One of the key components of rape apologia, whatever its application (that is, from defending rape jokes to defending extreme anti-choice policies), is minimizing the seriousness of rape. Routinely, the rape of women across the board is minimized; men’s rape is taken more seriously, unless it happens in prison, in which case it considered both hilarious and minimized to the point of near total triviality. For victims of rape and victim advocates, one of the most difficult barriers to get past is that rape is either spoken about in the hushed tones of grave shame or the casual flippancy of inconsequence.
To wit, within the past few days there have been three examples I thought were worth pointing out. The first was at the Republican debate the other night in which Senator Sam Brownback (R-Middle Ages) argued against legalized abortion even in cases of rape and incest:
We talk about abortion, but abortion is a procedure. This is a life that we’re talking about. And it’s a terrible situation where there’s a rape that’s involved or incest.
But it nonetheless remains that this is a child that we’re talking about doing this to, of ending the life of this child. Will that make the woman in a better situation if that’s what takes place? And I don’t think so, and I think we can explain it when we look at it for what it is: a beautiful child of a loving God.
Brownback engages one of the most typical minimizing tactics of rape apologists when he describes it as “a terrible situation…but.” Many rape apologists will issue the requisite caveat that Rape is Bad, then continue on to speak about it in terms that clearly indicate they don’t really think it’s actually all that bad. It means nothing to say Rape is Bad if the argument that follows isn’t remotely demonstrative of any comprehension that is quite genuinely is bad.
In this example, Brownback is speaking specifically to a pregnancy resulting from rape and speaks about it as though it’s no different than a pregnancy resulting from choice—which most certainly minimizes rape, not only by equating it indirectly with consensual sex, but also by utterly ignoring that a child who is a product of rape will also be a reminder of that rape. To then suggest that he doesn’t think “the woman” who chooses to end her rape-induced pregnancy could possibly be “in a better situation” proves he has absolutely no idea what it means for many people to be rape victims. Not everyone is willing to live with a daily reminder of that horror, and no one who understood the tragedy of rape would have the unreasonable audacity to question those who aren’t.
Worst of Brownback’s bullshit, however, has got to be calling a rape-induced pregnancy “a beautiful child of a loving God.” Forget for a moment that a pregnancy isn’t a child, which is bad enough; worse yet, he’s actually removing the rapist from the procreative equation and replacing him with God. I’m quite certain Brownback attributes all pregnancies to “a loving God,” but it is particularly careless to use such terminology when beauty and love had absolutely nothing to fucking do with the conception. It’s the pregnancy of a rapist and his victim—and it’s both obnoxious and juvenile to refuse to talk about it in those starkly honest terms.
That he would minimize rape in order to justify a position which robs women of their personal autonomy just as surely as rape does makes him a despicable bastard to boot.
Shaker John D. forwarded me this video of a guy discussing another hilarious rape joke made by a guest on The O’Reilly Factor.
Discussing the case of the woman who was raped (except not, according to the court) by her boyfriend’s brother, O’Reilly’s guest, Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly says: “As soon as the lights went on, and she saw the guy leave the, uh, room—and, by the way, allegedly it was only a two-minute exchange, ah, so she lost on all ends.”
Ha ha—get it? She lost on all ends, because she was raped and it only lasted two minutes! Ha ha! Her rapist is a two-pump chump, yo! Oh, snap!
Bill O’Reilly, naturally, says nothing. Immediately afterwards, he cuts to a segment on—I couldn’t make this shit up—Opie and Anthony.
And moving on again…
Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town calls out MSNBC (or perhaps WYFF4.com in Greenville, South Carolina) for titling a story Man Pleads Guilty To Impregnating 10-Year-Old. Well, no. William Edward Ronca, a man in his twenties, pleaded guilty to “criminal sexual conduct with a minor” because he raped a child when she was nine years old. He did not plead guilty to impregnating her, which implies, as Lauredhel points out, that it was some zany contraceptive failure, as if raping a nine year old who couldn’t possibly give consent wasn’t the issue, just that she got pregnant.
Ronca was arrested after the girl was found to be seven to eight months pregnant. A school guidance counselor told the girl’s mother that the child was acting withdrawn and was not participating at school. The girl was taken to Abbeville County Memorial Hospital, where the pregnancy was confirmed.
Arrest warrants said that Ronca had been having sex with the girl for more than a year, and told her not to tell anyone.
Says Lauredhel: “The FUCK? ‘Having sex with’ a nine-year-old? How do you ‘have sex with’ a nine-year-old? Don’t mention the rape!”
The story goes on to note that Ronca “admitted that the sexual relations with the child had been going on once or twice a week for about two years.” Rape is not ‘sexual relations’ and the suggestion that it is serves no purpose other than to minimize the truth about its ugliness. There’s no earthly reason to try to “pretty-up” a story about a little girl who was repeatedly raped, impregnated, and delivered via C-section a baby then given up for adoption. It’s an ugly goddamned story; that little girl’s life will never be the same.
Rape is a big deal, and the very least we can do for those who have suffered its excruciating indignity is talk about it with the honesty and gravity it deserves.