The XX Factor

Todd Akin Is Back and Bringing “Legitimate Rape” With Him

Todd Akin is Firing Back.  

Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

Todd Akin, displaying the phoenix-like powers of similar reactionaries Sarah Palin and Paula Deen, is back in the press again. He’s got a new book out, Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom, and the Daily Mail reports that the book has Akin doubling down on his claim that women routinely lie about rape to cover up their sexy ways. 

“When a woman claims to have been raped, the police determine if the evidence supports the legal definition of ‘rape,’” Akin writes. “Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy? Are the police warranted to take action against a crime or not?”

“In short, the word ‘legitimate’ modifies the claim and not the action. There have been women who have lied about being raped, as Norma McCorvey did before the U.S. Supreme Court. The infamous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 was based on a lie.”

“My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down,” Akin adds in the book, “was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and fertilization,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”

Despite the airtight logic that Google results equal the truth, it’s hard to accept Akin’s framing of his earlier “legitimate rape” comment. Akin seems to think his critics were confused about what he meant when he said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” but rest assured, they understood quite well that he was referring to the widespread myth that women routinely make up sexual assault to cover up for the sin of consensual sex. (In reality, false rape reports are rare, and women falsely accusing men they consented to have sex with after the fact is especially rare.)

Then again, it’s hard to blame Akin if he thinks the public is a little more open to hearing his theories about women and the lies they tell in 2014 than they were in 2012. The argument that women are lying about rape for attention or out of sheer feminine mendacity is creeping into more mainstream conservative thought, largely in response to the Obama White House launching a task force to address the problem of campus rape. You have George Will of the Washington Post arguing that “victims proliferate” on campus not because of the raping but because identifying as a victim gives women a “coveted status.” Also in the Washington Post, David Bernstein has a hysterical piece about how clarifying campus codes to define consent is “completely absurd” and meant to redefine most sexual encounters as sexual assault. (Amanda Hess explains why that’s not true here.) If Todd Akin is reading the Washington Post, I can see why he might think now is his moment.