This presidential election has been downright embarrassing to men. In its closing days, that's how a lot of men, including Ken Oldham, see the 2016 campaign.

So many of its lowest moments involved men and sex: Donald Trump's vulgar boasts on the Access Hollywood video about kissing women and grabbing their crotches. Women, one after another, accusing Trump of groping them. Women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct showing up at a presidential debate. And now, a new FBI inquiry into Hillary Clinton's emails - triggered by, of all things, an investigation of illicit texts allegedly sent to an underage girl by the husband of a Clinton top aide.

"It's disgusting," said Oldham, 40, president of the United Way in Frederick, Md. "Men have not looked good in this election."

"The vast majority of men are decent, civil human beings, and I don't think we can be silent anymore," said Oldham, who joined the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser in downtown Frederick on Sunday to raise money to help survivors of sexual assault.


To make a point, Oldham and two dozen men did the walk in high heels. "It was the first time I had the guts to put on a pair of pumps and walk publicly through town," he said.

Loud on nastiness, the 2016 presidential campaign has quietly ushered in an upside, according to many women's rights activists. They see a new realisation of how rampant nonconsensual sexual behaviour is. And, according to interviews with activists in 10 states, more men now feel obliged to condemn it because silence implicitly condones it.

"We have to stand up and stop this piggish behaviour," said Andrew Posey, 58, a marketing consultant in Venice, California. When the Trump tape aired, Posey added, "Every man had heard that man before."

So Posey and other men symbolically stood up at an Oct. 20 gala in Los Angeles to benefit survivors of sexual assault. When a speaker at a Peace Over Violence dinner called on "nasty women" to be heard, Posey jumped up. "All the men stood up. It was one of the great moments of the event," he said. "Men who never talked about this are now."

Perhaps because so many Americans saw the viral video clip of Trump, which was first published by The Washington Post on October 7, a national conversation was sparked. The tape also triggered a flood of women telling stories of unwanted sexual contact, often for the first time, to their families, on social media and on hotlines from Boston to San Francisco that reported big spikes in calls in October.

Many said the quick public condemnation of Trump's lewd talk made them more willing to go public. Because there are usually no witnesses to hear a man say or do something gross or unwanted to a woman, the video was critical. Its impact has been likened to the effect video is having on bringing new clarity to police shootings of unarmed victims.

In the video, Trump dismisses the need to get a women's consent because "when you're a star, they let you do it." He tells TV personality Billy Bush, "I moved on her like a bitch." Because he was "a star," Trump says, he could "grab them by the p****" whenever he wanted.

Trump apologised for what he said in the 2005 tape, saying it was a conversation caught on a hot mic and "these words don't reflect who I am."


Bush was fired as a host of NBC's Today.

And, an unanticipated fallout has been that many men, particularly those who are younger, realized that they can no longer wink and nod at, or even ignore, talk like this.

"Wow," Posey remembered thinking as he listened to the two men. "Our complacency allows it to be a problem."

Comedian Jon Stewart, basketball superstar LeBron James and other male celebrities also spoke up.

"I got a mother-in-law, a wife, a mom and a daughter, and those conversations just don't go on in our locker room," James said.

"Women: tweet me your first assaults," author Kelly Oxford wrote on Twitter to her gigantic following. "I'll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my 'p****' and smiles at me, I'm 12."

With Oxford's help, the #NotOkay hashtag caught fire. Women wrote about being groped and touched against their will in elevators, subways and museums.

"It makes me feel empowered," said Tomris Laffly, 38, a writer in New York. She spoke for the first time publicly about being scared as she was pressed up against a door by a man "who wanted to make a move" on her. She was 15.

"Silence no longer feels defensible; it feels complicity," said Moira Smith, a lawyer. She recently told the National Law Journal that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas squeezed her buttocks at a dinner party 17 years ago.

Even before this election cycle, the understanding of how commonplace the problem was had been growing, thanks to education campaigns in the military and on college campuses as well as recent bombshell cases in the news.

Bill Cosby, a TV icon, is scheduled to stand trial soon on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting women. Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News, was ousted this year from the network after female employees accused him of sexually harassing them. One woman said Ailes demanded sex saying, "If you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys."

Oxford said the Trump tape hit a bigger nerve than the Cosby and Ailes accusations because it was so relatable. While stories of being drugged by a celebrity or propositioned by a media mogul have generated their share of outrage, many, many women in more everyday circumstances have been grabbed, kissed or touched when they did not want to be, Oxford said. With 45 million people having come to her Twitter feed since she began asking for their stories, Oxford summarised the response this way: "Yes, I have heard this before. It happened to me and I don't like it."

Still, some believe the issue is overblown.

"Doggone it, short of any criminal activity, I think adults, male and female alike, can express themselves anyway they like," said Bob Smith, 65, a Republican from Sacramento who owns an insurance company. "You certainly don't want your mother hearing you talk like that, but as far as I am concerned, if I never hear another thing about 'sexcapades' for the rest of the election cycle, I would be delighted. Let's talk about policy. The world is a dangerous place. Our economy stinks. Immigration policy is failing."

Smith plans to vote Trump.

Others dismiss as unimportant Trump's crude video talk, as well as his radio conversations with Howard Stern, where Trump joined raunchy banter with the shock jock, telling listeners which famous women he would like to have sex with and talking about the shapes of women's breasts.

"Boy talk" is what Trump's wife, Melania, calls it.

Melania Trump also questioned the "background" of the women who have accused her husband of forcibly kissing them or putting his hand up their skirt or touching their breast. Donald Trump suggested some of the women were not attractive enough to have even gotten a second look. He also has called all of them "liars."

"Every one of these liars will be sued once the election is over. I look so forward to doing that," he said at a recent rally in Gettysburg, Pa.

Fears of being disbelieved or called a slut have long kept women from not coming forward with allegations about sexual misconduct or assault. But more than ever, activists said, there is a feeling of broadening social support, including from men.

Beth Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said progress has been building for a decade. In 2008, the Boston transit system made headlines by launching a campaign against sexual assault and harassment with the message that inappropriate sexual behaviour will not be tolerated.

Now, the 2016 presidential campaign has focused far greater attention on the issue than any paid ad campaign.

"It's a moment of change and understanding," Scaramella said.

"Men are talking about this now," said Justin Salzman, 32, a business manager of a sports facility in Frederick. He put on a pair of red high heels Sunday to raise money for the local Heartly House, which helps victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

"People were honking and yelling their support," he said, as he, two of his five brothers and other men teetered down the sidewalk in women's shoes. "Next year I think this event is going to be even bigger."