WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS VIDEO WHICH MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME, EVEN TRAUMATIC TO SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS
Representative Todd Akin, who is a Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, recently defended his extreme anti-abortion stance to deny the procedure to victims of sexual assault by claiming that it was almost impossible to get pregnant from “legitimate rape”:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
But because this is the social media age, there were also more creative protests. One was this video by The Raging Grannies that got a lot of play:
Unfortunately, the conversation crossed the line in a birth control ad parody that I saw this morning. In it, a smiling woman is knocked to the ground and violently sexually assaulted while cheerfully extolling the virtues of “Legitimate Rape” as a contraceptive. The ad is complete with euphemistic flower visuals and a long list of side-effects, and a call to visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) — even while claiming no affiliation with that group.
I get it. Swiftian social parody can be a very effective tool for inciting important public discussion about the big issues.
But in my opinion, rape is not just an “issue”. People who have been sexually assaulted — and let’s face it, most of them are women — have been physically and psychologically violated in a way that can cause lifelong trauma. Comedian Laura Napoli, who wrote and stars in the spot, I’m sure meant well. And comedy is not, as Steve Martin once said, “pretty”. But I’m concerned about the unintended consequences of this sketch.
Rep. Akin’s comments themselves caused some survivors to relive the trauma. One woman told Current:
“It was sickening. That’s the best way to describe how I felt about Akin’s comments. I was sick to my stomach. I am still sick to my stomach. But what makes it worse is that no one seems to have any regard for how these comments are actually impacting people who have already been victimized by rape. These comments are causing us to be triggered all over again.”
How would these women feel, watching their experiences reduced to a gag for a slapstick political statement?
I’d appreciate comments by people personally or professionally closer to the issue than I am.
COMPOSER AND SOUND DESIGNER:
HAIR AND LIGHTING:
Clemence du Barre