Akin Breakin’ Heart

2012-08-24 – Before the Todd Akin story gets washed away by the next outrage, I’d like to make a couple of points.

First has to do with the complete absurdity of his statement that “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” I’m not going to quibble with his choice of the word “legitimate” versus “forcible.” And I’m not going to quibble with the science of it. People have had plenty to say on those topics.

The absurdity has to do with the meaning of the word rape. In the law, a person who commits a rape could be charged with battery. Battery is an unconsented, unlawful touching. That occurs in a rape. The thing that makes rape a different crime is that it exposes the victim to the risk of pregnancy. This is the very thing that Akin is saying doesn’t occur. Well the science says that it does occur. But it’s more than science. The law creates the category of rape precisely because pregnancies do occur. The thing that makes rape rape is the hijacking (or attempted hijacking) of a woman’s reproductive capacity. Otherwise we’d have simple battery and no one would care much.

Democrats and Republicans were right to call the guy out. The statement reveals both hostility to the victims of rape and a sneaky (but obviously incompetent) attempt to hide the hostility.

The second point has to do with what we do with the outrage. I am totally in support of those who are opposing Akin and other rape apologist (both open and stealth). But I am concerned about piling on. Politics in America is a team sport. Folks support their team, even when their team makes an error. Democrats do it and Republicans do it. (Republicans especially do it because they make so many more errors.)

But there’s more than the two teams battling it out. There are also spectators, people who are watching the game but not necessarily rooting for either team. My concern is that, as my team takes advantage of the error (idiocy) of the other team, it not take excessive advantage. No piling on. Don’t be pigs about it. This is one play in the game. And we don’t want those neutral spectators to start rooting for the other side.

Play hard, but play clean.

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