violence against women

By T. H. M. Gellar-Goad | January 24, 2015

It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.

So ended Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s chances of unseating Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in the 2012 U.S. election.  Discussing pregnancy resulting from rape (timeline of the comments here), Akin was defending his belief that anti-abortion laws shouldn’t include exemptions for victims of rape.  Akin’s words are a now-classic example of a “Kinsley gaffe,” when a politician slips up and says what s/he actually thinks—classic enough that the term “Akinize” now describes the tactic whereby a Democrat compares a Republican opponent’s words to Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments.

Akin was expressing a factually baseless belief that’s not a new idea, and was part of such a trend of election-cycle “rape and pregnancy controversies” that Wikipedia has a page devoted to it.  He also was participating in a tradition dating back at least to the 1st/2nd-century CE Greek medical writer Soranus of Ephesus, whose treatise on gynecology is filled with quack-science gems akin to Akin’s.  Yet there’s a key difference of opinion between Akin and Soranus, as we’ll see, that makes Akin’s comments more sinister by contrast.

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