Thursday, August 23, 2012

Todd Akin’s views are, literally, medieval

Republican congressman Todd Akin’s astonishing observations with respect to pregnancy resulting from rape continue to ricochet around the media in the United States. The nuances of his comments have gotten lost in the ensuing controversy over what constitutes illegitimate rape. His words are, in fact, worth considering again.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that it’s [pregnancy resulting from rape] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Mr. Atkin reveals a troubling ignorance about the mechanism of conception. Indeed, his scientific ignorance is equally as troubling as his social views about rape. They both come from a different time and a very different world.

The notion that a woman’s body will experience different biological responses to intercourse depending on whether the sex act is consensual or coerced can be traced back to the Middle Ages. At this time the scientific and medical texts of Greek and Roman antiquity were being translated and appropriated by European doctors and philosophers, all of whom, without exception, were not only male but also members of the Roman Catholic clergy. Thus, science and medicine were given a distinctly ideological and theological spin.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail