If Republican Congressman Todd Akin is to be remembered for anything other than his awfully ignorant and horribly tasteless comments which were publicized last Sunday, it would be for coining what could possibly be the most offensive phrase of this century: ‘legitimate rape.’
The words are now being used all over, with a young woman even writing and singing a song describing what she feels Mr Akin meant when he used the term. She has posted it on YouTube. Google ‘legitimate rape’ and Mr Akin’s name comes up. The two words having never been used together before now.
During a television interview, the politician, who is running against a woman, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, for the Missouri Senate seat, said, “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.” Mr Akin, known for his strong pro-life views, had been asked whether he believed abortion was justified in cases of rape.
Within hours of the Missouri station posting the interview on its website, it went viral with condemnations flowing from all corners of the globe. Mr Akin, on that same day, released a statement in which he claimed that he had misspoken during the interview. He has said the same thing over the past few days, appearing on national television stations, in an attempt to deflect the bullet he has already shot himself in the foot with – to no avail. Like the nursery rhyme cheese, Mr Akin stands alone.
Politicians make gaffes; some humorous, some horrible and usually, their ‘people’ find a way to spin it so that they emerge still smelling sweet. Unfortunately, for Mr Akin that is, there is no amount of cherry coating that could mask the stench from this stinker. It will linger. Mr Akin’s fellow Republicans have all roundly condemned his statement – along with most of the world – and have asked him to withdraw from the race, which he refuses to do. Up to yesterday, he was asked not to attend the upcoming Republican convention; a clear sign that he is out in the cold. With campaign financiers also signalling their intent to pull funds, it is obvious, the political pundits say, that Mr Akin’s days are numbered. That he is hanging on is sheer bravado, since he must know which way the wind is blowing.
It is entirely possible that this comment could be Mr Akin’s famous last words and rightly so. That a seemingly well-educated man could hold such preposterous views is mind-boggling. What is worse, is that he claimed that this was what he understood from doctors! What doctors could have told him this? Rape is rape. There are no degrees of rape. Pregnancy results from sex between a man and a woman. End of story. If indeed the female body had the power Mr Akin seeks to imbue it with, perhaps there would be no rape at all. The female body would just shut down or maybe it would repel the male body by way of a counter attack.
But seriously, what Mr Akin has succeeded in doing is committing mass ‘legitimate rape.’ His comment has raped every survivor of rape all over again. It goes back to the misconception which has been used against complainants in rape cases – that if a woman feels anything other than terror during the ordeal, then she has not been raped. It implies too, that there can be no rape within marriage – another fallacy, which women have sought for years to reverse and only fairly recently succeeded in doing. Imagine the damage that could have been done if a furore had not been raised over the statement. Imagine women’s rights being given a kick down the stairs they have struggled to climb all because of ignorance spouted by a man who, it would seem, does not think too highly of women.
Mr Akin owes all the women of this world an apology. He should not be allowed to say anything else until he says he is sorry.