What women really hear when men like Politico reporter Dave Catanese and Rep. Todd Akin say ‘legitmate rape’

By Megan Carpentier
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 11:15 EDT
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To hear either Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) or his defender, Politico reporter Dave Catanese, tell it, the problem with Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” and whether women magical mystery reproductive tracts can prevent the fertilization of its eggs by sperm introduced through “real” violation and trama were:

  1. Akin meant “forcible rape.”
  2. “Perhaps some can agree that all rapes that are reported are not actually rapes? Or are we gonna really deny that for PC sake?”
  3. Akin’s science was a little off and, in fact, one can get pregnant as the result of rape.
  4. Talking about all those “not actually rapes” that get reported is just too nuanced a discussion for all those overly sensitive people on Twitter who think Dave Catanese is a rape apologist just because he took “a side” on the issue of “legitimate rape.”

It likely doesn’t come as any surprise to most women — nor most rape survivors — that Akin, Catanese and their defenders find themselves unable to hear what their critics are really saying: that their determinations of what “counts” as rape are things we’ve heard too many times before; that their efforts to draw lines around the kinds of rape they decry and others they apparently don’t feel are “legitimate” are creepy and frightening; and that survivors of rape deserve their compassion, understanding, empathy, support and non-judgmental attention regardless of whether they currently think those rapes were “forcible” enough to qualify as “legitimate.”

So to assist Akin, Catanese and their supporters in understanding why their half-assed apologies and “explanations” aren’t calming people down, here’s a translation of what women actually hear when men start talking about what rapes are “legitimate.”

Blah blah blah legitimate rape blah blah your rape doesn’t count blah blah I mean, your face isn’t even bruised blah blah blah if you put up enough of a fight you’d have marks on you, you must be lying blah blah blah it’s only rape if he uses force blah blah blah you’re just using it as an excuse to not feel bad about your abortion, and you should feel bad blah blah what were you wearing that night anyway? I’ll bet you had a lot to drink blah blah blah blah if you were so drunk you passed out, how do you know you didn’t really consent blah blah blah blah Duke rape case shows all women lie about it blah blah blah it’s not like you were a virgin to start with blah blah blah I’m sure he thought you were into it blah blah blah blah he just made one mistake and you were both drunk, why should he suffer for the rest of his life blah blah blah blah only sluts have abortions blah blah blah.

Or, to put it another way: When confronted by a man who seems quite invested in defining what is not “really” rape, women are forced to question the motives for his investment and back away slowly.

["An Angry Woman Is Giving Her Mobile Phone The Finger" on Shutterstock]

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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