Todd Akin Legitimate Rape Comment Should Spark New Discussions On Sex Education

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” and a woman’s alleged natural protection against pregnancy in the case of sexual assault are idiotic. Anyone who has learned anything about the reproductive system knows this. However, Akin's comment reveals a larger problem surrounding the state of education — particularly sex education — in our country. 

Let’s review some facts.

First, pregnancy is not the result of a woman’s will. If a woman’s will controlled pregnancy, then many companies would lose a lot of money manufacturing methods of birth control. Choosing to have an abortion would mean that a woman hadsimply "changed her mind," because at the time of conception she must’ve wanted to become pregnant for her "natural defenses" not to have kicked in. 

Second, experiencing trauma does not prevent pregnancy. If it did, then we should be teaching our boys that they should just scare their female partners in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Rape would be an effective form of contraception.

Third, rape is rape. Todd Akin’s — or anyone else’s — ideas of legitimacy don’t matter.

I’m unsure of how to address such an ignorant, baseless comment without sarcasm.

Ideally, comments like Rep. Akin’s would pose no threat. They would be easily dismissed as garbage without a second thought. When a government official uses a national platform to propagate such rubbish, our education on this  topic should be strong enough to combat it. However, the lack of sound sexual education in this country means that there are people who believe Congressman Akin’s statement because they have not had the opportunity to learn otherwise.

As a society, we build walls between girls and boys, women and men, because we have anatomical differences. We believe so fervently in the power of sexuality that many of us don’t like when our 3-year old daughters raise their dresses above their heads when they’re playing. We don’t want our boys to touch their genitals, even when they are clearly scratching an itch without any sexual intent. Maybe I must simply learn to accept that these are social standards that will never change, but I am concerned about what these standards imply, and where they lead.

To me, the wall that society has built between sexes feeds the ignorance exhibited by Congressman Akins. We treat anatomical differences between sexes and sexuality as taboo topics. There is an unspoken rule that a young girl should not know what a penis looks like, and a young boy should not know what a vagina looks like. This eventually leads to males and females being ignorant of the other sex’s reproductive systems. .

Most men feel they have no need to learn about women's reproductive health. Women are often charged with the sole responsibility of using birth control, while men react with disgust when a Tampax commercial comes on, or when any discussion of menstruation occurs. It’s not seen as a masculine responsibility to know about a woman’s reproductive system, and it’s rarely seen as a feminine responsibility to know about a man’s reproductive health.

Aside from unwanted pregnancy and sexual violence, we now have the threat of morons going on national TV spewing unfounded, senseless garbage to the masses about pregnancy and rape creating new mythologies surrounding these topics. This only prevents educators, parents, and others from creating a sexually knowledgeable population. 

Lackof knowledge means lack of power. If one has not been taught about sex by family or teachers and has no other exposure to responsible sex education, then they are more susceptible to unwanted pregnancy or be a victim or perpetrator of sexual violence. They also have no power to resist the stupidity of a career politician aiming for a spot in the Senate. That is a threat to women, men, transsexuals, transgendered people, and intersex individuals, amongst others. 

Akin’s comments are not just anti-women: they are anti-society, anti-people, anti-having a brain. So, let’s start educating ourselves and everyone else about sex, and stop treating it as such a taboo topic. 

I have to close with a relevant Salt ‘N Peppa verse because, let’s be honest – we’ve been trying to be more open about sex for a long time, and Salt ‘N Peppa had it right 20 years ago:

“Let’s talk about sex for now to the people at home or in the crowd, it keeps coming up anyhow.  Don’t decoy, avoid or make void the topic, ‘cuz that ain’t gonna stop it. Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows, many will know anything goes. Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be, how it was, and of course, how it should be ….”

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Anupama Selvam

I am 25, from Chicago and graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. My expertise is in international human rights law-- specifically surrounding genocide studies and gender equality. Currently I work as a Research Assistant at Northwestern University School of Law where I assist with international human rights cases that focus on genocide litigation. I also work as a Medical Advocate for Rape Victim Advocates where I advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

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