Was it just an unfortunate oops as he has tried to represent it? Unfortunate, definitely. Oops, I don’t think so! There is no doubt that when Missouri Representative Todd Akin, explaining his opposition to abortion, said that victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he did not have a clue about what he was talking about.
Todd Akin’s statement was definitely not an “oops,” and it was not just an uncompassionate disregard for rape victim’s feelings.
So, one immediately wonders, after listening to Akin say that women rarely get pregnant from a “legitimate rape,” if he is one more extremist Republican who doesn’t care for scientific evidence (and I am finger-pointing that group of individuals who don’t accept the evidence of a Big Bang, the evolution or the climate change.) But, oh surprise, he is actually a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. So Akin should know better, shouldn’t he?
And, please, what did Akin mean by “that whole thing?” Or is he so prudish that he cannot name the uterus, ovaries, vagina and vulva by their names?
That is not even the core issue though. You might have the right to be ignorant in matters that make you uncomfortable. However, you can’t be ill informed on the subjects you’ll be probably legislating on!
Still, let’s leave Mr. Akin alone on this matter… for now. After all, he has been chastised enough by the press and even by his fellow Republicans who today suddenly became moderates on the matter.
I, however, don’t want to be as benign with the other terms he used. What did he mean by an “illegitimate rape?”
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in an earlier press release: “In a year that has brought us no shortage of stunningly backward statements from Republicans on issues affecting women’s health, the GOP Senate nominee from Missouri may have just taken the cake.”
Is Akin, like Paul Ryan and 200-plus Republicans, trying to narrow the definition of rape, and inadvertently help the rapists go without punishment?
Even though Ryan—as well as Mitt Romney—is said to disagree with Akin’s opposition to abortions for rape victims, the vice presidential candidate actually co-sponsored last year’s legislation that used a similar term: “forcible rape.”
To support his statement, the misinformed Akin mentioned what was probably salon gossiping, that women who are victims of rape rarely get pregnant. Statistics prove just about the opposite. According to a report published in The Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology, over 30,000 pregnancies result from rape cases annually.
Rape, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), and sexual violence in general, is still the most under-reported violent crime in the United States.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has said that, “54 percent of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to a statistical average of the past five years. Those rapists, of course, never spend a day in prison. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 3 percent of rapists ever serve a day in jail.”
Narrow the definition as Mr. Akin and Mr. Ryan seem to want to do, and what do you get? Even more impunity.
In Medieval times, a woman had to consent to sex once their parents married her to a stranger. This norm of excluding the concept of criminal offense when the rapist was the husband was inherited by the Americas and included the feudal “right of first night” that authorized the landlord to have sex with the bride before (or just after) a peasant’s wedding.
In the 19th century the Chief Justice Hale of England wrote, “[t]he husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband which she cannot retract.”
Hale’s influence is seen in the first rape laws promulgated by the United States that defined rape as “sexual intercourse with a female not his wife without her consent.”
A sexual offense code passed in 1993 finally determined that the rape by a husband is a punishable crime in all states. However, there are still 33 states that grant exemptions in some cases.
In January this year, Attorney General Eric Holder reported the new Uniform Crime Report’s (UCR) the definition of rape as: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
It basically recognizes the right to say NO!
Akins has apologized for his comments, sure. “I made that statement in error. Rape is never legitimate. It is an evil act,” Akin told Mike Huckabee during a radio interview. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way.”
However, I want to be an implacable Freudian here. Sigmund Freud pointed out that slips “are not accidental, that they require more than physiological explanations, that they have a meaning and can be interpreted, and that one is justified in inferring from them the presence of restrained or repressed intentions and intentions.” [Freud, An Autobiographical Study (1925)]