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Sep 02 2012

Toddsplainin

Trigger Warning – Content that follows the jump contains a discussion of Rape and indeed Todd Akin’s comments…

I don’t think I need to repeat what everyone else thinks about Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” comment, but needless to say it’s quite possibly one of the most idiotic things said by someone in a position of authority this year.

Needless to say that this has attracted a lot of flak, not just for the sheer callousness of such a statement but because it is a trigger to the countless people who have been raped and demonstrates the kind of thinking many rape victims have to face from people who literally have no idea about rape.

Now, most of us men aren’t subject to sexual assault. Many women however have. So we don’t know what women feel towards the event. Many people are forever traumatised by it and any statement such as the one made by Akins causes a negative reaction. And here is the thing why we write “trigger warning” and the like on posts. Because it warns those who suffered about the content within a post and that they are continuing knowing what the contents are.

The reaction of people who were raped to a trigger is perfectly legitimate because the people traumatised by the event can respond to a trigger by different and unique methods. You cannot tell a combat PTSD sufferer that his fear of balloons is idiotic and then pop balloons at him. Likewise you cannot tell a rape survivor (and PTSD sufferer) that their reaction (no matter how ludicrous it seems to you) is incorrect. Because you don’t see what the person sees.

Unfortunately Mark Goldbatt from Patheos doesn’t seem to grasp that when he tries to explain why the Eve Ensler’s statement – “as if to imply there was such a thing as ‘illegitimate’ rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape.” is wrong. He calls it a “Pathetic” letter. Again I must point out that Mark indulges in some pretty vile moves so Trigger Warnings galore…

This is the first I’ve heard about “re-rape.” Maybe it’s an elusive concept, and maybe only rape survivors like yourself can grasp it; I know I’ve mulled it over for several days, but I still can’t fathom how a two-bit politician putting his foot in his mouth is the psychic equivalent of your own description of the original act: “I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body—the most personal, sacred, private part of your body—and violently, hatefully forcing themselves into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger’s sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can’t get it out.”

Well, I think I grasp the idea since Eve explains it in her article. That at its core the Akins comment makes women feel like the only way that their rape is legitimised is at the behest of a man who arbitrarily determines what isn’t and is rape. That there is a concept where rape is acceptable or a part of reality (How many women are told that they were raped because of the clothes they wear or because of alcohol?).

It’s not “putting his foot in his mouth”, it’s a serious error of character where a man with no grasp of human biology and psychology has deemed it fit to make a statement about those two issues and this is a man in power who has routinely made it a sticking point to argue about women’s health rights and champion a reduction in the rights of women to access basic gynaecological healthcare.

So I’m sitting here weighing those two things—a congressman saying something stupid versus a crazed attacker violently penetrating my body—and for some reason I can’t get the scales to balance. Still, I know there must be something to what you’re saying because, well, you’re Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, and because I’ve read enough feminist theory to know that men don’t “get” certain things . . . even though, of course, believing that women don’t “get” certain things is grounds for a lawsuit.

It’s not stupid. It’s a cruel and callous statement made thoughtlessly by a man who genuinely believed that women’s uteruses are magic. This is a man who has fought relentlessly to prevent access to abortions and whose argument in context was made to exclude women who were raped from having abortions by claiming that the women who got pregnant from rape “weren’t really raped”.

Still, I have to tell you, Eve—do you mind if I call you Eve? I don’t want to misspeak and inflict still more horrific violence upon you—there’s something, well, disproportionate about your response to Akin’s buffoonery, something that goes beyond a standard election-season gotcha, beyond even your attempt to tar Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan with Akin’s remarks on the grounds that the two of them were among 227 co-sponsors of a May 2011 bill called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” That bill included the phrase “forcible rape”—which the FBI has been using for decades, and which Akin now says he meant rather than “legitimate rape”—in order to distinguish rape involving physical violence, or the threat of physical violence, from rape in which the victim may express outward consent—such as cases of statutory rape when, for example, a 19-year-old boy has sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend.

It then takes on this really creepy tone where he tries to treat Eve not as someone who has made an argument but as someone who literally is so fragile and thin skinned about rape that she brooks no discussion whatsoever.

And the legitimate rape isn’t as much as a faux pas as many people think. What the problem is its combination with the notion that in cases of “legitimate rape” the woman can shut down a pregnancy (possibly though magic). That’s what was crazy, because he was flogging the notion that women who were raped and have children due to that were pregnant because they on a small level were to blame. That they are LIARS. That’s why they are pregnant. You can explain “Legitimate vs. Forcible” and try and weasel your way out of that but the female body doesn’t have any way to shut down forcible rape any more than it has the ability to fly.

Statutory rape is an entirely different beast and there is date rape or rape through the use of coercion where consent may be given out of a lack of choice.

The bill’s sponsors say they were attempting to address a loophole in the Hyde Amendment that bans the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. Under current law, Medicaid funds can cover abortion costs when the pregnancy is the result of a rape or incest. By including the phrase “forcible rape,” the sponsors wanted to prevent the use of Medicaid to pay for abortions for minors whose outwardly consensual sex nonetheless met the legal definition of statutory rape.

Oh! That make
s it completely acceptable! #Sarcasm

It just means that the people involved were planning to throw rape victims under a bus if they weren’t threatened or if they were under age. Minors cannot give consent, which is the entire fucking point of statutory rape; you cannot say that statutory rape is not technically rape.

Other outwardly consensual sex? Date Rape, Consensual Sex That Goes out of Control, Coercion and Altered State of Mind Rape. Those aren’t “legitimate rape” right?

Whatever you think of the wisdom of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” its intent was clearly to strengthen the Hyde Amendment. . . . Oh, I’m sorry; you don’t think so, Eve? You read it as something more sinister, something akin (no pun intended) to the way “rapists played with us in the act of being raped—intimidating us, threatening us, muting us. Your playing with words like ‘forcible’ and ‘legitimate’ is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.”

Yes it is. The Hyde Amendment is a shocking piece of legislation akin to saying “Fuck Women’s Health”. It was put into power by a bunch of men who think a block of cells is the same as a human being. It’s a pointless piece of legislation designed to harm women’s health while claiming to be moral. Even if we ignore that for the most part it reduces the reproductive choice of women while placing monetary penalties on one gender primarily for the act of sex, it also forces raped women to pay for abortions (or rely on charity or state level programs which may or may not be available) which is a dick move. Yes, you may not agree with giving women money to have abortions. But if you think women ENJOY having abortions then you probably think that people enjoy having their teeth pulled.

(As an aside, Eve, I notice that you keep referring to women’s “souls,” which you specifically differentiate from their minds and hearts. If a woman’s “soul” is distinct from her mind and heart, what does it consist of? Where does it come from? Oh, and when does it arrive? You see where this is going, don’t you?)

She is using the romantic version of a soul. The idea of a combined personality that makes Eve who she is that explains her state of mind and personality. It’s a poetic construct, when she uses it. It means that rape damages who she is. And that it has changed her for the worse. And it’s high lunacy for an Evangelical Christian to doubt this statement considering Mark Goldbatt believes in an actual physical soul that can be affected by his deity of choice and that will be rewarded with stuff if he believes in Jesus and doesn’t believe in science, gays and women’s health. To mock someone else’s idea of a soul is hypocrisy. 

Likewise, you hear a more sinister subtext in Akin’s mindboggling suggestion that women rarely become pregnant as a result of rape because, as he explained, “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Generations of female slaves and their biracial children might beg to differ, of course. But I keep hearing that as mere biological ignorance. You, on the other hand, noticed something else in Akin’s words: “It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a ‘legitimate’ rape.”

The biological ignorance means that Akin should not be allowed to make any decisions with regards to women’s healthcare at all. It’s not biological ignorance so much as a massive failing of the education system. It can happen in third world nations, but this is fucking America. If you are willing to elect men who are clearly morons to power then your country is going to be run by morons. This is basic goddamn high school biology indicating that Todd Akin requires basic biology and sex education of the proper kind. Generations of Female Slaves? That’s where you are getting your answer from? Not the wide variety of women who have become pregnant from rape?

No, Eve heard right, that’s what it implies. That a man who was setting out to reduce the rights of women to access healthcare and believed that they shouldn’t receive that healthcare because their vaginas and uteruses functioned through magic. That this was a man who legitimised rape if you got pregnant. It is a horrific thing to hear from a man who is planning to run for office.

That can’t be strictly what he meant since he said cases of conception from rape are “really rare” (not “nonexistent”) because the female body will “try to” (not “always”) shut down the fertilization process. But isn’t there another, more (how shall I say this?) charitable way to look at it? Isn’t it at least possible that Akin, like many pro-life advocates, struggles with the consistency of his beliefs in the agonizing case of pregnancies resulting from rape and incest? That he struggles so much he’ll grasp at any explanatory straw, trust any nugget of pseudo-science, telling him that such cases are exceedingly rare, that women’s bodies somehow mystically repel evil sperm.

Because rapists only hit menstruating women? Conception from rape is not common in the west due to access to condoms (many rapists have used them) and because women have access to the morning after pill and the like which they do use post rape.

However if one pays ANY attention to Africa or any other place where rape is widespread or used as a weapon then one notices an inordinate amount of children born to women who are raped.If he is a pro-lifer then he has demonstrated a completely idiotic grasp of women’s reproductive health and should not have any say in the healthcare of women because he is a fucking moron. He is demonstrating pro-life idiocy and actively spoke out loud things that are being told to young children across America in lieu of proper sex education. This attitude is not one that’s new, but it is not one you wish to hear from someone at that high a level of government.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Eve, the most intellectually consistent pro-life position doesn’t allow exceptions for rape or incest . . . and forcing pro-life advocates to admit this fact is always a good way to score political points. But must we seize every opportunity to score political points? Aren’t we all emotional, as well as intellectual, creatures? Don’t we all struggle with hard cases? Don’t we all occasionally grasp at straws hoping the hard cases will just go away?

Really? This is like shouting “Barrack Obama is a Nigger” then trying to claim that the ensuing labelling of yourself as a racist is an attempt to score political points. The mildest complaint about Todd Akin that I can think of is that he doesn’t have an internal filter that stops him from saying idiotic things. And that’s the MILDEST.

This isn’t a hard case. This isn’t even a case at all. This is like banning hysterectomies for women with cervical cancer because it will ruin their reproductive organs. It’s a medical procedure to prevent an event that may ruin a woman’s life.

Grasping at straws? It’s not grasping at straws, at its best its a testament to the idiocy of pro-choice and its worse its an attempt to legitimise the notion that pregnancy through rape means a woman wasn’t really raped.

Is it really necessary for me to point out that pro-choice advocates face their own problem of consistency in the case of partial birth abortions? To point out that the most intellectually consistent pro-choice position permits the killing of b
abies—not just miniscule embryos, not just tadpole-like fetuses, but hand-squeezing, eye-blinking, air-sucking babies? Isn’t the most consistent pro-choice position that sentient, medically viable babies can, at the request of the mother, be killed until the moment of their delivery, and arguably until the cutting of their umbilical cords? Don’t pro-choice advocates agonize over consistency, and occasionally grasp at straws, when it comes to the hard case of partial birth abortions?

Partial birth abortion is an abortion of last resort usually done to prevent the birth of congenitally defective children or terminate a pregnancy that has exceeded statutes on women who are not going to be benefitted from the pregnancy. It’s a horrific procedure for everyone involved and necessary for women who have to deal with either the birth of a child that is going to be horrifically damaged and in pain or if the pregnancy actively threatens the life of the mother. And it’s a choice. No one is FORCING you to have a late term abortion. And yes many of the partial birth abortions are products of incest and rape where traumatised women are afraid to come forward because of arseholes like Todd Akin requiring a late term abortion at least for the woman’s sanity.

95% of all abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of conception. The remainder after 20 to 24 weeks (20 weeks is the well baby ultrasound visit that can detect congenital anomalies). The few that occur after 24 weeks are rare. Like less than 1% rare. Mark Goldblatt doesn’t grasp what choice means. At the request of the mother? It’s not done at the request of the mother. It’s done under medical circumstances. The rules with regards to late term therapeutic abortion generally require a doctor’s recommendation. A healthy mother with a child will be encouraged to tough it out for 8 more weeks and deliver at term and most such Obs/Gynae who do the procedure do not do it on women who just “want one”. And most women don’t want one, they want the option being there should the need to use it arise. No one WANTS to terminate a late term foetus, they HAVE to.

A choice means that you can decide. It’s simple, there are two ice creams. Vanilla and Chocolate. You can pick which you want. No one is forcing you to abort your baby; it’s just a choice that is available. You can risk your own life and carry to term. Yes you can walk around feeling smug and superior that you survived a risky pregnancy without terminating your child. You can even attribute it to your imaginary friend of choice and feel superior to all the women who didn’t make your choice.

But what you cannot do is take that choice away from women.

What I’m asking, Eve, is whether the debate over abortion—which is how we got here, remember?—must always be fought over the most agonizing cases. Must it always be couched in overwrought rhetoric and larded with purple prose? Must it always be “the Republican war on women” versus “the Democratic war on the unborn”? Must the sides forever see one another as “those people who want to force rape victims to bear their rapist’s child” and “these people who want to permit the killing of living, feeling babies”?

No it need not. It can be fought with economic and common sense reasons. However the problem is there is no common sense option from pro-life. It’s a movement entrenched in fantasy and ignorance. There is literally no sane argument for a movement that thinks that pro-choice means compulsory abortion.

Don’t we all just need to take a deep breath now and then and let nonsense speak for itself?

By which you mean that we shouldn’t criticise idiots.

This is high hypocrisy! Mark Goldblatt clearly thinks that Eve Ensler’s article is nonsense. Shouldn’t he follow his own advice?

Here is some advice, don’t defend Todd Akin. Don’t tell rape victims that they are being stupid for “feeling angry or hurt or uncomfortable around people who make such a remark”. Don’t reduce the choice of women to access healthcare.

Above all. Engage your brain and think about your actions not in terms of whether a 2000 year old book written by bronze age shepherds and compiled by a Roman Emperor agrees with you; but how your actions affect other people. Otherwise you end up trying to defend a terrible viewpoint based on the notion that it’s what a bunch of people who didn’t know how a woman’s reproductive system function would have wanted. 

2 comments

  1. 1
    jb

    you are great!

    wonderful article!

    welcome to ftb :)

  2. 2
    dandelionc

    Thank you for posting this awesome essay. You made a wonderful, well thought out, and coherent argument. Reading the letter you quoted would have left me sputtering with rage if I wasn’t calmed by your solid rebuttal. I would have been too angry to respond rationally and productively to that kind of demeaning and illogical drivel. I’m still upset about it, but that anger is overshadowed by feelings of encouragement and joy that that other people think the same way I do and that if we all keep fighting we might be able to change the world for the better. Thanks again.

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