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What They Said Behind Closed Doors: The Problematic Nature of Locker Room Talk

Updated: Mar 12

Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment/Assault

Dear Asian Youth,

Back in 2016 (doesn’t it feels like ages ago?), a term was hugely popularized by the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Following a series of extremely disturbing recordings in which Trump was recorded saying, “Grab them by the p*ssy” among many other disturbing phrases; Trump denounced the recording publicly as “Locker Room Talk” in a presidential debate with Hilary Clinton.

Locker room talk in the past was often associated with the inappropriate behavior of adolescent boys, but it has grown unaddressed to encompass men in positions of power, sitting presidents, and celebrities. It speaks to the morals of a society that excuses this behavior.

Urban Dictionary all too nicely defines locker room talk as, “Any manner of conversation that polite society dictates be held privately - with small groups of like-minded, similarly gendered peers - due to its sexually charged language, situations, or innuendos.” Yet locker room talk has even greater far-reaching moral implications on our society and culture.

As a former male athlete, who has been in many male-dominated spaces, I have unfortunately come across locker room talk in too many instances. Both in high school and college, I have had numerous encounters with male peers who would casually make a suggestive comment or objectify a female counterpart’s body. Yet, the most perplexing aspect is the fact that most of my peers knew it was wrong and continued to make such inappropriate comments. If there was even one female in the room the topic of conversation would immediately change.

While in high school, I cannot count the innumerable number of times someone made a suggestive comment in passing. “She has a nice ass.” “I would so tap that”. These off-the-cuff comments disrespectfully objectify female peers.

Sadly, it’s only after these extremely uncomfortable moments that I would often find myself wishing I had done more to stop those conversations. As someone who has long identified as a feminist and an ally, I wish I had known earlier why it was so incredibly wrong and what I could’ve done about it.

In college, locker room talk became even more prevalent as I tried to navigate the complex social environment. In finding new friends, I often would come across similar comments or conversations with different people. I remember once talking about a school project with one of these “friends.” I mentioned I was working with a mutual female friend of ours when he made an off-the-cuff remark on her appearance. I confronted him on why he made such comments, to which he replied something along the lines of, “I can’t help it.” Much like the phrase “boys will be boys” this comment would also follow along the lines of catcalling and other problematic behaviors that have become widespread and normalized in society.

As much as I have tried to understand and deconstruct this behavior, all I can really only think of is how society excuses this behavior and believes it to be “harmless.” In truth, “harmless” speech doesn’t objectify, dehumanize, or perpetuate violent actions against another person.

Back in May, several boys in New Delhi, India were taken into custody over an Instagram chat that exchanged nude photos of girls. According to