On Monday, the New York Post published several nude photos of Melania Trump taken as part of a 1996 modeling shoot for a French men’s publication called Max Magazine. In one of the photos, she is being held by a woman and in another she is pulling away from a woman who is brandishing a whip. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh used his show to argue that the photos would only help Donald Trump with the “single, white male vote,” before half-jokingly adding that the photos might help appease a different demographic: LGBT voters.
“And today, there are — these are, what would you call, girl-on-girl — I think is the, yes — nude, girl-on-girl photos with Melania and other women. I think this probably might wrap up the LGBT vote for Trump,” he said on his radio program.
Has Rupert Murdoch turned against Trump? New York Post runs risque photos of Melania. What will evangelicals think?https://t.co/MsrZBgcMFA
— Bruce Bartlett (@BruceBartlett) July 31, 2016
While reactions to previous photos of Melania Trump showcased our culture’s simultaneous fascination with and repulsion of women who pose for nude or semi-nude photos, the reactions to her latest photos demonstrate just how misguided and outdated our societal understanding of lesbian and bisexual women is. Even as acceptance and embrace of the LGBTQ community becomes more and more commonplace, queer women’s lives are still being indiscriminately over-sexualized, primarily for the enjoyment of straight men.
For a culture that insists on portraying two women in a relationship as salacious and sexy, queer women are frequently finding themselves in situations where they feel they have to keep public displays of affection to themselves lest they be harassed by men who feel somehow entitled to involve themselves in the couple’s relationship, as a viewer or otherwise. According to a 2014 report commissioned by Stop Street Harassment, 7 percent of LGBTQ-identified women experience daily harassment, compared to 1 percent of straight women.
Queer women are also still fighting to dispel the myth that they can be “turned” straight, a concept known disparagingly as “corrective rape,” making the trivialization of queer women’s sexuality all the more hurtful. A female student at Kenyon College recently claimed a male student sexually assaulted her after he insisted that she was “too cute to be a lesbian.” And if you think all of this is unrelated to the Melania photos that were released, just read the New York Post article.
The Post’s cover read “Menage a’Trump.” The photographer who took the photos, Jarl Ale de Basseville, used the term “menage a’trois” when he discussed the photos. “I always loved women together, because I have been with a lot of women who desired the ménage à trois,” he said when discussing the photographs. But there weren’t three people in the photo, so the implied inclusion of a man, both in the Post’s headline and in the photographer’s comments, don’t quite square with the paper’s choice to repeatedly use the word “lesbian” in the New York Post piece.
Only in a world where the sexuality of queer women belongs to men — through how queer women are portrayed in popular culture and porn in particular — does it makes complete sense that both “lesbian-themed” and “menage a’trois” belong in the same story: the third party here is the man holding a copy of the daily tabloid on the subway. The use of this particular language suggests that no one at the Post is differentiating “bisexual” and “lesbian” because in this context, it’s only about male entitlement to participate in queer women’s sexuality.
Donald Trump And The Normalization Of White Male SupremacyPolitics by CREDIT: AP Images/Composite Donald Trump may or may not be our next president. But he has already changed…thinkprogress.orgIt’s also worth stating the obvious: The Republican nominee, despite paying lip service to LGBTQ victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting during the Republican National Convention, hasn’t indicated he will actually stand up the rights of LGBTQ people in any meaningful way. As Nico Lang wrote in Salon, Trump’s statements indicate his positions fall in line with previous Republican nominees for president. He is on record saying he would “strongly consider” appointing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who would overturn same-sex marriage. And although Trump has tepidly indicated he doesn’t support workplace discrimination against LGBT people, he hasn’t answered direct questions on whether he supports legislation that bans discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace.
It strains credulity to believe that pervasive sexual harassment and violence against queer women would be eradicated or even addressed at all under a Trump administration. He is still defending former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes even after several female colleagues at the network accused him of sexual harassment, and recently remarked that his daughter should simply find work elsewhere if she were harassed by her boss. Trump also continues to perpetuate the homophobic trope that lesbians would leave their girlfriends for a man if they were able to, as Samantha Allen pointed out in The Daily Beast.
Only 18 percent of Americans who identify as LGBT say they hold a favorable opinion Donald Trump and only 20 percent of women aged 18 to 49 said the same, according to a May 2016 Gallup poll of more than 11,000 Americans.