gun in their pocket. Trump was a club regular, often hanging out with Roy Cohn, the club’s attorney; Cohn prosecuted the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and was Sen. Joe McCarthy’s principle aide. He was a lifelong closeted homosexual who died of AIDS. Trump dodged the Vietnam War draft, boasting in a TV interview with Howard Stern that sex was his war. He said he felt “lucky” not to have picked up an STD while sleeping around during in the late-70s and 80s. Trump claimed that dating during this period was his own “personal Vietnam.”
Trump met his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková, at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria; they married the following year and remained together until 1992. While their marriage was collapsing, the future president had an affair with Marla Maples, a 26-year-old model-actress. She got pregnant with their only child before they married; their marriage lasted from 1993-1999. When Trump hooked up with Maples, he kept her tucked-away at the St. Moritz Hotel, the grand hideaway on Central Park South, today’s Ritz-Carlton.
In 1990, Playboy magazine featured Trump on the cover of its annual issue, along with a self-promotional interview. He also appeared – fully clothed! – in three Playboy soft-core films. In 1994, was featured in Playboy “Centerfold” in which he plays part of a group searching for the magazine’s 40th anniversary Playmate; in 2000, he appeared in Video Centerfold, a video that featured2000 Playmates Darlene and Carolin Bernaola; and, in 2001, he promenaded in a video about a fashion show featuring Betsey Johnson. Trump was a celebrity with sex appeal, the epitome of the late-20th century macho man.
The future president opened his first strip club in 2013; one can only imagine how many he’s been to as a lifelong real-estate huckster on the make. While he owned the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, he reportedly paid $25 million for 36,000 square feet of “adult” entertainment within the casino. As one report notes, “It featured ‘modified lap dancing’ and women stripping down to G-strings and pasties, among other live porn activities.” He is reported to have often rated women on a scale of 1 to 10 based on their sex appeal. Howard Stern quoted Trump saying, “A person [woman] who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.“
Trump’s current wife, Melania, embodies the 21st century version of the First Lady as the “good wife,” combining Jackie Kennedy’s repressed poise with Marilyn Monroe’s inviting sexuality. The mother of 11-year-old Barron, she once posed nude for GQ and a French men’s magazine; in July 2016, the New York Post, a Murdoch-controlled tabloid, published a nude shot of the future First Lady on its cover page. (In his gossipy tell-all, Wolff claims, “The New York Post got its hands on outtakes from a nude photo shoot that Melania had done early in her modeling career—a leak that everybody other than Melania assumed could be traced back to Trump himself.”) [Wolff, p. 24.] Melania is the president’s third wife, signifying the profound change in postmodern marriage and the American family.
The American public got a remarkably revealing glimpse of Trump’s misogynist prowess when he stalked Hillary Clinton during an October 2016 presidential campaign debate. Sadly, stalking his prey likely contributed to his victory. One can only wonder what-if Clinton, during the debate, turned the tables and had actively parried, mocked, her stalking? What if she had deflated the puffed-up predator, revealing him as nothing more than an empty suit, thus showing that she was “tough”? Would the election have turned out differently?
Like a lumbering, retired football lineman, Trump stands at 6’3″ and weighed in at 239 pounds and must be an imposing alfa-male. He appears to conceive sex as a zone of combat over interpersonal power, one lacking in erotic pleasure. It is a war terrain aimed at both the women he courted (willingly, commercially or otherwise) and the men he battled (actually or imaginarily). Wolff mentions in passing a remarkable feature of Trump’s personality, his pathology. He reports, “Trump liked to say that one of the things that made life worth living was getting your friends’ wives into bed.” The rest of the episode needs to be described in full because it’s remarkably revealing and received little media attention:
In pursuing a friend’s wife, he would try to persuade the wife that her husband was perhaps not what she thought. Then he’d have his secretary ask the friend into his office; once the friend arrived, Trump would engage in what was, for him, more or less constant sexual banter. Do you still like having sex with your wife? How often? You must have had a better fuck than your wife? Tell me about it. I have girls coming in from Los Angeles at three o’clock. We can go upstairs and have a great time. I promise . . . [Wolff, pp. 31-32]
Wolff concludes, “And all the while, Trump would have his friend’s wife on the speakerphone, listening in.”
Trump’s sexuality seems most vividly expressed in how he relates to women he crosses path with during his everyday life, women he perceives as possible targets of his masculine aggression. As the 2016 election got closer, on October 7th, The Washington Post released a video (and accompanying transcript) about Trump and TV host Billy Bush in which the candidate brags about his sexual exploits. The clip was part of unaired footage shot before Trump’s 2005, appearance on NBC’s Access Hollywood. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them,” Trump admitted. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
A series of additional sex scandals almost derailed Trump’s electoral bid just weeks before the 2016 election. Two former Miss Universe pageant winners — Alicia Machado (Venezuelan-American) and Ninni Laaksonen (Finland) – publicly accused Trump of sexual assault. The Wall Street Journal revealed that Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, received a generous payment of $150,000 from the National Enquirer, a fierce Trump supporter, for two years’ worth of her fitness columns and magazine covers. It noted that McDougal had a 10-month consensual affair with Trump in 2006, a year after his wedding to Melania; McDougal was about to release her story when the Enquirer made an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Still other exposés only further clarified Trump’s sexual persona. In 2016, NPR and The New Yorker published detailed accounts – with documented sources – of 24 women who claim that Trump made inappropriate and/or unwanted sexual advances on them. These incidents included entering beauty-pageant-contestants’ dressing rooms while they were dressing. His actions are claimed to have included kissing as well as touching, groping or fondling the woman’s breasts, vagina or buttocks; in one case, Trump’s first former wife, Ivana Trump, accused him of rape. For Trump, sexual abuse seems a way of life, a way of exercising power.
In September 2017, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, served the Trump campaign with a subpoena asking it to preserve any documents that it had pertaining to her and any other women who have made similar allegations against Trump. In January, she filed a defamation lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court against Trump. In responses, Trump argued: “To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.” Adding, All I can say is its totally fake news — just fake. It’s fake, it’s made-up stuff. And it’s disgraceful what happens.”
To date, no report of illicit sexual activity by Trump as president has been reported; rumors recently circulated that he was having an affair with UN ambassador Nikki Haley. Nevertheless, his sorted past shadows him like a warning as to what might yet come. He morphed from a once-upon-a-time hedonist who, like a recovering alcoholic, became a repentant moralist. He embodies a profound contradiction: he seems to love money as much as sex, both assertions of primitive masculine potency, power.
Trump’s election has had two consequences, one expected, the other not. Most worrisome, he renewed the culture wars, supporting some of the most regressive public-policy initiatives implemented since the current round of the culture wars began four decades ago. Upon taking office, his administration moved quickly to rescind Obama-era sex-related policies. He issued an executive order reinstating the global ban on the discussion of abortion by individuals and organizations receiving federal funding for overseas medical projects. The Departments of Justice and Education ordered schools nationwide to enforce gender-identity regulations based on the student’s birth certificate, thus blocking transgender students access to bathrooms and other facilities. Trump followed with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, a conservative in the mold of former Justice Antonia Scalia, to the Supreme Court. In a July 26, 2017, Tweet, he called for the reinstatement of the ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military; to date, the military has refused to enforce his proposal. On the same day, the Justice Department filed a brief in New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that sexual discrimination protections in the workplace do not extend to gay people.
Most unexpected, Trump’s arrogance likely contributed to the outing of movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein and helped fuel the subsequent male sex-abuse scandal now gripping the nation. Like Trump, why shouldn’t these abusers “own” their deeds? Clinton’s defeat fostered a deeply felt sense of outrage among many women, especially — initially — well-educated, articulate, professionals, white and black, feminists. Raised to believe in a sense of being “entitled,” they assumed that they would be treated as someone more than a sex object. In 2017, Tarana Burke’s #MeToo hash-tag went viral, personal experiences of debasement morphed into a social protest movement for outing male abusers. The recently-launched #TimesUp campaign may succeed where earlier efforts — like those following Anita Hill’s 1991 Senate testimony — faltered.
Popular reaction to the increased outing of male sexual abusers makes clear that a perpetrator’s wealth, power or mea culpa – “I’ll seek counseling” — is not enough. A growing number of women insist that sexual abuse is not isolated or private, but an endemic feature of many social relations and all-too-common in male-dominated business sectors, whether Hollywood/entertainment, Wall Street/finance or Silicon Valley/high-tech. The ongoing outing of upper-crust male notables and executives suggests that something more long-term is at play. Unfortunately, misogyny is endemic to American life, but gets little local media or public attention until it becomes a spectacle like what’s happening today. Its all-too-often considered a private matter, rather than a social practice, a postmodern form of patriarchy.