FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The New Lexicon of Rape

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

 Peacably if we can, forcibly if we must.

— Henry Clay, Speech 1811

The campaign season thus far has convinced many of us that we have no idea whether social security cuts proposed by Republicans are going to save the taxpayer $750 million or cost the taxpayer $6 billion or whether raising taxes on the wealthy will cost jobs or cutting taxes will help create jobs.  And now we find out that a subject we thought we understood and could define is much more subtle than most of us had suspected.  The subject is rape.

For years, conventional wisdom accepted the definition of rape that was found in the Concise Oxford English dictionary.  It defined rape as “forceful or fraudulent intercourse.”   We now learn that that definition is excessively simplistic.  For that information we are indebted to research done by Michelle Goldberg and Anna North that informs this column and enables me to provide a glossary so that readers will not be caught short when finding rape discussed at table, as it almost surely will be.

Rape has achieved prominence in recent years since the threshold question for opponents of abortion is whether abortion should be permitted when a child is conceived as a result of a rape.  It is that question that has given rise to nice distinctions in the kinds of rape of which few of my readers will have been aware.  The first kind of rape to which I will devote attention is the kind where the victim is “truly raped.”

Being “truly raped” entered the lexicon in 1994 when Representative Henry Aldridge, a 74-year-old periodontist from North Carolina was testifying before the House Appropriations Committee.  In his testimony he told members of the Committee that: “The facts show that people who are raped-who are truly raped-the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.  Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”  He elaborated a bit saying:   “to get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation.  And there ain’t much cooperation in a rape.”  He is, of course, referring to those who are “truly raped.”

Out of chronological order, the next kind of rape we examine is “legitimate rape.”  It is similar to “truly raped” in that its victims are unlikely to become pregnant.  We learned this from Todd Akin who hopes to become Missouri’s newest U.S. Senator. Using a modified form of Mr. Aldridge’s 1994 words he said:  “If it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  The criminal statutes that define “rape” do not make it obvious when what the statute describes as the crime of rape loses its criminal attributes by being called legitimate.  That may become apparent when legitimacy is entered as a defense by someone charged with the crime.

The next kind of rape we examine is something called “assault rape.”  Its consequences are the same as the consequences of a “true rape” or a “legitimate rape” in that its victims are unlikely to become pregnant. “Assault Rape” was introduced into the lexicon in 1999 by John C. Wilke, a Cincinnati physician and the former president of the National Right to Life Committee.  In an article entitled:  “Assault Rape Pregnancies Are Rare” he confirms what Mr. Aldridge, and later, Mr. Akin said.  Being a physician his explanation was slightly more sophisticated.  He said that in order to get pregnant “a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones.  Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is readily influenced by emotions.  There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape.”  He also said that “assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare” and that pregnancies could result from as few as one in 1,000 cases of rape.

The last kind of rape we examine is “forcible rape.”  (This name is redundant since the dictionary definition of rape already includes the word “forcible” and it is not clear that referring to the act of rape as  “forcible, forceful or fraudulent intercourse” adds a great deal to the definition.)

Forcible rape has been in the lexicon for some time since it has routinely been used by those opposed to abortion.  In 2011 Mr. Akin and Paul Ryan, were among 227 co-sponsors of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act.”  As introduced, that act said abortions could be funded by the federal government if the pregnancy was the result of “forcible rape.”  (The word “forcible” was removed from the legislation before it passed the House and the legislation was not considered in the Senate.) The addition of “forcible” adds emphasis to the fact that force is part of the rape and, therefore, apparently different from the others we have examined. It also differs from the other three kinds of rape in that no one has suggested its victims do not become pregnant.  That is why it comes up in discussions about abortions.

As the foregoing suggests, the physical consequences of rape are all in the definition.  Who’d have thought it?

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu


 

More articles by:
February 21, 2018
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein’s on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail