Monday, 20 August 2012

"Legitimate rape" is illogical cant

Content warning:  Rants related to rape, victim blaming, rape apologists, and ridiculous sex education that helps no one, all contained within.

"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.


Deborah said...

And here was I thinking that it was just the nuns who peddled such horrible myths. I'm appalled that this myth is so widespread. Still.

Anonymous said...

Serious question, what if my girlfriend wants to act out a rape fantasy? Should I indulge or do you think I should talk her out of it?

Julie said...

Anon, kindly note that anonymous comments require a consistent handle. Your comment isn't really on topic but I'll indulge it. Personally I think rape fantasies can be explored safely, e.g. through the use of safe words and clear communication beforehand and during. Others who are more knowledgeable about BDSM may wish to comment further?

Moz said...

I wonder if he was just making a terrible pun on "illegitimate". Or is that just my undue attraction to rationality? I'd love to see where he got the idea from, especially since he's apparently a christian and may well have a biblical reference for us.

There was also some scary stuff in his original speech about someone needing to be punished and it shouldn't be the child. Child being the conceptus, not the rape victim, just to be really clear.

Rape fantasies, IMO, require you both to be comfortable with the acting out. And you should both be clear on exactly what the fantasy involves. Very clear. Also, don't be afraid to stop and say "I don't want do this any more". Google is your friend, there's a lot been written on the subject by people who've had a range of experiences.

Moz said...

Even "The Onion" can't resist this one:,29249/

Their fake vox pop has:

"I’m sure he’s very sorry and what he meant to say was nothing at all.

John Kazan
Systems Analyst"

Julie said...

This is well worth a read for a chuckle; "the natural enemies of the uterus are the locust, the hawk, the carpenter ant, and the witch."

Anonymous said...

Also problematic is Akin's initial response to the fallout saying that he "misspoke". Akin didn't misspeak, Akin let his personal, dangerous, and archaic beliefs be known.

Today he has continued to defend his remarks and clarified that he was speaking about "forcible" rape...

"Akin said that he was trying to refer specifically "forcible rape" in his comment, but that "legitimate" was "absolutely the wrong word" for him to use."


Moz said...

Akin is actually wrong with a side order of really, really wrong: in the US there are ~30,000 pregnancies a year from rape. "rare", yeah right. Also, the pregnancy rate from rape appears to be higher than for couples trying to conceive (after allowing for rape victims who were using contraception).

With actual Science! And like all good science, that article has references.

Anonymous said...

@ First Anon - rape fantasies are acceptable to be played out with consent. They can actually be very empowering to survivors because it allows them to re-write their experience but in a situation where they have control. What's more, rape fantasises are almost never about rape but are about control. All of these things are normal and healthy to fantasise about. The crucial thing is that both parties have discussed it, feel safe, have an exist strategy and are consenting every step of the way.