There is no such thing as a belief so roundly mocked, so thoroughly silly, or so routinely reviled that conservatives will uniformly back away from. That’s the main lesson that people appear to be taking away from Rep. Phil Gingrey’s baffling decision to use his past as an ob-gyn to continue promoting the idea that rape has a contraceptive effect.
I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he?
Well, you know what they say: Not everyone graduates in the top half of their class in medical school. (Gingrey’s own history of having to pay out a massive medical malpractice award seems to have influenced his passion for pushing for bills limiting the amount courts can award wronged patients.) As with Akin before him, the coverage of Gingrey’s comments has mostly been in the “OMG Republicans really hate science” frame, and it’s been pointed out that he’s served on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. This is all well and good; I think it’s important to hold elected officials accountable for disdaining reality, especially if they abuse titles like “doctor” to spread misinformation around. Sadly, being an M.D. doesn’t magically prevent determined individuals from spreading misinformation.
That said, it’s just as important, and possibly even more important, to understand what this bit of balderdash was in service of, which is to spread the myth that many to most rape victims are liars who are just claiming to be raped so people don’t learn what huge sluts they are. Gingrey did not hold back from detailing this myth in all its ugly glory:
What he meant by legitimate rape was just, look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that.
The Legend of the Lying Slut is spread around so much that even a lot of anti-rape activists fall into the trap of thinking that false reports of rape are commonly instances of a woman having consensual sex with a man and then later falsely accusing him of rape. But as I reported at Slate, the experts at the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, who put together the handbook on false rape reports, say that’s not actually the case. Instead, they say that false rape reports frequently involve a woman claiming she was raped by a stranger who attacked her suddenly, and she often describes him as vaguely as possible.
Even the cases of false accusation that rape apologists frequently dwell over have little in common with this fantasy of a woman having consensual sex and then “crying rape”. Neither the Duke lacrosse case and the Tawana Brawley case involved a woman having consensual sex with a man and then falsely accusing him of rape.
There are, sadly, hundreds of known cases of men being falsely convicted of rape, but alas for Gingrey and other rape apologists, these also have no resemblance to the fantasy of a woman accusing a man of rape after having consensual sex with him. If you comb through the archives at the Innocence Project, you’ll find a pattern emerges: A woman is raped by a stranger and the wrong man is convicted for the crime. In other words, the rapes did happen, and the women are not lying. The false convictions are the result of bad eyewitness testimony or prosecutorial misconduct, but pretty much never because women are trying to hide consensual sex.
Even Norma McCorvey, who falsely claimed to have been raped in an attempt to get the desired abortion that became the center of Roe v Wade, didn’t find some innocent man to press charges against. You’d think, with all the energy and time invested by anti-feminists in promoting this myth that women routinely have consensual sex with men and then accuse them of rape, they’d be able to find a case or two that actually fits that model to champion, instead of having to rely on cases that aren’t really like that at all.
With so little real world evidence for this supposed epidemic of women concealing their “naughty” behavior by falsely accusing the men they sleep with of rape, why do men like Gingrey continue to insist that this is a problem and even make up fake scientific claims to support it? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they don’t actually think rape is a real crime in many cases, and that women who are sexually active or drink or otherwise don’t follow the extremely strict Rules for Ladies laid out by the religious right have it coming if they’re raped. Rape and forced childbirth converge under the umbrella of due punishment to be dealt out to women who don’t follow the rules. If you can inflict both on the same unfortunate victim, well, consider that a double whammy in “bad” girls getting punished.