Every year, over 32,000 pregnancies occur from rape, but this means little in Republican Senator Todd Akin’s world. Akin recently made the now-infamous claim that “legitimate” rape rarely results in pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” This statement shows blatant ignorance and misogyny on Akin’s part, which have Democrats and Republicans alike turning on him.
Akin’s comments were made while discussing his opinion that abortions should be completely outlawed, even in cases of rape and incest, and surround the non-existent ability of women’s bodies to naturally “shut down” when attacked. Akin meant to defend his position, later saying that he strongly believes in punishing rapists instead of fetuses.
The greatest uproar came from Akin’s use of the word “legitimate,” which implied that Akin views some rapes as illegitimate. In a culture where women are so frequently blamed for men’s assaults—because of the way we dress, look or act, or the time at which we do these things—and where assaults on men are usually blown off entirely, Akin’s language only further promotes the idea that some rapes do not count.
While the media has focused in on one word, and Akin himself has claimed that his fault lay solely in “one word in one sentence,” using “legitimate” is not the only problem. Even if Akin had said something like “forceful” or “angry,” he would still have been minimizing a lot of people’s traumas, because as most of us know, no matter how calm or coercive the situation is, no always means no.
In reality, women’s bodies have no way of stopping a pregnancy from occurring, and it is high time that our bodies stop being, in one way or another, the scapegoats for men who think that they are entitled to them. Imagine having to hear, after having been attacked and unwillingly impregnated, that, whoops, your body failed you and your future is pretty much out of your hands. It’s in the hands of people like Todd Akin.
Furthermore, it is not the job of anyone’s body to naturally prevent an attack. Are we so used to the idea that women will be assaulted, that this is just boys being boys and girls being seducers, that we expect the female anatomy to evolve in such a way? Do we now believe that there is an inherent biological need for women to protect themselves?
That is not our job. It is not our bodies’ job to naturally protect us from rape and it is not our job to constantly police ourselves for fear that if we do not dress or act exactly the way we “should,” we will be attacked. It is not our job to carry the outcome of that attack if we do not want to. And it is not Todd Akin’s job to sit there and tell us it is all our bodies’ fault.