Consistently misogynist

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 14:01 EDT
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There’s a tendency on the left to praise hard line anti-choicers for their “consistency” when they oppose abortion even in the case of rape or incest. “At least,” people say, “they’re being consistent with their claim that an embryo is a real person.” It’s not like all folks who say this disagree that said anti-choicers oppose abortion because of deep-set fears about human sexuality and misogyny, but they are trying to be fair and award some sort of karma points to people whose rationalizations are more coherent.

I’ve long maintained that opposition to abortion rights even in the case of rape or incest is indeed consistent, but with overt misogyny. It’s an expression of belief that what goes on in a woman’s head never matters, not even in cases where more tender-hearted people might give women a break. It’s consistent in the way that arguing that you should get to sexually abuse animals because you can eat them is consistent. It just makes you an even uglier person. It also is, irrevocably, mixed up with a general unwillingness to take rape seriously as a crime. For example, Christine O’Donnell is running a new ad that exploits an already ugly situation—where a man’s fear and anger after he fought a rapist off his sister is turned into an internet joketo compare being taxed to being raped, but in a jokey way that makes it clear they don’t think the original attempted rape is a real problem.* Or, to make a long story short, I think a lot of people who say “no exceptions” for rape or incest say so because they don’t think rape is a real problem, and they believe most victims brought it on themselves.

Which brings me to the Ken Buck situation. As new details emerge about the rape case he refused to prosecute, we’re beginning to get a firm picture of his attitudes towards women and about rape, and how they inform his stance against abortion rights, even for rape victims. And that picture is of a man who believes that once a woman has ceased to be a virgin, she loses all rights to bodily autonomy: she can and should be forced to partner with a man against her will, have sex with a man against her will, and bear children against her will.

Whether or not you prosecute a rape case should depend on whether or not you think an actual crime has been committed. In this case, the victim got her attacker to admit on a recorded phone call that he raped her. But the facts of this case—whether or not a man forced himself on a woman—were less important, it seems, than whether or not the victim deserved to say no. Ken Buck was skeptical. To make it worse, he laid blame for his attitudes on an imaginary journey, suggesting that they’d believe she just had “buyer’s remorse”. And I guess they probably would, if even the prosecutor is a believer that women are generally evil and suddenly, after having sex with someone repeatedly, they decide that they’d enjoy spending the next year or so of their lives wrapped up in legal proceedings for the hell of it. But more importantly, Buck was obsessed with the fact that the victim had (gasp!) been sexually active before, and with the accused rapist. I guess once he’s stuck it in you once, you belong to him forever.

But this is what’s really weird and telling:

The suspect in this case had claimed that the victim had at one point a year or so before this event become pregnant with his child and had an abortion, which she denies, saying she miscarried. The suspect’s claim, though, is in the police report, and Buck refers to it as a reason she may be motivated to file charges where he thinks none are warranted.

“When he talks about the abortion as the reason she wants charges filed, that has nothing to do with the law or this case,” Forseth says. “That is his personal bias coming into play. He’s bringing his own personal beliefs and judgments to bear on this case, when he should be acting as a victim’s advocate.”

A prior pregnancy and abortion/miscarriage is irrelevant, if you believe that a woman has a right to terminate a relationship with a man and a right to say no to sex, even if she’s not a virgin. But if you see pregnancy as a symbol of a man’s conquest over a woman, then both abortion and rejecting a relationship or sex with a man who has previously impregnated you are against the rules of the patriarchy.

But what I really want to draw attention to here is how Buck understood the relationship of abortion and rape. Even though the supposed abortion happened before the rape, Buck seemed really sure there was a relationship between the woman supposedly lying about the rape and having gotten an abortion, that she was somehow trying to justify something. Or maybe just that she’s an out-of-control rejector of the right of men to control and dominate her. Either way, you get a clear picture of why he’s opposed to exceptions in an abortion ban for rape and incest, and it really is consistent—consistently misogynist.

*Or maybe her campaign only thinks rape is some big joke if it’s happening to people who live in low income housing.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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