Sunday, May 12, 2013

Revisiting ‘Shutting That Whole Thing Down'

Patty and her friend Helen met at Bodo’s for lunch on Thursday, and as it does with many close friends, their conversation strayed to what was eating them.  “Did you see that the president of the California Republican Assembly lost her office last week?” asked Helen.

“No,” said Patty, “I missed that.  But I don’t follow California politics.  Why did they dump her?”

“Apparently they were reacting to the public backlash after she claimed a couple of months ago that few women become pregnant when they’re raped ‘because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized’.”

“Sounds as if that remark was an act of ignorance, because the mind was neutralized,” Patty said.

“It does have that abstract, theoretical, detached-from-real-life quality.  It reminds me of when Paul Ryan referred to rape as a ‘method of conception’ that didn’t change the definition of life.”

“What is it with these politicians and rape?” Patty wondered.  “Are they slow learners?  I thought we’d heard the last of that after all those controversies leading up to the last elections.  It seems to have some weird fascination for them.  The topic’s like a tar-baby!  They just can’t resist grabbing the opportunity to talk about it.”

“Maybe they’ve bought into their own wishful thinking,” Helen said.  “You know, if you want to oppose abortion in all cases, and you also want to avoid dealing with the hard issue of post-rape pregnancy, then claiming that raped women don’t get pregnant is a way out of the trap you put yourself in.  It’s that old-time magic.  If you want a thing to be true, it’s true.  Abracadabra. Suddenly raped women can no longer get pregnant.  Just doesn’t happen.”

“That’s pretty much the same position that senatorial candidate took in the last election... what’s his name?” Patty asked.

“Uh huh.  Todd Aikin in Missouri.  Remember when he said, ‘If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”?

“I still cringe when I think about it.  That ‘legitimate rape’ line certainly didn’t help his cause.”

“No, it sure didn’t.  The first defense of a rapist is to claim that the sex was consensual and the woman ‘wanted it.‘   And when Aikin specified ‘legitimate rape,’ it implied that a lot of women are making bogus claims they’ve been assaulted.  By itself that was enough to really tick women off.  And then they could see the next logical step.  ‘She claims she was raped?  Oh, but she got pregnant?  Well, no way that’s a legitimate rape, then, because, you know, a real rape victim’s body would have just shut that whole thing down’.” 

“You have to wonder when somebody’s language starts to wander into a Never Never Land of vagueness and imprecision, don’t you?  The body has ways?  To shut that whole thing downOr something?  Seriously, does that sound like somebody who has the faintest clue what he’s talking about?”

“It doesn’t, but as unfounded and illogical as it is, it seems to have taken root.  You know, once a bat-crazy notion flies through enough belfries, it morphs into conventional wisdom in some quarters.”

© Tony Russell, 2013

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