News Violence

Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” Comments Linked to Spousal Rape Bill?

Robin Marty

Akin's concerns about fabricated rape claims was evident as early as the nineties when he worried that acknowledging spousal rape might give women a way to "beat up on their husbands."

Congressman Todd Akin has said that his comments last August referring to “legitimate rape” were an unfortunate choice of words that were amplified by his political opponents. But a new article from the Springfield News Leader shows a politician who has long held complicated views on the ideas of degrees of sexual assault, dating back to his early days in the state legislature.

In 1991, the Missouri legislature had an opportunity to repeal an antiquated law that would allow husbands to force their wives into non-consensual sex. Akin supported the bill, but not without some qualms.

In 1991, two years into Akin’s stint in the Missouri state House, legislators in Jefferson City took up a bill to outlaw rape and sexual abuse in marriage — closing a loophole dating to the 1600s that allowed men to use marriage as a defense when accused of raping their wives.

Akin rose to question the bill’s sponsor, then-state Rep. Jo Ann Karll, a Democrat from Fenton.

Get the facts, direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our daily or weekly digest.


He asked, “did I not think that this bill would somehow interfere with or erode the sanctity of marriage,” Karll, now an attorney, said in a recent interview. “I recall saying . . . that if there has been a rape within a marriage, there is no sanctity.”

Akin then asked if outlawing rape in marriage wouldn’t somehow “give the woman an unfair advantage in a divorce,” Karll recalled. He suggested it could be used “in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband,” according to a 1991 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the legislation’s passage.

In the end, Akin voted in favor of the proposal, and the Post-Dispatch story quoted him as concluding that it was a “good bill.”

But Karll said Akin seemed to be concerned about women fabricating rape charges, and she tried to assure him that her bill would apply only to allegations that had been verified, involving a police investigation and possible criminal charges.

Akin’s response to the bill is nearly identical to the idea that marriage vows create automatic and irrevocable consent to sex propagated by conservative founding mother Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum.

“I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn’t mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn’t rape, it’s a he said-she said where it’s just too easy to lie about it”

Schlafly has been one of Akin’s greatest supporters since his rape remarks controversy, campaigning with Akin throughout the state.

Evidence-based journalism is the foundation of democracy. Rewire.News, is devoted to evidence-based reporting on reproductive and sexual health, rights and justice and the intersections of race, environmental, immigration, and economic justice.

As a non-profit that doesn't accept advertising or corporate support, we rely on our readers for funding. Please support our fact-based journalism today.

Support Rewire.News

Load More