August 20, 2012

There Is No Such Thing As Illegitimate Rape

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What is the issue?

Representative Todd Akin (R) of Missouri claims to have “misspoke” (his word, not mine) while being interviewed on a St. Louis news show Sunday morning when he answered the following question:

JACO: Okay, so if an abortion could be considered in the case of a tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?

AKIN: Well, you know, people always want to try and make that as one of those things… “Well, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?”

It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Akin isn’t the first to make this mistake — in 1995, representative Henry Aldridge told the House Appropriations Committee, “The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. …Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.” According to a ’96 study, 32,101 rapes a year result in unwanted pregnancy (when the victim is between the reproductive sweet spot of 12 and 45 years old). So like, not so rare.

Now, as a woman with a basic understanding of biology, I can say with confidence that the only type of sex that impregnates women is sex with faulty or no contraception. But there is certainly no magic rape alarm that goes off when someone uses force to have sex with a woman. And I mean, thank goodness! That would sure get confusing for our inferior lady-bodies when we choose to do anything but lay there and take the seed the way god intended.

I tweeted a response to the segment, like many other humans who are tired of representatives with voting power who don’t understand the way sex and bodies work. Don’t ever forget this is a person voting for or against our “rights” (which, as Rachel Maddow aptly put, “…are not actually supposed to be voted on. That’s why they’re called rights.”). Many people agreed, but some decided to holler at me, making the following suggestions when defending Akin:

1. Obama does cocaine, if I do as much cocaine as Akin I won’t have to worry about getting pregnant

2. Only liberals should have access to abortion, because kill liberals

3. Gallup (a poll conducted over telephone landlines, BTW) puts the country at 51% pro-life, so calling Akin out for his participation in rape culture is pathetic because he’s going to win anyway

4. Liberals should not care about Akin’s statements because they didn’t care when people were raped at Occupy Wall Street

5. Seriously, it’s a fact, they even covered it up and intimidated rape victims (I asked for facts here and the response was “thats facts”; I’m also not clear on who “they” is)

6. Remember when Whoopi Goldberg made a rape joke and no one cared? (Last I checked, she’s not a member of the House.)

Both of my aggressors were men. My liberalism was assumed because, I’m not sure. Probably my geographic location, the fact that I’m a woman, my being intolerant of rape apologists, etc. (Because in some alternate universe, only liberals care about rape.)

Now, no one directly endorsed rape — not the people tweeting at me, not Akin. But no one talked about it in human terms, either. Isn’t that sort of the problem, here? Why are we talking about cocaine and Occupy Wall Street and Whoopi Goldberg? Why are we talking about the consequences of a fetus and the consequences of a rapist and completely leaving out the woman — the VICTIM — whose body was violated? Why is she just a vessel, the elephant in the room whose fate the men have to decide?

Because anyone who knows a victim of rape knows they are not just a vessel. They are a victim of violence whose safety and personhood has been threatened. They are a person who needs to rebuild. They are a person who should never, ever be told that their rape was legitimate (or not). THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS LEGITIMATE RAPE, OR ILLEGITIMATE RAPE. Even implying that there’s a difference… well, what are you saying? Are you saying that female rape victims only get pregnant if they were… um… asking for it? No woman or man asks to be raped. That is what makes it rape.

You know what we’re asking for? We’re asking for you to imagine your sister, daughter, girlfriend, wife being forced to have sex and then being forced (again) to carry and be responsible for a child after one of the most dehumanizing experiences of her life. We’re asking that you not force yourselves on us when we’ve knocked back a few too many. We’re asking that you not take our outfits as an invitation to RAPE US. And most of all, we’re asking that you, if you’re an elected official of this government, pick up a goddamn book or even LEARN TO WORK GOOGLE before you go on television talking about acts of violence that you don’t know anything about. Think you can manage that? TC mark

Stephanie Georgopulos

Steph is a former editor at Thought Catalog and a current writer at Studio@Gawker. Her work has appeared on Glamour, …

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