Keep Talking About Rape


Haha. “Legitimate rape” as its own built-in form of birth control.

No, actually, that’s not funny. It’s a terrible piece of ignorance that goes beyond Todd Akin, running for the US Senate in the state of Missouri. I’ve been familiar with that argument for over ten years now, because I was naïve and irresponsible in my adolescence and jumped into threads of arguments on internet message boards.

What’s the most terrible about that argument is it tries to narrow the definition of rape to what the patriarchal conservative school of thought calls “legitimate rape”. I tweeted last night amidst the flood of outraged and satirical responses:

I think half the population of the US thinks the only “legitimate rape” is a sexual predator lurking in back alleys awaiting female victims.

No, most rape is unreported out of the risk of consequences for bringing forward such charges against “friends”, neighbours, or family members, and such rape is often led up to with emotional manipulation and abuse into making the victim feel like they need to submit and they need to be quiet about it. The victims are the vulnerable – children, those with both physical and mental illness or disabilities, the recently traumatized, those with low self-esteem – who, for whatever reason, aren’t of the psychological strength at that moment or in that time span to fight the luring into such a compromising position. This isn’t a sudden attack, a stressful trauma that ignites a fight-or-flight situation that can at the snap of the fingers turn off the fertility of the victim – and even that “type” of rape doesn’t come with that defense mechanism.

I recently had a conversation, preceding this incident by a few days, that there are essentially three categories of why perpetrators sexually assault their victims:

  1. They are sociopaths or otherwise have their own twisted psychological disorders that lead them to plan sexual assaults to satiate their perversions;
  2. They have psychological disorders and blatantly immoral perversions that they don’t want to inflict on others involuntarily, so they convince themselves it’s okay because the victim wants it; and
  3. They see expressions of sexuality or are in relationships with the victims that they think sex is par for the course and they are entitled to it as part of the relationship.

The first two categories of perpetrators need to be isolated and treated for the mental illnesses and disorders behind their actions. The last category needs to be educated as part of a broader cultural change away from rape and victim-blaming. The last category wouldn’t be what Todd Akin and much of the socially-conservative population thinks is “legitimate rape” – the woman wore a sexy outfit, the implicit marital contract includes sexual relations, or the victim should’ve just said no more loudly and clearly for the perpetrator to understand.

Victims in all categories, by the way, can be male or female, and the perpetrators the same. It just so happens that the genders of each are overwhelmingly imbalanced – most rapists are men, and most victims are women. It is because of the patriarchal foundations of society that have barely been shaken with the various waves of feminism and women’s rights movements that it is predominantly men who feel entitlement to sexual relations with those they desire, or they feel endorphins from power trips over victimizing and dehumanizing others. Gender inequality embedded in society is a significant part of why this is so tilted. Men need to fight against this too, to not only make it socially acceptable for male rape victims to speak out without emasculation, but also to tear down the stereotype of being incapable of living up to moral standards whenever they get a boner. The wave of critical responses to Akin’s statement that I saw in the limited, routine checking of my social media outlets included as many men as it did women, because the factual inaccuracies of both instinctive contraceptive mechanisms AND the separation of “legitimate” rape and “a-guy-gotsa-get-laid” rape dehumanizes both all genders.

This is completely outside of the abortion debate that prompted this snowballing remark, because the “certain situations” exception some people claim to support needs to be clearly defined before people can accurately say that they are on the same page and that they agree. The devil’s in the details, and the devil wants those details left out so victims can still be blamed and dehumanized and told they weren’t actually raped. Let’s crush that misconception, so we can carry the conversation on.


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