Last night, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock explained that it was his belief that rape pregnancies are “something that God intended to happen.” Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have endorsed Mourdock, although Romney quickly made sure to announce didn’t agree with him on rape and abortion. Lots of men deciding when women should and shouldn’t be pregnant either way. Why this is surprising to anyone is beyond me at this point. We’ve now been subjected to months of surreal revelation when it comes to what people think and understand about rape, god and women’s magical bodies.
In this public debate, the voices of actual rape survivors have been lost in favor of hearing what a small group of vocal, mainly old, but some notably young, white, men think rape should be. Rendering the reality of rape and its effects on equality and culture invisible are how we’ve end of up with:
- Women who can “shut that down”
- “Legitimate rape” versus non legitimate rape
- “Forcible rape” as “stock language”
- “Lemons from lemonade” wherein women “should make the best of a bad situation“
- “Horribly created gifts from God,” and the idea that
- “Because of science and technology no woman ever needs an abortion”
These claims are part of a long history of “Men Defining Rape.” If you care to go further back than this year, jump over to Katie J.M. Baker’s “Official Guide to Legitimate Rape” or Garance Franke-Ruta’s Atlantic piece about the Republican “legitimate” rape history or consider how we’ve defined “Just wars” and the idea that women even have a “peacetime.”
Two nights ago, in an action to counteract persistent misrepresentations of rape and the silencing of actual survivor’s voices, the feminist team FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture and the activist collective Luminous Intervention projected the words RAPE IS RAPE on the walls of the U.S. Capitol. Their intent was to, in this case literally, shine a light on the very narrow and misleading way in which rape is defined as “legimate,” survivors stories are relegated to the media dustbin and rape, kept in the shadows, is used as a political tool in the reproductive rights debate. So, here are some facts, a la Harper’s index, about rape that belie myths, jokes and politically motivated apologies:
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Low estimate of the number of women, according to the Department of Justice, raped every year: 300,000
High estimate of the number of women raped, according to the CDC: 1.3 million
Percentage of rapes not reported: 54%
A woman’s chance of being raped in the US: 1 in 5
Chances that a raped woman conceives compared to one engaging in consensual sex: at least 2 times as likely
Chances that a woman’s body “shuts that whole thing down”: 0 in 3.2 billion
Rank of US in the world for rape: 13th
A woman’s chance of being raped in college: 1 in 4/5
Percentage of rape that meets “forcible” definition: 14%
Percentage sexual assault and rape victims under the age of 12: 15%
Percentage of men who have been raped: 3%
Percentage of girls in grades 9-12 who have been sexually abused: 12%
Percentage of boy in grades 9-12 who have been sexually abused: 5%
Percentage of rapes by strangers: 7%
Percentage of rapists who are never incarcerated: 97%
Percentage of rapes that college students think are false claims: 50%
Percentage of rapes that studies find are false claims: 2-8%
Number of rapes reported in the military last year: 16,500
Pentagon’s estimated percentage of military assuaults not reported: 80-90%
Percentage of military rape victims who were gang raped: 14%
Percentage of military rape victims raped more than once: 20%
Percentage of military rape victims that are men: 8-37%
Percentage of military victims who get a “involuntarily” discharged: 90%
Percentage of charge and accused who are discharged with honor: 80%
Chances an incarcerated person is raped in the US: 1 in 10
Number of men raped that could be counted as legally raped before the FBI changed its definition in December of 2011: 0
The number of women impregnanted each year in the US as a result of rape: 32,000
Number of states in which rapists can sue for custody and visitation: 31
Number of rapes noted in commonly used World War II statistics: 0
Number of rapes of WWII concentration camp inmates: Untallied millions
Number of rapes of German women by Russian soldiers at the end of WWII: between 1m and 2m
Number of women raped in 1990s Bosnian conflict: 60,000+
Number of women raped per hour in Congo during war: 48
Percentage of women in the Congo raped: 12%
Likelihood of post traumatic stress disorder among rape victims: 6 times the average
Likelihood of alcohol and drug abuse: 13 and 26 times more likely respectively
Rape just is, right? Even if only to linger, as a subtle threat, in the background of everyday life. People think rape jokes are hilarious. Facebook thinks they’re satire. The predatory theory of undetected rapists is well documented. Rapists are friends, teachers, priests, soliders, co-workers, fellow students. The problem however, as one blogger put it, is that rapists don’t come with post-its on their foreheads, (although there appears to be a factorty minting a certain type of political apologist with some success). But, rape has been in the news of late because of its role in abortion policy, not even because of the fact of its ubiquity and threat. In this debate over abortion, people are once again willing to marginalize rape and ignore rankly offensive, ignorang and sexist statements about the crime. Rape is not as important as, say, pregancy. Being or not being pregnant in particular.
So, in this context, my question is, what would Paula Ryan say about this situation?
Who is Paula Ryan?
Well, first, in case you don’t know him, meet Brian Greene and his elegant theory of the infinite multiverse. The multiverse theory is his way of making sense of our universe, one of billions of extant universes. And Paula Ryan is my way of making sense of people like Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, Sharon Angle and especially recently, Paul Ryan. Because somewhere in the multiverse there is an ambitious woman, a rising conservative star in her world, running for Vice President and peering over Mitta Romney’s shoulder. And her name is Paula Ryan.
When Paul Ryan says with straight-faced earnestness, for example, “rape is another method of conception,” Paula Ryan, faced with her alternate universe castration index, says “castration is another method of contraception” and no one blinks. Both being identically correct in their assessments of consent, bodily integrity and the technicalities of conception.
When Paul Ryan writes one more “forcible rape” into legislation and policy and pretends that the other 85 percent of rapes don’t exist, and Paula Ryan writes “forcible castration” into legislation and policy.
When Paul Ryan dismisses though legislation the forced, triggering and unwanted pregnancies of 32,000 women in our country every year because of his personal, religious concerns about life, Paula Ryan and her friends and surrogates say that the involuntary castration of 32,000 men is an act of merciful divine provenance that should be mandated through legislation.
When Paul Ryan and men like Todd Akin and their assorted surrogates say rape is a “gift from God” that sometimes produces pregnancies women should carry to term, babies to which they should give birth, and children they should embrace and raise, Paula Ryan says castration is a gift from God that saves the world from millions of unwanted children whose lives would be forfeit. If men don’t understand that then it is Paula Ryan’s place to clear their confusion up and make sure they don’t make any mistakes they might regret. Like keeping their testes or making sure they’ve stored sperm somewhere just in case.
While we’re at it, when Roger Rivard says “some girls rape easy” (and we all know which ones, right?) Rogerette Rivard says “some boys castrate easy.”
When Paula Ryan calls this statement by a woman who had endorsed her candidacy “indefensible” and disavows people who agree with her but are less subtle with language, she appears to really not understand the connections between her own rape qualifications and hers.
Is this striikng you as insane and corrupt yet?
Is the “forcible” castration imagery distasteful? Threatening? In my experience, you start bandying about castration and men start crossing their legs. Indeed, men like Tucker Carlson only have to see a strong, assertive woman in order to grow fearful. What about non-consensual castration, you know, like if the guy is drunk and passed out and, snip, snip, no protest? Remember the national frenzy over Lorena Bobbit’s penis-removing? Her act of retribution and self defense made her “notorius” – this is generally a bad thing. There are no statistics regarding castration in the US, indeed, I couldn’t really find any examples, except in regards to the chemical castration of pedophiles.
If you are finding all of this talk of castration, unseemly, disturbing and violent what do you think of rape? Any rape. Just the way the world works and women should expect it? Can you imagine if castration was the number one trending comedy theme of the year? Or that there were pages dedicated to castration proliferating in Facebook? I recently had an online debate with a group of women offended by a satirical Legitimate Rape Pharmaceutical Ad video meant to highlight the ridiculousness of the persistent qualifications of rape by conservatives seeking to control women’s health and reproductive care access. The video offended them but the people using this language and imposing these ideas on laws do not. They will, indeed, vote for them.
At any rate, Paula Ryan’s sons are probably watching what they wear, what they drink and where they post their party pictures. I bet in her universe there is a man writing about her bulemic ethics and morality. An often well-hidden sickness that produces a people whose thinking has been so twisted that they can convince themselves of the rightness of what are perverted ideas regarding what is right and wrong regarding life and its meaning. And then vomit up words like “castration is another method of contraception.”
It’s beyond absurd. And, especially for humans with testes, it’s got to be pretty objectionable.
No one wants to castrate men in order to stop unwanted pregnancies or advocating that this is simply the way the world works or the result of not enough vigilance on the part of men. They just want safe and accessible ways of avoiding and stopping unwanted pregnancies. They want to be able to walk home at night without thinking about being physically assaulted. They want to go to college without the threat of rape lurking in every hallway and after-party.
But unless it’s not clear, this castration comparison is no more absurd than claiming that rape is “another method” of conception and then running for high office by pandering to people who agree, disavowing peers with whom you’ve coauthored rapey legislation, and then lying voters about your intent.