Of Todd Akin and vagina dentata

I interrupt my self-imposed moratorium on using ClobberBlog to comment on politics to bring you this much-needed bit of  snark, in the form of an open letter to Todd Akin:

Rep. Akin of Missouri, though I applaud your apparent taste in film, I think you should know that Mitchell Lichtenstein’s 2007 black horror comedy Teeth was a work of fiction, not a documentary on the female anatomy. What I’m trying to say is, we women don’t really have dentata in our vaginas. When we are raped, our bodies do not possess “ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Sexual intercourse via coercion has just as much a chance of conceiving a child as consensual sex.

I know that you have since tried to walk back a portion of your remarks, but I have not seen you try to walk back your ignorance. Since approximately 51.47% of your state is female, maybe you shouldn’t be in a position to vote on problems that effect women if you can’t be bothered to learn about us, hmm?

As someone who is pro-life, Republican, and feminist (yes, I self-identify as all of those things), I just want to encourage you to consider stepping down from this election. I think you’ve had a Clayton Williams moment, and I don’t believe you will recover from it.


Comments

Of Todd Akin and vagina dentata — 28 Comments

  1. Well said, Jack.

    Can you imagine if he stays in the race? I fear the number of votes he gets would make me convulse.

    But maybe he got confused with those stories about cysts that grow teeth and hair?

  2. When we are raped, our bodies do not possess “ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

    Actually, I believe I have read something about that. I think it was Justin, one of the contributors of my blog, that brought up some scientific research that showed that the female body does try to reject sperm from strange males in which there is no emotional attachment. I’m not sure where it is written on the blog, but I’m pretty sure he wrote it down somewhere there. Contact him for the data. He knows where everything is.

  3. I think it was Justin, one of the contributors of my blog, that brought up some scientific research that showed that the female body does try to reject sperm from strange males in which there is no emotional attachment.

    I don’t know of what use the scientific information would be — considering the poorly worded comment from Akin ["legitimate" rape -- as if there's a kind that's "illegitimate"]. People are quite emotional about the topic [one way or the other in regards to it]. And emotion usually clouds the light of rationality.

    But, in any event, I’ve mentioned this paper: Preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications as an adaptive response to unfamiliar semen (2009) — on the LDS Anarchy blog before.

    I also noted on LDSA’s post, “Sperm Sorting Function” that:

    I think polyandry [and multiple sources of familiar sperm] may also act as an environmental cue of a stable rearing environment for the infant.

    In order to maintain narrow hips for bipedal locomotion [while at the same time outsourcing expensive colon tissue in exchange for expensive cerebral tissue], humans shifted most of the critical gestation time when the brain goes through rapid development to the “womb” of the family. Essentially, physical development of organs and such takes place in utero — but neural development takes place in the tribe.
    I know research has found that the timing of a girl’s first menstrual cycle can be influenced by how her father relates with her — essentially a bad home life tells the girl’s body to grow-up fast and find a husband [because the Dad is awful].

    I wonder if there are such cues being sent by having multiple fathers — as a signal of a more secure home environment for mother and baby?

    and

    Orgasm also causes more sperm to be retained in the vagina [instead of "leaking out" post-coitus] — so there is also selection favoring the better lover.

    Though I don’t think such facts could help Akin out of the mess he dug himself in with those poorly worded remarks of his.

  4. When I read “legitimate rape,” I took it to mean that it was an actual rape and not a pretended rape. In other words, it wasn’t two people coming together consensually and then afterward, for whatever reason, the woman accuses the man of rape.

    My dictionary gives “legitimate” as meaning, “2. Real; genuine; not false, counterfeit or spurious.” I, personally, don’t see what the big deal is about his words. They don’t seem poorly worded to me. The fact that the man seems to know so much about the female body and sexual functions is actually quite impressive to me.

  5. When I read “legitimate rape,” I took it to mean that it was an actual rape and not a pretended rape. In other words, it wasn’t two people coming together consensually and then afterward, for whatever reason, the woman accuses the man of rape.

    I believe that’s what he meant as well. It was simply a stupid choice of words because the question pertained to women who have really been raped, so there was no need to bring up women who haven’t. It’s politically disastrous to even raise the question of legitimacy and rape when fielding questions like this, and it’s not like this was a hard question that Republicans aren’t asked frequently. A person running for Senate should know how to answer this.

    The fact that the man seems to know so much about the female body and sexual functions is actually quite impressive to me.

    He doesn’t. The paper Justin is linking to doesn’t primarily argue that the female body can prevent pregnancy in the event of rape. It argues that pre-eclampsia may be an evolutionary mechanism for terminating a pregnancy naturally when it results from “unfamiliar sperm” due to an intrinsic sense of lack of paternal investment. This wouldn’t have much bearing on the “abortion in the case of rape” debate because pre-eclampsia doesn’t develop earlier than 20 weeks gestation, and most cases don’t develop until 32+ weeks. Most abortions are sought in the first trimester, and no raped woman is going to rejoice at having to carry a pregnancy for 20-30+ weeks in hopes that her body will naturally abort it.

    There’s also the fact that some rapes occur at the hands of ex-boyfriends or husbands who would already have established “sperm familiarity,” and that some women are raped repeatedly by the same male acquaintance. This theory wouldn’t remedy such rapes.

    There is this from the paper:

    Indeed, there is recent evidence that human females may have an ensemble of evolved strategies that function to reduce the likelihood of being raped during the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle when they would be more likely to conceive.

    But then it goes on to say that these “evolved strategies” include things like a tendency to not engage in “risky behavior” during the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. This section says nothing about a mechanism to block sperm in the case of rape.

    The only part that might be seen as supporting what Akin said is found on p. 8:

    After conception occurs continued insemination by the father may have other adaptive consequences. The cytokines interleukin 6 and 8 and tumor necrosis factor found in semen (Maegawa et al., 2002) are involved with mechanisms that regulate placentation, implantation, and fetal maturation. Likewise, the high levels of prostaglandins in semen may diminish the immune response of the mother to the fetus. The presence of prostaglandins, placental hormones 5, 12, and 14, human chorionic gonadotropin, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone in human semen (see Chapter 8 in this volume) are all components that have been implicated in preeclampsia (Ney, 1986; Pridjian and Puschett, 2002; Sepp¨ al ¨a et al., 1985). Therefore, the absence of recurrent insemination by the father during the initial stages of pregnancy may lead to a series of events that eventuate in the failure to achieve implantation or spontaneous abortion. Consistent with the fact that humans are the only species to undergo a second phase of implantation, there may be a critical period of prenatal development in which the presence of the father’s semen facilitates the second phase of implantation.

    But “women are slightly less likely to get pregnant when they are not repeatedly inseminated by the same man, as is often the case with rape” is a pretty far cry from the certainty of “the female body has ways of shutting down pregnancy when it’s rape.”

  6. But “women are slightly less likely to get pregnant when they are not repeatedly inseminated by the same man, as is often the case with rape” is a pretty far cry from the certainty of “the female body has ways of shutting down pregnancy when it’s rape.”

    I agree that it’s the certainty of his remarks that made them so disastrous.

    They do tell women undergoing IVF to “avoid stress” because that does affect the chances of her successful pregnancy — but you can’t track the percentages of women who were raped but who’s body prevented a pregnancy from occurring — so there’s no way to prove his claim.

    And while there are a fair percentage of rape cases that do end in spontaneous abortions — most are aborted [by surgical intervention] — so again there’s no sure-way to know what the body would do naturally, without intervention. Besides the cases of spontaneous abortion disprove Akin anyway because that means the woman did get pregnant.

    The way Akin put it just seems to victim-blame a pregnant rape victim for her pregnancy — so that’s why no matter how well read-up he was on legitimate science [no pun], his comment was offensive.

    No pregnancy if it was legitimate rape” as a biological certainty just means she must not have “fully” resisted [somewhere in her subconscious or something she "wanted" it] — because if she had legitimately resisted — her body would have stepped-in and prevented the pregnancy. It puts the burden-of-proof on the victim, instead of the rapist.

  7. The way Akin put it just seems to victim-blame a pregnant rape victim for her pregnancy — so that’s why no matter how well read-up he was on legitimate science [no pun], his comment was offensive.

    “No pregnancy if it was legitimate rape” as a biological certainty just means she must not have “fully” resisted [somewhere in her subconscious or something she "wanted" it] — because if she had legitimately resisted — her body would have stepped-in and prevented the pregnancy. It puts the burden-of-proof on the victim, instead of the rapist.

    Well-said.

  8. I’m not sure why I’m still trying to defend what Akins said with you two, since I don’t bother with politics or politicians, but I’ve got to at least attempt to correct the last few comments.

    Ms. Jack, you said three comments up:

    But “women are slightly less likely to get pregnant when they are not repeatedly inseminated by the same man, as is often the case with rape” is a pretty far cry from the certainty of “the female body has ways of shutting down pregnancy when it’s rape.”

    This isn’t what Akins said. He said the female body has “ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akins spoke in no certain terms, whatsoever. I think that everybody that either reads his words, or listens to them, is subconsciously taking the words “to try” out, as you did when you paraphrased them.

    Justin, you agreed that the paraphrasing was correct, but again, the paraphrase was not what the man said. We don’t know what research Akins has looked into. The man is apparently on a Science Committee, so it is likely he is privy to much more than that one paper you linked above. But just based on that one science paper, it would appear that the statement “ways to try to shut that whole thing down” is true and factual.

    Also, Justin, you did your own paraphrase, stating:

    “No pregnancy if it was legitimate rape” as a biological certainty.

    This seems to me to be a vicious cycle. We misread his words, paraphrase them into something other than what he actually said, and then attack the paraphrase as completely devoid of logic, empathy and tact.

    I’m not defending or supporting Akins’ position on abortion or rape. All I’m doing is saying let’s not twist his words into something they are not. If you want to attack what he said, then attack his actual words, not the erroneous paraphrase of them. Based on what he actually said, it still rings true to me. This can be shown by asking a serious of questions:

    Q: Does the female body have ways to try to shut down pregnancy in cases of legitimate rape?

    A: Science says, “Yes.”

    Q: Is there such a thing as a “legitimate” rape?

    A: Yes, as explained by a simple perusal of a good dictionary.

    Q: Does Akins say it is impossible to get pregnant by rape?

    A: No. He says it is possible to get pregnant, but that the body has ways to try not to.

    All of this is true and factual. Where is the controversy? The only controversy I can see are in his statements that he feels that even in cases of legitimate rape, in which the female gets pregnant, he is still against abortion. Many people have very strong feelings about that and so I can understand hot-headed comments concerning that, but concerning the other, apparently true things he stated? I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything in the least offensive or victim-blaming about them. That view, to me, is reading more into what he said than he put there himself.

  9. LDS Anarchist ~ The female body doesn’t have ways of trying to shut down insemination by rape. Period. The triggers for “shutting things down” in the paper you’ve cited is semen infamiliarity (which often, but not always, applies to rape), not rape. What Akin said was wrong in every sense of the word.

    You want to keep on saying that everyone who is upset and outraged by his comments is just reading him wrong, you go right ahead.

  10. Ms. Jack, Akin doesn’t specify insemination, at all. You are reading more into his words, once again. He says, “shut that whole thing down” but doesn’t specify whether that is prevention of pregnancy or natural abortion somewhere along the line. Here are the exact words of that interview:

    Interviewer: “Okay so if, if an abortion could be considered in the case of, say, uh, tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about in the case of rape? Whuh, should it be legal or not?”

    Akin: “Well you know, uh, uh, people always wanna try and make that as one of those things: Well, how do ya, how do ya slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question? It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

    Taken in the context of what he said and of just that one paper Justin cited, it seems fairly obvious that he is talking about rape from an unknown assailant, from someone who is unfamiliar to her, with whom she has no emotional attachment. In other words, Akin is giving one of the most extreme cases of legitimate, violent rape as an example, and saying that even in such horrific cases, he is against abortion.

    You say that what Akin said “was wrong in every sense of the word.” No, not in every sense. If there are seven senses of what he said and six of them are absurd and wrong, while the seventh sense is perfectly logical and correct, why do you insist that he meant the absurd senses? He points to research (the doctors) and that research (as far as we know) applies to unfamiliar, unemotionally attached intercourse, so why assume he is talking about something other than the research he is pointing to?

    In your OP, you stated:

    When we are raped, our bodies do not possess “ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Sexual intercourse via coercion has just as much a chance of conceiving a child as consensual sex.

    This is flat out wrong in the case of unfamiliar semen. But you didn’t know that until I brought it to your attention via Justin’s linked paper.

    You then wrote in the OP:

    I know that you have since tried to walk back a portion of your remarks, but I have not seen you try to walk back your ignorance.

    The same can be said about you. I have not seen you, Ms. Jack, try to walk back your ignorance. Now you are saying that Akin was not referring to unfamiliar, unemotionally attached rape, but this is an assumption on your part. Why not just admit that you spoke ignorantly, not being aware of the data, and that now that you are aware of the data, perhaps Akin was referring to this specific set of rape circumstances and that his words now, perhaps, make more sense? Why continue to insist that he must be wrong in “every sense of the word?”

  11. LDSAnarchist ~ He says, “shut that whole thing down” but doesn’t specify whether that is prevention of pregnancy or natural abortion somewhere along the line.

    Again, natural abortion “somewhere along the line” wouldn’t be particularly relevant to this debate because the vast majority of abortions (more than 90%) are performed in the first trimester.

    Taken in the context of what he said and of just that one paper Justin cited, it seems fairly obvious that he is talking about rape from an unknown assailant, [SNIP] perhaps Akin was referring to this specific set of rape circumstances and that his words now, perhaps, make more sense?

    Sounds to me like you’re the one reading more into Akin’s remarks than what he said. Projection much?

    This is flat out wrong in the case of unfamiliar semen.

    I said nothing about familiar or unfamiliar semen. I said, “Sexual intercourse via coercion has just as much a chance of conceiving a child as consensual sex.” And I stand by that, because a large amount of consensual encounters are one-night stands which would also fail to pass this “semen familiarity” test that you are advocating. One 1996 study found that the rate for pregnancy from rape is 5%, which compares to pregnancy rates from consensual sexual encounters.

    I have not seen you, Ms. Jack, try to walk back your ignorance.

    That’s because you haven’t demonstrated ignorance in my post.

    Why continue to insist that he must be wrong in “every sense of the word?”

    Because he was. Women do not have a trigger tied to rape wherein our bodies attempt to prevent or abort pregnancy.

  12. LDSA — I don’t think I’ve committed a straw-man, or:

    This seems to me to be a vicious cycle. We misread his words, paraphrase them into something other than what he actually said, and then attack the paraphrase as completely devoid of logic, empathy and tact.

    as you worded it.

    So, I’ll go through Akin’s answer, which you provided, to explain my position:

    It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare.

    What is the “that” which he says is “really rare” — per the question, it’s a pregnancy resulting from a rape.

    The data show that 1-in-6 women in the US have either been the victim of rape or attempted rape — and that figure used a definition for “rape” that excludes various forms of non-consensual sexual-assault woman can experience. Check out Holmes, et al. (1996) [this is the 1996 paper Jack referred to above] and Wilcox, et al. (2001) for evidence that, on any given day, a rape victim as the same likelihood of being impregnated as a consensual-sex participant.

    Bear in mind that at this point in Akin’s answer — he is referring to a pregnancy occurring — we haven’t gotten to the chance of spontaneous abortions to end the resulting pregnancy. He’s saying “first of all“, even getting pregnant is rare. It might be [~3-5% change isn't very high] — but relative to consensual sex, it’s just as likely.

    Next, he says:

    If it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

    It’s here I think we disagree on what he’s saying [as you noted, for purely the sake of argument -- I don't live in Missouri and wouldn't be voting for either him or his opponent even if I did. I don't have a dog in the fight, either way]. But you said:

    Akin doesn’t specify insemination, at all. You are reading more into his words, once again. He says, “shut that whole thing down” but doesn’t specify whether that is prevention of pregnancy or natural abortion somewhere along the line.

    I think he is specifying the prevention of a pregnancy — and he’s not referring to a spontaneous abortion to end the unwanted pregnancy.

    I must infer that “that whole thing” is the woman’s ability to get pregnant because this is still a continuation of the same topic he addressing in the first sentence: the rarity of pregnancy resulting from rape. Meaning, he’s saying in the case of a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to stop being fertile [to stop a pregnancy from occurring], which is why [per his first sentence] he thinks they are quite rare.

    I said that I’d be willing to accept the female body has ways to try to shut down the pregnancy, once it has occurred — by a spontaneous abortion. But Akin is still talking about a pregnancy occurring in the first place.

    It’s not until the end of his answer that he gets to what he appears to consider a purely “hypothetical” chance that a legitimately-raped woman gets pregnant:

    But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something.

    Now he’s talking about a legitimately-raped woman becoming pregnant. Before this sentence — he’s been addressing whether she’d even get pregnant at all.

    As worded, his remarks suggest that if a pregnancy happens to result — then it’s more likely that the woman [if she claims to have been raped] wasn’t “legitimately” raped — because her body should have “shut the whole thing down.” He’s saying there’s but a small, hypothetical likelihood that it “didn’t work or something“. But that would be the exception, not the rule.

    Which is why I said his remarks [as worded] shift the burden-of-proof onto the pregnant woman. The question becomes: if the rape was “legitimate”, then her body should have “shut it down” — so what happened then?

  13. Okay, I thought to drop this subject, but I’ll take it up again. I’ll show you how my mind works in relation to reading or hearing someone’s words, such as Akin’s words.

    (And let me just say, before I begin, that from what you just wrote I now understand where you are coming from, Justin. I can see how you arrived at the conclusion you did.)

    Okay, so this is how I see it:

    First of all, the prophecy of the future wicked church taking “the advantage of one because of his words” (2 Ne. 28:8) always comes to mind. So, I try (but don’t always succeed) to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are talking about. There are almost always two sides to every issue, two (or more) ways of seeing things, two ways of knowing, etc. This is one of the reasons why I even responded to this post, namely, that there needs to be some balance to the universal condemnation of this man. This is how our high councils operate, with half the council assigned to defending the accused. Although I’m not half, at the very least, I wanted to show that it is possible to make sense of his words, if we know some research.

    A couple of assumptions must be made in regard to Akin. First, since he is apparently on a science committee, we have to assume that he knows the science. So, we must assume that he knows what we know, namely the rape pregnancy rate and the unfamiliar semen data, as well as, perhaps, any other studies that may not be available to us. So, we must assume that the man is informed.

    Second, we must assume that he had some specific or general idea in mind when he spoke. Sometimes humans speak generally, sometimes they speak specifically. Typically, they give clues as to whether they are referring to something general or specific, known as modifiers or qualifiers. If we miss the clues, misunderstanding results.

    In my own life, this happens all the time. I’ll be speaking of a very specific set of circumstances (with qualifying statements) and my words will be misconstrued to apply to other or more general circumstances, and miscommunication will result. If a person asks me to clarify what I mean by what I said, then understanding results, but if a person just assumes that I meant x, (when really I meant y), then arguments and bad feeling and misunderstandings result.

    So, we must assume that Akin had something in mind when he spoke. The question is, then, was he speaking of something general or specific?

    Again, operating on the “give the man the benefit of the doubt” principle, which does not take the advantage of his words nor does it go under the assumption that the man is an idiot, when we look at his words, they appear to apply, at first, generally (per the question), but then Akin qualifies his words by saying,

    “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare.

    So, we now know where he’s starting from. He’s not pulling these beliefs from his ass, he’s basing them on what he learned from doctors, which we can assume come from the research we here are aware of, which talks of unfamiliar semen. So, he is not referring to something general, but specific, because it’s based on specific information available to doctors.

    Again, we give him the benefit of the doubt, and say, “He must be referring to a specific type of rape, namely, rape from a complete stranger, for that is the only kind of rape that matches his words.” Now, he doesn’t specifically say this, but if we want clarification, we should call him up and ask him to clarify, instead of criticizing the man and saying he’s a moron.

    I speak all the time in the very same manner this man has spoken, giving clarifying clues as to what I’m talking about, only to have people misconstrue my meaning.

    Justin, you assumed that the “that” Akin was referring to was addressing general rape per the interviewer’s question, but the way my mind works, and I’d bet the way Akin’s mind works, is that he answered the question in a specific manner, with the qualifying clue inserted, regardless of the general nature of the question. In other words, the general nature of the question does not apply to his answer, because the answer itself gave a qualifier. Some people operate after this fashion. I’m one of them. Akin appears to be like me in this instance.

    To make it plainer to you, using me as an example, if I were Akin, and stated, “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare,” my mind would be looking at the unfamiliar semen research, as a specific set of circumstances, and the “that” that is really rare would apply to all the “that” spoken of in the research. In other words, “that” would mean “all of that” spoken of in the research, which includes spontaneous abortion.

    So, although you assume he is only speaking of pregnancy occurring, had I myself made that statement, I would be referring to everything stated in that paper, including spontaneous abortion. This is how my mind works and I’d wager this is how Akin’s mind works.

    (And had you or others said I was crazy for attaching such a meaning, I would point you to my qualifying phrase about the doctors.)

    The phrases “legitimate” rape and “from what I learned from doctors” show that Akin is talking of something specific. Now, what does Akin mean by these qualifiers? We can guess and come to some possible meanings that fit, but if confusion still results, the thing to do is request clarification.

    When I first read his words, because I knew about Justin’s linked paper, my mind immediately assigned a meaning to his words that fit the data, so it didn’t phase me. Akin’s words made sense to me and were not offensive in the least. I could see his mind looking at a specific set of circumstances, even a rape from a complete stranger. His use of qualifiers told my brain that he was being specific and my brain found the set of circumstances that fit the clues in the qualifiers.

    Now, if, after someone asks the guy, “What did you mean by saying x and y, etc.” and he responds, “I was talking of rape in general, etc.” and shows himself for an actual fool, going against the data, then that is a different situation. But until then, we must assume the best, not the worst, about the man. We must make his words fit, and they can be made to fit, based on the data.

    Now, I may be wrong concerning Akin, but there is only one way to find out: asking him for clarification as to what, specifically, he meant. Barring that, there are two ways of viewing him: as a complete moron or as an informed man who knew what he was talking about.

    The evidence, though, shows that Akin still doesn’t think what he said was wrong. When he gave his apology, he did not recant what he said. It was merely an acknowledgement that he should have shown more empathy, but it wasn’t a admission that his beliefs on rape contradicted the scientific research, which shows, if we give him the benefit of the doubt, that in his mind, what he said did not contradict the data. And it doesn’t, if he was speaking of a specific set of circumstances.

  14. So, I try (but don’t always succeed) to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are talking about.

    You may be a more generous man than I am LDSA — in that I simply believe that his answer to the question made clear that his POV is that pregnancy resulting from a rape is a rare event, because biologically a woman has mechanism to prevent a pregnancy if she gets raped.

    It’s a common myth among religious fundamentalists [Christians and otherwise] — and it’s lumped in the variety of religious myths like the vagina dentata mentioned in the title of the OP.

    I certainly get that there is a “meta-point” he was making — and that one should not be hanged for the specific wording of one interview — and that one should always be given the liberty to clarify themselves when they feel they misspoke or their words were misunderstood.

    However, Akin also comes from a conservative-statist, fundamentalist American-Christian paradigm that departs from the science when it comes to things like evolution and sex. As I said earlier:

    People are quite emotional about the topic [one way or the other in regards to it]. And emotion usually clouds the light of rationality.

    An example of the over-all perspective from this crowd is summed-up in this tongue-in-cheek flowchart: Can I Get Pregnant?].

    I think it comes down to the fact that Akin [and other Christian-conservative-statists] doesn’t believe rape to be a valid exception for abortion. And while we are giving him due credit by trying to understand the over-all context of his remarks — that too should not be forgotten.

    FWIW — I do think that’s the “meta-point” he was trying to make — but failed to make because of the lightning-storm over his “legitimate rape” wording. As he tried to sum-up at the end of his answer:

    You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

    He wants the focus to be on the fact that the rapist is the one to be punished — not the life in the womb [whatever the likelihood that a woman gets pregnant from rape happens to be]. He wanted to make sure we focus on the fact that there is a human life at stake when we talk about abortion — and we should talk more about punishing a rapist, instead of punishing an unborn child [a point with which I would agree].

  15. Over at Times and Seasons, they’ve got a post called, Not a Legitimate Rape, in which the first paragraph states:

    I’ve been listening to the radio this morning about the Republican Party platform and abortion and rape. I’ve never had an abortion; thankfully I’ve never been in a situation where that seemed like a viable option. I am thankful that the Church handbook allows for abortion, but even there the wording is “forcible rape or incest” [fn1]. And apparently Representative and would-be Senator Akin meant to say “forcible rape” rather than the terribly unfortunate “legitimate rape.”

    This seems to confirm what I’ve been saying, that Akin was talking about a very specific set of circumstances, namely the violent rape by a complete stranger.

    I realize that this still doesn’t make mention of the qualifier “by a complete stranger,” but if I was a betting man, I’d bet that this is what Akin had in view when he spoke those words.

    If it turns out that this is what he meant by his words, then can we really say that what he said was insufficiently clear if at least one person, (namely, me,) understood him? I don’t know Akin from Adam, but if I understood him (assuming his meaning is what I ascribe it to be), then perhaps there are others who also understood the meaning of his words, such as the interviewer, who seemed to accept what he said without batting an eye.

    This reminds me of something Richard Hoagland once wrote about, how the population of the world is split into three perspectives. One third will look at a picture and be able to see something in it that the other two-thirds cannot see or discern. Same goes with the other two-thirds. You can find this article on the Enterprise Mission web site, if you want to search it out. It may be the same principle when it comes to words and communication. Akin says what he said and there will be a portion of the population (the vocal portion criticizing him) that misconstrues his meaning and doesn’t understand what he meant to say, while there may be another portion that understands his meaning perfectly.

    Or take, for example, you and I, and say dyc4557, EC, Anthony Larson and some others. Put us in an auditorium with a bunch of other Mormons and let’s have a theological discussion. Chances are that many other Mormons around us will be as confused as can be with our conversations, even though we are speaking English and using common Mormon terms. And yet, we understand each other and speak to our understanding.

    Akin appears to have spoken in a way that some understand, but others don’t. For me, that’s perfectly acceptable. So, although I understand the background of Akin from your words, until the man comes out and clarifies his words so that it becomes plain that they conflict with the published data, should we really color them based upon his affiliation with a religion? I am a Mormon. Does that mean that all of my beliefs conform to the ideas of the Mormons sitting next to me in the pews?

    But even if Akin says his views contradict the scientific observations (as if science was the be-all and end-all of all things), what of it? Many of my own views also contradict modern, scientific thought. To each his own.

    However, if we feel we must correct him, this is the way we are taught how to influence people: by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, by love unfeigned, by kindness and pure knowledge.

    So, if someone wants to correct Akin, first we should determine exactly what he meant by his words, to find out if there needs to be a correction, and second, if a correction is needed, this is the manner to do it, not by criticizing and attacking. (Obviously, there is an exception in which we reprove with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.)

    This whole Akin affair stinks of stirring up the hearts of men to contention. I’m not referring to this blog, but to the general blogs and circles in which people are discussing what he said. Akin has become the new boogie-man that everyone can vilify. There will be a new one tomorrow and the cycle will repeat.

  16. Here is another article discussing the data on rape in light of Akin’s words. I think that, apart from the vilification of Akin, this actually might be a good thing in getting people to review all the available data on rape, as this and other articles are doing. If people get more informed about things as a result of this, then I’m kind of glad Akin said what he said, regardless of what he meant. I especially love seeing all the conflicting data being presented in support of, or against, what he said. Kind of makes one go, “Which data set do I believe?” Science is almost as much fun as theology!

  17. Here is yet another article discussing the data. I would love to know where Akin is getting his information, so that the merits of that particular data set could be discussed in public.

    Until he reveals that, though, I must take his words as spoken as an individual and not in the context of any Christian pro-life movement, etc. It may be, Justin, that you are entirely correct that his views and his drawn-from data set come from the same source as the rest of those who profess the same things he does, but I have it as my personal rule to judge people as individuals, not as the Borg, until proven otherwise.

    Also, it may be that Akin and his buddies are unaware of the unfamiliar semen data set (for I have yet to see that paper come up in these articles.) If so, what would they do with that, I wonder, to promote their cause?

  18. LDS Anarchist ~ I feel like I’ve explained my position pretty well, and not sure I would benefit this conversation any more by continuing to repeat myself. It just seems that you’re willing to grant Akin all kinds of assumptions and benefits of the doubt that I’m not. In my view, the burden is on politicians to make their views clear and not say things that could easily be misconstrued and embarrass the party.

  19. As LDSA pointed out — the matter could’ve been easily resolved if Akin had come right out and clarified what he meant: when he was speaking generally, when specific — if he was referring to violent, stranger rape or familiar partner, coerced sex — if he was referring to a woman’s body having an iron-clad biology that can prevent pregnancy or if he meant miscarriages are more common when violent, stranger rape has occurred — etc., etc.

    But he never did. LDSA is free to choose to interpret his poorly worded statement [I say "poorly worded" because it leaves too much of his intended meaning vague and open for speculation] in a way that grants him the benefit of the doubt in all points — while others are free to interpret him the other way [as I do: explained here and here].

    He created that ambiguity around what he meant by the poor choice of phrasing and botched answer he gave — and them failed to appear publicly to explain himself in a straight-forward way.

    So yeah — I’d put the burden on him to clarify what he meant. Not on the public to assume it was all well-and-good.

  20. Ms. Jack wrote, “The burden is on politicians to make their views clear.”

    Justin wrote, “So yeah — I’d put the burden on him to clarify what he meant. Not on the public to assume it was all well-and-good.”

    We are talking about politics, right? Since when does politics and speaking ambiguously not go hand in hand? Lol.

    Justin wrote: “I say ‘poorly worded’ because it leaves too much of his intended meaning vague and open for speculation.”

    If that is the case, then I’d say Akin is a superb politician, for do they not strive for vagueness, to be all things to all people?

    Justin wrote, “LDSA is free to choose to interpret his poorly worded statement in a way that grants him the benefit of the doubt in all points.”

    I give him the benefit of the doubt because he left an out for himself, namely in the use of those two, very important words: “to try.” Had Akin removed those two words “to try” and instead stated, “…ways to shut that whole thing down,” then I’d be siding with the interpretation you two have of him. The fact that he states, “…ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” indicates that he is not asserting a scientific certainty. I’m perfectly okay with someone making such a statement as he has. So, he claims to have knowledge from doctors (and he doesn’t cite his sources) which indicates to him that that (whatever “that” is) is really rare and that the female body has ways to try (no certainty) to shut that whole thing (whatever “that whole thing” is) down, but if that (whatever “that” is) doesn’t work, he’s still pro-life. A superb use of vagueness. The man is a wonderful politician. I predict he’s going to win his Senate seat, despite all the uproar over this words.

    The only thing, then, that was poorly worded was using the word legitimate, for apparently he meant to use the word forcible instead, which removes statutory rape from the equation, and which indicates he had view of something specific and not rape in general.

    Finally, Ms. Jack, I understand your concern that Akin’s word might “embarrass the [Republican] party,” but I think it can be fairly well assumed that many of those who do not consider themselves affiliated with the Republican party probably already feel it is an embarrassment, so I doubt he is going to do more damage to its image than it already has.

  21. LDSA ~ Since when does politics and speaking ambiguously not go hand in hand?

    When one’s opponents can misconstrue one’s words to such an extent that it threatens one’s campaign, that’s when.

    I understand your concern that Akin’s word might “embarrass the [Republican] party,” but I think it can be fairly well assumed that many of those who do not consider themselves affiliated with the Republican party probably already feel it is an embarrassment, so I doubt he is going to do more damage to its image than it already has.

    Even if this were true, “Your party already sucks so why don’t you just go ahead and suck a little more” is terrible reasoning.

  22. LDSA:

    If that is the case, then I’d say Akin is a superb politician, for do they not strive for vagueness, to be all things to all people?

    Yes. This is certainly statism at work, I suppose. Be vague, try to appeal to both sides at once, have your meaning twisted by the “other side”, etc.

    This is all purely intellectual [me enjoying the parsing of words, evaluating the science, imagining the implications of the arguments, etc.], as far as I’m concerned — I don’t live in Akin’s state and wouldn’t be voting for either him or his opponent even if I did.

    Jack:

    Even if this were true, “Your party already sucks so why don’t you just go ahead and suck a little more” is terrible reasoning.

    I think he means that even if Akin had worded what he meant better — or quickly came out with damage-control and clarified what he meant — whatever, it wouldn’t matter because those against the Republicans would still be against them.

    It’s called the “Backfire Effect.

  23. Late to this, but there’s been women in comas who have become pregnant. Of course, the Hospitals they were in got sued for poor security.

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