You know what? I’m not even going to talk about the way your claims about “‘legitimate’ rape” re-traumatize and dismiss the experiences of the millions of rape victims in your country. I’m not even going to talk about the bone you just blatantly threw to rape apologists and misogynists across the board. I’m not even going to delve into the depths of how disgusted and insulted I am that you think it’s acceptable to claim that parsing “legitimate” versus “nonlegitimate” rape can be the result of “misspeaking”. There are lots of other people who have addressed this, likely more eloquently than I can, for example here, and here, and here, and many other places.
Here’s an aspect of it all that really bothers me.
Really. Fucking. Bothers. Me.
That I haven’t really seen addressed yet.
So, dear Mr. Akin, thank you for furthering the simultaneous fetishization of and ignorance about the female body. Thank you ever so very little.
As women, we aren’t really taught about our own bodies. At all. Our reproductive system is nothing but a vague Georgia-O’keeffe-esque diagram in a textbook and a monthly load of blood to us, unless we have the good fortune to attend private school with real sex ed, or our parents actually buy us a copy of some intimidating hardback book on the subject. Everything is treated as though it needs to be shameful, private, and mysterious. We’re bombarded with ads for tampons that will supposedly make our periods undetectable, pictures of porn stars with any undesirable vaginal quirks (or, you know, labia minora) ironed out with surgery, and Health classes that teach nothing about our uteruses other than that they make babies.
You think I’m joking or exaggerating? I have multiple female friends who were straight-A students in high school, yet didn’t learn until college that the urethra and the vagina are separate orifices. If that alone doesn’t alarm you, I don’t know what to say.
Men are encouraged to know even less. Men are supposed to get flustered and embarrassed by the mere mention of the female reproductive system. Menstruation? Pregnancy? Cervical cancer? Cue red face, dismissive waving of a hand, gruff rebuttal about how that’s all woman stuff they neither want nor need to hear about.
Note that this doesn’t work the other way around; women are expected to understand the functioning of the male reproductive system. Why? Because Men Can Get You Pregnant. As such, we’re expected to treat male genitalia like a loaded gun – better learn all about the million ways something could go wrong if you come in contact with it, because You Know Guys Just Can’t Be Held Responsible.
But womens’ genitals and beyond are treated as simultaneously gross and one of the great mysteries of the world. How does it all work? Nobody knows! (Or so people seem to think.) It’s just a mysterious baby-making-factory-and-warm-squishy-semen-receptacle, once you get past the labia (and hey, didn’t porn teach you that those are supposed to barely exist in the first place? What’s the deal with all this extra…stuff?), and those who could pioneer programs to change this ignorant concept seem perfectly happy on keeping it that way.
And that’s why Todd Akin thought he could get away with claiming that womens’ bodies are capable of somehow magically distinguishing between “rape semen” and “wonderful miraculous gift-from-god baby-making semen”…
…and why, disgustingly enough, there are probably a fair number of people who would believe him.
Because the female reproductive system is sold to us as some grab-bag of mystical and vaguely disgusting properties wrapped up in a sex-toy exterior, rich white self-proclaimed-”mens’-men” politicians can squeak by with claiming that womens’ bodies can exempt men and society at large from any responsibility for things like forced pregnancies.
Now, go ahead and tell me again that we don’t live in a patriarchal society, and that we’re not in the middle of a very real war on women.