By Emma Teitel - Monday, January 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
Todd Akin’s legacy lives on, thanks to one of his close friends (though maybe not anymore), Georgia Republican congressman and certified gynecologist Phil Gingrey. The congressman thought it would be a good idea to defend his pal’s controversial (read: stupid) rape comments at a town hall meeting recently, with a little science lesson. Brace yourselves.
“And in Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.”
“And I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart.”
That they did.
Unfortunately Akin and pal’s pseodo science–made popular, most likely, by this 1999 essay–will persist, regargless of media and medical scrinuty. What’s most interesting, though, is the science on the other side of the political spectrum–the side that believes in evolution.
“Scientists have made a disturbing finding about rape which they believe may explain why the crime has been so common throughout history. They have found that a single act of rape may be more than twice as likely to make a woman pregnant than a single act of consensual sex.This suggests, they say, that in a strictly biological sense, rape is a successful way for a man to spread his genes.”
Creationism and evolution aren’t just ideological, scientific foes. They are political ones as well.
By Emma Teitel - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:57 AM - 0 Comments
Men, and sometimes women, have and will always say stupid and horrendous things in the aftermath of rape. Said things usually go like this:
The impetus behind these statements is that rape is inevitable because some men just can’t help it. And if rape is inevitable, if it’s a biological certainty that men are dormant deviants until a bare midriff in a dark alley catches their eye, then women should take “practical” precautions, like wear modest clothing or walk to and from their points of destination chaperoned by male specimens less prone to deviant outbursts. (For the record, the “don’t dress like a slut” argument is pretty easy to refute when you’ve been verbally harassed in a balaclava and snowsuit.)
By Emma Teitel - Friday, November 2, 2012 at 6:04 PM - 0 Comments
It was hard to imagine at the height of Todd “legitimate rape” Akin’s mass pillorying, that the Missouri congressman would survive his senate race. The Republican establishment all but abandoned him, Romney asked him to step down, and even Ann Coulter called him a “selfish swine” for his annoyingly strong convictions. What his decision to remain in the race will do for Romney’s chances is unclear, though his name–and now, Richard Mourdock’s– is pretty much synonymous with the dreaded “War on Women.” Akin’s own chances at victory, however, aren’t as damaged by his bogus science as everybody thought they’d be.
According to a post on The Hill today,
“Akin went from a low of 38 per cent support in one poll, conducted in the days after his comments drew national scrutiny, to just a 2-percentage-point deficit in one independent poll released last weekend. One Republican internal poll has Akin and McCaskill tied.”
It’s also rumoured that a number of his old friends (the National Republican Senatorial Committee perhaps?) are slithering back just in time for the election, with some last minute millions. And the Missouri Republican Party recently helped him out with a $300,000+ ad buy:
See below, one of the weirdest campaign ads ever made (though not as weird as this one) in which a multicultural/multi-generational group of women gush about how much they love Todd Akin, and one of them, about how much grocery shopping sucks in communist Russia…
The United Colors of Todd Akin
If Akin does manage to win the race, the joke is on the Democrats: In August, the Washington Post argued that the Democratic party was instrumental in Akin’s Senate GOP Primary victory. The Dems assumed his opinions were so out there, that were he to win the primary, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill would be a practical shoe-in for the Senate. So according to the Post, the Dems “spent $1.5 million trying to help Akin win his 3-way primary.” In other words, they created their own political version of the Producers. Apparently, they ran anti-Akin ads like the one described below, that deliberately made the candidate more appealing to conservative voters, and more likely to win the GOP primary in Missouri. From the Post:
“‘Todd Akin calls himself the true conservative, but is he too conservative?’ asks the narrator of the ad, which is approved by McCaskill’s campaign and paid for by the DSCC. The narrator goes on to note the negative posture Akin has taken toward President Obama, before concluding, ‘it’s no surprise Todd has been endorsed by the most conservative leaders in our country – Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee.’”
That’s not a mild attack ad. That’s a full on endorsement for Akin, which means that if he does in fact beat McCaskill next week, he’ll have some thanking to do across the aisle. And Planned Parenthood will at least in part have its own party to thank for the impending “War on Women”
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 11:37 AM - 0 Comments
The hot story in U.S. politics this week is a Republican Senate nominee’s folk belief, expressed in a television interview, that women rarely get pregnant from “legitimate rape”. Missouri Congressman Todd Akin told a TV interviewer:
First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Akin’s use of the phrase “legitimate rape” is attracting a lot of catcalls; maybe he ought to have used Whoopi Goldberg’s famous formulation “rape rape” in order to be better understood. The funny thing is, if Akin meant “violent rape” when he referred to the “legitimate” kind, his weird legend is probably slightly higher on the ostensive believability scale than, say, “Organically grown vegetables are better for the environment”. It’s quite demonstrable that plenty of mammals undergo spontaneous abortion under stress; when it comes to sheep, rabbits, and rodents, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” is a 100% accurate statement.
Unfortunately for Akin, we belong to none of those species, and the evidence from medicine says that thousands upon thousands of human pregnancies result from rape. I don’t advise you to take it to the bank, but it may even be the case that rape is more likely than consensual sex to induce pregnancy in humans.
Everybody in the media thinks it is interesting that a Republican candidate got tripped up in being challenged on the abortion issue by means of a philosophical edge case. No one seems to take much notice of how big a deal we make of these cases themselves. It is fine that Akin got humiliated and may lose his political career, since a political campaign is, in part, an IQ test. He failed the test by letting it slip that he may think some species of sexual assault are less “legitimate” than others. He might as well have added a “heh heh heh” and waggled his eyebrows salaciously while he was at it.
In some contexts there are valid reasons to distinguish violent rape from other kinds, just as we distinguish murder from manslaughter. But the officiousness with which Akin is being belaboured is appropriate to our time in history: we have only lately blown up the methods of social control once used to protect women from non-consensual sex, and a few generations of men are having to have it drummed into them that sex without consent always has the essential nature of rape, whether you paid for dinner or not. This awkwardness is part of the price for the transition from an ancient social regime of patria potestas to one of ultra-individualism and contractual relationships.
Still, it’s interesting that we have made the poor little rape-baby so central to the debate over abortion—that this is the test we apply to men like Akin, even though Akin had already made his extreme pro-life position clear many times over. He thinks that abortion is wrong, and while rape is also wrong, two wrongs don’t make a right. This position has an attractive consistency when contrasted with the fudges some people come up with in confronting abortion. If you want to make an exception for rape because in that case the woman did not choose to get pregnant, will you make one for the broken condom and the forgotten birth-control pill? For a “natural family planning” calendar calculation gone awry? For a makeout session that gets out of hand?
To the degree that a “pro-life” position respects a woman’s choice, it becomes a “pro-choice” position very quickly in practice, as the “exceptions” naturally expand to cover nearly every conceivable situation in which a woman will want to seek an abortion. Women don’t get abortions because they’re laugh-a-minute thrill rides. They get them, and pardon me if I’ve buried the lede here, because they’re pregnant and they don’t want to be pregnant anymore.
The real function of the rape hypothetical is to force the Todd Akins of the world to make their premises explicit. The fertilized ovum being sacred, and having all the entitlements and endowments of a fully formed human being, its mother must inevitably be assigned the attributes of a heifer and made to carry the child to term at all hazards. (Indeed, her conduct could conceivably be policed to ensure that the fetus survives to term in good health.) The pain, inconvenience, danger, and expense to be experienced by the mere vessel count for nothing; the principle that the child’s existence is in no sense subservient or incomplete must be upheld, even if we never in any other way behave as though this principle were true, and even if no one really thought it was true until about 1965, and even if the implications are somewhat ridiculous.
That is the pro-life proposition, and the details of the child’s origin are ultimately tangential. But it’s not a coincidence that pro-lifers have, within their cultural cocoon, concocted a myth that deflects the rape issue—the edgiest of all the edge cases.
By Scaachi Koul - Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 11:11 AM - 0 Comments
A street preacher’s remarks about the way Canadian women dress fuels a tired debate
In Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square, street corners are crowded with religious buskers, preachers, end-of-lifers. They’re often ignored until they make statements so foolish that you have to stop and stare.
A Muslim street-preacher in Toronto recently stated in a letter to the Toronto Sun following a string of sexual assaults that he believes women should be forced to cover up in Canada if they don’t want to get raped. Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana believes that Canadian laws “give too much freedom to women” and that Canadian women should adhere to a dress code to avoid being raped.
It’s an old narrative that suggests women who dress provocatively are going to be treated accordingly. It’s a warped argument to make; victim-blaming at its worst. “She was asking for it,” is perhaps the laziest rape apology out there.
Such beliefs, which inspired the city’s SlutWalk movement, matter. Atangana may be a no-name street-preacher in downtown Toronto, but he represents the views held by some men—not all, but enough that it matters—that women deserve what they get. Which is nonsense. What we need is not more blame for girls and women who are victims, but more education and accountability for boys and men to prevent them from becoming perpetrators.
It was heartening, at least, to see that responses to Atangana’s words were exactly what they should be: bewilderment and the refusal to accept that as a reasonable solution to sexual assault. It was irresponsible from the get-go for the Sun to publish the comments of a radical who sent them an email. Once those statements are publicized, however, it’s important to counter them.
After the Sun published Atangana’s comments, former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Dr. Farzana Hassan wrote a reply. She argued that the blame for rape should be placed on the perpetrator, and not on the victim. But she also noted, “While rape is more often reported here, it occurs with equal if not greater frequency and ferocity in the Middle East and South Asia.”
In other words, dressing conservatively is unlikely to dissuade sexual assaults—in Middle Eastern countries where women dress more modestly, there are still rapes with little consequence for the perpetrator. The rules of rape are different there, but it’s clear that a rape is a rape, regardless of a woman’s dress.
The trouble with Dr. Hassan’s argument is when she claims that Atangana’s point of view is more widespread in Islamist communities.
“Many Islamist men do not understand the imperative of consent in a sexual relationship,” she writes. “They believe rape is a normal rather than a criminal reaction to female physiology, and assume that this would be every man’s response to a glimpse of skin.”
True enough, Islamists are fundamentalist and extreme conservatives, and their views aren’t the norm throughout Muslim culture. But this argument does nothing for the conversation we’re having about a woman’s ability to feel comfortable in any neighbourhood, regardless of what she wears.
Instead of examining why finding men with victim-blaming beliefs in any community is easy, we can instead blame the Qu’ran. What an easy out.
Atangana’s statements reveal the extremities of Islam, not the moderate middle. In matters of religion, it’s always the smallest minority that screams the loudest. The wide majority of people—of Muslim men and women—are too busy living their lives to be fundamentalists. That’s where the majority lives, but they’re not as sexy a headline as “crazy Muslim guy is crazy.”
“This mythology that there are some religions that are religions of the sword and that some are not is, I’m sorry to say this, but it’s bullshit,” said religious scholar, Dr. Reza Aslan, who is an actual scholar and not a street-preacher who was inexplicably elevated to cleric. “It’s not religion that’s violent or peaceful, it’s people who are violent or peaceful.”
Indeed, it’s absurd to suggest that one, or three, or even 20 men speak for the majority of men in their community. We can’t let the fringe control the message.
Sexism and abuse against women happens in every corner of the world. It happens when a Sault Ste. Marie man takes a Kickstarter campaign too seriously and goes for blood. It happens in Topeka, Kansas, where a domestic violence law was repealed because of budget cuts. It isn’t isolated to traditionally Muslim countries—women are devalued across the globe, regardless of culture or religion.
But Dr. Hassan’s suggestion that all Islamist men are the same in their views on women does nothing to fix, or even address the problem. Rape isn’t religious; all that assumption does is make it seem like an isolated problem.
And that, as Dr. Aslan would say, is just bullshit.
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 10:44 AM - 0 Comments
Finding and talking to Karla Homolka was hard enough. Taking her picture was a whole other challenge.
It is destined to be an iconic image: Karla Homolka, the woman who served just 12 years for her part alongside Paul Bernardo in the sexual torture and murder of three young schoolgirls, picking up a child of her own. She is on a veranda somewhere in the Caribbean, amidst a swirl of jungle; she wears a floral summer dress, her arms toned, the arms of one of her three young children raised up to her.
With its subject depicted in stark profile and engaged in a ritual of motherhood, the photograph amounts to a diabolical re-enactment of the Madonna and Child—heart-wrenching, disturbing, utterly arresting. “She helped kill the children of three families, including her own, and now she has three dependent kids,” says Paula Todd, the freelance journalist who last month discovered and confronted Homolka, in hiding in Guadeloupe. “It’s an important image that’s going to make us really think hard about what we’ve done.”
What is it we’ve done? Todd, a lawyer and former TVO and CTV news broadcaster and legal analyst, insists Canada’s judicial system caused an injustice by allowing Homolka to spend scant time in jail in exchange for her testimony against Bernardo—despite the later surfacing of video evidence demonstrating her active participation in the crimes. Together the couple committed the sex slayings of Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Homolka orchestrated the fatal drugging of her sister Tammy, 15, so that Bernardo could rape her. Her testimony helped put Bernardo in prison for life, with no chance of parole, but Homolka’s plea bargain, Todd argues in turn, unleashed a potentially dangerous killer upon the world.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 11:38 AM - 0 Comments
“Many still see sexual violence as a by-product of war, something that occurs in the uncontrolled aftermath of combat. But increasingly rape and sexual violence are being used as organized weapons to either demoralize an enemy’s civilian population or ethnically cleanse entire countries or regions. In Africa, issues such as the spread of HIV/AIDS have only compounded the problem.” Mulcair said … We can’t let this issue fall by the wayside simply because it has fallen from headlines. Finding effective methods to combat this scourge will take years of focused efforts by partners around the world. That’s why it has to be a priority for our government.”
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 7:48 PM - 26 Comments
Hi! Here’s a table of reported sexual offences for the city of Vancouver for a particular group of months.
If you adjust the figures slightly for Vancouver’s population growth and look at the annual playoff progress of the city’s beloved Canucks, what you’ll find is that you can’t use these numbers to prove much of a link between NHL hockey and sexual violence. But if there is one, it’s probably negative. July is (at a high level of statistical significance) the worst month for sexual offences; it’s also the only one of these months in which hockey is never played. In months during which the Canucks were eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, the rate of sexual offences was, on average, more than 20% lower than in other months. There were more sex offences in months with less hockey even if you correct for pure date effects, and the lockout year (2005) had a higher rate of sex offences than either the year following or the year prior.
If I took these data nuggets and attempted to argue from them that hockey prevents sexual violence, you would probably not be impressed. (Indeed, it would probably occur to you that reports of sexual offence are a poor proxy for the overall level of sex violence in the population.) Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning, even in much weaker and less rigorous form, isn’t a problem for Laura Robinson and the Winnipeg Free Press. (For fine details of the horror, see Tyler Dellow’s reaction to Robinson. For other examples of Wade Belak’s death being used irresponsibly in sociological arguments, simply pick up absolutely any Canadian newspaper at all.)
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 5 Comments
Women all over the world are fighting back against sleazy men, no matter how powerful they are
On May 17, the same day the Los Angeles Times broke the story that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with a long-time employee, his estranged wife Maria Shriver was in Chicago, taping the penultimate episode of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. As the audience cheered, she took the stage to thank Winfrey for her friendship while making a not-so-subtle dig at her husband’s stunning duplicity: “You’ve given me love, support, wisdom, and most of all…the truth.” Winfrey clasped Shriver’s hand, thrust it in the air and cried, “Here’s to the truth!”
It was a classic Oprah moment, perfectly calibrated to the trend of rich and powerful philanderers getting their comeuppance. If Shriver had plotted to orchestrate a public up-yours toward her husband of 25 years, she couldn’t have chosen a more ideal platform. Days later the allegation arrived that she had done just that: TMZ.com reported Shriver herself had leaked the Schwarzenegger story to the Times—a historic moment for a woman born into the Kennedy family, a political dynasty where wives appear hard-wired to ignore infidelities.
For years, Shriver followed that script as rumours swirled about Schwarzenegger’s cheating and sexual assaults. A 2001 Premiere magazine exposé, “Arnold the Barbarian,” claimed the action hero routinely grabbed women’s breasts in some sort of Neanderthal greeting, and repeatedly forced unwanted physical contact. In 2003, on the eve of the California gubernatorial election, six women came forward in the L.A. Times alleging that Schwarzenegger had engaged in sexual bullying and assault dating back decades. Shriver rose to his defence publicly, discrediting his accusers and calling her husband an “A-plus human being,” a validation credited with securing his first landslide victory.
By Jenn Cutts - Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
A study on sexual violence in Congo reveals a nearly inconceivable situation
Statistics coming out of Congo are rarely uplifting, but a new study on sexual violence reveals a nearly inconceivable situation: Congolese women are being raped at a rate of one almost every minute.
The study, led by U.S. researchers and published in The American Journal of Public Health, estimates that at least 400,000 women in the East African country were victimized over a 12-month period in 2006-07. That’s more than 1,000 a day, or four every five minutes. (Findings were extrapolated from a 2007 survey of 3,436 women between the ages of 15 and 49.) In Congo’s long-standing conflict between rebel groups and the government, rape is commonly used as a tactic to force allegiance from local populations.
More shocking still: researchers believe these numbers do not give a full account of the problem, as they don’t include rapes of young girls and older women, those that go unreported, and those of men and boys. “Our findings suggest that future policies and programs should focus on…eliminat[ing] the acceptance of and impunity surrounding sexual violence nationwide while also maintaining and enhancing efforts to stop militias from perpetrating rape.”
By Michael Friscolanti - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 20 Comments
EXCLUSIVE: Laurie Massicotte describes the hours of hell she endured at his hands
Laurie Massicotte watches the same two television programs before bed: Law & Order at 11 p.m., and Without a Trace at midnight. On that Tuesday evening last September, she followed her typical routine, curling up on the living room couch with an apple, the remote control, and one of her daughters’ old Barbie blankets. Within 15 minutes, she was fast asleep. “It was a busy day,” she says now, one year later. “I spent most of it cleaning: bringing in pots from the yard, rearranging furniture in the basement. I was exhausted.”
When she woke up in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Massicotte remembers two specific things: hearing the theme song for the final credits of Without a Trace, and being smothered under her blanket as someone on the other side delivered punch after punch to her face. In those first few seconds, the 46-year-old was so disoriented and so short of breath that she assumed the house was on fire, and that thick smoke had filled her eyes and lungs. She soon realized the terrifying truth. “Shhh,” said the intruder, in between blows to the head. “I need you to be quiet.”
What transpired over the next 3½ hours was pure terror. Home alone, Massicotte was blindfolded, shackled, stripped naked with the sharp edge of a knife, and forced to pose for dozens of unthinkable photographs before the stranger in her house finally fled. Every time he ordered her to sit this way or lean that way, his threat was the same: “Don’t make me make you.”
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:33 AM - 19 Comments
A Liberian man accused of horrific war crimes is alive and well in Canada
A former commander in a rebel Liberian army who has been accused by multiple witnesses and former associates of war crimes and crimes against humanity is living freely in Toronto.
Bill Horace was a general in the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a militia that gathered in neighbouring Ivory Coast and invaded Liberia in 1989, plunging the country into more than a decade of intermittent war. That conflict killed tens of thousands and featured the widespread use of child soldiers and mass atrocities against civilians—including sexual slavery, cannibalism, and indiscriminate slaughter. Charles Taylor, who led that army and was eventually elected president before being forced from office in 2003, is now on trial in The Hague on war crimes charges.
Maclean’s spoke with Bill Horace in early 2009. “Yes, I was with NPFL. Of course I was NPFL,” he said during a brief telephone conversation, referring to the National Patriotic Front of Liberia by its initials. Horace said he would speak about his time in the NPFL at a later date, but then ignored numerous messages left on his phone or with his former wife. Reached by phone this January, he refused to discuss his past and said his lawyer would call.
By Michael Petrou - Friday, September 11, 2009 at 11:03 AM - 39 Comments
More on the abuse of jailed Iranian dissidents.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 4:03 PM - 0 Comments
Among those murdered is Mohsen Ruholamini, 25, the son of a campaign adviser to defeated conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie. This tragedy is significant for two reasons. It shows the dissent even within the family’s of Iran’s conservative establishment; and it shows that the regime’s defenders, mostly the Revolutionary Guards and their Basij youth wing, will treat respond to all opposition with the same brutality.
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 3:56 PM - 5 Comments
The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center today published a detailed report on the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran.
Incidentally, readers who doubted the confession of a Basij member, published in the Jerusalem Post, that he “married” and then raped women prisoners before their executions – Hello, Robert McClelland – should have a look at page 34.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, August 24, 2009 at 10:53 AM - 26 Comments
Several weeks ago, I blogged about the useful idiots in the West – including in Canada – who work for Iran’s state-run propaganda organ, Press TV.
The online comment board discussion diverted to a discussion about Iranian regime thugs raping prisoners, especially young women who had been sentenced to die. The Jerusalem Post had published an interview with an Iranian prison guard who had this job and discussed it in detail.
Two commentators doubted the veracity of the Jerusalem Post story. One, Robert McClelland, dismissed it outright and added the bizarre claim that “Canadian media has shut out Muslims who refuse to become an uncle Tarek” – presumably a dig at Muslim Canadian Congress founder Tarek Fatah, who has apparently sullied himself in McClelland’s eyes by taking a stand against Islamism and advocating the separation of religion in state.
Anyway, I doubt that any amount of evidence will convince people like McClelland that reports of the barbarous treatment suffered by democratic dissidents in Iran are anything other than fairy tales concocted by anti-Muslim fanatics like me. But I suspect other readers will be disturbed and saddened to read about this 15-year-old democrat, whose body and spirit has been broken by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s rapists.
His family is exploring ways to leave Iran. I wish they might find a home here.