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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why apologize?

I have argued before against political discourse demanding apologies from people who stay stupid things, as well as against people who say stupid things feeling the need to apologize for saying those stupid things. I would prefer that everyone own their words and we move on from there. Maybe I'm just too much a believer in the Kinsley Gaffe. Or maybe I'm too convinced that any apology, if subjected to scrutiny, will be utter, incomprehensible bullshit.

Exhibit 502 is GOP Senate Candidate Todd Akin. He has a new 30-second ad apologizing and asking for forgiveness (not sure from whom--voters? GOP funders? Mitt Romney?) over his recent comments about "legitimate rape" never leading to pregnancy because women's biology shuts down and prevents pregnancy if it really is rape. In the ad, Akin says he "used the wrong words in the wrong way" and "The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims. ... The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold."

Let's break this out.

• "Wrong words in the wrong way"--Akin already clarified that by "legitimate rape" he meant "forcible rape," a common rhetorical move among anti-choice activists and representatives as a way to justify limiting rape exceptions for abortion restrictions. Not sure what that changes, other than returning to code that low-information voters won't recognize.

• "The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy"--So why did he say otherwise? Can you really call what he said a misstatement? It's not like he was trying to explain some complex nuance of economics.  If you say "X" as a hard scientific fact, it is hard to believe you really meant to say (or really believe) "Not X."

• "The mistake I made was in the words I said"--Again, what words did he mean to say?

I will give Akin credit for not blaming the media and Democrats for playing "gotcha" or for taking his comments out of context. He is owning that he said something he regrets. I wish he would own meaning what he said, because it seems pretty clear that he does.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 21, 2012 at 09:43 AM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink

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Comments

I do believe he never said that rape couldn't lead to pregnancy. The very next sentence after the "legitimate rape" comment is something like "IF they get pregnant, let's punish the rapist and not the child." So I believe his "legit rape" comment was not positing some magical hormonal impregnation-prevention mechanism of women.

But the comment was incredibly stupid, especially from a Congressman who knows that he should leave women's issues to women.

Posted by: AndyK | Aug 21, 2012 10:04:19 AM

I don't think what Akin said was an "apology". Notice he said he misspoke--or "used words in the wrong way." As Howard notes, he is suggesting that he meant to say "forcible rape" instead of legitimate rape. Given that some opponents of abortion believe that victims of "forcible rape" can't get pregnant bc of "secretions", adrenaline or similar nonsense, I'm not convinced that his statement clarifies much. As Howard suggests, someone needs to ask him what words he meant to say.

Andy K, I think you're being much too generous. Akin said this: "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” If what he really meant to say was that in a "forcible" rape, womens' bodies retain this magical ability to "shut the whole thing down", then his statement of "apology" is nothing of the kind, it is simply an effort to be more precise about his bizarre theory--shared by others. It is very much worth noting that this offensive "theory" suggests that pregnant women who "claim" they were raped are not credible--after all, if they were "really" raped, their bodies would have "shut the whole thing down." I don't see the apology in all this...

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 10:35:15 AM

From the LA Times:

"It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. "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."

"The female body has ways to shut that whole thing down" sure sounds like saying there is a biological mechanism that prevents or inhibits pregnancy for a "legitimate" rape. Then next sentence is an argument in the alternative--"even if X is true"-- that we all learn in law school.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 21, 2012 10:45:43 AM

"I will give Akin credit for not blaming the media and Democrats for playing "gotcha" or for taking his comments out of context."

Agreed, though such blame would be understandable, as many are taking his remarks out of context (which is silly, given how doing so is so not necessary to make his remarks seem facially stupid). I keep hearing the phrase "legitimate rape" being thrown around as if what he said and meant was that some rape is truly legitmate--as in, "ok" or "acceptable"--when clearly he used the wrong word and mean "actual" or, if you like, "forcible."

Posted by: New Prof | Aug 21, 2012 12:28:07 PM

New prof, you're missing the point. Akin is trying to distract people by claiming he "misspoke" and suggesting that critics of his remarks simply misunderstood his clumsy phrase "legitimate rape" to mean rape could sometimes be ok. This is not a semantic dispute. Akin said that doctors told him that it is "rare" for women who are raped to become pregnant. He further explained that this is because "the female body has ways to shut that [pregnancy] down" when a woman is raped. This is why Akin's remarks are outrageous--because he claims phony scientific support for the false assertion that women who get raped are unlikely to get pregnant. The outrage over his remarks doesn't have to do with the use of the word "legitimate", it has to do with his incredibly offensive and demonstrably false claim that women who are raped have a physiological way to avoid getting pregnant. The implication, of course, is that women who are pregnant and "claim" they were raped are probably lying. This is what is outrageous--don't get distracted by Akin's claim that he "misspoke". He made it very clear what he meant.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 1:12:47 PM

sorry new prof, I may have misunderstood you--Akin's comments have me seeing red. As I re-read your post, it seems to me that you recognize what I am saying. However, I still think it's important not to get distracted by Akin's claim that he was misunderstood. When you say Akin could "understandabl[y]" blame the media and Democrats, I think that is incorrect. Akin has no one to blame but himself--he is no victim. Moreover, it's worth noting that plenty of Republicans are criticizing his remarks and even urging him to drop out of the race. This is not a partisan issue--or, at least, it need not be, and negative reaction against Akin's remarks has not come only from one political party.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 1:18:09 PM

Hi Eric,

I think we’re smart of people to multitask: (1) noting how some are intentionally misinterpreting him, and (2) recognizing and calling him out for the indisputable stupidity of his remarks, are not mutually exclusive. As such, it is not a “distraction” to note both at the same time; and I’m certainly not the best multi-tasker in the world. As such, yes, I think some can be blamed for emphasizing the phrase “legitimate rape” itself if they do so without reflecting an appreciation for why he used the phrase. THAT is a distraction from the stupidity of the claim itself.

“The outrage over his remarks doesn't have to do with the use of the word "legitimate", it has to do with his incredibly offensive and demonstrably false claim that women who are raped have a physiological way to avoid getting pregnant.”

It’s both. Perhaps that’s what you’re outraged about, as you should be, as am I, but again, it also drives me crazy when people jump on word selection out of context, which some are doing. I think we agree in the end: even taken IN context, his words were outrageous, but for a different reason, and, I guess it’s the academic in me, but I think reasons matter.

Posted by: New Prof | Aug 21, 2012 1:38:00 PM

Thanks for the response New prof. I agree, it's important to understand what Akin really meant. But it's also important, as you say, to understand that what he really meant was outrageous. I think the reason that I have focused more on the latter point is that I just haven't heard people who are upset at Akin because they incorrectly thought he was saying some rape is "legitimate." Of course, it is important to make this point clear if people misunderstand it, though I might add that Akin may, in fact, be distinguishing between forcible "real" rape and rape that does not involve physical violence and therefore is not "real". Note that legislation in Congress used the term "forcible rape". Akin co-sponsored this legislation. I'd be interested to hear from Akin how he distinguishes forcible from non-forcible rape and why he thinks only victims of "forcible rape" should receive Medicaid coverage for abortions.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 2:03:11 PM

"[T]hough I might add that Akin may, in fact, be distinguishing between forcible 'real' rape and rape that does not involve physical violence and therefore is not 'real'."

Good point; if that's the case, then his remarks certainly invite a debate about whether his definition of rape is insultingly narrow.


Posted by: New Prof | Aug 21, 2012 2:15:09 PM

This strikes me as the most important point thus far: "I think we’re smart of people to multitask: (1) noting how some are intentionally misinterpreting him, and (2) recognizing and calling him out for the indisputable stupidity of his remarks, are not mutually exclusive."

As we get closer to the election, there will undoubtedly be many cases where such an approach is beneficial for public discourse.

Posted by: AndyK | Aug 21, 2012 2:20:20 PM

AndyK, that may be correct as a general principle, but I think on this specific matter, things are pretty clear. Whether or not people are intentionally misrepresenting what Akin said (and I haven't seen any actual examples of this so don't know what this means--are elected officials doing this? reporters? I just haven't seen any of this...) what he meant is reprehensible. I'm afraid that "multitasking" here may be a way to soften what Akin said, or suggest that perhaps he is the victim here.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 2:27:30 PM

There are two things going on in Akin's statement: 1) Only forcible rape is actually rape. This is what Akin meant by "legitimate" (and, contra Andy K, I have not read or heard anything anywhere that interpreted legitimate any other way, especially after Akin's clarification on Monday). That is a monstrous, misogynist view of rape. Akin makes a big point in the ad that he is has daughters, so I really would like him to answer whether he would agree that his daughter had not been raped if, God forbid, someone in a bar slipped her a mickey and had sex with her while she was unconscious or not fully coherent. But I suppose this is a debate we could have about the scope of criminal law.

But Akin also said that a woman can't (or is less likely to) get pregnant from rape because of some biological functions. That is the part that he should be lambasted on, because it reflects such a monumental ignorance of human biology and/or such a blatant lie (what doctor possibly told him this) that in saying it, he should lose the right to be taken seriously in any public debate.

I think it's unfortunate that the conversation (here and elsewhere) has shifted to # 1. # 2 is the part that he cannot apologize for.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 21, 2012 4:05:36 PM

agreed, Howard. I don't mean this as a criticism of others who have posted here, but I believe that some (e.g. Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains Fame, and Akin himself) are focusing on the semantic question--what did Akin mean by "legitimate", what is "forcible"?-- in order to distract from the point that Akin made absolutely clear in his original statement: that some unnamed doctor(s) told him it's "rare" for women to get pregnant when they are raped. That was not a misstatement, and someone needs to ask Akin more about this comment. Also, he is not alone in spreading this kind of lie. Rep. Steve King of Iowa claimed yesterday that he has "never heard" of a woman getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.

Akin, King, and others (including Paul Ryan) sponsored legislation in 2011 that would have allowed Medicaid funding only for abortions resulting from "forcible rape." Akin's absurd statement offers possible insight into their "reasoning" for using this specific language--if victims of forcible rape don't get pregnant, then this is an exception that will look good but not mean much in practice (though I admit it gets difficult to follow the "logic"). It would be worth finding out more about this. I don't think Akin and King are the only ones who have these bizarre views, and I am using the word bizarre as a polite euphemism. I think what we're getting at here is some important insight into the views of elected officials, mostly men, who support measures aimed at prohibiting abortion in almost all cases. My suspicion is that at least part of the motivation has to do with not trusting women: e.g. women who claim they were raped are just lying in order to get an abortion (no one really gets pregnant as a a result of forcible rape, statutory rape, or incest after all). I say suspicion because, of course, I don't know for sure and I don't mean to suggest that all of Akin and King's legislative allies buy into their bizarre world views. But we're talking about 2 members of Congress who have said some very, very bizarre things. There are a lot of questions to ask here, and I agree with Howard that it is not worth getting dragged into discussion of a semantic "debate" that seems intended (at least by Akin and his supporters) to distract from the larger issue.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 4:24:13 PM

The FBI has long used "forcible rape" as a category. I wonder if it's because of the anti-choice rhetoric so prominent on the right. Or, perhaps, if it's because statutory rape is in many ways a different sort of phenomenon. (We can walk through examples of liability for statutory rape in situations where it is quite clear that there is not the sort of wrong inflicted as is inflicted by forcible rape, if people aren't clear on how strict liability crimes work.)

The popular press is full of articles asking whether female orgasm increases the likelihood of pregnancy. There is apparently some significant level of support (though not undisputed) in the scientific literature for the suggestion that female orgasm is linked to an increased likelihood of pregnancy (the literature apparently identifies at least a couple of different mechanisms for this effect). While it is certainly possible that forcible rape could lead to the same physiological responses as consensual sex (and to the extent a rape does, it does not in any way lessen the force of the attack, but may unfortunately make the attack seem worse to the victim), it doesn't seem, without any other evidence, to be likely. Of course, to say that pregnancy is less likely in that sort of circumstance than in some others isn't to say that it's less likely by a significant margin, or unlikely (and certainly doesn't suggest that a woman's body is engaged, or should be, in some sort of defensive action). It's simply a comparative statement based on disputed but reasonable science. It's pretty clear that Akin hasn't thought through this particularly well, but also true that most of his critics haven't either. (Even on this string, we get a commenter who says that saying that a woman who is raped is unlikely to get pregnant is saying something false. Given the limited number of days that a woman is fertile, any given day is unlikely to be a day in which she is susceptible to becoming pregnant. That's true for rape victims as well, because there's no biological mechanism that makes a rape victim more likely to become pregnant than anyone else. But I suppose we should interpret that commenter's claim more charitably, even if we don't extend that same sort of charity to all speakers.)

Posted by: anon | Aug 21, 2012 4:32:30 PM

But Akin's precise point was that there is, in fact, a biological mechanism that reduces the likelihood of pregnancy by rape (however rape is defined--it's beside the point) as opposed to via consensual sex. Pointing that out is not being uncharitable--it is what he said and there is no "charitable" or "uncharitable" way of looking at it.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 21, 2012 4:38:29 PM

anon, I'm reluctant to even engage on this because I can't believe it needs to be "debated", but I also don't like the idea of your comment just hanging out there. You did not cite any evidence that women who are raped are less likely to get pregnant. There is no such evidence. From the NY Times:

"Dr. Willke, who is 87, asserted Monday that “way under 1 percent” of rape victims become pregnant, not just because of female biology but because about half of rapists “do not deposit sperm in the vagina.” That, Dr. Willke said, is because many rapists have “a preference for rectal intercourse over vaginal”; experience “premature ejaculation, which is a major factor”; or “some of these guys just plain aren’t fertile.”

But several experts said there is no solid data on such issues. A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, generally considered one of the few peer-reviewed research efforts on this subject, estimated that 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy. “Yeah, there are all sorts of hormones, including ones that cause your heart to beat fast when you’re frightened,” said Dr. Greene. But he added, “I’m not aware of any data that says that reduces a woman’s risk of getting pregnant.”

As for the contention that a rape victim’s fallopian tubes tighten, Dr. Grimes, formerly of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “That’s nonsense. Everything is working. The tube is very small anyway and sperm are very tiny — they’re excellent swimmers.”

Akin made a bizarre statement: that it is rare for women who are (forcibly) raped to get pregnant. There is no evidence to support the assertion that it is any rarer for women to become pregnant as a result of rape than in other contexts....and I can't believe we're having this discussion. I think Akin and King have won.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 4:51:21 PM

anon, sorry, you did allude to some evidence. But I think we're wading into really murky waters here. To get back to the point at hand: Akin claimed that it is rare for women to become pregnant as the result of (forcible) rape and that a doctor(s) told him so. There is no evidence to support these claims. It is pretty obvious that people use claims like this to support the idea that women who "claim" they are pregnant as the result of rape are lying. This is really dangerous stuff, and I am surprised that there is anything controversial about calling Akin out on this. As I noted earlier, this is not (or doesn't have to be) a partisan issue. A number of Republicans have called on Akin to drop out of his Senate race. What he said is offensive, it is unsupported, and, if he really believes this, it suggests he is divorced from reality. If he doesn't really believe it, it's fair co consider whether he is spreading this lie so that women who "claim" pregnancy as the result of rape will not be believed.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 21, 2012 4:57:03 PM

Let's get back to the original question -- about apologies.

Akin did not apologize. Merriam-Webster defines apology as "a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another."

Akin is sorry he was caught or that he embarrassed himself. A true apology would be something like this. "I am sorry that I stated a bizarre and unsubstantiated medical theory. I know that I caused pain for those who have been raped. I promise I will not make that statement again."

Posted by: Edward Still | Aug 21, 2012 5:43:21 PM

ericblair, it is not rare for women to become pregnant from rape, because unfortunately and unjustly, rape is not a rare occurrence. It is however unlikely for any particular woman who is raped to become pregnant, and your suggestion to the contrary above is unsupported and divorced from reality. It's a bizarre and unsubstantiated medical theory, to use a phrase. Pregnancy, for those who don't know, does not automatically result from every single occurrence of uncontracepted intercourse. A woman is only fertile on a limited number of days, and there may well be mechanisms, alluded to above (I trust your google is working if you want more details), which make it more likely that a woman who has consensual sex would become pregnant than a woman victimized by rape. And of course there are other factors which affect a woman's fertility, including her use of birth control pills, etc. There is no sense in which the "likely" outcome is pregnancy.

Howard, I've identified an entirely plausible mechanism by which the statement you say Akin made (there is "a biological mechanism that reduces the likelihood of pregnancy by rape (however rape is defined--it's beside the point) as opposed to via consensual sex") is true. What you have said is not what Akin said, which is unfortunate for you and the end of his career for him. (Remember what he actually said: "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Which formulation is not true, which revealed that Akin hasn't given any more thought to this than most anyone else, and which gave needless offense by his confusing formulation "legitimate rape" combined with an untrue statement. All of that seems to me to disqualify him from a Senate run, but doesn't in any way indicate that he's a misogynist, or doesn't take rape seriously, etc. ) There is no evidence, rationale, theory, justification, etc. for an assertion that it likely for a woman who is raped to get pregnant. And yet there's nothing controversial about people saying it, here, to you. To be charitable, it doesn't seem like factual inaccuracy bothers you much.

Posted by: anon | Aug 21, 2012 11:37:08 PM

The issue is not the absolute likelihood of pregnancy, but the relative likelihood of pregnancy by rape as opposed to from consensual sex.

Akin was arguing (in response to a question specifically about a rape exception to an abortion restriction) that rape is different than a consensual encounter for purposes of how sperm meets egg. There is absolutely no scientific basis for that statement.

In rebutting that, I don't have to show (and never have argued, in any event) that it is "likely" that rape will result in pregnancy. I only have to point out (as I did above) that it is no less likely that rape will result in pregnancy than that consensual sex will result in pregnancy. And I can do this because everything we know about the biology (sorry to keep using that word) tells us that pregnancy has absolutely nothing to do with the circumstances or environment in which sperm meets egg.

As for whether Akin is a misogynist (or has misogynist views, which is really what I said), that depends on how we label things. I would argue that denying women sexual agency and arguing that some sexual acts to which a woman does not consent can be anything other than rape fits the definition of misogyny.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 22, 2012 12:08:44 AM

When you say there is "absolutely no scientific basis for that statement", do you mean to say that there is no scientific basis for the assertion that female orgasm is positively correlated with pregnancy, or that there is no scientific basis for the assertion that female orgasm is more likely in consensual sex than in rape? I'd freely admit to the second, as it's only a reasonable surmise. But the first does in fact have a scientific basis, whether you wish that it weren't true or not (and which isn't to say that it's established as a fact, but only that there is some significant support in scientific literature for the proposition). (The scientific basis does not come down to the "circumstances or environment in which sperm meets egg" but whether sperm meets egg.)

There are of course repeated statements in the thread above suggesting that it is likely that rape will result in pregnancy--statements about the absolutely likelihood of pregnancy. They are false. And the falsity doesn't bother anyone. (Well, it bothers me, in the traditional "someone on the internet is wrong" sense.)

It's really hard to know what to make of your suggestion that Akin is "arguing that some sexual acts to which a woman does not consent [is something] other than rape" To be charitable, that's the sort of crap that someone unfamiliar with the meaning of statutory rape would say. Do you really believe that it is "rape" when in Alabama an 18 year old male has (otherwise-)consensual sex with a fifteen year old female on the evening before her sixteenth birthday? That if an 18 year old male in Wisconsin has (otherwise-) consensual sex with a 17 year old female, it's rape? If denying women sexual agency is misogyny, what does it mean when you deny these (admittedly young) women all sexual agency?

Posted by: anon | Aug 22, 2012 12:41:47 AM

Anon, by drawing this distinction between "forcible" and "statutory" rape, you've missed years of discourse in which misogynists have drawn the distinction between "forcible" rape and "oh, you know, the woman regretted sex and changed her mind so called the guy a rapist the next day rape" or "she was wearing a short skirt and asking for it rape." That context, not the 17-year-old who sleeps with her 18-year-old boyfriend possibility, is why people are upset at the legitimate vs. non-legitimate or forcible vs. non-forcible framing.

Posted by: Katie | Aug 22, 2012 7:28:15 AM

I don't think Akin misspoke. There is a reason Akin may have said "legitimate" instead of "forcible." "Forcible" may distinguish between using force as opposed to coercion (threats, slipping a mickey, or statutory rape), but using the term "legitimate" also casts doubts on the victims in another way. It alludes to the possibility of false rape reports. This has been raised as an argument against allowing abortions in the case of rape, so I don't think it can be overlooked as another distinction Akin was trying to make. This makes his initial remarks extra disgusting, because he's dismissing rape as an over-reported phenomenon, and then saying that pregnant women who claim rape are definitely lying. I think his "apology" was an attempt to walk back his comments to only mean the second thing.
But as to the point of your post, Howard, I think the original statement + the apology gives lots of important information about Akin. If he were capable of a legitimate apology, it might be confusing, but once he started talking, his mouth had a way of shutting all that down and his unborn apology never fully formed.

Posted by: Other Anon | Aug 22, 2012 3:23:22 PM

Anon, I'm not sure what this refers to: "There are of course repeated statements in the thread above suggesting that it is likely that rape will result in pregnancy--statements about the absolutely likelihood of pregnancy. They are false. And the falsity doesn't bother anyone. (Well, it bothers me, in the traditional "someone on the internet is wrong" sense.)" If you're going to say this, you need to give some examples of when commenters suggested that it is "likely" that rape will result in pregnancy. In any event, this is the reddest of red herrings. As others have suggested, the issue is simple and clear. Akin said that it is "rare" for women to become pregnant as the result of legitimate (i.e. forcible) rape because their bodies have ways to "shut that whole thing down" i.e. to prevent pregnancy from occurring. He said a doctor or doctors told him this. His claim is simply false and has been debunked.

We're getting rather far afield when you start discussing whether orgasm makes pregnancy more likely. This simply has nothing to do with Akin's claim. What Akin said is a big deal. It is offensive, it is insulting, and it is false. Discussing whether orgasm makes pregnancy more likely may be an interesting question, but it has nothing to do with what Akin said. Criticizing commenters for suggesting that it is "likely" that rape will result in pregnancy is similarly neither here nor there (and I didn't notice the comments that made this claim, in any event).

We have a moment of moral clarity here. The question is: is it ok for a member of the House of Reps, who wants a promotion to the U.S. Senate, to make reproductive rights policy based on ignorant beliefs about the ways in which women who are raped can physically shut down pregnancy. I would have thought this would be a moment of moral clarity, anyways, in the sense that everyone would see this as out of bounds, offensive, and simply nuts. Instead, we're seeing an attempt to move debate to irrelevant questions. I think that is quite telling.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 22, 2012 4:41:08 PM

"I would have thought this would be a moment of moral clarity, anyways, in the sense that everyone would see this as out of bounds, offensive, and simply nuts. Instead, we're seeing an attempt to move debate to irrelevant questions. I think that is quite telling."

I think we have a critical mass of people who agree with you, Eric, such that it is agreed that his comments were "out of bounds, offensive, and simply nuts."

What I don't appreciate, especially on an academic blog, is such simplistic stridence in the form of suggestions such as that one is a misogynist if one believes that women sometimes lie about being raped; that's just an indisputable fact. Not every allegation of rape is true. So, the dichotomy between generally "not trusting women" and believing that every claim of rape is true is a grossly false one. Is it really hard to believe that some women might lie about being raped so that they could obtain an abortion under the right-wing's asinine laws? I suppose even asking the question is "misogyny?" Because we don't WANT it to be true?

Posted by: Anonster | Aug 22, 2012 5:52:25 PM

Anonster, I don't think anyone has said women never lie about being raped but, more importantly, that's not what this is about and Akin is not being criticized because he dared to ask this question--he did something quite different than simply raising the question of whether women ever lie about rape.

Posted by: ericblair | Aug 22, 2012 6:51:47 PM

It's fine to point out that women sometimes falsely accuse others of rape, though I don't think it's relevant to the post or to my comment. I don't think evidence shows it's so common that it needs to be a disclaimer anytime someone talks about rape (i.e., "rape, at least when it's legitimate and not women just lying like the liars they are..."). And I agree with you that these proposed asinine laws give incentives to lie about rape if the alternative is illegal and unsafe abortions.

I'm sorry you thought I was being strident. I don't consider myself the arbiter of misogyny. I explained that adding "legitimate" in front of rape was a purposeful rhetorical tool to cast doubt on all claims of rape to begin with, and I stand by that interpretation. I don't think academic discussion of *rape* should exclude the possibility of false accusations, but an academic discussion of *word choices and claims of misspeaking* can talk about what it means to qualify the word rape with various adjectives.

Posted by: Other Anon | Aug 22, 2012 7:00:11 PM

Sorry Anonster, I just saw that you were probably responding the post above mine by Katie, which actually used the word misogyny. Our points were pretty similar, though, that fear of these fake rape reports may color people's views of the legitimacy of any claim of rape. (Which is not to say that every claim is true, just that enough are that the word "rape" does not need a disclaimer.)

Posted by: Other Anon | Aug 22, 2012 7:05:37 PM

Other Anon, yes, I could have been clearer as to what precisely I was responding to, which was primarily Katie's post.

But I don't think you and she are making the same point. She suggests by using the term "misogynists" that there's something wrong with attempting to discriminate between actual rape and false claims of rape (situations wherein "the woman regretted sex and changed her mind so called the guy a rapist the next day"). I admit I could be misinterpreting her, as her post is a rather terse.

And can we PLEASE folks stop with the "this isn't relevant/it's a distraction/not the point/let's stay morally focused" remarks? As far as I see it, all of the comments so far examine this incident from different angles, linguistic, political, moral, scientific, etc. All of this is worthwhile. And they have been relevant to Howard's post as well, given that he sought to parse what this dope actually said and what he intended in using the respective words. Yes, we could simply have made this a thread with repeated cries of "he's a monster" but what good would that do?

Posted by: Anonster | Aug 22, 2012 8:43:48 PM

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