Eve Ensler, the woman behind “The Vagina Monologues,” had some harsh words for GOP Missouri Rep. Todd Akin about his comments on “legitimate rape” and abortion. In an open later to Akin that was published on The Huffington Post, Ensler wrote that the Missouri Senate candidate “made a very specific ignorant statement” that showed he has “no awareness of what it means to be raped.”
Aside from the fact that Ensler is a well-known feminist and women’s rights activist, what makes her perspective different from the countless others who have criticized Akin is that she herself is a rape survivor.
It should serve as a reminder to Akin that rape victims are real, and that throwing terms around like “legitimate rape” is not just ignorant, but also highly insensitive and offensive to anyone who has been sexually assaulted.
And as Ensler wrote in her letter, “you’ve just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again.” Indeed, he did.
You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped—intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.
Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a “legitimate” rape.