I am Canadian, and so, until this morning, I was unfamiliar with former congressman Todd Akin’s name or what the man stood for. However, the hair on my neck stood on end when I read that he was retracting his apology for statements he made about rape back in 2012. I was appalled to read that the man who said that legitimate rape rarely causes pregnancy was tap dancing around his apology, stating that he should have said “legitimate case of rape,” as though it would make things better.
Mr. Akin’s original statement read, “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
Social media exploded at the time in outrage. Many Republicans and President Obama himself denounced the comments and some called for Mr. Akin to step down from the senate race that was going on at the time. Now, Mr. Akin believes that his words were somehow twisted and that saying a “legitimate case of rape” somehow helps his cause.
The first problem is that, according to law enforcement officials, there is no such terminology as a “legitimate case of rape,” though Mr. Akin says there is. An interviewer from Time spoke with several in law enforcement, and all agreed that in their decades of experience, they have never heard of such terminology.
I realize that Mr. Akin is likely not the only one who believes that “legitimate rape” would prevent pregnancy; he stated then that the woman’s body, because it was attempting to shut down the rape process and was therefore under stress, would prevent conception. I also realize that Mr. Akin is like a lot of North Americans, where knowledge of biology and physiology may only be limited to a Grade 12 level.
What I would suggest to this former congressman, though, is that he actually talk to rape victims across the world and ask them if they were able to prevent themselves from getting pregnant because they were under stress from the actual act. Ask the perpetrators of the crime who are being sued in record numbers for child support of these children who were conceived because of a horrendous, violent act. Ask the women and men who have been raped if they feel they were the victims of “legitimate rape” or even a “legitimate case of rape.”
Like it or not, no still means no. It is not a word designed to tease, flirt, or be coy. If a sexual act has occurred where one of the parties involved was not a willing participant, it is rape. As a rape victim myself – I was raped in my early 20s by a man I was dating who felt he had needs that were greater than my unwillingness to have sex at that early point in our relationship – I had the power of the word “no” taken from me and ignored. Mr. Akin, by stating that you simply should have said “legitimate case of rape,” you are telling the countless numbers of those men and women who experienced such incredibly humiliating violation that perhaps their cases of rape were not real, and you are potentially suggesting that what happened to them does not matter.
Rape is very real to those of us who have experienced it, Mr. Akin. We know what it is like to say no and to be powerless against what happened next for whatever reason. We are the ones to deal with the aftermath of the crime, regardless of whether we have children from the act. We have no more control over whether we conceive as a result of being raped than we do as a result of lovemaking.
Mr. Akin’s suggestion that a woman’s body can prevent conception during rape is idiotic and ill-conceived. He is a man who should give serious thought to consulting a doctor or hiring one as his public affairs manager prior to further interviews in the press. While I understand he is in the news again because of a new book, he should perhaps give consideration to letting someone else speak for him, as he is so clearly incapable of logical discourse – when it comes to the issue of rape, at least.
Here’s his interview with Chuck Todd:
Opinion by Christina St-Jean