It’s been all over the news and perhaps we’ve already grown tired of reading about it. I imagine those that are tired of reading about it have a firm opinion that was quickly struck; and US Representative Akin’s comment was dismissed as ill-informed and naive at best.
But his comment was much more than ill-informed and naive.
Let me explain.
Let’s begin with the quote that started the discussion.
“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.” (Todd Akin, 2012).
This quote has led to a discussion around rape, abortion, “the war on women,” general and specific women’s reproductive rights, and a powerful article/letter written by Eve Ensler to Mr. Akin. Here is a quote from her letter to the congressman:
“I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.
Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction?” (Eve Ensler).
The Arizona Republic featured a quote by what I believe was a reader in the editorial section of the paper on August 28, 2012.
Terry Amick wrote, “It is a little known fact that when some elected Republican men have a legitimate compassionate thought their bodies secrete a substance that kills the thought. Pity.”
Then I was listening to NPR on a drive to a nearby town. I heard the discussion revolving around damage done to the Republican party by Mr. Akin’s comment and then the discussion veered to pro life and pro choice discussions. It appears the Republican party would like to make all abortion illegal or make all abortion paid for in part by federal funds illegal, and remove all exceptions such as those that would be connected to rape including rape by incest. My head was dizzy by the time I arrived at my destination.
My head may have been dizzy, but my emotions kept returning to my clients. I have counseled hundreds of women, men, boys, and girls around issues concerning rape, sexual assault, incest, and all the other words we use to say that someone sexually violated another.
All rape and all sexual violations of another are legitimate. Need we say more?
The problem I heard developing was around pro choice, pro life, and abortions tied to rape.
My experience comes by way of working with those who have been victims of others. My caseload of folks, particularly female teens, echoed the sentiments about why laws concerning abortion exist at all. It is not they were against pro life. They jumped over pro life and pro choice into pro responsibility.
A woman does not become pregnant on her own. Yet, if she conceives, her body becomes free game for all sorts of discussions. It is as though she isn’t there at all as a person. It is as though she is an object. Let me share a composite (not direct quotes) of what I heard in the weeks following Akin’s statement.
Teen: I have wondered why there isn’t a license or permit people obtain when they have reached the age of sexual decision making.
Teen: If you want to have sex then you need a permit to do so.
Teen: So the male gets a permit and his permit says that he will use birth control so as to not create any new life unless his partner, who also has a permit, has agreed to create new life.
Teen: No one is allowed to have sexual relations without a license. Doing so is considered unethical, as future human life will be affected and this is deemed as morally offensive by society. This is considered rape.
Teen: No one is allowed to have sexual relations if they have a permit with someone who does not have a permit. This is also considered rape.
Teen: No one is allowed to have sexual relations with another unless they register as a potentially eligible partner and were approved by the opposite partner in advance. You can change your mind, as you can on Facebook, and delete someone as a potential sexual partner. If a partner is deleted they cannot have sexual relations with one another.
Teen: If you have sex you have designated your position for or against creating life. Both males and females are responsible and creating new life mean that you agree to nurture and care for that life throughout your life.
Teen: If you do not agree to create new life your reproductive rights are suspended. You cannot have offspring and if you do you will have to answer to the council, as there are rules for this too.
Teen: If you have agreed to participate in creating new life then both parties are bound for the rest of their lives to nurture, protect, support, and guide the new life. Failure to honor the protocol is a crime against humanity and will be punished accordingly.
Teen: There is no need for a discussion around pro choice or pro life. Permits are based on the law. If you don’t have a permit and you have sex you have broken the law.
When I put all of their comments together and rearrange them it reads as a potential solution. It really isn’t a religious issue or whose right belongs to whom issue. It is an issue of acting responsibly.
Where is the simple agreed upon premise that the original purpose of sex is that of ensuring the continuation of our species? It is fine that sexuality has taken on many more levels of enjoyment, but enjoyment does not cancel out responsibility. It is not fine that sexuality has taken on the interests of those who would use violence, control, manipulation, and cruelty in the name of human sexuality.
Some folks would argue that sexuality is a personal thing and government is already too involved in our lives. I believe in behaving responsibly where human sexuality is concerned. I believe in behaving responsibly with human beings.
If we don’t want government making decisions for us we need to act responsibly and those that don’t (such as rapists) need to be dealt with. If a woman becomes pregnant from the result of a rape it is the rapist who violated the contract around humanity. It only makes sense that the woman, the life bearing vessel, needs to make the decision as to what she wants to do about her situation.
Teenagers seem to understand a great deal more than people think.
Be well and take care,
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 17 Sep 2012