Many of us were horrified when Todd Akin claimed that in cases of “legitimate rape,” the female body is able to prevent pregnancy. Well, he’s not the only one blaming the victim: recently, California judge Derek Johnsonsaid, in regards to a 2008 rape case, that if someone doesn’t want sexual intercourse, the body “will not permit that to happen,” that the woman “didn’t put up a fight” and that “I’m not a gynecologist but I can tell you something: if someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted and we heard nothing about that in this case.”
This might be one of the dumbest and most misogynistic statements we have ever heard. Akin and Johnson seem to know absolutely nothing about basic biology and women’s bodies. If we follow Johnson’s assertions about women, biology, and rape, then there really is no such thing as rape unless, as he says, “a lot of damage is inflicted.” This is a difficult statement to grasp. How does the body prevent rape? Does the vagina vanish or magically close up so that it cannot be forcefully penetrated? Is it only in cases of extensive damage that the body does not have the “willpower” to shut down?
Then we have the issue of blaming the victim.When using the word “permit,” Johnson is also using victim-blaming language. According to him, a woman can therefore permit rape, even though Johnson would probably claim that such an act is actually consensual since the body did not shut down. Thereby, if we follow his logic, there really is no such thing as rape, since either the body shuts down or the woman secretly “allowed” intercourse. Catch-22, anyone?
It is mind-blowing and scary that a politician (Akin) and a judge (Johnson) hold such beliefs. These are powerful and influential men who clearly support rape culture beliefs and who are openly allowed to practice their misogyny and misinformation. The rapist in the 2008 rape case was thankfully sent to prison, but not for the 16 years that the prosecutor requested. Johnson sentenced the rapist to six years–according to him, that was what the case was “worth.”
Photo of court room shared by flickr user State Records NSW under a creative commons license.