The Ignorant Rape Comment: The GOP Wins Elections by Tellings Such Whoppers
I realize that it's strange to actually hope that a politician knows he's lying when he speaks, but that's what I was reduced to pulling for after I heard a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate on Sunday claim that women's bodies can shut down to prevent pregnancy during rape.
In a sad attempt to justify his Dark Ages position on women's reproductive rights, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Senate nominee, claimed in a TV interview that "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy because, in the event of a "legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin backtracked fairly quickly and apologized, calling his assertion an "off-the-cuff" comment. He didn't, however, admit that his comment was a bald-faced lie unsupported by anything even resembling scientific evidence.
Now, I tend to believe Republicans do indeed know when they're telling these kinds of whoppers, but they choose to stick with such lines anyway because that's how they win elections and sway the public: They tell a big lie long enough and hard enough until stupid voters accept it as truth.
That's how John Kerry became a Vietnam-era coward, how Saddam Hussein became the mastermind of 9/11 and how President Barack Obama has become a foreign-born Marxist hellbent on destroying America.
And so it goes with this sick lie about rape and women's bodies. The idea is to keep telling it, usually in shadows, and just wait until it takes hold with the GOP's lemmings.
The Washington Post notes that Akin is hardly alone in this twisted disinformation campaign: "His remarks tapped into a strain of thinking that dates back to at least the 1980s, with anti-abortion politicians from Pennsylvania to Arkansas making the case that the trauma of rape can often prevent pregnancy. The argument does not come up frequently, but when it does, it nearly always leads to political controversy."
But it's not just the biological falsehood that reeks here. As Slate points out, Akin's language was designed to not only spread basic lies about how women's bodies work, but, just as devastatingly, to downplay the viciousness of rape itself:
He later took it back, but this wasn’t a misstatement. It wasn’t a gaffe or a stray bit of medical misinformation that could have attached itself to any one of us. The statement was a crystallization of Akin’s worldview: sexist, blame-shifting, and profoundly ignorant.
In case anybody missed this dig at the “no means no” crowd, “legitimate rape” is a coded phrase meant to distinguish between a stranger attacking you in a parking garage, or, say, your date or your youth pastor doing the same. If you’re tipsy or wearing a short skirt, it’s not rape-rape, etc.
The statement was actually intended to soften Akin’s absolute opposition to abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. Why bother to have loopholes for such conditions when they’re going to be so rare, goes his thinking?
Such thinking is downright sociopathic in its lack of empathy for women, of course, so it'd almost be better if these GOP crazies actually believed this nonsense. But then, what would that say about our leadership when a 65-year-old, college educated political veteran—a man who has spent his career opposing women's right to choose on the grounds that his gods told him so—pretty much admits to the world that he doesn't know the basics about how a woman's body works?
Willful dishonesty or stunning ignorance? I can cynically believe the former drives men like Akin. But I also believe that they can only get away with it when they have voters willing to embrace the latter.