Apologies if this makes no sense or is just plain wrong. Recent news articles have just got my back up and it’s this or get in a fight on Twitter about it.
In the last couple of days there have been several high profile statements on the issue of rape that have shocked me, and so I decided to write about it. It’s not just the last couple of days, this same issue has been discussed a lot in recent memory (i.e. mine) and every new stupid comment that is made to the media by someone who I would hope would know better brings them all to the forefront of my mind, and so this is going to be a bit of a long and winding road. I hope to have a conclusion by the time I’m done, though.
Congressman Todd Akin, U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district said the following of pregnancy as a result if rape, and subsequent termination;
“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist”
This is outstanding, really, this man must be outrageously confident to sit in front of an entire nation upon whom he relies to retain his position in Congress and spout such utter bollocks. I know you know it’s a stupid thing to say. I know this has been debated online until all the original ideas have been drained out of it, but here’s my piece anyway.
Firstly, ‘legitimate rape’. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. It’s not helpful to say that not all rape reports are true, but it’s a fact. What’s even less helpful is to imply that the vast majority are false, which I do not believe is true. I’m going to try not to make any sweeping statements that haven’t been proven in a court of law, but I don’t think crying rape is a thing most women do to pass the time. Nor do I think abortion is something most women do without thinking it through. I understand that there are people who think abortion is murder, and evil, and twisted and sick and wrong. But then there are obviously people in the world who think they have the right to force sex on men, women and children against their will, so let’s not start by assuming that having an opinion makes you right.
This whole blog might be nonsense, for that matter. It’s just what’s in my head, the world as I see it through me-tinted eyeballs. But I digress.
Let’s assume that by ‘legitimate rape’ Congressman Akin meant genuine rape, and not just violent rape, or stranger rape, because that would just be silly. Not potentially getting yourself punched or stabbed or killed does not equal consent, and neither does knowing your attacker. Let’s assume Congressman Akin knows this.
The female body does not have ‘ways’ to ‘try to shut that whole thing down’. Were the female body to have such ways, they might be better served by preventing non-consensual penetration rather than waiting for it to happen then somehow neutralising the risk of pregnancy. If I had a magic power related to rape, it would be to not get raped, not to not get pregnant when I got raped.
“Let’s assume they didn’t work or something”. Yes, Congressman, let’s. Let’s assume that for some reason my ‘ways’ are not working. You know how women can get all rubbish sometimes, I’m probably on my period or something.
“I think there should be some punishment,” well that’s mighty Christian of you, sir.
“But the punishment ought to be on the rapist.” Damn straight it should. But what is being proposed here is that the rapist be punished, but the foetus not be punished, and the woman who JUST GOT RAPED needs to just shut up about it and let the government decide what happens next. Never mind that she is carrying the foetus of a criminal, a man who has hurt her, betrayed her trust in humanity, put her through an experience she will never forget and made it awfully hard for her to carry on, although in most cases, of course, she will, because women have ‘ways’, remember.
Abortion is not a punishment. Stating it as such is ludicrous. No less ludicrous than it is to imply by word choice that should a woman become pregnant she was not ‘legitimately’ raped.
In conclusion to this part of my brainleak, this man, this Congressman, this Republican man, needs to go back to school. He needs to better understand the limitations of the human body, both his own and those of his wife.
A statement was later released stating the following;
“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”
And yet this deep empathy does not appear to be reflected in his consideration, or lack thereof, of any of these thousands of woman who may be non-consensually impregnated during their ordeal.
On the subject of abortion and rape, I read an article today (in the Guardian, here) about a cartoon strip published daily in several newspapers, which had been dropped by some of those newspapers for one strip set in an abortion clinic. The strip refers to a ‘shaming room’ and the article describes a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound as state-sponsored rape. There are those who believe this is ridiculous, that an ultrasound of this type is absolutely necessary in order to make the woman aware of the foetus she carries, in order to convince her to change her mind about terminating her pregnancy. In reality, this can only be considered consensual insofar as it is performed under duress. Undergo this awful, invasive procedure and you might get the abortion you seek. Refuse, and you definitely won’t. I don’t see how this is all that much different from “lie still and be quiet and I won’t hurt you”. Of course, should this attempt at shaming or scaring women into not going to abortion clinics fail to deter, perhaps the next step will be that the doctor performing the procedure is allowed to let his friends watch.
Roman Polanski. That name stands alone. It is a man who disgusts me and always will. Frankly, I am a little bit disgusted by all the celebrities who stood up to justify his not standing trial for a rape to which he has confessed, although I’m sure they don’t care what I think, and neither does he. What I wanted to mention here was the statement, from Whoopi Goldberg, that what he did was not “rape-rape”. I assume what she meant by this was that he didn’t beat the child he raped as he was raping her. He did not hold her down as she struggled. Maybe the implication is that the girl was consenting and ‘cried rape’ which, in itself, seems to imply it’s a lie. Is it a parallel with “crying wolf”? Anyway, whatever Ms Goldberg said, it was not helpful. There is rape, or there is not rape, there is no rape but not rape, and there is no rape rape. There is rape where the victim is beaten or threatened or dragged into bushes, and there is rape where the victim is thirteen years old, given alcohol and controlled substances, and left alone in a jacuzzi with an incredibly rich, famous and powerful man, and this is taken as consent from a child in an altered state by a man who wants to have sex with her. With regards to those who point out that Polanski survived the Holocaust and the horrific murder of his heavily pregnant wife, I say, there are sex offenders in our prisons who were themselves sexually assaulted as children, and none of those was handed a free pass on rape. Polanski did a thing that it is not OK for a human to do, and I don’t care a bit for excuses. Perhaps he was damaged by his experiences. Does that make it OK to pay it forward?
Julian Assange is a man who has been accused of rape, and obviously there are a lot of accusations and complications flying around about him, I’m not going to get into those. I’m not even saying he’s guilty, because he has not stood trial. Which, of course, is a huge part of the complications surrounding him. This issue has been discussed a lot online, and a while ago I saw a woman say that the women who have accused him are clearly lying. I can’t remember the details but essentially the idea was that these women were known to be a bit slaggy, and therefore they must be lying. Because a woman who’s been around a bit can’t get raped. A woman who consents to some consents to all. A woman who wears a short skirt is asking for it. Now, I don’t even know whether this is true, I don’t know anything about these women, even who they are, I know their actions are being held against them by some as proof that they are lying. And yet, nothing has gone to court. If Assange has his way this will never get to court. And since it hasn’t gone to court, why is some woman telling me what a pair of slags his alleged victims are?
It is really, really unhelpful to pass comment on people who have made a rape accusation in this way. It is not welcome, it is not gossip, it is character assassination, and I don’t see why that is appropriate outside of the courtroom and outside of proveable facts.
George Galloway said something today that left me dumbfounded.
“Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100% true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it. And somebody has to say this. Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.”
Amazing. Unbelievable. I’m kind of gobsmacked right now.
What Galloway says here is that if you’ve consented once, you’ve consented evermore. You’ve basically handed over right of way to your vagina.
This is one step away from saying if you’ve consented to be a man’s wife, then nothing he does thereafter is non-consensual.
It is a semitone above saying if you’ve consented to one man you’ve consented to all.
Yes, George. You don’t need to get written permission, but there does need to be some form of encouragement before each insertion. Nice choice of words there, too, by the way. If you meet someone, bring them back to your flat, make them dinner, go to bed with them, have consensual sex with them, that does not then give them the right to have another go while you’re asleep. ESPECIALLY not on the first date. Imagine that dear George invites me over for dinner one night. There is no sex, and I go home after coffee. Imagine the next morning he wakes up to find me sitting at the breakfast bar. Is that OK? I think not.
I find it so depressing that this is even a matter for debate, that there is not a clear agreement on what does and does not constitute rape, that there are people saying, yeah, there’s rape, but it’s not as bad as RAPE-rape. Presumably the worst of the worst, then, is rape-rape-rape. I find it so depressing that it is considered acceptable to claim that a woman’s character bears any relation on her experience, that a woman can be ‘asking for it’ to the point where when a man forces himself on her, it’s her fault.
I remember clearly reading about the case of Lindsay Armstrong when it happened. This was a young woman who was shamed in the witness box at the trial of her rapist, forced to hold up to the court the underwear she was wearing when she was attacked, and having seen him convicted, committed suicide. It is thought that she did not feel she could go on, but could not give up until her rapist was safely behind bars.
How is it OK that shaming women is condoned in this day and age? How is it acceptable that a woman who cannot entertain the idea of seeing her pregnancy through to the birth of a child, or a child who is raped by a stranger, should be shamed into keeping their mouth shut, scared into putting up with her lot, threatened into accepting what someone else decides she should go through in life? How is it that men who have no clue about basic human biology are able to use their ‘knowledge’ to justify making their personal opinions law? How is it that women are happy to call other women names, to imply that whatever happens to them, they deserved it, to gang up against a stranger and decide that they’re a liar because of past actions completely unrelated to honesty or lack thereof?
Why can’t we just wait and see what the court decides, with all the evidence in front of them? By all means, trust those you trust, believe those you know, but if you don’t know someone from Adam, be they alleger or alleged, why would one need to state an opinion as fact? Why can’t we assume that the termination of a pregnancy isn’t a decision taken lightly? Why can’t we give people the benefit of the doubt we would hope would be given to us?
And please, please, if you are a politician and you suddenly think “hey, how come nobody’s mentioned this really important definition or bodily function?!”, can’t you please just look it up before you state it as fact?