The XX Factor

What Conservatives Taught Us About Women’s Bodies in 2012

Rush Limbaugh, noted women’s health expert

Photograph by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Who can best explain the workings of the female body? Medical professionals? Sex educators? Or geriatric Tea Party billionaires? This year, developments in women’s health care were disseminated via a national game of political telephone, with information about our menstrual cycles, contraceptive options, and pregnancies filtered through the fuzzy interpretation of conservative talk show hosts, religious officials, and candidates for public office. Here’s what we learned:

A lady votes for president based on how horny she gets in her period time. According to CNN, women vote in national presidential elections depending on how “sexy” they feel, with those sexy feelings shifting over the course of the menstrual cycle. CNN reported on a study in Psychological Science showing that “hormones may influence female voting choices” and that “during the fertile time of the month, when levels of the hormone estrogen are high, single women appeared more likely to vote for Obama and committed women appeared more likely to vote for Romney.” That’s because when single women are ovulating, they “feel sexier” and “therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality.” But when married women “feel sexy,” they overcompensate for “the increase of the hormones motivating them to have sex with other men” and vote Republican as “a way of convincing themselves that they’re not the type to give in to such sexual urges.” CNN later retracted the story, but the question remains: Can campaign strategists game future elections by gathering undecided female voters in the same dorm room and administering them absentee ballots at their horniest?

Rape victims’ bodies “have ways” of preventing impregnation by rapist sperm. This election season, failed Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin taught us that allowing victims of rape to secure abortions is unnecessary, as “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Women who do become pregnant as a result of rape can rest easy—according to Akin, they were not really raped, not “legitimately” anyway, and are free to be forced to raise the child with the baby’s daddy, who is, at worst, an illegitimate rapist. Failed Indiana Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock advanced the theory, noting during his own senatorial campaign that on the rare occasion that rape does result in pregnancy, it is a beautiful miracle that “God intended to happen.”* Previously, Akin contributed these insights to the field of gynecology and obstetrics: People make babies by taking an embryo and adding “food and climate control, and some time”; abortion providers provide abortions to “women who are not actually pregnant.”

Rape is a method of baby-making. In a competing conservative theory of reproductive health, failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan insisted this year that rape is, in fact, a “method of conception.” According to Ryan, raping is such a sound technique of producing new humans that pregnancies resulting from rape should be treated like all others—the government ought to require women to carry them through to birth (or else horrible medical emergency). Once the baby is safely delivered from the womb, many states honor practitioners of the rape method with the same parental rights that nonrapist fathers enjoy.

Sluts may ward off pregnancy by guzzling large numbers of contraceptives. After 30-year-old Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testified in front of a group of House Democrats in support of mandated insurance coverage for contraceptives, noted women’s health expert Rush Limbaugh countered that Fluke—a “feminazi,” a “slut,” and a “prostitute”—is “having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth-control pills and she wants President Obama to provide them, or the Pope.” The more sex that women have, the more birth control they must consume, according to Rush Limbaugh. Should insurance companies be forced to subsidize women’s insatiable slut hunger for progesterone? Or should prostitute law students be forced to rely on over-the-counter solutions, such as Foster Friess-approved knee aspirins?

Single ladies and gays are not fully developed humans. This Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI gave unmarried straights and married gays the gift of damnation, commenting that outside the union of man, woman, and child, these sinners are engaging in a “faulty conception of human nature” that is destroying the “essence of the human creature,” inhibiting “the full development of the human person.” These underdeveloped humans—along with women who choose abortion—pose a “serious harm to justice and peace.” Confirmation of the Pope’s evolutionary theory will be provided in Heaven, where it will be proved that his view is “not at all backward-looking but prophetic.” 

*Correction, Dec. 27, 2012: This post originally misspelled Richard Mourdock’s last name.