By Chez Pazienza: I’d really like to be surprised by Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s breathtakingly contemptible comments about “legitimate rape” and the inner-workings of the female reproductive system, but doing so would mean that I haven’t allowed myself to be completely overcome by cynicism and disgust at the state of American politics in general and the Republican party in particular — and believe me, I have. By now you all know what Akin said, you’ve heard his half-assed non-apology for it and you’ve felt the seismic backlash it’s unleashed; it’s rare that the mainstream GOP attempts to behave like a sane political entity anymore, so when even the normally tea-bagger-beholden mouthpieces of the party release the Outrage Kraken on you and demand that you submit or else, you know you’ve done something indefensible. At this stage in the GOP’s history, I truly thought it would take some asshole actually raping a woman then beating her to death with a Bible in the Capitol rotunda for anyone within the Republican establishment to be willing to throw one of their own under the bus. Yes, Akin pretty much left them no choice — not in an election year — but it’s still fascinating to watch the uncharacteristic lack of hemming, hawing and rationalizing from the political pros within the GOP, presented as a series of strictly adhered-to talking points, in an effort to protect this idiot.
I’ll give Akin this: He chose his words so impressively — for many, it’s such a body blow to hear a middle-aged man, with one offhand crack, imply that we can parse rape into various categories and that some should be considered valid while others shouldn’t — that it managed to distract from the truly insane thing he said during that interview on Sunday. Again, I’d love to be able to say that I did a spit-take when Akin brought up the notion of “legitimate rape,” but the reality is — and I’m certainly not the first person to make this point over the last 36-hours — he was simply reading from the Republican hymnal when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. It was the ostensible second-highest Republican in the land right now, Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored a bill along with Todd Akin which sought to redefine rape and was aimed at restricting abortion funding to only those who could prove they’d been the victims of “forcible rape.” That kind of sickening distinction — the notion that not all rapes are forced — is pretty much a GOP article of faith and it speaks volumes about where the heads of the party of aging white men are these days.
So I managed to let the whole “legitimate rape” comment, as abhorrent as it was, just roll off my back in favor of the other thing Akin said, which for some reason I find equally if not more disturbing. It should go without saying that Todd Akin’s opinion that there are varying degrees of forcing sex on someone who doesn’t want it is disgusting and Neanderthal, but in the end, as wrong as it is, it’s his opinion; he’ll always figure out a way to find wiggle room on the subject and debate it until he’s satisfied. What isn’t up for any kind of debate at all is science. Think about it for a minute — really let it sink in: Todd Akin, a member of the House of Representatives who has designs on the Senate, either honestly believes or is willing to claim as fact for the sake of politics that women’s vaginas can tell when they’re being raped and secrete some kind of magical toxin that stops the rapist’s sperm cold. Women, apparently, have a better personal defense mechanism than the creature in Alien that bled molecular acid. And Todd Akin understands this because he’s talked to some doctors. Cue the “The More You Know” music and animation.
You’re kidding me, right? Look, saying that there are types of rape that aren’t forced is vile, offensive and stupid. Saying that women’s bodies have ways of preventing them from getting pregnant by rape is fucking crazy. It’s thoroughly, utterly, 100% not true — and yet here’s a United States lawmaker saying it is.
This is what infuriates me more than anything else we see from the right these days: the ongoing assault on basic logic and reason — on fact itself. The world is 6,000 years old. Dinosaurs existed alongside man. Evolution is just a theory that’s out there. Climate change is a hoax. All of this is bullshit, demonstrably false bullshit — and it’s propagated, circulated, enabled and exploited by the lunatics who’ve for the most part seized control of the Republican party. Akin has no compunction at all about making a thoroughly ridiculous claim about a woman’s biology because to him the entire notion of provable fact is moot. When you regularly believe nonsense that requires no evidence to back it up, there’s no harm in offering bogus science with no evidence to back it up. We live in an age of unlimited information, where any statement can be verified or discredited with the push of a couple of buttons; it should, by all accounts, be nearly impossible to mislead the general public. And yet with all that information comes all kinds of misinformation — and a whole slew of hucksters like Akin who are more than willing to contribute to it and attempt to profit from it.
Some part of Akin had to know that the horseshit he was claiming about how women’s bodies respond during rape was the worst kind of specious pseudoscience and that it could easily be disproven; he’s on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, for fuck’s sake. No, the problem is he simply didn’t care. As it has been for years, it was politically expedient to throw out that bit of stale red meat to his audience of ass-backward dupes — and for the record, the insidious lie about biology, pregnancy and rape has been offered up by various right-wing dentists, ophthalmologists, etc. as a means of lobbying against abortion in any situation for decades now — so Akin jumped at the chance, knowing full well that the people whose votes he wants will believe any kind of idiocy as long as they desperately want to believe it.
To guys like Todd Akin, or at the very least to the crowd he’s cynically pandering to, science is something that’s not to be trusted and everything presented as fact should be eyed with suspicion and put to a vote. There is no concrete reality anymore — just an ongoing series of politicized topics to be debated endlessly. That’s why there’s an entire stratum of the conservative electorate that exists in a paranoid fantasy world that would make Edgar Allen Poe, even in the throes of his most opium-fueled delirium, wonder what the hell was going on.
On average, a little over 32-thousand women get pregnant from rape every year.
I guess when it comes to that fact, Todd Akin’s brain has a way to shut the whole thing down.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.