Trump's objectification of his daughter Ivanka has been particularly controversialFLICKR: Michael Vadon

Warning: This article contains content which some readers may find distressing.

Being sexually assaulted in public leaves you reeling with a sickening helplessness.

It tastes like vomit in the back of your throat, stomach acid burning your mouth. Most sickening is its familiarity. Like bile, you’ve tasted its corrosive sting so many times before – yet it’s unwavering in its potency. And there is nothing you can do about it.

This is a ‘normal’ feeling. It’s ‘normal’, on a night out, for a stranger to use the mask of a sweaty, sticky crowd, of blaring music, to deny you any ability to face them as they use your body for their self-gratification. In the anonymous delirium, you’re sexually assaulted and there is nothing you can do about it.

I’d almost become numb to the monotonous frequency of this experience. The cloudy haze of intoxication is like damp cotton wool. But the other week, sober and in the naked openness of a street that only had a spattering of people, assault crept up on me and slapped me in the face with vile clarity. I was standing on my own, waiting for a friend, queuing for fast food. Distracted by the hot dog I was eating, I froze when I felt a pair of hands grab me with aggressive suddenness, from behind. I wanted to tell him to ‘fuck off’. I didn’t expect that it would take him trying to force his mouth on me for me to manage a feeble ‘what are you doing? Don’t touch me’. I felt scared. I felt pathetic. 

Then he ran away. The only outlet I had after processing what had just happened and snapping out of a trance-like quietness in my paralysis was to rant to my friend: ‘Why do people think this is fucking okay?’

The anonymity of clubs, of sardine-tin packed public transport, suggests that people know it’s not okay. He knew it wasn’t okay because he ran away into the dark. He knew it wasn’t okay because he chose conditions where no one would see him. He knew it wasn’t okay, but he didn’t care. That is the problem. There is a culture of entitlement to women’s bodies as sex objects. It didn’t matter to him that I’d feel helpless. 

It doesn’t matter to people because being sexually assaulted is normal; it’s accepted as a ‘fact of life’, ‘just one of those things’ that your mum uses for a pretext as to why you shouldn’t ‘wear those shorts’ to walk across town in. Well-intentioned people will tell their daughters, like I was told, that if I didn’t ‘put myself in vulnerable positions’ (like standing in the street), I wouldn’t be sexually assaulted.

It’s normal, so you ‘shouldn’t let it get to you’. But it does get to me. It should get to me. The mundanity, the normality of this experience for women illuminates how sinister Donald Trump’s self-declared ‘locker room banter’ is. 

In an apology video for the recent leaked tapes, Trump claims that criticism of him boasting about assaulting women is "nothing more than a distraction from the important issues". He further explained that this doesn’t reflect who he is as a person, suggesting that the comments – "I don’t even wait…when you’re a star, you can do anything…grab them by the pussy" – were made in a vacuum.

If Trump has never physically done what he brags about, this does not change the lived experience that sexual assault is ‘normal’ and that his words aren’t objective, or external to behavioural consequences. His comments can never be ‘just a joke’. Consciously or subconsciously, words shape how we think and behave. It should be noted that I love jokes, I love controversy, I love challenging norms and conventions. However, to put it bluntly: I think Trump’s so-called ‘banter’ is shit. Comedy has a social function, and that is partly to provide relief. If someone makes a comically lazy joke about sexually assaulting women, what that tells me – even if they plead that it’s ‘not who they are’ – is that they like the taste of those words in their mouth. That a candidate for the US presidency likes the taste of those words in his mouth is terrifying.

Calling politicians out for continuing to normalise assault isn’t a "distraction from important issues": it is an important issue. I’m not shocked by Trump’s comments, simply because I’m not shocked when I or my friends are groped by a stranger in a dark club. He’s vocalising an attitude that is still highly conventional. Trump is not an ‘outlier’; he is a product of the society of which you and I are a part. 

There is a tendency to speak about Trump with an emphasis on his absurdity – suggesting that he’s not ‘normal’. Because we identify being ‘normal’ with being like ‘everyone else’, by presenting Trump as alien we detach ourselves from the society of which he’s a consequence. We are essentially saying, ‘that’s not what society is like’, ‘that’s not what I’m like’, or ‘that’s not me’. In doing so, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility to change our own behaviour. It’s comforting to indulge in how morally superior you are to Trump, but it’s not constructive. Trump alone isn’t to blame for a culture of entitlement to women’s bodies. Trump alone doesn’t sexually assault millions of people each year.

‘Everyone else’ does that. We’re the ‘everyone else’: it’s up to us to talk about consent.