August 27, 2012

Todd Akin, Julian Assange and Sexual Assault Myths

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:17 pm by sacetalks

Ok, so I know Todd Akin’s comments regarding pregnancy and “legitimate rape” have been the buzz topic of the internet all week, and there’s not much that hasn’t been said at this point, but I have to weigh in on this.

So, for all you fine readers out there who lead a life of hermitude in a cave on a hilltop, I am referring to the response Todd Akin, a Republican running for Senate in the United States, gave when a reporter asked him about his stance on abortion when the pregnancy is a result of rape:

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. 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.

Um…. What?! Did he just say he believes in omniscient, rape-proof ovaries? So war rape is totally illegitimate, right? And those women who do become pregnant from rape are either lying or there is something grossly wrong with their bodies since a functional female body has a sixth sense to prevent that sort of thing? Did he get his information from Dr. Nick of the Simpsons?

Anyway, the stupidity of his comment has been pointed out by people across the political spectrum. While I am certainly glad to see such wide-spread and vocal condemnation of his view, I cannot help but feel that this is largely because his is a straw man’s argument, and while it’s great that so few people subscribe to beliefs so utterly irrational, I am not sure that consensus on this point is really challenging the sexual assault myths or victim blaming attitudes that are ubiquitous in our society.

Victim blaming and perpetrator excusing attitudes exist on a spectrum. Todd Akin’s comments register very near one of the poles of that spectrum. Most of society’s beliefs regarding sexual assault and the responsibility of the survivor and perpetrator register somewhere a little closer to the middle (although, often not much closer). While it seems that most people can get behind the idea that Todd Akin’s comment was absurd and his belief is based on myth, those same people become resistant to that same sort of acknowledgement when they encounter attitudes that exist a little further down the spectrum. There is acceptance of the idea that there is no distinction between “levels of rape” and pregnancy – all rapes are equally likely to result in pregnancy, but that’s not an acknowledgement that there is no distinction between “levels of rape” and legitimacy. When it comes to Todd Akin’s comment, we hear the phrase “rape is rape” repeated everywhere. But when it comes to Julian Assange’s charges, it’s more like, rape is rape, except when the perpetrator is a pop culture hero and the women consented to something, somewhere at some point along the way. British MP George Galloway had this to say about the Assange case:

“Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.”

Ahh!!! Now, in my humble opinion, I think that these are the sexual assault myths that the media and people everywhere must be actively challenging at every opportunity. I’m glad we are mostly in agreement regarding the ridiculousness of rape-proof ovaries, now let’s turn our attention to the more pervasive and dangerous sexual assault myths like the idea that consenting once is consenting forever, or that only obviously bad guys commit sexual assault, or that women lie about their experience of sexual assault, usually in order to vengefully defame men, or that there are legitimate and illegitimate rapes and what falls under which category is to be determined by men and would-be perpetrators. It is those attitudes and myths that resist correction the most and it is those which we should be putting all of our energy into dispelling.

– Stephanie

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1 Comment »

  1. […] occurs on spectrum (as this blogger notes): from subtle microagressions at one pole to the more obvious examples noted above at the […]


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