“Legitimate Rape” as an anti-pregnancy tool.

Really trying to think of a snappy title for this one, but seriously, all I can think of is how sad this makes me regarding the state of sex education in the US.

Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview postedSunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Honestly? There’s so much wrong with this.

1. Way to objectify women’s bodies by totally removing any indicators of personhood with that “female body” line.

2.  Even Akin’s correction does not acknowledge that he is just start up wrong about how babby is formed. Neither does Romney’s “disagreement.” Knowing basic biology is not disagreement.

I just can’t.



  1. Red says

    Oh, God i just read about this and was going to see if it was being addressed…

    I mean, seriously… ‘legitimate rape’??? Can someone define that for me?!

    Oh and I LOVE this line! “… the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

    Really? So we’ve been demanding contraceptives all these years for NOTHING?! We can ‘shut that whole thing down’ at will?

    Excuse me, I’m going to go bang my head on something hard. It’s far less painful than reading this.

  2. sbg says

    I’m still agog that anyone could come up with that nonsense and believe it. I … just … WHAT? How did this person 1) reach adulthood and 2) get elected in the first place?

    Hold me, I’m scared.

    Of course Romney wasn’t going to touch the biology fail with a ten foot pole, though. I believe his plan of attack there was, “Just don’t mention it, pretend it was never said, acknowledge nothing about the magic rape-conception-fighting female body”. Which, btw, suggests to me that Akin might believe that if on that apparently rare occasion a woman gets pregnant by legitimate rape (whhhhhaaaat?!), it’s her fault for being defective and not having the super neato fake biology necessary to prevent it.

    It’s either that or if by “shut that whole thing down” he means penis-blocking genitalia, which is just as magical and would also kind of mean that if a woman can’t penis block, then she must actually want it and it’s not legitimate rape.

    God, legitimate rape is a term I’ve only heard today and it’s already on my list of things that need to go away, including baby bump, baby daddy, tramp stamp and “real women…”

  3. Red says


    :holds because she’s scared, too:

    I think I speak for every single woman on this PLANET when I say… if there was a way for us to ‘shut down’ those parts of our body AT WILL, we wouldn’t HAVE TO RELY on things like Planned Parenthood, contraceptives and other such things that help us control such things as pregnancy.

  4. glauke says

    What a lovely mash-up of rape apologism, biology!fail and forced pregnacies.

    Please, keep telling me how the war on women is not a real thing

  5. I.A. Scott says

    It seems like if there were indeed a way for women to do that without outside intervention he’d be trying to criminalise it.

  6. says

    I.A. Scott,

    That was my first thought, LOL!

    This guy couldn’t have passed my 6th grade biology class, and that was in a plain ol’ public school, so we’re not talking top notch private education or anything. All I can figure is that he thinks when the brain is unhappy with the method of sperm delivery, the eggs have a hidey-hole they can bolt into. And that’s just too ignorant for words.

    Call me elitist all you like, but if it’s “elitist” to think your elected rep ought to be able to pass 6th grade biology, then elitist I am. I also think people who are that brazenly, proudly and willfully ignorant should only be able to find employ in traveling carnivals.

    As for “legitimate rape”, this must not include drugged rape, because the brain is unconscious and therefore couldn’t direct the eggs to bolt into their hidey hole or whatever he thinks happens there.

    This guy need a good swift kick in the balls. It’s okay – the male body has a magic thing that prevents it from hurting him.

  7. SunlessNick says


    Please, keep telling me how the war on women is not a real thing

    I find it barely fathomable how out of control Republican poiticans are at the moment.

  8. says

    Something else that bothers me is in his recant, he says he didn’t mean to downplay the suffering of raped and abused women, and they’ll find no stauncher ally on Capitol Hill. A lot of people will probably be all “Oh, fair enough! He’s a good guy after all!”

    But no. Because he’s still advocating no abortions for rape victims. He’s still saying that if your pervert relative impregnates you when you’re 11, you should give birth to your own sibling/cousin/whatever because that worked out so well for Ted Bundy. He is still saying that if your husband flushes your pills down the toilet and rapes you because his buddies are teasing him about his failure thus far to get his woman pregnant, that’s the sort of man you should be bound to the rest of your life through paternity issues and father’s rights – because, yes, in the US rapists still have paternity rights.

    Jesus wouldn’t approve this shit. Jesus thought of women as something more than wombs on legs. Jesus didn’t have this strange idea conservatives have that God fucked up when he made pregnancy the one thing men physically couldn’t control from start to finish, and that God’s mistake needs correcting.

    What we should be working toward is a world where no one ever has a reason to abort. Instead, conservatives are creating a rapists’ paradise. Rapists are often sadists, and they will *drool* at the prospect that their initial act of torture may be followed by a much lengthier one, AND that their victims will be bound to them forever through their paternal rights. Nothing could make the rapists I’ve known come harder than that thought. It’s the victimization that keeps on victimizing. It just doesn’t get anymore sadistically satisfying than that.

    What conservatives need is a good, long lecture from FBI profilers who understand how rapists think and what they want and how much they are going to love it when their victims have even fewer options for getting over what happened and moving on.

    The problem is – and let’s just face it – a lot of politicians are rapists. Politics attracts more narcissists than other fields, and rapists are just giant over-inflated bags of narcissistic entitlement. This is the real reason things are going this way.

  9. says

    I totally agree with Jennifer – especially the thing about Jesus & conservatives.
    I used to understand that in the case of unexpected, violent rape the body would often go into shock thus preventing pregnancy from happening. Which is all very good and well, but as previously indicated, most rape happens by someone you know and often as a part of systematic abuse. So the body *doesn’t* go into shock because this is usual.
    As with most things, when you know someone in the situation it becomes a lot more easy to see their side of the argument. I only know one woman who kept her rapist’s baby, she was only quite young, but I presume he has no rights here in Australia. What do you bet that Akin has never talked to a woman in the situation of deciding what to do?

  10. Deborah Bell says

    I read about this first on another blog today, and what got to me is that this guy is not having an original idea nor one that is unique in our current discourse. :( According to the NY Times, after Dr. Boozman (an opthalmologist) lost a Senate race in 1998 during which he said something like this, Governor Mike Huckabee *appointed him to run the Arkansas Dept of Health*. The article talks about other politicans over the years who have put forward similar arguments (the argument seems to be about “stress hormones” caused by “fear” during a rape, and I think the “legitimate rape” label is to refer to one perpetrated by force while the victim is an adult and conscious and therefore capable of feeling fear. Article here: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/myth-about-rape-and-pregnancy-is-not-new/

    But the idea is at least as old as 1290, where it can be found in one of the oldest English legal texts, in a quote that basically says if the woman gets pregnant after accusing someone of rape, then he goes free because without her consent she couldn’t get pregnant. “If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

    So, basically, they are being medieval. They probably don’t care how it actually works; they just assume it does.

  11. Nialla says

    The thing that truly gets me is that even in his “apology” he doesn’t say he was wrong. He misspoke. How in the hell is it misspeaking when you spew something like this while claiming doctors are backing up this idea?

    As much as the Conservatives love to praise Jesus these days, if he actually appeared before them, they wouldn’t want to be seen with the poor, dirty, peace loving guy whose skin isn’t lily white.

  12. says

    The other Repubs seem to be trying hard to distance themselves from this guy. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that they’re still offering something they can’t deliver: exceptions for rape. The problem with that is and has always been: how do you determine who’s been raped? If you demand a conviction, it’ll be exceedingly rare that anyone manages to see her rapist convicted before her ever-shrinking window of abortion time ends. And if you don’t demand a conviction, then what? Leave it open to anyone claiming they were raped? Demand that they file a report, which we know loads of women don’t because the trauma’s just too much? Loads of little girls can’t, since the people raping them are family or friends of family. What about women and girls with mental and physical disabilities, who can’t necessarily do things like that for themselves?

    So, unless they want to let any woman merely claiming to have been raped get an abortion, then yeah, they certainly are going to be refusing exceptions for at least some rape victims… often the most helpless of all.

  13. says

    Deborah Bell, that’s just horrifying. Even though this idea was invented before we had the means to scientifically work out what goes on, I think I’m still going to hope everyone who bought into it is now roasting eternally because if you just asked a few women, you’d know rape can lead to pregnancy. But no, as per usual, this was… well, it had to be worked out under the influence of rapists, didn’t it? Who else does it benefit? Certainly not the “bastard” who was treated like shit for not having a legal father. Certainly not the woman, who was branded a whore and left to fend for herself. Certainly not non-raping men, who weren’t making anyone pregnant against her will. It only benefited rapists.

    The thing about rape culture is, it’s guided by the minority of rapists, but then a whole lot of non-rapists become their collaborators. Sometimes they don’t realize quite what they’re collaborating with, but a lot of times they do, and it’s just easier to side with the rapists because they have power. Human beings are mind-bogglingly afraid of confrontation, and that’s a big part of victim blaming and collaborating with rapists – it’s just easier.

    That makes anyone who believes this shit either a rapist or a collaborator. There’s just no other logical way to look at it. Especially now, when we know exactly how it works, and you can find this info on the internet, or hell, just ask a middle school kid.

  14. Deborah Bell says


    Kirk Cameron is defending him, and in his defense he specifically says that Rep. Akin misspoke on two words. So I think the disconnect is that Akin and others are focusing on the “legitimate rape” phrase (which could be construed as a mistake in speaking) and we are focusing on the substance of what he said, which it doesn’t matter how he said it, we know what he meant and therefore the “misspoke” excuse doesn’t work. The “legitimate rape” line is pretty awful – it’s code for “leaving aside all those “rapes” that aren’t really, anything that isn’t violent force” but that’s not what we are talking about, and it’s important to note, I think, that Akin has completely missed the point. He doesn’t even know why we are mad at him. How’s that for out of touch.

  15. Deborah Bell says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    It almost seems that the most passionate and tireless defenders of rape culture are the nonrapists. You can never be sure, I guess, but the hordes of people who swarm the internet and come out with this stuff in real life and shock you often seem to be so certain that everything should stay the way it is and be defended as is because they don’t actually do anything horrible themselves.

  16. Maria says

    Deborah Bell,

    I think you’re being too charitable. After reading that horrible, horrible Reddit thread, I assume that if they’re so invested in defending it/justifying it, it’s because they don’t see it as wrong. Like the guys who think it’s SUPER HARD to understand consent. They’re probably rapists who haven’t admitted it to themselves, or who don’t think of what happened as REAL rape.

  17. SunlessNick says


    Like the guys who think it’s SUPER HARD to understand consent.

    That wouldn’t even be an excuse if it were true. If A, it was difficult to understand consent, and B, they cared about not raping people, then wouldn’t they try really hard to make sure they weren’t? Wouldn’t they err on the side of assuming this wasn’t consented to?

    • Maria says

      @SunlessNick —

      Yup! It’s one of those statements that reveals far more about the speaker than they initially meant to share.

  18. facebook_patrick.mcgraw.7 says

    Given that Akin co-sponsored the “forceful rape” bill with Paul Ryan, his talk of “legitimate rape” was only misspeaking in the sense that he said it out loud.

    There are two things that really disgust me about Akin’s line of thinking. One, of course, is the attempt to erase rape that does not fit the stereotypical “stranger in an alley” rape that accounts for a tiny minority of actual rapes.

    What follows from that erasure is, obviously, preventing rape victims from being able to obtain abortions under “illegal except in case of rape” laws. By claiming that any pregnant woman could not have gotten pregnant from a rape, you effectively make the rape exception meaningless while still pretending to care about women.

    Thing is, the “rape or incest” exception itself is emblematic of the misogyny behind anti-choice laws. If it’s all about Saving Teh Baybeez, then why make exceptions for a healthy pregnancy based on the woman’s consent to sex? Because those exceptions say “If you became pregnant because you are a Filthy Slut who chose to have sex, you will be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. But if it was not your choice, then we won’t force that on you.” The exception lays bare that anti-abortion laws are about controlling and punishing women for wanting to have sex without becoming pregnant.

    It’s about whether the woman’s actions fall under their Approved Female Sexuality model, not the life of the zygote that they claim to care about so much right up until it is actually born.

  19. glauke says

    Jennifer Kesler:
    Oh, joy. Now Akin is an international embarrassment. What a proud moment for all Americans.

    Yes, it’s been all over the (radio) news in Holland. It’s being framed as an embarrassement to Romney for flip-flopping on the notion, and the overall impression you’d get here is that this man is somewhat fringy. Which it is frighteningly not.

  20. says


    That is so deeply WTF. He compares deciding to have a baby you conceived consensually but not intentionally to deciding to have your rapist’s baby, and then says he’s comparing it “from the father’s perspective.” This is a man so deeply entrenched in his own point of view (father’s rights) that the women don’t even enter the equation. At least a lot of no-exception anti-choicers can remember to fake SOME sympathy for raped women who become pregnant through no choice or fault of their own and are then charged with being reminded of it for at least the next nine months, if not the rest of their lives, no matter whether they raise the child or submit it to an adoption system that lags way behind the one in Botswana. To someone who says something like this, women are just these vending machines you put your penis into in order to get a baby. There’s just no other way to even accidentally suggest that having a baby out of wedlock is like rape “from the father’s perspective.”

  21. SunlessNick says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Also, I get a twitch about this line: “But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to… she chose they way I thought. “

    On the audio, you can hear the hesitation and re-railing of the sentence. I doubt that ellipsis covers up a good place.

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