Or, “My Spidey Senses are Tingling”

[Disclaimer: We at Generation: Handmaid recognize that we were AWOL for several months – which can be explained by our leader Victoria and myself having moved out of our apartment and to separate states as a post-graduation, getting-on-with-our-lives sort of deal.  Re-registering residency in the state of Colorado has proven to be a lengthy process as well.  However, the recent statements made on behalf of Rep. Todd Akin have left me no choice but to boot up my laptop, turn off Netflix and write again.  I am re-opening Generation: Handmaid and going rogue.  That being said…]

It has taken us some time to digest our immediate anger and look objectively at the remarks made regarding rape and women’s bodies by Missouri Republican Representative Todd Akin this month.  According to Akin (who, I would like to remind you, is a representative to Congress and actually has a say in how our laws are made…ladies, please vote), abortion as an answer to pregnancy resulting from rape is an extreme answer to something that is allegedly a rarity.  Why?  “Legitimate rape,” as he tactfully describes it, is rare and any pregnancy can be prevented on the stop because a woman’s body recognizes the rape and can somehow secrete semen-killing enzymes or the like.

See article with quotes here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/rep-todd-akin-legitimate-rape-statement-and-reaction.html

Let’s break down the reasons why this statement is horrifying/insulting/incorrect:

1. My uterus does not have “spidey senses”

Women’s bodies do not have a way to “shut the whole thing down,” Mr. Akin.  Our uteruses are meant to receive semen and potentially create a baby.  We have no control over what semen will take and what won’t.  The fluids that frequent our uteri and vaginas are limited to semen, uterine lining, menstrual blood, amniotic fluid (if a woman is pregnant), vaginal discharge (a natural lubricant/discharge that secretes naturally and has no spermicide in it), sweat, female sexual fluid (that plays a role in arousal), etc.  (http://www.baymoon.com/~btoak/faustus/fluids.html)  There is a reason birth control exists.  To keep us from getting pregnant, as we otherwise have no control.

I will write it out mathematically for you: No uterus + no MD = no professional opinion.

I resent the fact that you assume you understand a woman’s body when you obviously don’t, and I resent the fact that if this was hypothetically true, that means it’s the victim’s fault for conceiving, not the rapists’ for raping her.

Mr. Akin, a member of my close family (who shall remain nameless) was, in the past, physically attacked and raped at knife point.  She consequently got pregnant.  Your argument is thus invalid, as I hope you understand this incident was a “legitimate rape.”

2. Akin is trivializing the reality of rape

Rape is dehumanizing.  Rape reduces a woman to feeling like nothing more than some object that a man can physically beat and molest for his own pleasure.  We are made to realize that at least to this person, our health/state of mind/desires/etc are meaningless. Imagine that a member of your government also agrees.

Rape is a trauma that haunts people for decades after.  Furthermore, you are endorsing that a woman should feel guilty post-rape, for reasons such as “she shouldn’t have been so naïve” or “she shouldn’t have gotten so drunk” or “she shouldn’t have been wearing such provocative clothing” or “she should have used her spidey senses to prevent conception.”

If it was your own mother, or daughter, sister, wife, or whoever – you might be singing a different tune.  If you were raped and humiliated, you would not vote for a politician who dismissed you so easily.

Here is an image that helps illustrate how illogical this statement regarding rape legitimacy really is:

More: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler/todd-akin-rape_b_1812930.html

3. There is no black-and-white “legitimate rape”

“Legitimate rape,” what I can assume means something akin to being attacked by a stranger in a dark alley and raped, is actually extremely rare.  Rape in itself is a very complex issue, and the majority of rape (which is legitimately criminal) mostly occurs between two parties who know each other, be it on a date, at a party, between two people who are dating, and even marriage.  THESE INCIDENTS QUALIFY AS RAPE.

Rape, defined as of January 6th of this year, is defined as: ““The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” (http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/January/12-ag-018.html)

This brings us to an issue that has been floating around Generation Handmaid for almost a year…

The Gray Area of Rape

Why do politicians say such uninformed things regarding rape and its victims?  Why is rape such a prevalent thing on our society?  The reason is because so many people are not fully educated on what rape really is.  Rape can occur between spouses, between lovers, between friends.  If your boyfriend has sex with you when you’re too drunk to speak, he technically raped you, because you were unable to give your verbal consent.  “But he’s my boyfriend, I’ve slept with him before and would do it again, it wasn’t rape.”  That’s what I thought for years.  But guess what, he still raped you, because he didn’t stop and think about if you actually consented.

This accounts for men and women, for being drunk or asleep, married or unmarried.  If your husband bullies you and frightens you into having sex, that qualifies as marital rape, WHICH IS STILL RAPE.   “Legitimate rape” is anything that falls under the above definition.  If a man gets drunk at a party and a woman takes advantage of his unwitting erection (which evidently happens to men sometimes) and he was too drunk to realize what was happening, she raped him.  And he was every right to feel victimized.

Rape does not fall into one tiny category.  Rape can happen between men and women, strangers or spouses, women and women, men and men.  Men can rape women and women can rape men.  The aforementioned “gray area” comes from the fact that many times these people know each other, consent may have been withdrawn or miscommunicated, or due to lack of education on the topic, the participating parties are unaware of the realities of their actions.

Does this mean that you could have, in the past, been raped without realizing it?  Yes.  It’s also safe to say that people may have assaulted or raped someone in their lifetime without even realizing it.  It has happened more often than people want to think about.  Victims dismiss this idea because it’s uncomfortable, or being a rape victim in this society feels like a salt in a wound because of the torrents of “you brought this on yourself” and guilt that lawmakers, religious institutions, and uneducated people throw at these victims.  It’s too exhausting to think about.  The perpetrators dismiss this because, understandably, they don’t want to be a rapist.  They only want to see the best in themselves.  However, the truth is there, however uncomfortable it may be.

The truth is:

  • Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s). Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.  So if you’ve ever been drunk around your boyfriend, or “guilt-tripped” into sex, you have been raped.
  • 1 out of every 6 American women (potentially more) has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).  So it is more common than society will accept.  There are likely more unreported cases than this statistic reveals.
  • 93% of sexual assault victims know their attacker. This includes boyfriends/girlfriends.
  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
    This includes spouses.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
    This includes someone on a date or a friend at a party.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
    This would be Akin’s “legitimate rape.”

(Sources: http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/rape.cfm)

So, Mr. Akin, you were right to apologize (http://www2.hernandotoday.com/news/hernando-news/2012/aug/30/haopino1-akins-apology-plea-for-forgiveness-ar-478011/).  I know this was probably very emasculating for you, and I accept.  It doesn’t mean I’m no longer mad.  Because honestly, apologizing and feeling bad for the victims isn’t enough.  We have to educate people on what this all really means and the consequences of our ignorance.  If we don’t, women still have to suffer dehumanizing acts at the hands of men who claim to love them.  We will continue to be politically marginalized.

“What had I been expecting , behind that closed door, the first time? Something unspeakable, down on all fours perhaps, perversions, whips, mutilations? At the very least some minor sexual manipulation, some bygone peccadillo now denied him, prohibited by law and punishable by amputation.”

-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaids Tale

PS –

More information on the “Gray Area of Rape” can be provided for you, complete with drawings, upon request by Victoria Hermosilla.  Email me if you’re interested.