Biology with Rep. Todd Akin

I have trouble accepting that we could elect to national office someone who doesn’t know how pregnancy works, so I’ve been trying to work out the basis of Todd Akin’s theory to see if it holds any water at all. First, let’s go over how conception occurs.

  • An ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube.
  • A sperm makes its way into that tube and merges with the egg.

Pretty simple, right? Nothing an adult capable of giving speeches should have any trouble working out. But Akin maintains that somehow the woman’s body can shut down this process when she’s raped. The problem is that once the egg is in the fallopian tube, in position to be inseminated, the rest of the “process” is down to the sperm. So what exactly does Akin think a the girl’s or woman’s “shock” can do to alter the situation when an egg happens to be in position at the moment a rapist chooses to rape?

The force shield theory

One theory I came up with is based on video games. Maybe Akin believes that the egg, already positioned in the tube and awaiting insemination, is provided with a special force shield when the brain feels traumatized. I’m picturing little hormones racing from their gland in the brain area at speeds above that of sound (rape can happen pretty quickly, so this process has to be super-speedy) and forging a sort of human… well, hormone chain around the egg and singing “We Shall Overcome” while the frustrated sperm thrashes its little tail-thingy in frustration and sings “Every Sperm Is Sacred.”

Even though this is pretty much precisely not how hormones operate, I think we can call this plausible in order that we may continue to feel good about ourselves as we support condemning society’s victims to pay for society’s mistakes while rapists revel in the very real possibility that their victimizations will continue for the rest of the victim’s life as she is forced to either raise or surrender the rapist’s child while he continues – yes, it’s true – to enjoy paternity rights in the US. No thought could make the rapists I’ve known come harder.

The hidey-hole theory

Another theory I came up with is that Akin believes there is a special hidey-hole somewhere just off the fallopian tubes, and an egg can dash off into it when it feels threatened. This one is a little harder to believe, because:

  • We’ve surgically opened up a lot of women over the years, and none of them had such a hidey hole. It’s unlikely that all of them were medical anomalies.
  • Eggs can’t “feel threatened” because they don’t have minds, so what we’re really talking about is the brain releasing hormones that tell the egg “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE” and the egg somehow propelling itself into this non-existent hidey-hole.

I dunno, that one’s kind of shaky.

The Teflon uterus theory

One more theory I came up with is that perhaps Akin isn’t talking about conception, but about what happens afterward. See, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall where it grows into a fetus. If it fails to attach or somehow detaches, that pregnancy is over. So maybe Akin thinks that after a big shock, hormones come rushing into the uterus and turn it super-slick, like non-stick cookware, and the egg falls away. This is one of the more plausible theories, since it doesn’t have to rush to happen during the rape. On the other hand, it seems like this process would kind of be easy to detect. I mean, this is precisely the sort of thing infertility specialists would have been looking into for their clients, right? “Hey, did you know that right after I implanted that IVF egg in you, your womb turned to Teflon and out it went? What did you do immediately after the implantation? Watch the new version of Dallas? Didn’t I tell you to avoid trauma for at least 48 hours?”

Social liberals for Akin!

Whatever the case, I want Akin to stay in the race and continue to jam his foot down his throat up to the knee so that he will (a) secure the election for his opposition and (b) make the Republicans look like the kind of rape collaborators they are.


  1. Maartje says

    Oh, Oh! What about this one! A freeze theory! When the woman goes into shock the egg goes into shock too, freezing in place, so the rapist’s sperm cannot merge with the egg.

    I think this kind of weird beliefs means you have to stop cutting into your education budget- maybe even add to it… I mean, how does he account for the time a sperm can survive inside the woman? Is the magical conception blocker up all that time?

  2. Deborah Bell says

    On an email list I belong to, there’s a woman from New Zealand who raised sheep with her husband most of her life, and who finds it ridiculous that a “nutter” like Akin could be allowed to stand for election (they have the parliamentary system over there). So we were discussing the whole thing – I explained about getting on the ballot with some money and some signatures, and no test of reasonability required – and when one of our number insisted that Akin wasn’t really wrong, just overstating, my New Zealand friend told us that that just wasn’t how mammalian biology worked. And the other guy said something to the effect of thanks, that was a great explanation, well put – and then on his very next post to the group he said, again:

    But more important is the fact that he was somewhat right – stress does
    reduce the probability of implantation – which is the initiation of
    pregnancy – and also wrong in that he presented it as a pure highly
    probably event – when it is of a much lower degree of probability – how
    much lower I don’t know but off the top of my head I would guess as much
    as ten percent less – which since the probability of implantation in the
    general case of intercourse is only about 5%, that means the probability
    of implantation after rape might be as much as a 1/2% less – which is
    realistically negligable – though it is real.

    This is after he just agreed with the farmer lady from New Zealand who basically told us that the only way rape would prevent pregnancy or cause miscarriage is if the female was extremely wounded and beaten nearly to death! (She told us a sad thing about wool gotten from fetal lambs by beating the pregnant mothers…it’s a nasty world!!) And this person is not actually a religious person or against abortion; he is a libertarian usually but he sides with Republicans for some reason and can’t let go of defending one of them even when he is clearly wrong.

  3. facebook_patrick.mcgraw.7 says

    Deborah Bell,

    And this person is not actually a religious person or against abortion; he is a libertarian usually but he sides with Republicans for some reason and can’t let go of defending one of them even when he is clearly wrong.

    IMHO, libertarians usually side with Republicans because Republicans are on the side of maintaining inequality, and the vast majority of libertarians come from groups that benefit from those inequalities.

  4. Gabbie says

    Jenn, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but the way you make their arguments look so ludicrous is hysterical.

    Incidentally, I never did human biology (I took biology, which is more the plant/virus side of things) and I can’t remember not knowing how pregnancy worked.

  5. says

    Maartje: I think this kind of weird beliefs means you have to stop cutting into your education budget- maybe even add to it…

    Amen to that!

    Gabbie: I can’t remember not knowing how pregnancy worked.

    It’s the fundie religious influence in US culture, though. Ignorance is godly, especially about such matters as pertain to lady bits.

  6. Em says

    Oh, this is an old, old idea they’re repeating. Like many centuries old, before anyone had any real clue what the hell was actually going on and were arguing about which partners might or might not have various seeds or foams or whatnot to contribute to the process based on what they felt in their guts made sense. And what do you know, somehow the idea that you didn’t have to prosecute if she got pregnant because then it must not have been rape was something a lot of guys felt was true in their guts. Convenient, that!

    It’s still appalling that these guys were apparently educated in the 16th century and think they know science.

  7. Ara says

    I actually have heard “conventional wisdom” given to me that stress/shock can cause miscarriage, long before this controversy– not just in anti-feminist stuff but in some of the metaphysical mind-over-matter alternative natural community writings. Taking a concept like this and running with it without doing any science is very bad in a political candidate; they’re supposed to actually know things, especially since all I’ve ever heard was that certain types of shock *can* cause miscarriage, not that they definitely *will* or that they prevent conception.

    But I’m also thinking of some of the stuff I’ve read in feminist publications about inducing your own abortion via herbs and massage and concentrating on it hard enough, which has the common core of “mind-over-matter” even if it’s very different in message, and perhaps it might be useful to look at the thought patterns leading up to our version of that core, because what’s coming out of the Republicans probably has some kind of root in the same conventional wisdom, even if it’s severely twisted by their own worldview– they might use God for hate, but God to them seems to be what empowerment is to us, and we can thereby figure them out by thinking about what empowerment means to us, and then thinking about what it would mean to us when coming from a platform of religious righteousness.

    (And I’m going to add the disclaimer that if I’ve failed to explain a connection between two thoughts sufficiently, tell me I’ve done so– I’ve been told things that are obvious to me aren’t to everyone else, but I can’t always figure out which things those are.)

  8. says


    Basically, everyone wants to see pregnancy as mystical? Some are just extending the actual awe of it into mysticism. Others are using it to imbue us with powers we don’t actually have, which they use as an excuse for oppressing us, hating us, holding us to higher standards than men and blaming us out own victimization. See also: “women’s intuition” and all that shit.

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