GOP: Blast From the Past

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.

11 thoughts on “GOP: Blast From the Past

  1. exactly…they are throwing Akin under the bus not because they disagree with him fundamentally, but because they agree but can never admit it

  2. The Family Research Council has issued a statement of support for Todd Akin.

    You know, I never ever think it’s appropriate for people to use violence to disagree with someone else’s politics, but was the Southern Poverty Law Center correct in naming the FRC as a “hate group”? Oh hell yes.

    I’m surprised Mr. Perkins doesn’t have whiplash, he’s turned around so fast from playing the whiny victim last week to reprising his usual role this week as victimizer of women, gays, and everyone whose politics he disagrees with. He’s like a soap opera actor playing two different-but-both-evil twins.

  3. This is what the Republican Party is:

    This is who they are.

    They use these issues to win elections, all the while trying to mask their true intent with Luntz-inspired, carefully crafted, and sugar-coated phrases and talking points to mask that intent.

    Akin pulled the mask aside, and showed the world the loathesome face of true Conservatism.
    And for that, he had to go.
    He was so true to his Conservative/Republican faith, that he let his guard slip, and they feel they have to excommunicate him from this race.

    Ryan is tied to the hip with Akin, co-sponsor to his draconian anti-abortion bill. The Obama campaign, and EVERY Democrat in the country needs to keep reminding everyone about this every day.

    Hell, maybe some of the uber-Christain wives of these male Jesus-freaks might even realize that they, too, might some day be affected by these misogynistic decisions, and pull the lever for a “D,” and lie like a Romney to their husbands.

  4. Thanks, maha, for an informative and well-reasoned commentary. Remember when the ‘Rolex watch’ conundrum was a topic of conversation? If you wear a visible Rolex watch in East LA you deserve to get mugged vs. wearing a visible Rolex watch and getting mugged are two separate, unrelated circumstances. Always reminds me of the she-deserved-to-get-raped-if-she-was-wearing-a-short-skirt-and-a low-cut-top vs. what one wears and getting raped are two separate, unrelated circumstances.

  5. If I may play devil’s advocate here… there exists something in the law called ‘statutory rape’, which is sex with the underaged. It does not necessarily involve force; hence is not necessarily ‘forcible’ rape.

    So perhaps that is the distinction that Akins is trying to make? A nitpick, I know, and of course 17-year-olds can get pregnant.

  6. Swami: yes, I’ve heard the adage. That law is for the protection of teenagers, who haven’t any common sense; but for that very reason, good luck enforcing it.

    And as for Akin’s weird science; raped women do not spontaneously abort, but perhaps they will in the future, with the help of genetic engineering. This is, of course, science-fiction speculation. Is Akin, without knowing it, a science-fiction fan?

  7. Rep. Akin’s problems – and ours with him – are partly semantic and partly about family planning.

    First, the semantics. Akin got into trouble by talking about ‘forcible’ rape, or ‘legitimate’ rape. I suspect that he was trying to make a distinction between statutory rape and non-statutory. I find it curious that a back-alley assault is called the same thing as an affair with a female aged 18 years minus one day. The explanation is that the word ‘rape’ originally meant ‘abduction’ or ‘theft’. (Note Alexander Pope’s comic poem, “The Rape of the Lock”, about the theft of a strand of hair.) Hence the very term buys into the patriarchal assumption that women are property; feminists take note! A female under 18 years old is legally ward of her parents; hence sex with her is a kind of theft. If it were up to me then I’d retire the word ‘rape’ and instead talk of ‘sexual assault’, ‘sexual fraud’, and ‘underage sex’; three distinct (though overlapping) categories.

    Now for family planning. I see here a red-blue culture clash. The blue theory is; first you grow up, then you’re free to marry, then you’re free to have kids. The red theory seems to be; first you have kids, then you are forced to marry, then you are forced to grow up. (Note Bristol Palin.) So maybe from Akin’s point of view, underage sex is a rite of passage.

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