Todd Akin apparently believes the body can suppress conception or cause miscarriage after rape. Historically, it was widely thought a woman could only conceive if she had an orgasm. Photograph: KTVI Source:

There’s a raging controversy over rape. Yes, you read it right – rape. More precisely, the rumpus is over the words “legitimate rape.”

The uproar was sparked by Todd Akin, a Missouri US congressman, who commented during a recent television interview that it was “really rare” that women who were victims of rape became pregnant.

Akin explained: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” The Republican congressman made the statement in connection with an antiabortion bill filed with the US House of Representatives. The bill allows abortion in certain cases, such as rape and incest.

Akin’s remark has run roughshod over the sensibilities of ladies who feel that it was an oblique attack on their honor. But it seems that Akin’s assertion is not entirely baseless.

According to writer Stephanie Kossman of Welesly News, Akin’s claim was not completely unprecedented. Kossman noted: “During the early 1970s, an article was written by anti-abortionist and obstetrician-gynecologist Fred Mecklenburg who stated that women were less likely to ovulate after trauma and were, therefore, less likely to become pregnant after rape. However, his claims were quickly rejected due to a lack of any supporting scientific evidence.”

The “offensive statement” may yet cause the defeat of the lawmaker in the next elections as many women’s groups sharply reacted to it.

It has also dragged Republican vice presidential bet Paul Ryan to the controversy. Ryan is one of the sponsors of the controversial bill. Commenting on Akin’s definition of rape, Ryan said, “rape is rape. End of story.”

According to the newspaper Telegraph, when asked why he had sponsored legislation that referred to “forcible rape,” and whether he could define other kinds of rape, Ryan said that ‘rape is rape and there’s no splitting hair over rape.’”

I think the problem here lies not in gynecology but rather in grammar.

I remember a lecture delivered long time ago by the late Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo, who was a writer par excellence. He had said, “The adjective is the enemy of the noun.”

There are some nouns that need no description or adjective. To describe such nouns with an adjective is to make them less of what these things are. Let’s take the word “virgin” as an example. Any adjective placed before “virgin”, say, “pure virgin,” denigrates the meaning of the word. If the “pure virgin” is a woman, it would imply that there’s “impure virgin.”

Similarly, the words “legitimate rape” imply the opposite – “illegitimate rape” which is redundant because there is inherent illegitimacy or illegality in the word “rape.”

Forcible rape? Are not all cases of rape forcible? If not, then we could presume there is “unforced rape”– which is no longer rape as it sounds like consensual sex.

Is there such thing as “accidental rape”? Perhaps the woman is sleeping in a dark room, and the man thinks she is her wife.

Our point is that if we describe rape, a lot of speculations crops up.

The controversy in which Congressman Akin found himself is not the first time it reared its ugly head. I remember that in the Philippines, the late Senator Raul Manglapus ran into the same trouble.

Manglapus told some women reporters in a jocular mood, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” Although the senator said it in jest, his statement was, nevertheless, reported in the newspapers. And in the following days, Manglapus was at the receiving end of acerbic comments by women’s groups.

To many women, the subject of rape is an incendiary topic. There are some women, though, who seem to view the topic in a different light. One such lady, who was apparently bored of the ordinary, consensual sex, commented that she considers rape as an event of high excitement.

What kind of woman is she? In Batangas (Philippines), such woman is called “pagerper” – whatever that means.


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