Hearing the words “legitimate rape" tumble from Rep.Todd Akin's mouth robbed "The Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler of her sleep. So Ensler, a rape survivor herself, decided to write Akin a letter calling his remarks a "form of re-rape."
By now, you've probably heard the story; that in response to a question as to whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape the Missouri Senate candidate –– the father of two daughters –– argued that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.
In case you're wondering what he meant by "legitimate rape," The New York Times explained, that when used over the past two decades among anti-abortion advocates, the term “legitimate rape” usually means “forcible rape.” (Is there a rape that isn't forcible?)
“If it’s a legitimate rape," the congressmen went on to explain, victims couldn't become pregnant, because after rape:"the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said matter-of-factly, as if asked about the weather outside. The interview, hosted by KTVI-TV was posted on Sunday on the station’s Web site.
W. Todd Akin represents Missouri’s Second District (January 3, 2001-present).
Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine...
To the surprise of Akin, who is now sorry for making a "mistake" in the words he chose, the story provoked outrage around the world as far away as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Ensler, the Tony Award-winning playwright, happened to be working "with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies."
Lying awake at 2 a.m. in Bukavu in the City of Joy in the Congo, Ensler decided to write Akin a letter because "your words have kept me awake," she wrote.
Using vivid, frank language, the open letter titled, "Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine..." published on The Huffington Post, Ensler wrote that the Missouri Senate candidate's "very specific ignorant statement” shows he has “no awareness of what it means to be raped."
Ensler knows what she's talking about: she's a rape survivor.
In the letter that WPTV reports has been shared more than 60,000 times on Facebook, Ensler's goal is simply this: to help Akin understand what rape "does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet."
Eve Ensler's via The Huffington Post reads in part:
"You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape,"
It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped—intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.
Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? Reproductive health leading expert: it is just nuts
Since Akin's comments on Sunday, news reports say that one of the doctors he may have gotten his evidence from is Dr. John C. Willke, a general practitioner with obstetric training and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee. According to the New York Times, he first espoused this view in a book originally published in 1985 and again in a 1999 article.
Willke, who is 87, told The New York Times Monday that “way under 1 percent” of rape victims become pregnant" but he added a twist saying, "it's not just because of female biology but because about half of rapists “do not deposit sperm in the vagina.”
He shed light on what Akin may have meant when he said, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”
Some leading experts on reproductive health, however, were left speechless.
“There are no words for this — it is just nuts,” said Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, The Times reported.