The Right’s Rape Trope

This week we were offered another glimpse into the creepy right-wing mind, this time of Rep. Todd Akin  of Missouri. Here’s the heart of the matter:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. “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, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Rep. Tod Akin, as reported in the LA Times (Rep. Todd Akin: No pregnancy from ‘legitimate rape’).

It’s the old-school patriarch speaking out of turn. That’s why the Republican party old-guard is so determined to get Akin out of the race. Contemporary Republicanism is, if nothing else, a kind of Trojan Horse ideology which succeeds by advocating populism (aka the Tea party) while pursing authoritarian and nationalistic policy. Especially during this election year, the goal has been to tamp down the authoritarian nationalism and emphasize the populist economic rhetoric. This  incident, though, is like last week’s peek at Ayn Rand lurking behind Paul Ryan; this time we’re getting a peak at John C. Wilke, also lurking behind Ryan.

When Akin suggested that he had “read somewhere” that a woman’s body could do this sort of thing, he was being coy but not dishonest. He’s talking about John C. Wilke’s 1999 piece, “Rape Pregnancies Are Rare,” available online at the Christian Life Resources webpage. Wilke is a long-standing anti-choice advocate. The right needs to argue that rape pregnancies are uncommon, to the point of non-existence, so that they can justify their position that there should be no exceptions to laws banning abortion. Rape pregnancies are not simply uncommon, the right tells us, some of the rapes never happened.

“The most conservative studies,” Rev. Robert Fleischmann the current National Director of Christian Life Resources writes, “have suggested false rape reports account for 4%-8% of all reported rapes. So, 4%-8% of rape reports could rightfully be called illegitimate rapes… Taking Representative Akin’s words in the best possible way,” Fleischmann writes of the Representative’s apology-video, “we can accept his apology for failing to respect the high emotion of the rape issue.”  So don’t fret, it’s just a few woman who will be affected by the no-exceptions ban. Not something to worry about.

It’s that “emotion” thing that’s the real issue (three decades ago he would have surely said hysterical); “most people today can’t get past the thought of the rape event”  to, presumably, the important issue, that is, the embryo not the woman. Akin should “leave the emotionally distorting event of pregnancy from a rape for a later day when society is better educated… the proper education that can come out of all this might better result in tougher laws against rapists, care and support for the women who have been raped, and protection for the most defenseless of all – the unborn child.”  Aka, Ryan’ and Akin’s Personhood law.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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