"He was like a big silverback gorilla... he took control. He dominated Hillary Clinton... I think he looked like a boss." These were the words Nigel Farage used to describe Donald Trump's performance during the second US presidential debate, at Washington University, St Louis.

It's no coincidence that the animalistic analogy came shortly after Farage seemed to defend Trump's comments about sexually assaulting and objectifying women, captured on that now infamous 2005 video tape.

Responding to the outcry over Trump's comments, which included descriptions of kissing women without 'waiting', and grabbing them "by the pussy", Farage said: "Look, this is alpha-male boasting. It's the kind of thing, if we are being honest, that men do. They sit around and have a drink and they talk like this."

Taken together, Farage's comments provide a clear picture of politics: a man's game, dominated by the toughest, most aggressive alpha-males, with a normalised boys' club atmosphere that is to be expected and accepted behind closed doors.

Trump used near-identical excuses in his own three-sentence long 'apology' for the video tape, simply saying: "This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologise if anyone was offended."

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Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump greets Nigel Farage during a campaign rally at the Mississippi Coliseum on August 24, 2016 in Jackson, Mississippi. Getty Images

Both men strongly imply that the problem was not with the comments themselves, but simply the fact that they were made public. The idea of powerful white men sitting around casually discussing women in the most misogynistic terms and referring to sexual assault as a fun pastime doesn't seem to conflict in any way with their notion of politics.

This is crucial to understanding such men's vision of what political office looks like. How can we be surprised that nearly 400 anti-abortion bills were introduced by state legislatures in 2015 when those making the decisions and having conversations in the political equivalent of 'locker rooms' are overwhelmingly white men?

In many ways, the mainstream media response to the tape has enabled the 'locker room' angle of defence, with countless articles describing Trump's recorded comments as "lewd" and "vulgar", suggesting that it was his use of words like "pussy" that was most problematic. In reality it was the non-consensual sexual violence he alluded to that should have been the focus of outrage.

The normalisation of the comments continues with the argument that they should be excused on the basis that other men say similar things, a suggestion made by Trump in his reference to Bill Clinton, but also by other high-profile commentators. Take Piers Morgan, who wrote to former rugby player Brian Moore on Twitter: "I'd love to hear a hot mic from inside your old rugby dressing rooms. Would make Trump sound like a choirboy."

Again, this suggests that the comments are somehow vindicated by their ubiquity – if all men are doing it, what difference does it make if one of them is a politician, or even the President of the United States? And if a man a hair's breadth away from becoming the President of the United States suggests that all men are doing it, that sends a powerful message of approval and justification to others all over the world telling them to carry on.

This suggests that the comments are somehow vindicated by their ubiquity - if all men are doing it, what difference does it make if one of them is a politician, or even the President of the United States?

In some ways the response to the recording is more troubling than the remarks themselves. That other prominent figures have leapt to defend Trump speaks volumes about the universal acceptability of extreme misogyny and sexual assault. But even the response of some of those politicians who have finally distanced themselves from Trump is not necessarily cause for celebration either, as commentators have pointed out. It can hardly be described as a 'win' that this 'vulgar' abuse is considered a 'final straw' for those who allowed Trump's previous references to woman as pigs and dogs, or his Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic comments to go unchallenged.

As Soraya Chemaly has written: "The same men who are claiming that Trump is finally indefensible because of his attitude towards women routinely engage in behaviour that equally denigrates us, denies us dignity and respect, and violates our human rights."

It was particularly galling to see both Trump respond to the furore by attempting to deflect the attention onto women who have made sexual harassment and abuse allegations against Bill Clinton, a shamelessly exploitative manipulation that treats these women and their testimonies as nothing more than cynical political fodder.

In every way, these responses, the comments themselves, the excuses being made for them and the continued support for Trump from millions of voters, firmly locate women as losers in this election. A powerful white man boasts proudly about being able to commit sexual assault without recrimination and the response is to excuse him, normalise his behaviour and describe it as banter. If Trump is elected, this will only be a hint of what is yet to come.

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