50 Shades of Rape

Congressman Todd Aiken made a comment a few weeks ago about how women don’t get pregnant from ”legitimate rapes”. What was so outrageous to many is that if you read between the lines, it could be interpreted as “if you got pregnant, then you weren’t really raped, you were actually up for it.” Yeah, that would be pretty dickish to say. Let’s take a second, not to be outraged at his comments, but to be objective. And I’m not defending the guy, but I’m curious about the statement.

Before doing so, let me first state that I know how highly charged this subject is and how horrible a thing rape is. I’m Pro-Choice and a devout atheist, so I’m not trying to sell anything here. But I’m interested in what he meant, and I don’t think he meant to be an asshole, despite the fact that I don’t at all agree with his position on the subject. From what I know of Todd Aiken, he is a Christian politician and wants to outlaw abortion. I’ve seen this in enough other people to consider it a serious bias where people search for data which will negate reasons why abortions should be legal. He was attacking the abortion
“trump card” where “in cases of rape, a woman, if impregnated as a result, will want and deserve an abortion.” He is trying to make the case that the human body has a natural defense which inhibits being impregnated by a rapist. So, his political stance, to me, is bullshit, but I am curious if the science is true. (and yes, I think it’s ironic that Christians are using scientific data to back up their positions). He said “legitimate rape” but I think I know what he means.

Let’s think about rape for a minute. As a man, I know about rape from the girls I’ve been close to who have told me about their bad experiences. At some point, you start to come to the conclusion that most women have had some shitty experiences sexually. Now, what I want to think about are the “degrees of rape” that are out there – a sort of spectrum, if you will, where on the one end you have “slight verbal coersion” and on the other end you have “violent and forcible”. I think when Todd Aiken was saying “legitimate rape”, he meant the “violent” end of things. And the question is interesting to consider: does the female body somehow reject the sperm of a violent rapist?

Without looking into research (cause I’m too lazy to do so), I would like to take an evolutionary perspective and consider what natural selection would favor. To do this, it will be helpful to discuss rape in general for a minute.

Rape is bad, but rape is everywhere. It has been a part of humanity forever. Violence has declined over the span of the last 10,000 years, and I would like to say that rape has too, but I don’t know if that’s the case. I can imagine that rape is less accepted than it was even 200 years ago as women’s position in the world has become more powerful, but maybe that doesn’t matter. I mean, who cares if we are all unanimously appauled by rape if it is still going strong with the same frequency year after year? That disgust must translate to a change in behavior or else it is not worth all that much.

So, why does rape exist? What purpose does it serve? In a recent stand up show, Louis CK said: “You should never rape anyone unless you have a reason like, you want to fuck somebody and they won’t let you in which case uh, what other options do you have?”. Crude (also funny, I mean, come on…). But it points out the obvious: men want to have sex with women and that drive is very, very strong. From an evolutionary point of view, the male strategy of “love ‘em and leave ‘em” has also paid off enough to make it a staple of the male sexual repetoire. So, in terms of results, it doesn’t matter if when he loved her and left her, that she was a willing participant, it only matters that he got his sperm in her vagina. Once again, crude.

Now, you thought that was kind of nasty, but it gets nastier. And again, not at all advocating any of this, just thinking in a cold, objective way about why rape exists and why natural selection would allow it to remain on the planet – cause don’t forget that animals rape and get raped all the time. If you’re not comfortable thinking about people, which I can totally imagine, try thinking about forcible mating among animals… Yes, let’s talk about a gorilla for a moment to cool the emotions a bit. Imagine a male gorilla wants to have sex with a female. She wants a worthy male to foster her children. Such a male would be strong. When he pushes her into sex, he is in a sense showing that he is strong. “He didn’t ask, he just took”, as Homer Simpson once put it. It may sound distasteful, but it’s only the results that count. In this sense, a coy female may actually be “asking for it”. Like “show me what you got”. She is sitting on the sexual fence and wants a strong male to pull her over.

Bak to humans. Female erotica often describes women in situations where a strong, attractive man, shall we say “decides” for the pair that they will have sex, or so I’ve been told. Apparently women are aroused by this scenario – an attractive man taking away their doubt about a sexul encounter. This is not really rape, but it’s a fine line between doubt and “I really don’t think so”. And, of course, the prerequisite is a man they already find attractive. And not to be sexist – men also have such fantasies of being the “prey” of sexually headstrong women.

I knew a girl once who was raped. She told me that when she told her boyfriend about the rape, he was mad at her. I, of course, thought to myself “what an asshole”. But later, I could see myself also getting mad if my girlfriend was raped. Like “how could you let this happen?”. As if some part of her, maybe, possibly, was OK with it. Not if there was some brutal, out of nowhere, forcible rape, but if there was existing contact,flirtation, and then coersion. In such a situation, we lean to the “softer” side of the spectrum where a woman still may get something out of the sexual encounter. Maybe on some level she does want sex, but on others she does not. She has an internal conflict and the man, again quite crudely, resolves it for her. Men don’t experience this internal conflict as much. Men have much less to lose in the way of reputation, and men, traditionally, are penalized less by society for cheating on their partner. Men also have much less to lose in general when having sex with a sub-par partner, since our sperm is so damn endless. A woman’s eggs are a scare commodity and quality in a mate is a big deal,so there will often be hesitation when a woman has sex with a man she is not totally gung-ho about. But rape is more personal and hurtful than a pushy car salesman. It touches the core of a woman’s being. And we maybe we are asking too much when we expect men to respect the slightest hesitation in a woman, but then we are dealing with something very important and it is better to lean on the side of caution.

What about the violent end of the spectrum, where a woman has abosuletly no desire to have sex and the male uses forcible means to get it? We’re all unanimously against this and most of us agree that the mother should have the choice to abort any child conceived as a result of this act. But Aiken believes this to be a non-issue. He believes that the female body has mechanisms built in to prevent the pregancy from even happening in such a case. He called it a “legitimate rape”, but when he meant was on the “violent, no-doubt” end of the spectrum. Nothing offensive about that to me. But what he’s implying is that if a pregnancy does result, than it probably wasn’t a real “violent, forcible rape” but actually one where the woman was sitting on the fence. That is some thin ice, my friends… If your science isn’t totally backed up and proven, then you are slapping a whole lot of people in the face all at the same time.

I have no idea if this belief is true or not, but I’ll bite. It sounds plausible. It sounds like something nature would do, and I’ve been studying her for some time now. She’s not totally crazy. Women are behooved in controlling who impregnates them. Why would nature leave the door open like that? If there isn’t some mechanism in place to prevent rapes from resulting in pregnancymthere should be one. If there isn’t, it’s a horrible oversight on Mother Nature’s part.

Concusions here? The whole discussion is a non-issue. Rape, or no rape, women decide if a baby is aborted or not. It can be no other way. It’s not “our” baby until the umbilical chord is cut – until then, it’s ”her” baby and she gets to decide what she does with it. As a man I don’t necessarily like this idea, but it’s not up to me. Men simply have to suck it up and, once the baby is out in the world, then laws in place to protect can be enforced. Anything less than that is doomed to failure. Can women reject pregnancy through violent rape? It may be interesting for biology class, but outside of that it doesn’t matter.

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