In honor of the crime clown show leaving the White House today, let’s reminisce.
I was recently listening to Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill podcast, episode 9, which discusses some of Trump’s campaign coverups of his affairs, including at least one child-with-hotel-staff coverup. In the episode, there is an audio clip of Trump talking about Lindsay Lohan in an interview on the Howard Stern Show, in 2004. In the longer interview, which is not included in Farrow’s podcast, Stern is the first to suggest that Lohan’s “wreck” of a father makes her a “troubled teen,” and a “troubled teen” must suggest something about Lohan’s sex life. Trump takes the bait:
“Yeah, you’re probably right. . . . She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed. How come all the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always good in bed?”
And I want to just pause and pay attention to the implications of this statement. I think it’s first important to point out that this statement isn’t meaningful because it’s insightful or expresses a kind of wisdom. To be sure: nothing that comes from Trump is “wisdom.” But he can often hit on some things that resonate. He’s an antenna, after all. An antenna for the worst desires and paranoid cliches that emerge from and sustain the particularly toxic and delusional core of white masculinity: the empty, fearful, never-satisfied center.
[Glossary note: when “white masculinity” describes a system or structure of power, rather than simply a personal trait, it is often referred to as “white patriarchy” or simply “patriarchy.”]
And, the thing is, Stern knows this as he’s setting up the conversation and just opens the door for Trump to walk right in. And the result is a Trump statement that fits a pattern we’ve come to know all too well.
Sometimes what he says resonates because it sounds like something that white patriarchy wants to be true (that Hillary Clinton is a “nasty woman” who should be “locked up”; or that Barack Obama was an illegitimate president because of a question of birthright).
Sometimes it resonates because it’s something white patriarchy wants to make true (like suggesting a lost election was not in fact a fair election but a “stolen” one).
Sometimes it resonates because it’s something that white patriarchy has forced onto society, and speaking it in the naive voice of Trump somehow justifies it (troubled women are good in bed).
This statement is chilling, of course, because it isn’t “a truth” so much as an accusation and a punishment wrapped up in one.
A slut, a whore. A troubled woman. What is a “troubled woman” good for? Oh yeah.
So let’s keep cranking out “troubled women.” (And they do.)
What makes a “troubled woman”? Someone we can call a whore. A slut.
It’s not just circular logic or self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s a toxic black hole.
And the distance between “not slut” and “slut” simply disappears in the black hole at the core of white patriarchy.
To put this less poetically or less metaphysically: the line between accusation and punishment is sometimes nonexistent, and that line has more to do with existing power systems and particular cultural discourses and traditions than logic or justice.
That is why looking at crime and culture as entwined is so important for understanding how we get from “troubled women” to “good in bed” to Trump in the White House.
Thankfully, as of today, that last part is no longer true. But it was often a crime.