Rep. Akin and Legitimate Rape


Thank you, Kirk Cameron, for stepping into the fray.  Your semi-religious bent on the subject means I now have a fairly decent opening to discuss the issue on my Pagan blog.

Pretty much everyone has heard about the remarks Rep. Akin made concerning rape and abortion.  For clarity’s sake, here’s the quote:

“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. But 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.”

Before I rip into Cameron’s response, let’s examine this quote, shall we?

  • “That’s really rare.”  This references the idea that pregnancy resulting from rape is rare, and Akin seems to have gotten this information from doctors.  I’m curious to know who those “doctors” are so I can avoid their practices in future.  It is not rare for pregnancy to result from rape.  The figures I’ve seen (and from reputable sources, mind) place the number at about 5 to 6.5%.  This excludes the estimates for those victims who are on the pill, medically or physically unable to bear children, or whose rapist used a condom or used a foreign object.  When those factors are eliminated, the percentage makes more sense.  [Source: RAINN]
  • “…the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  Really?  That’s news to me.  And what is “that whole thing”?  Pregnancy?  Why is pregnancy a bad word of a sudden?  He can say “rape” but he can’t say “pregnancy”?  Unless he’s referring to some magical way the female body has of shutting “legitimate rape” down, because with the sentence structure he uses, that would make more sense.  But back to the issue with this statement–Akin shows an astonishing lack of understanding of basic biology.  Perhaps he should have paid more attention in biology and health class.  He is right to assume one thing: it wouldn’t work, because the female body has no magical or special means of rejecting sperm injected into it all by itself.  Now, the sperm could fail to impregnate the woman, say, if she’s infertile, but that’s a fertility issue and is unique to each woman, not a special byproduct of biology.
  • “…the punishment should be on the rapist…”  Then Akin should answer why he’s attacking the victims and placing the blame for the rape on the victim and not on the rapist where it belongs.
  • “If it’s legitimate rape…”  This is the most offensive portion of Akin’s statement.  He implies with this wording that not all rapes are “real,” not all rapes are “true.”  He implies that victims who have suffered pain, abuse, humiliation, and violation at the hands of another somehow mean less than those victims who were impregnated.  He implies that some rapes somehow don’t mean as much–are less horrific–than others.  This is the core of the outcry over Akin’s statement, in my opinion, because in this one phrase he denigrates the pain and experiences of victims simply because what happened to them doesn’t fit some narrow idea of rape.  Rape is rape.  One type or version of rape is no less horrible and damaging than another.  Rape causes physical, psychological, emotional damage to the victim.  These are wounds that may never fully heal.  Rape, and the shame that often accompanies it for the victim, has led to suicide and murder.  The idea that there is legitimate and non-legitimate rape is offensive, insulting, disrespectful, and abhorrent.  Some defenders of Akin have said that his remark was meant to separate kinds of reported rapes–meaning, that there are some women out there who would say they were raped in order to get an abortion, and therefore the rape was not legitimate.  If that’s what Akin meant, that’s not what he said, and the remark is open to interpretation because he did not clarify.

OK.  Now that I’ve gotten my rant out of the way… on to Cameron’s statements.  Cameron, in his own interviews, has said that we should cut Akin some slack, that Akin was advocating the sanctity of life, and that Akin misspoke and apologized for it.

If that’s Cameron’s idea of an apology, then we have differing definitions of the word “apology”.  Akin, typical slimy politician that he is, made the apology about himself and his campaign.  It also lacked any sincerity (surprise!).  You can find a video of the original statement and the apology ad here.  That’s right; Akin put his apology in a campaign ad.  How lovely, how sincere, how gracious!  The man just insulted every woman on the planet and doubly insulted rape victims, and he puts his “apology” in a campaign ad.

Akin has also said his statement was “off the cuff.”  Like when a person is drunk, I find that the truth tends to become most clear when a person is speaking candidly, without thinking, without a script.  If that’s his opinion when he’s speaking off the cuff, then I find it difficult to doubt that it’s not his real opinion of the issue, and that is what is most disturbing.  In the campaign ad/apology, Akin reverses course and heavily backtracks to contradict his spontaneous remark.  That speaks volumes to me about his real opinion.

Back to Cameron, since its his religiously-motivated remarks that allow me to bring this up in the first place… Akin was defending the sanctity of life.  While I do think Akin was trying to discuss abortion and why he thinks it’s bad or immoral or a sin or whatever, even abortion in rape cases, that’s not really what he talked about.  He talked about the legitimacy of rape.  He brought up the supposed rarity of pregnancy from rape.  He mentioned biological processes and where the punishment for the rape should belong.  I don’t see him mentioning abortion.  Oh, that’s where he was trying to get–but that’s not really where he got in this statement.  I’m not going to debate abortion here–this post is long enough already–but Akin’s attempt to discuss abortion and argue that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape went horribly awry for him.

Finally, Cameron says we should cut Akin some slack.

How about…no.

This man is running for office.  This man holds office.  He does not deserve to be cut slack.  Because he’s an elected official, the people have a right and a duty to question his statements however long we want to.  We have the right and the duty to place his statements under the microscope and examine them.  Why?  Because he is supposed to represent us.  He is supposed to serve the people.  If he’s not capable or competent enough to do so, then he shouldn’t be in office.  If his personal beliefs are going to shape his policies, then we have every right to know what those beliefs are and what he’s going to do with them.

Newsflash, Kirk Cameron: Akin does not deserve slack.  He hasn’t earned slack.  How has he used his office to help anyone other than himself and his party–although his party isn’t very pleased with him at this point.  Akin essentially put the blame for rape squarely on the victim, and not only that, but he used a religious excuse (the sanctity of life) to tell rape victims that because their rape did not result in a pregnancy, their experience is somehow not worthy of being called a rape, a crime.

No, he does not deserve slack.  If I thought for one moment he didn’t mean exactly what he said, I might consider giving him slack.  But I think he meant it when he said “legitimate rape,” and that is the element that I cannot push aside.

For a good summary video of Akin’s remarks, check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE1SehxGnNM

**PLEASE NOTE: the opinions expressed above are my personal opinions. They are not representative of the opinions of Wiccans, Pagans, or the larger Pagan community.**

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