Rape victims should not be offended by the term “legitimate rape”

November 14, 2012 § 29 Comments

There is still an awful lot of calumny floating around against Todd Akin during the post election season of regret.

While I can certainly understand emotional fragility after the experience of a horrific crime, I think that victims of legitimate rape are making a big mistake in registering offense against the term.    The modern phenomenon of labeling every drunken hookup that the woman later regrets “rape” is every bit as much a lie as the phenomenon of “she deserved it so it wasn’t rape”.

It makes no sense for legitimate rape victims to associate themselves with hooked-up-and-regretted-it-later drunken fornicators, at all.  They ought to be angry at the people making the association, not at people clarifying the dissociation.

But even if we disagree about that, there is no excuse for people to pretend that Todd Akin said something he didn’t say.

§ 29 Responses to Rape victims should not be offended by the term “legitimate rape”

  • johnmcg says:

    How about that the unborn deserve advocates savvy enough to avoid well-known landmines?

  • Beadgirl says:

    I think part of the problem may be that for you, Zippy, the dichotomy is between “legitimate rape” and “hook-ups later regretted.” But for others, including me, “legitimate rape” calls to mind old notions of rape where the perpetrator was a stranger in a dark alley, something that is actually rare. For a long time “spousal rape” and “date rape” (not regretted hook-ups) were not considered real rape. Traces of these attitudes are still around, too — witness the comment in Shea’s thread about a marriage license being proof of consent,* or the comments I still hear that some men make about being “owed” sex if they buy an expensive dinner, or if they are on the third date, or whatever. And unfortunately, a subset of those men will use force or drugs to get the sex they think they are entitled to.

    You and Mr. Akin may use the term “legitimate rape” simply to distinguish from regretted hook-ups, but that is not how all people use the term. Unfortunately, there are still people who think it is not real rape if the attacker is married to the victim, or the victim went on an expensive date with the attacker, or she accepted a drink from him, or she didn’t fight back hard enough, or she was dressed too provocatively, etc. That’s why many people cringed at Mr. Akin’s statement — because that phrase has been used by others in a damaging way.

    And it is not just overly sensitive feminists who found fault with Mr. Akin’s choice of words. Jimmy Akin, who I doubt would call himself a feminist, wrote a post about it: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/talking-about-rape-what-pro-life-politicians-desperately-need-to-know/

    *N.b. I’m not accusing that specific commenter of thinking a husband cannot by definition rape his wife.

  • Zippy says:


    It is true that what should be a relatively unproblematic term has become problematic, and that this is complicated by the fact that exaggerations are or have been made on “both sides” (or perhaps more than two sides) if you will. I don’t think the answer is for people to be thin skinned about it though. It makes no sense for a (presumably pro life) legitimate rape victim to hear the term “legitimate rape” from a staunch pro-lifer like Akin as a dog whistle and assume that he is implying any excuse for actual rape; especially when his full remarks and context are taken into consideration.

    I take it as given that some people characterize as rape some acts which are not, and that (these days far fewer) characterize as not-rape some acts which are. To merely allude to that true fact was enough for putatively staunch pro-lifers to throw Akin to the wolves.

    As far as I can tell, Jimmy Akin’s (and John McG’s in the comment above also) big objection to Todd Akin’s remarks is that Todd Akin’s enemies will lie about them and treat them with ruthless incharity. It seems that the same is true for those who ought to be Todd Akin’s friends.

  • Beadgirl says:

    “I don’t think the answer is for people to be thin skinned about it though.”

    And if we lived in a perfect world, where people had total control over their emotions and were capable of reasoning rationally every moment, we would not have misunderstandings like this. But we are all human, and so that means some people will twist the words of others on purpose, others will interpret said words on their owning understanding of the words, and still others will have genuine emotional reactions (especially those who have a personal experience with the subject matter). Just as we should be charitable to Mr. Akin, we should be charitable to those who were bothered or offended by his comments.

    “Todd Akin’s enemies will lie about them and treat them with ruthless incharity. It seems that the same is true for those who ought to be Todd Akin’s friends.”

    Do you feel I have lied about him and been ruthlessly uncharitable? Because I believe the only statements I have made about him are variations on “I think he chose his words poorly,” and those are not lies, but opinions. I have also repeatedly stated that I understand what Akin was trying to say, and that I don’t think he intended any harm or insult women in general or rape victims in particular.

  • Zippy says:

    No, I apologize for any such implication. I should have said “many of those” and clarified that I wasn’t referring to you specifically.

    I don’t have a problem with temperate criticism of what Akin actually said, even though I don’t agree with that criticism and think it functionally acts to validate the shriekers. The more times I’ve read his actual words, interpreted as off the cuff remarks, the less I’ve found to criticize in them:

    “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

    I do have a problem with people pretending that he said or implied things that he neither said nor implied, and there is a lot of that going around.

  • The Continental Op says:

    It’s OK for a wife to withhold sex from her husband?

  • Zippy says:

    It’s OK for a wife to withhold sex from her husband?

    Not without a good reason. But the unjust behaviour of other people can never make unjust behaviour on our part acceptable.

  • I don’t understand why “legitimate rape” and “hookups later regretted” are to be treated differently.

    BOTH fit the definition of rape in the Catechism- an act damaging another person’s Chastity and Sexual Intimacy.

    Maybe if you don’t want to be accused of rape, you should marry the girl first?

  • I’d also like to hear Beadgirl’s response to the concept that marriage shouldn’t include procreative sex.

    Spousal rape happens every time a married couple uses a condom, was my argument in another thread.

    But yes, I do consider a marriage license to be consent- which is why I don’t consider consent to be the problem in a rape, but rather a disregard for the other person’s chastity, soul, and safety. Or as the CCC puts it, rape is the forcible violation of another person’s sexual intimacy.

  • Zippy says:

    Theodore M. Seeber:

    I’d be more sympathetic to your view if in the case of fornication both parties were treated as rapists.

    I do think you misread the Catechism as giving a definition where it doesn’t. On my read the Catechism tells you what rape does, but it isn’t giving you some sort of definition of rape.

  • Zippy says:

    OK, I take it back. The Catechism actually does define rape, as the forcible violation …

    Fornication isn’t a forcible violation.

  • Beadgirl says:

    “I’d also like to hear Beadgirl’s response to the concept that marriage shouldn’t include procreative sex.”

    When have I ever said that marriage shouldn’t include procreative sex? Of course when two people get married, the understanding is that they will have sex with each other — a granting of consent on a large scale, so to speak. When I speak of spousal rape, I mean those cases where a woman says no to sex on a specific occasion, and the husband physically forces her to have sex anyway. Not sure how that would ever be ok under Catholic doctrine.

    I don’t buy your argument that using artificial birth control is a form of rape, but I have seen others argue that point with you, and I am not inclined to rehash the issue.

  • Zippy says:

    Yeah I’ve got to concur with Beadgirl here. Calling all sorts of not-rape “rape” is just debasing the terminology along a different axis of meaning.

    I understand that moderns find rape especially reprehensible because consent plays an exaggerated role in their morality. And I agree with Ted to the extent he says that these other wrongs are gravely wrong too.

    But they aren’t legitimate rape.

  • “Or as the CCC puts it, rape is the forcible violation of another person’s sexual intimacy.”

    I think you need all 9 words to truly define rape. I am just focusing on the intimacy part- and contraception certainly DOES destroy sexual intimacy- as does all sex-as-recreation-alone.

  • Zippy says:


    I would suggest that we need all the words though, and the forcible bit is missing from your non-rape theory of rape. I do think I “get” your approach to the subject better now, and as I said I do have some sympathy for it. But I’m off the bus on debasing the terminology, and I’m off the bus if — and this is an if, not something I’m attributing to you — it involves treating male fornicators as rapists and their female partners in crime as victims.

  • […] though related theater, that of marriage–and thus also can a relatively innocuous phrase like "legitimate rape" become the cornerstone on which a candidate is defeated [3]. We can be right about any number of […]

  • Kurt says:

    I just got into a heated argument with some people close to me regarding the comments of Todd Akin. We were initially talking about why certain people don’t vote Republican and the issue of Todd Akin being “extreme” on abortion came up. I simply stated that Todd Akin was correct with regard to rape and abortion and everyone walked away from me and claimed that I was “extreme” and “insane”. They would not even hear what I had to say. Unfortunately I got heated because they walked out and refused to even listen to my argument. The people close to me are mostly Republican or Christian, so it was not as if I was trying to convince some radical liberals. I tried presenting some arguments and the responses I got were simply baffling. I was simply trying to point out that the “right to life” does not depend on how one is conceived.

    I tried asking hypothetical questions, such as “if you found out I was a product of rape, would it be permissible to kill me?” After initially saying no, they eventually came to the conclusion that it would be perfectly fine for my mother to kill me. Essentially they bit the bullet in order to defend their initial position. I also got responses that they would be perfectly fine if their mother killed them. Some would say “I don’t remember being a fetus, so it’s fine”. I said “you don’t remember being two, would it be fine to kill you then?” After some thought, the answer: Yes. Other responses I received were that this is simply between God and the mother and that I should not judge. It was my judging that was perceived as wrong and evil. I then asked If it is simply a matter between the murderer and God, why have any laws against murder? The response I received was either “we shouldn’t” or to simply completely avoid the question and say “this has nothing to do with Mans law”. Other response were “you just want to be argumentative” or “you always think you’re right. Other people have different opinions.”

    Unfortunately, I think that good and decent people are so entrenched in the abortion culture that they will defend the most horrendous of evils in order to convince themselves that abortion isn’t really what deep down they know it is. Conversations like this make me feel that there is no hope.

  • johnmcg says:

    Kurt’s comments address the demonization of Mourdock, which I found much more troubling than the demonization of Akin.

    Akin didn’t say that children conceived by rape were worthy of life and love. He made a pseudo-scientific claim that conception via rape was somewhere between vanishingly unlikely and impossible, as a way to sidestep the (simple, yet) difficult question of the legality of abortion in the case of rape.

    Mourdock, who claimed that the child conceived by rape could be considered a gift, voiced something similar to what kurt articulated above. That he got lumped in with Akin in the “pro-lifers said something stupid about rape” is unfortunate.

  • Zippy says:

    Akin’s claim wasn’t “pseudo scientific”. Heck, just ordinary anxiety is known to delay or block ovulation, and the great bulk of a woman’s fertility window is the days just prior to ovulation.

    Beyond that, his point was just that pregnancy in the case of legitimate rape is exceedingly rare, which it is. It is raised mostly as a pseudo problem to open a consequentialists crack in the door. He is right about that, and the response of pro lifers to his remarks was and continues to be a black mark against them for which they will ultimately answer.

    The way ostensible pro lifers have treated his off the cuff remarks as beyond the pale, and have committed calumny against him by pretending he said things he didn’t say, is absolutely vile and despicable in my view. They bring to mind a narcissistic teenager who spits on his own friends to try (vainly) to curry favor with the “in” crowd.

    It is immature, narcissistic, pathetic, and vile.

  • Zippy says:

    On top of all that, it is just plain stupid. If we want to cultivate pro life leaders they have to know that we have their back. Why would anyone want to pursue leadership of a “movement” that treats its leaders the way pro lifers have treated Akin?

  • johnmcg says:

    Someone seeking to be a pro-life leader should have something better than an “off the cuff” answer to a question that has been posed to every pro-life person of prominence for the past 40 years.

    We have a right to demand better. Just because someone is on our side doesn’t mean we should overlook incompetence.

  • Zippy says:

    I don’t agree that his remarks were incompetent. I would grant you “imperfect”, but that is true of pretty much all speech all the time.

    If you want pathetic whiny leaders who try vainly to curry favor with the cool kids, you are on exactly the right track.

  • […] McG in the comments below says of Todd Akin, “We have a right to demand […]

  • c matt says:

    Someone seeking to be a pro-life leader should have something better than an “off the cuff” answer to a question that has been posed to every pro-life person of prominence for the past 40 years.

    Essentially you are saying we should play a game that they have rigged in their favor, and expect to win? It is a loaded question, that will be reported in a loaded way, regardless of the answer.

  • […] many people have told lies about what he actually said.  I’ve said my piece about that here, here, here, and here; but one thing I haven’t done is explicitly give examples of the […]

  • […] Rape means mutually voluntary sex when both parties are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Or when one of the parties is a man. […]

  • […] legitimate rape victim is not choosing a sexual behavior at all; and the category ‘non-sexual contracepted sexual […]

  • […] to “victim blaming” gets to the heart of the matter.  If this young man in fact legitimately raped this young woman, as demonstrated by actual solid evidence, by all means punish him in the harshest […]

  • […] determines justice.  Because of this, precisely (and only) because of the absence of consent, rape is still considered a terrible crime (as long as women are not spending millions of entertainment […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Rape victims should not be offended by the term “legitimate rape” at Zippy Catholic.