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The Mathematics of 'Legitimate Rape' and Pregnancy 1469

Posted by timothy
from the you-said-rape-twice dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "James Hamblin, MD writes in the Atlantic that it's unclear how common the misconception that women rarely become pregnant after rape may be, but remarks by Missouri Senatorial nominee Todd Akin that 'if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down' (video) may provide some benefit as a learning opportunity. 'From a holistic perspective, one might hypothesize that a woman's body could respond to the extreme stress and trauma of enduring rape in such a way that she would be physiologically more likely to miscarry (or not to conceive at all),' writes Hamblin. After all there is a multi-million dollar alternative reproductive health market aimed at optimizing an environment for conception so there could be something to a theory that the other, much darker end of that spectrum functions analogously. But that hypothesis doesn't hold, to any relevant degree. A widely-cited 1996 study from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology sampled over 4,000 women and found that the rape-related pregnancy rate was 5.0 percent and studies from other countries have reported the percentage to be even greater."
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The Mathematics of 'Legitimate Rape' and Pregnancy

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  • There are no Facts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Herkum01 (592704) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @12:59PM (#41069699)

    The whole reason that this comes up is because you get guys, who ignore facts and place their bias out there are the truth. This is why you get Kentucky trying to get rid of evolution, stupid senators making dumb comments about rape. Throw in the good ole-boy network of reenforcing stupidity (on basically anything) we get these stupid statements and stupid laws.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @12:59PM (#41069709)

    Presumably James Hamblin is an older white male. He seems to be missing the point here. The problem with the statement isn't that it's factually / scientifically inaccurate. The problem is the term "legitimate rape." The senator's statements (if taken with any bit of truth) imply that if a women were to get pregnant in the case of rape it was not a "legitimate" or "real" rape.

    This is just more from the "war on women" department. And while I don't agree with the stupid soundbite slogan "war on women" -- the disturbing trend which gives rise to it is a serious problem politically, but more important, socially.

    • by Antipater (2053064) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:07PM (#41069845)
      Well, there's two problems. When someone says something like this, you have to do two things: 1. Get rid of the idiot who said them (that's what you're doing). And 2. Disprove what he said so that fewer people believe it in the future. That's what Hamblin is doing. Doing one doesn't remove the need for the other.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:09PM (#41069873)

      Actually, what he suggested with his comments was that we can't allow abortions in cases of rape because women will just lie to get access to abortions (because, duh, if it was really rape they wouldn't be pregnant). Which is a far worse blunder, IMO.

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:13PM (#41069949)

      the disturbing trend which gives rise to it is a serious problem politically, but more important, socially.

      Its a disturbing religious problem too. Look at the point of view of a brainwashed cult member when someone does something that their whacked out belief system doesn't like, in this example, abortion. Well, god certainly isn't going to punish her because there is none, this evidence creates huge cognitive dissonance issues for the cult members. And society is not going to punish her because outside of the cult no one cares, although the cult likes to tell itself everyone is a member, which makes huge cognitive dissonance issues for the cult members. So... abandoned by god and abandoned by society, how is a cult with some remaining political power supposed to react... Ah I know, use the law to enforce religious beliefs, so everyone, including the people outside the cult, have to live like cult members. That's the religious crisis, the religion is dying by becoming less relevant. Thus the desperate grasping at straws to legislate their twisted morality onto everyone else.... "You may not believe, you may not care about us, but dammit men with guns and judges in robes will force you to live like us, like it or not !!!" Its a classic symptom of a dying religion.

      See, a living, stable, maybe growing religion would not feel pressured to lash out. And frankly I as long as its consenting adults, etc, I don't care what crazyness cult members do to each other. As long as they leave the sane people, the non-members, the non-believers, alone... but no, they're terrified of their cults mortality so they lash out at the rights of everyone else.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:30PM (#41070225)

      The senator's statements imply that if a women were to get pregnant in the case of rape it was not a "legitimate" or "real" rape.

      I'm totally not on Akin's side of this, but I do believe his words have been widely misunderstood. The way he said it, I took "legitimate rape" to mean "against their will, under duress, stress-inducing, back-alley rape." The other kind of rape would include statutory rape and possibly other forms that, while legally considered rape, don't create the physical and emotional response in women that "legitimate rape" would.

      I also think this is a problem with the statistics referenced in the article. I would like to see the rate of pregnancy resulting from sex-under-duress, instead of the rate of pregnancy resulting from sex-that-is-legally-considered-rape, because google tells me that the former would indeed likely be lower [webmd.com].

    • by DeathToBill (601486) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:42PM (#41070405) Journal

      I think that both the terms "legitimate rape" and "war on women" are unhelpful. Both sides of this argument need to face up to a simple-to-say but very difficult-to-solve problem: rape is hard to judge, and preventing rape is not the only priority of our society.

      The desire to prevent rape is balanced against the desire to acquit the innocent. Our society currently, and has for a long time, preferred to acquit the innocent than to convict the guilty. Since there are inevitably cases where proof is not certain, this means that we also prefer to acquit the guilty rather than convict the innocent.

      This breaks down to a degree for rape. By its nature it is infrequently observed by witnesses. This judicial system requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that (a) a specific event happened (what event depends slightly on your jurisdiction) and (b) one of the parties involved did not consent to it.

      Some cases are straight-forward. When a man grabs a woman in a park and rapes her behind a wall, it's pretty clear that consent was not given. Then you only need to prove that the event happened, and you have a case. The event is usually pretty easy to prove - it leaves physical evidence.

      But in many other cases, consent is not straightforward. When two drunk teens are fooling around and things go too far, or (in many jurisdictions) when consent is withdrawn during intercourse, or, indeed when Julian Assange goes to bed with someone at night and decides he'd like a bit more the next morning, then it inevitably descends in to a mess of he-said she-said. At present, when a case comes down to one person's word against another, of roughly equal credibility, the law will acquit, because we prefer protecting innocence to punishing guilt. That means that some rapists walk free because it's his word against hers.

      We could change this. The law could be changed so that women making a complaint of rape are believed by default. But that is placing the prevention of rape above the priority of protecting the innocent. Do you really believe that this would never be used to persecute the innocent? This would mean that some innocent people go to prison and spend their lives on a sex offenders register because their partners found a cruel way to get back at them.

      • This breaks down to a degree for rape. By its nature it is infrequently observed by witnesses. This judicial system requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that (a) a specific event happened (what event depends slightly on your jurisdiction) and (b) one of the parties involved did not consent to it.

        Some cases are straight-forward. When a man grabs a woman in a park and rapes her behind a wall, it's pretty clear that consent was not given. Then you only need to prove that the event happened, and you have a case. The event is usually pretty easy to prove - it leaves physical evidence.

        But in many other cases, consent is not straightforward. When two drunk teens are fooling around and things go too far, or (in many jurisdictions) when consent is withdrawn during intercourse... then it inevitably descends in to a mess of he-said she-said.

        Not just rape, though, or rather, by singling out rape, you're suggesting that victims of rape are inherently less credible than victims of other crimes. Do you believe this?
        For example, fraud is a case of he-said, she-said where a victim claims they were fooled and the defendant claims the "victim" had all the facts on hand.
        Or for example, robbery is a case of he-said, she said where a victim claims they were held up and the defendant claims the "victim" gave them a gift.

        In other words, other than the violent ones that leave physical evidence, the majority of crimes fall down to victim testimony vs. defendant testimony, or he-said, she-said. Yet, it's only rape or sexual assault where we think that's not enough, hence even the name "he-said, she-said."

        And I should point out that, in cases of rape or sexual assault, physical evidence is frequently discounted too: many people make the argument that the grabbed-woman-in-a-park was actually really consenting to public anonymous sex, as evidenced by her clothing, or her being in that area at night, etc., etc. Or, for example, that the maid allegedly raped by Strauss-Kahn was really giving him a consensual beej, and she was just so into it that she tore her rotator cuff (perhaps she was really into BDSM and consenting to have her arm held behind her back?).

        In fact, even where facts are not in dispute, people will still modify them in cases of sexual assault to minimize the criminality. For example:

        or, indeed when Julian Assange goes to bed with someone at night and decides he'd like a bit more the next morning, then it inevitably descends in to a mess of he-said she-said.

        He said he wanted a bit more and slipped it in before she woke up. She said the same thing. There's no he-said, she-said there. Rather, it's about whether his belief that he had her consent was reasonable in view of her previous denial.

        We could change this. The law could be changed so that women making a complaint of rape are believed by default. But that is placing the prevention of rape above the priority of protecting the innocent. Do you really believe that this would never be used to persecute the innocent? This would mean that some innocent people go to prison and spend their lives on a sex offenders register because their partners found a cruel way to get back at them.

        On the contrary, you're suggesting that women making a complaint of rape shouldn't be believe by default. In other words, you're saying that these women are guilty of making a false report unless they prove themselves to be innocent. I'm going to suggest that you hadn't fully thought through the implications of your statement.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:02PM (#41069757)

    The hypothesis is that women do not get pregnant through sex unless the sex was consensual, and the evidence is that in fact they do. I suppose some statistics would be involved if you wanted to do a hypothesis test. But it's not some complex mathematical model, nor hugely contested.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:02PM (#41069761) Journal

    One of the many books I've read on the subject - I believe it was O -The Intimate History of the Orgasm [amazon.com] actually stated that in studies rape lead to a higher fertilization rate than consensual relations. I won't get into the theory of why, because it will potentially piss off feminists. I'll just say it is documented and statistically significant.

  • Woah woah (Score:5, Funny)

    by gadzook33 (740455) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:03PM (#41069775)
    Take your science and your math somewhere else. If we were interested in facts and evidence we wouldn't have joined the GOP.
  • Correlation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlashDread (38969) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:07PM (#41069839)

    When you get pregnant after rape, you either secretly liked it, or it was consentual.
    The bastards the US calls politicians never seize to amaze me with their vile.

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:21PM (#41070071) Homepage Journal

    Something that *never* gets brought up (and ignored in discussions when I bring it up) is this fact: my genetics prof. when I was a freshman in college pointed out that if you believe that conception starts at fertilization then about 3/4 of the people conceived never are even born. This is because of the body's spontaneous abort mechanism that ceases pregnancies that have genetic problems.

    I wonder if Akin confused this with his idea that rape victims spontaneously abort. (Given Akin's lack of intelligence this is probably given him too much credit).

    Of course this idea sets a lot of the anti-abortion arguments on it's ear, since if you believe it then hell is filled with unbabtised babies.

  • No True Scotsman (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VorpalRodent (964940) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:29PM (#41070205)
    So, no true rapist gets their victim pregnant?
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:34PM (#41070283) Homepage

    Akin's comments were tasteless and ignorant of current knowledge/data, but since no one else is coming to his defense, I will.

    There are two aspects of his comments to which people take offense. To get the first out of the way quickly, "legitimate rape", the 2004 Maryland case [time.com] of "delayed withdrawal of consent" is an example of "rape" that is not "legitimate".

    Now, onto the pregnancy statistics. The theory that rape resulted in few pregnancies was common among conservatives, as TFA states. It came from the amlgamation of two scientific reports. First, studies have shown that female orgasm increases fertility because the vagina draws the sperm up like a conveyer belt as well as opens up the cervix. Second, until just a couple of years ago, rape victims reported orgasms in only 5-20% of cases. A recent study, however, showed that up to 90% of rape victims orgasm -- including those who could not otherwise normally orgasm. Women in previous studies were too ashamed to admit it (and in fact it's the greater psychological trauma than from having been penetrated).

    This is an explanation for what was reported only in 2003, which is that the chance of pregnancy is greater [springerlink.com] with rape than with consensual.

    Akin's information was out of date, was widely accepted by anti-abortion advocates (esp in the past), and had some scientific basis that was skewed due to rape victims' misreporting.

  • The real math... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:41PM (#41070389)

    ... is that the Republicans are hosed this November if they continue to double down on all of this.

    And this is one of their central tenets on rape, that there is "legitimate rape" and "well, it's not rape-rape, because she had an orgasm" or "she deserved it because she dressed like a slut and forced the weak spined guy to rape her." It is so central to the "pregnancy as punishment for moral failing" in fundie circles that they will not relinquish this point. Because to relinquish it means they could be wrong on other things about pregnancy and abortion too. It's a point of faith held very deeply.

    Which is why the GOP platform calls for a constitutional ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape.

    But don't you dare call it a war on women. Right? *spit*

    So get the popcorn, and find your favorite chair, because this is going to be an epic amount of derp.

    --
    BMO

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @02:08PM (#41070893) Homepage

    Just my quick $0.02 because I keep reading the word "feminist" used as a pejorative.

    Unless you think women should not be able to vote, get an education, drive, or hold the same jobs men do, you are a feminist.

    Feminism is often associated with the left-wing equivalent of right-wing nutjobs. While yes, there are a small %age women out there who fit an unflattering image of what most conservatives visualize when they hear the word feminist, in reality, most civilized mature people are feminists, regardless of political party, religion, or other demographic.

    Of course, those of you who think women actually do belong uneducated, imprisoned (nonconsensually), barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, are truly not feminists.

    Carry on.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @02:14PM (#41070979) Homepage
    Akins rant was a success. Recognition and discussion has reached a national level for this candidate, but do we even know who hes running against? people are rightly polarized and outaged now but this strategy seems to be an old one for the GOP that harkens back to their sterling allies on AM radio. Say something incendiary, let the audience simmer for a while and see what they think, then direct the conversation where you think it needs to go.
    The GOP is elected on the coattails of the culture war, nothing less. Once in office they act solely in the interest of the upper class but they need a vehicle to get them there. Points to Akin for avoiding complicated issues like the economy, for which the GOP have no coherent or reasonable answer but to continue shoveling money into the cauffers of the rich.
  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @02:15PM (#41070997)
    People of the United States should remember that Paul Ryan(R) (forcible rape) along with Todd Akin(R) (legitimate rape) co-sponsored the "Sanctity of Human Life Act:H.R. 212" which says that life starts at fertilization and guarantees that life full protection under the law which of course has the effect of making women who miscarry guilty of murder.

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