Trump's Trial Resurfaced His View On Sexual Attraction, And Experts Have Thoughts

Donald Trump’shush money trial has brought some of the former president’s views on sexual attraction to light once again — and they’re just not accurate, sex experts say.

Trump is facing 34 criminal charges tied to $130,000 in hush money payments his then-lawyer Michael Cohensaid hemade to adult film star Stormy Daniels days prior to the 2016 presidential election to prevent her from speaking publicly about their alleged 2006 extramarital affair. Prosecutors say Trump falsified business records to conceal the reimbursements to Cohen. The former president has denied all of the charges.

On Tuesday, the prosecution asked witness Sally Franklin, a publishing executive from Penguin Random House, to read excerpts from some of Trump’s books aloud, including this quote from his 2004 book “Trump: How to Get Rich”:

All the women on ‘The Apprentice’ flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected. A sexual dynamic is always present between people, unless you are asexual.

As the book was published 20 years ago, it’s conceivable that the author’s views have shifted over time. But since the quote resurfaced this week in the context of the trial, we asked sex experts for their thoughts.

Laurie Mintz is a psychologist, sex therapist and an emeritus professor at the University of Florida, who teaches a course on the psychology of human sexuality. She told HuffPost that Trump’s assertion that “a sexual dynamic is always present between people” is false — and there’s science to back that up. She pointed to a wholebody of research about what attracts us to other people and the reasons are “quite complex,” she said.

“In a nutshell, we know from this research that attraction is a ‘biopsychosocial’ event — meaning our biology, our psychology and cultural norms all impact this,” Mintz explained. 

She referred to sex researcher Justin Lehmiller’s “The Psychology of Human Sexuality” textbook, which she uses in her classes. In it, he addresses some of variables that impact sexual attraction, including one’s mood and level of physiological arousal during the interaction, the other person’s physical attractiveness, their geographic proximity, how similar they are to you and levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin, just to name a few.

Clinical sexologist and sexuality educator Lawrence Siegel underscored that sexual attraction is influenced by situational and environmental factors like familiarity and timing.

“For example, individuals may be more attracted to someone they encounter frequently or during periods of heightened arousal, such as during social events, frightening situations or romantic encounters,” he told HuffPost.

In other words, “It’s way more complex than we are always attracted to everyone,” Mintz said.

In his 2004 book “Trump: How to Get Rich,” Trump wrote,
In his 2004 book “Trump: How to Get Rich,” Trump wrote, "All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected. A sexual dynamic is always present between people, unless you are asexual.” SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

Given the many factors that impact our attraction to another person, it’s sometimes the case that what people say they’re looking for in a potential partner is not in line with the type of person they end up going for, Lehmiller, the sex researcher, wrote in a blog post on his website.

“This makes sense because, when we complete surveys about what it is that we’re attracted to in a calm, cool, and collected state, we can’t take into account how factors like our physiological arousal, mood, or time of day might influence how we feel about a given individual,” he wrote.

Even when an attraction is present, we are capable of putting those feelings aside when the situation calls for it, said Siegel.

“First, there can be an initial attraction one may feel toward another when meeting them,” Siegel said. “But anyone with a modicum of self-awareness and impulse control does not act on them when it’s not appropriate.”

Trump’s quote also suggests that flirting is always indicative of sexual interest or attraction, but there are many other reasons people flirt. According to Psychology Today, it could be just for the sake of having fun and being playful, to encourage another person to do something for you, to boost your self-esteem, to determine if someone is interested in you or to help build a romantic bond with someone. Folks who identify as asexual may still flirt with others even though they don’t experience sexual attraction.

“Research finds that those being flirted with accurately perceived that the other person was interested only 28 percent of the time,” psychology professor and relationship expert Gary W. Lewandowski wrote in a blog post for Psychology Today. “In other words, roughly three out of four times that people flirt, it goes undetected. Women were especially bad at accurately detecting male flirting (18 percent).”

Siegel doubts that Trump himself even believes what he wrote in his book.

“It’s really about his narcissistic belief that everyone is attracted to and wants to have sex with him,” he said.