Rape is rape, dumb is dumb

The GOP has made a habit of casting rape victims as evil temptresses

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What is it with these heavy-breathing Republican men and their rape fantasies?

How did they become so salaciously contemptuous of women that they see the term "sexual assault" as an oxymoron?

Did their mothers once catch them after church reading dirty magazines under the covers, and did it warp their sexual development for all time? Are they so ashamed of their own urges that it compels them to cast rape victims as evil temptresses who must have been asking for it and therefore deserve additional punishment after the fact?

The latest example is Todd Akin, the U.S. senatorial candidate from Missouri who put forth the bird-brained theory that victims of "legitimate rape" (as opposed to fake rape) don't get pregnant because their bodies react by producing some kind of sperm-killing secretion. So if a woman does get pregnant, she must have wanted it (pant, pant). Therefore, the GOP commitment to outlaw all abortion needs no exemption for rape.

Mr. Akin was forced to recant and apologize, but you and I know that in his heart, he still believes it. How do you suppose he envisions this self-policing anti-pregnancy system working?

Perhaps the womb, when breached against a woman's will, sends out hundreds of tiny Wonder Woman clones modeled after Lynda Carter with her red boots and cleavage. Armed with little bitty Super Soakers filled with spermicide, they proceed to let loose streams of the killer substance until every last bit of man juice has been neutralized. Then, mission accomplished, they magically absorb back into the vaginal walls to await the next emergency call.

As bad as this case was, it's no worse than previous glimpses into the fevered imagination of some conservative men.

Return with me now to the thrilling days of 2006, when South Dakota's Republican-controlled Legislature criminalized most abortions with no exception for rape, incest or the woman's health. This was the GOP's way of "protecting" women from a procedure that a million-plus obtained in this country that year of their own volition.

Bill Napoli, a South Dakota state senator, went on an evening news show to defend the law as a compassionate measure that would still permit exceptions to save a woman's life. This is what he said, and I am not making it up. If you detect the man salivating between phrases, you're not alone.

"A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

Here, then, in Mr. Napoli's mind, were the requirements for post-rape abortion: Innocent young girls who went to church and were saving themselves for marriage might be able to terminate a pregnancy if they were beaten within an inch of their lives as evidenced by, say, bruised faces, missing teeth or broken bones.

Change any one of those factors -- make the victim, say, 32, sexually active in her private life. not particularly religious and/or not appearing to have been run over by a two-ton truck -- and who's to say she wasn't fair game? A victim who didn't scream or fight back due to, say, a gun to her head or a knife at her throat, would be suspect.

As I noted at the time, the law presented other linguistic challenges. What was the meaning of "virgin" (does oral sex count?); "religious" (do Scientologists qualify?); "brutal rape" (as opposed to gentle rape?); and "psychologically messed up" (hearing voices? threatening suicide? screaming at the sound of Bill Napoli's name?).

Back to 2012. Mr. Aiken's biggest faux pas was not admitting his belief that rape is the ultimate form of birth control. It was his timing, this being an election year and his party standing accused of waging a War on Women. If he loses in November to Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, it could cost Republicans control of the Senate. So other Republicans backed away from him, even those who privately agree with some or all of his assessment but know better than to say so publicly.

The most noteworthy repudiator is Paul Ryan, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, who asked Mr. Akin to withdraw. This took a lot of nerve, since Mr. Ryan is no better on the subject. He actually co-authored a bill with Mr. Akin to add language about "forcible rape" into prior legislation, for the purpose of limiting federal abortion funding for rape victims.

By any sane measure, the mere notion of adding "forcible rape" language would have been considered fatally dead on arrival at the Department of Redundancy Department. Mr. Ryan himself has been bobbing and weaving around the phrase, refusing to define it.

This fits right in with Mitt Romney's own tortured stance on abortion, which boils down to: Whatever I say today goes, unless I say something else tomorrow.

At least this much has come out of the latest GOP rape fantasy. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have been forced to agree with President Obama's statement that rape is rape. Now if they could just agree that dumb is dumb, we might be getting somewhere.


Sally Kalson is a staff writer and columnist for the Post-Gazette (skalson@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1610).


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