"If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down."So said Republican nominee for the US Senate Todd Akin.
"That whole thing" refers to pregnancy. Mr Akin is saying that women don't get pregnant from rape. And if they do then it wasn't really rape, it wasn't "legitimate rape."
The whole concept of "legitimate rape" appals me. I believe that Mr Akin is meaning to say "real" or "genuine", when he says legitimate, but I can't help thinking of that other meaning of legitimate, which is "acceptable."
It is not up to Mr Akin to decide what does and does not constitute rape, or even this bizarre sub-set of rape that he's carved out in his head. Rape is sex without consent. There is nothing legitimate, as in acceptable, about rape EVER. And as for there being illegitimate rape, fake rape; there is NO evidence to suggest that false rape claims are made at any higher rate than any other level of fraudulent reporting, which tends to be about 5%.
Many of the reactions I've seen to Akin's comments have been focused on the sheer biological illogicality of his claim that rape cannot result in pregnancy. Yet that's exactly what I was taught in my teens at a school in New Zealand in the early 1990s. I recall quite clearly during a health class a teacher (who was not a science teacher and I suspect very unsupported to run these discussions) telling us that pregnancy did not result from rape because the woman's body (only women can get raped you see) was simply not receptive, wasn't producing the correct juices, was hostile to the sperm. This wasn't a biology class I hasten to add. For a long time I believed her.*
The point of this discussion was to refute the idea that abortion in cases of rape was even to be considered. If you were pregnant it couldn't have been rape, "legitimate rape" as Akin would no doubt say, therefore no termination for you, evil slut!
Ellen and Minnie helped to dispel this myth. You remember Ellen right? Ellen Crozier? She was Cheryl West, before there was Cheryl West. You know who I mean, that Shortie nurse, the one who was Carla's good sister. The origins of her daughter, Minnie, were shrouded in mystery for many a season on the Great New Zealand Soap, and it eventually turned out that that pregnancy was the result of rape.
In my own life I've studied biology a fair bit, and I know, now, how untrue the line I was sold all those years ago is. I know it also second hand from the bitter, horrible, experience of a number of women who have disclosed such stories in their own pasts; resulting in adoption, miscarriage, abortion, and keeping the resultant child and raising them well. The feeling of being violated over again, in finding out about the pregnancy, and then having to make hard decisions with no correct answer due to the proprietary, selfish, harmful act of another.
There are, sadly, so many myths about rape, and about reproductive health. When one that seems so obviously wrong to us pops up let's consider that there will be those who have been taught the lie as truth and who may not yet have had the additional learning, or the life experience, to show them otherwise.
* She also helpfully told us, in the same session, that if someone wanted to rape us there was no point lying that we had our periods as the rapist wouldn't care. It's odd what sticks in the teen brain through to adulthood.