Akin’s Idea of ‘Legitimate Rape’ Harkens Back to the Halcyon Days of the 13th Century…

That’s right, Missouri voters, you may be supporting a guy who gets his ideas from the halcyon days of the 13th century

Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for senate in Missouri, said in an interview released this weekend that he did not support abortion for rapevictims because:

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

The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant has long roots. The legal position that pregnancy disproved a claim of rape appears to have been instituted in the UK sometime in the 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts, Fleta, has a clause in the first book of the second volume stating that:

“If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

This was a long-lived legal argument. Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence contained the same idea as late as 1814:

“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

This “absolute rape” is not quite the same as Akin’s “legitimate rape”. Akin seems to be suggesting that the body suppresses conception or causes a miscarriage, while the earlier idea of Farr relates specifically to the importance of orgasm. Through the medieval and early modern period it was widely thought, by lay people as well as doctors, that women could only conceive if they had an orgasm.

Generally, though, the idea that a women had to orgasm in order to conceive (although not necessarily at exactly the same time as her male partner) was widespread in popular thought and medical literature in the medieval and early modern period. By logical extension, then, if a woman became pregnant, she must have experienced orgasm, and therefore could not have been the victim of an “absolute rape”.

Missouri elects Medieval Thinker.  That should be the headline if this silly little man is sent to DC.

Many thanks to Steve Inskeep on the twitter for the link to the Guardian.


2 thoughts on “Akin’s Idea of ‘Legitimate Rape’ Harkens Back to the Halcyon Days of the 13th Century…

  1. Milton Almeida 20 Aug 2012 at 10:42 am

    I am a conservative which is more than a Republican. I also lean more to the Libertarian side. But this guy is a certifiable idiot! There is only one idiot politician that is more dangerous than other idiot politicians: an idiot politician with a comfortable lead on the polls against his other idiot politician. How can anyone use the terms “legitimate rape” together!

    Well, Dr. West, you know Greek and Latin and few other languages so it wouldn’t be hard for you to conclude that: POLITICS comes from two words: POLY, which means MANY, and TICS which is a variation of the bloodsucker kind, or TICK, so POLITICS means MANY BLOOD SUCKERS!


    • Jim 20 Aug 2012 at 10:53 am

      i’m pretty sure your etymology of ‘politics’ is off base but i agree completely with your conclusion. 😉


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