In an interview on Fox's Jaco Report concerning abortion rights and the Morning After pill, Akin aired his views on abortion in the case of rape. Turns out Akin heard from someone's cousin's friend who knows a doctor who told them how the female body works. “It seems to me, first of all, 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. Let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Akin's opponent Senator Claire McCaskill did a google and learned the female body does not have such 'ways' and tweeted: “As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I’m stunned by Rep Akin’s comments about victims this AM.”
Romney and Ryan were quick to distance themselves from Akin, issuing a statement: “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”
Even Akin, on reflection and the reminder that women have the vote now and he might want to mention them commented: “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. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.”
What this incident brings up is this need people have to qualify rape. The remark “legitimate rape” requires quotation marks not simply because I am quoting Akin but because I believe the intended suggestion – the unsaid qualifier left hanging was 'and how often does that happen'. Was it a bad rape? Or just a mild one? Of course there are some cases of rape that are particularly horrific, but why are we repeatedly asking rape victims to rate the crime on a scale of 1 to 10? Oh you knew the guy? You were only partially raped then. No wonder you're up the duff.
There is a notion that some men (to clarify I do not believe all men are rapists waiting to happen, nor am I unaware that women can commit rape) are above rape, in Roman Polanski's case Hollywood continues to fall over itself to be in a Polanski film. This is because, as Whoopi Goldberg explained to us on The View: “I know it wasn't rape-rape. It was something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape.”
It is disturbingly easy to see why, while the science is – well, not scientific, Akin would use the phrase “legitimate rape” as easily as Goldberg would stress “rape-rape”. In England marital rape was criminalised in 1991. That's not a typo. 1991. It's very clear that consent is still a grey area for a lot of people. Consent is still not a question of Yes or No. Previous consent is does not mean consent does not have to be sought repeatedly. It does not mean from this day forth consent is implied.
According to US statistics 1 in 7 women currently in college have been raped but 9 out of 10 women raped on campus will not report the rape. I believe this statistic is influenced by shame inducing phrases such as 'legitimate rape', 'cry rape' and 'rape-rape'. Another statistic Akin might care to take note of is this one - 1 in 15 rape victims become pregnant as a result of being raped.