On the right to privacy

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  October 18, 2012

YOU'VE WRITTEN POWERFULLY ABOUT RECOVERING FROM A BRUTAL RAPE IN THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE. WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DO YOU THINK MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE TODD AKIN'S COMMENTS ABOUT "LEGITIMATE RAPE" SAY ABOUT THE STATE OF OUR NATIONAL CONVERSATION ABOUT WOMEN, SEX, AND VIOLENCE? I think his comments show that our national conversation about women, sex, and violence is, in some ways, even less enlightened than it was two decades ago. In 1990, Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams publicly likened bad weather to rape, saying "if it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it." His opponent, Ann Richards, said that his rape "joke" questioned "his ability to understand the kinds of problems faced by the people of Texas." She pointed out that "rape is a crime of violence." Williams had outspent Richards 2 to 1. At one point he had been ahead of her in the polls by 20 points. He lost the election, and many argued that it was because of his "quip" about rape.

Todd Akin's comment denying that pregnancy can result from rape because "[i]f it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," not only betrayed an insensitivity to all rape victims and an astonishing ignorance about reproductive biology, it also revealed a willful denial of what has been confirmed beyond a doubt — that rape was used, to devastating effect, in recent campaigns of genocide, as a form of "ethnic cleansing." That he is still running for Senate shows that our national conversation about rape has a long, long way to go.

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  Topics: This Just In , Connecticut, AS220, privacy
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