Editorial: Is Stormy Daniels part of #MeToo?

Adult film star Stormy Daniels made even more headlines this week after a highly publicized “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper on March 27.

Aside from the more obvious points of discussion — President Donald Trump’s attorney paying off Daniels to keep her quiet, the Trump campaign’s possible conflagration of campaign-finance laws, the question of whether Daniels is even telling the truth — one important piece of the narrative is whether or not Daniels’ story fits in with the #MeToo movement.

Daniels maintains that it does not — she is not a victim and her affair with Trump was entirely consensual, she says. Yet at the same time, she asserts that she was not at all attracted to Trump, she did not want to have sex with him, but felt that she “deserved it” because she got herself into a bad situation by going to a man’s room alone. We believe that sounds exactly like what #MeToo is all about — women feeling like they don’t have a choice when it comes to sex, and believing themselves to be at fault for getting into the situation in the first place. But it’s also about empathy, and women supporting each other by recognizing that they’ve shared similar experiences. And in order for that to happen, someone has to say #MeToo. Stormy Daniels is not saying that, though she has expressed no opposition to the movement or survivors of sexual assault speaking out. In fact, she is trying to do precisely the opposite, by minimizing her experience so as not to disrupt the #MeToo agenda and take away from the experiences of who she refers to as “true victims.”

We do not want to patronize Daniels by saying she is not capable of recognizing her status as a victim, but we do consider her story as an example of the ways in which rape culture pervades society. Women should never feel as though they have to push their self-established sexual boundaries, regardless of the initial signals they may have sent or how far they allowed the situation to progress. Particularly important in the rape culture narrative is the power of the male. Clearly, this was a relationship in which Donald Trump held significant power over Daniels and may have been using the promise of an appearance on “The Celebrity Apprentice” to pressure her. Granted, Daniels may have only chosen to have sex with Trump to advance her career, but she still shouldn’t have felt like obtaining that opportunity was contingent on sex. The bottom line is that this story isn’t just about politics or possibly tainted presidential campaigns. It is about power and the men who wield it. Regardless of whether or not Daniels accepts the #MeToo label, her tale is still one that says a lot about rape culture, and we believe it’s important for us to recognize that when we see it.

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