Every time I hear references to Rep. Todd Akin's crazy talk related to violence against women, I get nauseous. It's a visceral physical response. And I don't think I'm alone in this.
One in every six of my sisters and one in 33 of my brothers in the U.S. have been the victims of an attempted or completed aggressive forced violent sexual act.
And gaining insight into the background of Rep. Akin's muddled pseudo-science, such as is explored in "The Roots of Rep. Todd Akin's "Legitimate" Rape Remarks" by Tim Townsend and Blythe Bernhard doesn't help me. It actually makes it worse. It risks reinforcing a set of propaganda under the guise of exposing it.
I have a hard time understanding how Akin, who is the son of a Presbyterian minister, has a Master of Divinity from a prominent Christian seminary and is an active member of a Presyterian Church of America congregation, could debase himself in such a way that he has no qualms about putting his political agenda ahead of the truth and well being of women. As Christians, don't we hold ourselves to a higher standard?
No doubt he doesn't see it that way.
No doubt he is profoundly uncomfortable with the moral gray areas that some women must navigate when it comes to rape, pregancy, abortion, STDs, morning-after pills, permenant gynecological damage, psychological trauma, spiritual desperation, loss of control, complete loss of safety, trust, intimacy and all the others dangerous and shifting decisions that a rape victim must make. No doubt he believes that what is best for him is best for all. We may have to agree to disagree. But one thing that's perfectly clear is: Mr. Akin should end his career as a public servant.
At least 51 percent of the voting public deserve much better than what he has to offer.
In 1984, Sojourners magazine ran a provocative set of articles on violence against women. In "Our Lives At Stake," Ginny Soley writes about cultures the promote violence:
[University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday] is one of the first researchers to ever study the phenomenon of rape within cultures. Using reliable cross-cultural information, she found material relevant to the study of rape in 95 cultures. Of the 95 studied, 47 perent were virtually rape-free, 17 percent were rape-prone (displaying a high incidence of rape), and the remaining 36 percent indicated some incidence of rape.
Her research suggests that the incidence of rape in a society depends on the status of women, the values that govern relationships, and the attitudes and behaviors taught to children. She concludes that rape is not a biological drive within men, but stems from a conditioned response taught within social environments.
Sanday's findings indicate that in societies with little or no rape, women are respected and influential in all areas of life -- public and private. The religions in those cultures emphasize the importance of women and include female deities, and women take an active role in religious life and ritual. The people tend to live together in cooperative structures, with both women and men involved in decision making. Fertility, nurturance, and children are regarded highly within these cultures, and little distinction is made between men's and women's work.
On the other hand, Sanday's research indicates that in societies that have a high incidence of rape, women take little or no part in decision making or religious rituals, and men have private political and religious gatherings that exclude women. Men tend to stay aloof from child rearing in these cultures and demean what is considered women's work. Boys and girls are segregated early on into different forms of play; boys are encouraged to be tough, competitive, and aggressive.
Among the groups with a high incidence of rape, a belief in a male supreme being as the source of life is usually found. And sexual conquest is a ritualized part of courtship and marriage.
Sadly, we still live in a society that is toxic for women and girls. Even more sadly, there are still Christians who sacralize misogyny and maintain a criminal ignorance about women's reproductive health and the levels of sexual violence in the United States.
I was gratified to see that Mr. Akin's alma mater Covenant Theological Seminary issued a disclaimer:
Covenant Theological Seminary has never taught, and in no way affirms, that the female body is capable of preventing pregnancy caused by rape. Covenant Theological Seminary affirms that rape, in all its forms, is wicked. In regard to rape against women, men, and children, we believe that the Gospel calls us to show love, compassion, and support for the victims and their families. In all circumstances surrounding the trauma, we must name the evil, seek justice, and care for those affected by such horrendous acts. In instances of rape against women that result in pregnancy, this includes caring for the unborn child as well.
No doubt they'd be glad for Mr. Akins to turn in his diploma.
As a pro-life Catholic feminist, I hold all life as sacred. Most Americans can agree to "make abortion rare," to make it the exception, rather than the rule. Let's stop fighting about it.
What if we called a voluntary moratorium on the public use of the word "abortion" for the remainder of the year? Would any wisdom arise from our silence?