Last night Rachel Maddow explained that the “real rape victims don’t get pregnant” theory for years has been pushed by people who want to criminalize abortions without exception for rape. And that’s absolutely true. That way they can claim that if a woman conceived, she wasn’t really raped, and the exception isn’t necessary.
But when men start to talk about “forcible” rape or “legitimate” rape, I think it speaks to something buried even deeper in their lizard brains. Once upon a time conventional wisdom was that rapists couldn’t be convicted unless the victim was a nun who was killed defending herself. Otherwise, if the woman was wearing a short skirt, had ever been spotted in a bar, was sexually active, or didn’t fight back, it was assumed “she wanted it” and the perpetrator was excused.
One of the successes of the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s was to shine a light on how unfair that was and get some protections for rape victims written into law. I understand rape charges often are still dismissed by sexist judges sometimes, however.
When men talk about “forcible” or “legitimate” rape, I suspect in their minds “rape” is something that can only happen to virtuous and modestly dressed women who were on their way to church when a total stranger abducted and assaulted them, and they fought back to the point of needing either hospitalization or burial. Otherwise, it wasn’t really a rape. Perhaps such men only relate to rape as a kind of violent physical assault, like a really bad mugging. Women who are slipped a roofie at a frat party and raped while they were unconscious, for example, don’t count, and “date rape” is an oxymoron. They cannot perceive of rape as a violation of one’s personhood, of one’s humanity, as women perceive it. (See Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine…)
And I say this is only a few degrees different from the thinking that (1) a virtuous woman must stay covered by a burqua and (2) rape is always the woman’s fault, if she survives. In this view, a woman is merely a multipurpose major appliance whose value is determined by how much she has been used.
Republicans who are busily denouncing Akin today are crafting a convention platform containing a “human life amendment.” This would ban all abortions without explicitly excluding rape and incest victims. They’ve been doing this for the past several conventions, but I don’t know that the general public is aware of it. But now they’re going to hear about it loudly and clearly from the Obama campaign.
The point is that the GOP doesn’t really disagree with what Todd Akin said. They’re just pissed at him that he said it in public.
Republicans are frantically trying to get Representative Todd Akin to drop out of the United States Senate race in Missouri after his remark about abortion and rape, but not because it was offensive and ignorant. They’re afraid he might lose and cost them a chance at a Senate majority next year. He would surely be replaced by a Republican who sounds more reasonable but holds similarly extreme views on abortion, immigration, gay rights and the role of government because those are the kinds of candidates the party nominates these days in state after state.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan sharply condemned Akin’s remarks and pledged that under a Romney administration, abortion would be allowed in the case of rape.
An exemption for rape, though, is not included in the platform set to be adopted by the party Romney will officially lead when he accepts the Republican nomination next week.
And Ryan, his vice presidential pick, has opposed exceptions for rape and voted alongside Akin in the House, though Ryan now says he defers to Romney’s position on the matter.
Debate over the abortion plank flared four years ago when John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee at the time, said he wanted to add language to the platform to recognize exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
That prompted angry finger-wagging from top social conservatives.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, chided McCain and said it would be “political suicide” for him to add language about exceptions for rape or incest in the abortion platform.
The Family Research Council has issued a statement of support for Todd Akin.