Here I go again, asking to be stoned to death.
In the 1980s, I was a consultant on some important judicial issues. My role was confined to statistical analysis. This small role did not make me a lawyer or a criminologist. Nevertheless, I read quite a bit on and around the topic of serious crimes. These include rape, of course.
I was intrigued to read that rape was often difficult to prove through what was then the beginnings of DNA analysis because rapists often did not ejaculate inside their victims. I believe the writer was a feminist author. Like many feminists of her day she was intent on demonstrating that rape has little or nothing to do with sexual pleasure but that it is a mode of affirmation of men’s domination of women.
I tucked away this surprising piece of information without bothering to verify it because it was peripheral to my purpose. It did not seem all that far-fetched; I thought it was plausible. In large part, I thought it was plausible because I accepted to some extent the embedding idea that rape often has little to do with men’s sexual enjoyment. I could certainly buy the notion that rape is sometimes a crime of coercion alone: If you can’t even protect the inside of your body, you are truly helpless, rape says.
At this point, I don’t know whether there is any truth to the idea that rapists fail to ejaculate. In principle, this idea is verifiable. Somebody may have done the research. It’s doable although a little difficult. I am concerned about the strong scholarly bias against negative findings. Journals don’t like to publish papers that say: “It’s usually thought that …but our research shows there is nothing to this belief.” (Been there, done it!)
I am embarrassed and frankly disturbed by the speed with which prominent republicans rushed to lynch campaigning, anti-abortion Todd Akin. I agree he chose an unfortunate way to present his anti-abortion stance. It’s true that he was not as clear as he should have been. It’s unfortunate that he said “legitimate” rape although any one with a brain and an honest heart understands that he meant “real rape, forcible rape” rather than, say a small misunderstanding between two drunk undergraduates neither of whom really rememebers what happened the night before. Yet, something essential is missing in the universal Republican expressions of horror.
What’s missing is a clear statement of the reasons for the condemnation: Is it that his statement was misinformed ? Or is it that he should not have made it, no matter what. I suspect the real criticism is the latter. The Republican reaction also pre-supposes that female voters are generally morons. It leaves little room for the possibility that a spontaneous comment by a single Republican candidate says nothing about the Party’s respect for women. The condemnation does not allow for the possibility that local women will vote for Akin in spite of what he said, because there are other, wider considerations.
Furthermore, I smell a piousness in prominent declarations condemning Akin. How -they say – can you deny that raped women also become pregnant? This is like denying a fraction of the horror of rape. Of course, it is liberals who habitually trivialize the violent crime of rape by including many behaviors that normal women as well as normal men above eighteen know are not rape. I see Republicans hastening unseemingly to prove their political correctness. It’s a little disgusting.
What do I think myself about the truthfulness of the matter? I don’t know; I am not well informed on this. I think that many who are well-informed and keeping mum. Intellectual terrorism often works. I do think I remember however hearing recently on one of the respectable, left-leaning scientific television channels the statement that the female orgasm appears to facilitate conception. It’s not absurd to jump from the idea that women who enjoy themselves sexually are more likely to become pregnant to the hypothesis that women who abhor a particular sexual encounter are less likely to become pregnant. It’s just a hypothesis, one that’s not absurd on the face of it. It’s not irrational to propose it. It may be absurd to affirm it. I don’t know. Again, others who know better than I are not contributing what they should. Many women who also have something to contribute are not speaking loud enough on Mr Akin’s gaffe.
What happened with Mr Akin is becoming familiar territory: Liberals invite us to bitch-slap ourselves and we oblige them.
For the record: Like most Americans I am in favor of legal abortion. Like President Clinton, I think it should be legal, safe and rare. I believe it’s big evil but a necessary one at this point. And I deplore the absence of an exception for rape in the statement of the platform of the Republican Party regarding abortion, as I write.
Update: Carl Bialik does his usual good job summarizing research and pointing out the obstacles to research on the topic in the Sat-Sun issue of the Wall Street Journal , 25-26th 2012. ” Pregnancies from Rape Hard to Count.”