With Todd Akin’s horribly ignorant and insensitive comment blasting across the news, we’ve got everyone and their dog talking about rape. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent conversation to have. Mr. Akin himself just proved that there are still people woefully, and frighteningly, misinformed. He’s not being smeared, he just got caught in his ignorance. In case anyone is still in the dark, yes, it is easier to get pregnant during consensual sex. No, a woman does not have some kind of goalie in her vagina that keeps unwelcome sperm out. It can and does happen.
As usual, everyone is talking about what I assume Akin was referring to as ‘legitimate’ rape. You know, because coercive rape isn’t really rape rape I guess. Forceful, violent rape by a stranger happens. We’ve all heard the advice. Don’t go out alone. Be aware or your surroundings. Don’t got to bad parts of town. Don’t dress provocatively. So on and so forth. And sure, if you dress in a potato sack and never leave the house alone, you’ll probably never be raped by a stranger. Works great for all the Muslim women. They get raped by men they are supposed to be able to trust, to rely on to protect them instead. Awesome.
What about the prostitute? (And if you are planning to make the is it rape or shoplifting joke, you can leave now.) Yes, it’s certainly a high risk line of work, but I’m not going to make a judgment on why anyone chooses it. She made an informed decision and consented to a particular act. She did not consent to be beaten and gang raped. Is that still legitimate rape?
Maybe that’s too ambiguous. She certainly didn’t follow all the advice out there. So maybe we shouldn’t get our haircut either. No, she’s not going to get pregnant since her rape was by instrumentation. Still pretty damn legitimate if you ask me.
There’s nothing inherently wrong in the advice given to women to lessen the risk of rape, but it is often short-sighted. The stranger hiding in the dark alley is real, but not common. The majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. It’s the friend that pushes things too far. The family member that takes advantage of their authority. The boyfriend that has decided he’s earned it. The guy at the party that thinks it’s okay just because he can.
What is too often forgotten is that we’d all love to live in a world where a woman could pass out drunk and naked in the proverbial dark alley and be perfectly safe to sleep it off. The fact of the matter is, we don’t live in that world. Advice to stay out of that situation is not apologizing for the crimes of others, it’s just trying to avoid unnecessary risk. But in addition to avoidance, we should be teaching young men and women that people have value. Your life and your body are precious, and you have the right to protect it by any means necessary. The only time that value is forfeit is when someone chooses to deprive another human being of their life/body. Meaning, if you say no, it’s no. If someone tells you no, it’s no. The moment you defy that, you forfeit any value your life had and deserve to have it ended by the victimized party.
Honestly, I wish things like this would work.
But it’s missing teeth. It’s as effective as a no gun sign on a business. Instead, I’d prefer the implication of, “Attempt to rape me, and I will end you.” Coupled with the assumption that the proposed victim has the appropriate tools and know how to do just that. Dead attempted rapists can’t impregnate anyone, so whether or not to abort becomes a moot point. Sounds a lot more effective than the imaginary goalie in the vagina.