Legitimized Rapes

by Susan McWilliams on August 23, 2012 · 20 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Culture, High & Low

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Claremont, CA.  In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the hero Howard Roark violently rapes a woman named Dominique, forcing her into submission “like a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession” of a slave.

“She tried to tear herself away from him. The effort broke against his arms that had not felt it. Her fists beat against his shoulders, against his face…, her eyes wide, colorless, shapeless in terror. He was laughing.”

Dominique bites and flails and even draws the blood of her assailer, but Roark has his gruesome way with her. But don’t feel too bad for Dominique, because it’s all cool:  all that bruising and bleeding makes her realize that being raped brings “the kind of rapture she had wanted” all along.

In Rand’s lesser-known Night of January 16th, one Bjorn Faulkner rapes a woman named Karen Andre when she comes to interview with him for a job. She has such a good time being raped that she becomes his partner in business and sexiness for the rest of his days on earth.

And in Atlas Shrugged, the heroine Dagny Taggart secretly wants men to rape her. The more powerful men, the better. Fortunately, Rand’s superhero John Galt understands this and forces her to commit an act of what has sometimes gotten called “consensual rape.” Then they live happily ever after.

Gosh, and the ladies complain that romance is dead.

With the Republican Party awash in self-proclaimed devotees of Ayn Rand, I wonder why fewer of them have stood behind Missouri Congressman Todd Akin and his distinction between “legitimate” and other kinds of rape.* All Akin did was suggest that for women, sometimes “no” means “yes.” In Rand’s ouvre, a woman’s “no” almost always means “yes.”

As Rand saw it, superior men are virtually required to be rapists. The Randian hero, as she described Howard Roark in her journals, is someone who “can never lose himself in love” because “his life and work come above all—nothing and no one can interfere, or even be considered beside it.” When it comes to having sex with a woman, then, Roark only acts on the “feeling of wanting her and getting her, without great concern for the question of whether she wants it.” And although Rand’s ideal woman almost always wants it, in the end her feelings really don’t matter. “Were it necessary, he could rape her and feel perfectly justified.”

So I don’t know why all these Randians find Akin’s comments so “outrageous,” as Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan called them. Next to Rand, Akin looks like a bra-burner, a champion against violence against women. After all, for everything he got wrong, his words suggest some belief that the feelings of women – and other people in general – matter.

*Interestingly, Congressman Ron Paul – perhaps the most ardent Randian in the legislative branch – has refused to comment on Akin’s remarks.

 

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar August August 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

You know the reason. They are all sociopaths. If they weren’t sociopaths, they’d admit legitimate rape is a category that we all hold in our heads since the 90s, when the definition of rape was expanded to the point where a couple could go out drinking, have sex, and the next day the male is an evil rapist if the female has any regrets. And we learn that women can, and in some case do, lie about rape.
But Akin flubbed. He meant consent, which doesn’t necessarily mean rape didn’t take place, since there is such a thing as statutory rape. But whatever, I am pretty sure he’s a sociopath too.
It is sort of funny the way you try to smear people with Rand, though. So, I guess I have permission to think rather badly of any woman who peruses the bodice ripper aisle in B&N huh? What a wide-scale disappointment we can have with an entire gender thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey. I can’t stand Rand’s writing style, so I have never done more than read a page or two and put down in frustration, but at least she could actually write. Have you tried reading Twilight? Imagine the day when politicians point to that kind of garbage as the sort of books they like!

avatar love the girls August 23, 2012 at 10:26 am

Susan McWilliams wrote :”All Akin did was suggest that for women, sometimes “no” means “yes.””

No. He was referencing the long standing understanding in the right to life movement that rape that is not consensual, ( i.e. not statutory rape or regret by a college coed who later claims rape to a consensual relation), rarely results in pregnancy.

As as long as we’re referencing fiction, did Mrs. Pendrake in basement in the movie, Little Big Man, mean yes or did she mean no?
Time – Phrase
00:33:19 Don’t…

00:33:21 No, don’t…

00:33:23 Oh, yeah…

00:33:24 No, don’t!

00:33:26 You beast…

avatar Robert August 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm
avatar Stephen August 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Mr. Akin’s statement betrayed gross ignorance, but as “love the girls” wrote, this article totally misunderstands what he was saying. When he used the phrase “legitimate rape” he did not mean “rape that is justified,” but rather “actual rape” (in contrast to sexual intercourse that is later claimed to be rape).

It’s quite titillating to discuss all the creepy aspects of Rand’s views on sex, but connecting Akin to this is inaccurate. Many, many commentators have discussed the belief among some right-to-life organizations that when a woman is raped, her body automatically reacts to block the sperm from fertilizing her egg. Ms. McWilliams could have easily discovered this with a little research.

avatar Laura August 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

For me it was not the term ‘legitimate rape’ that I found abhorrent, I think I got Mr Akin’s meaning, though I do not like that term…those are two words that should not exist side by side. It was the notion that a rape that results in pregnancy implies consent, that pregnancy somehow proves to us that the victim wanted this to happen, perhaps even enjoyed it, because if she didn’t, she would not have gotten pregnant as a result. There is no medical or scientific basis to this claim. I was unaware until this flap that this is a commonly held belief among some right-to-lifers, so I guess I can be grateful to Mr Akin for that. To me that notion is completely unacceptable and a very twisted way of justifying one’s position on abortion.

FWIW, I read the Fountainhead and lost all interest in Ayn Rand and her fiction as a result of that rape scene. Yes, she wrote well, but that doesn’t mean I liked the message, or wanted to read more.

avatar love the girls August 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Laura writes : “For me it was not the term ‘legitimate rape’ that I found abhorrent . . . It was the notion that a rape that results in pregnancy implies consent, that pregnancy somehow proves to us that the victim wanted this to happen, perhaps even enjoyed it, because if she didn’t, she would not have gotten pregnant as a result. ”

No one has ever made that argument. The reason for the argument was because mothers who were not raped were saying they were so that they could legitimately kill their babies.

The word ‘legitimately’ is a reference to the civil law, both here as well as used by Akin; it does not connote a moral understanding since legal baby killing is obviously abhorrent.

avatar Corey August 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

This article is really beneath FPR. You’re either wilfully obfuscating what Paul Ryan and some others have said about Rand in order to say something snarky, or you’re so unable to grant good will towards those with whom you disagree that you actually believe Republicans think it’s sometimes ok to rape people. I do hope that FPR will continue to be a place where ideas are discussed at a high level, and not become just another website where caricatures of political ideas and politicians are presented.

avatar Ray Olson August 24, 2012 at 9:40 am

Corey–reread the piece. What it’s saying is that Rand’s views of rape are disgusting pornographic fantasies. What, then, does lionizing Rand say about the lionizers? If they can’t come to the defence of one of their own on this matter, perhaps they ought to question the Randian position on others.

Laura–reading The Fountainhead was the end of the line with Rand for me, too. It’s a ludicrous S/M fantasy and not at all well written. Rand’s prose is wooden and unimaginative, rising no higher than mediocre add copy or, to be more accurate, the level of the dialogue in a John Waters movie, though Waters aims to be satirical (and succeeds, I think), whereas Rand is dead-level serious and earnest, rather like, say, Lenin, or Stalin, or Hitler.

avatar Carl Bankston August 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Yes, there is a current of sado-masochism in Rand’s writing. I remember being particularly struck by this in We the Living. But, whatever one’s view of her literary skills or philosophy, it is unfair, irresponsible, and wildly illogical to employ this kind of argument of guilt by intellectual association to suggest that anyone influenced by Rand believes that women want to be raped.

avatar Scale of Life August 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Essentially what Ms. McWilliams is implying is that if you agree with a person on some things you must agree with them on everything. This is at best simpleminded. I have read a lot of Wendell Berry’s books, and I believe he makes a lot of good points on many topics. However, I do not agree with him on everything. This piece is indicative of much of what is wrong with politics in this country.

avatar D.W. Sabin August 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Oh well then, a scab seems to have been ripped. We must parse the definition of rape politely and within the norms of the Commune.

Watching the current debate requires a forbearance beyond most intellectual reckonings. We must swallow a world class level of satire but remain straight-faced.
Rape, well, it is simply rape. Beyond the subject at hand, it is what we are doing to ourselves while the political system we adhere to descends into an epic swamp of idiocy.

We have here in this country, a wildly diverse polity that has never before been assembled in the history of mankind under a largely peaceful construct upon a forgiving land. Some would like to resurrect Robespierre and seek purity, cocksure and with canines blared. Such didacts rebuke the genius of the American Experiment.

What a tiresome and consigned agenda, surrendering to the more sordid aspects of the human ego. “Us” against “Them”. Sure, It produces theatre and then blood and is always the useful idiot of every authoritarian government which has come down the pike to our time .

I expect more from us but am consigned to the old adage of one can never under-estimate the intelligence of the public.

Would that we might possess a Menckin in our time, to impart a little humor and intelligence to the debate. We are never so apart in our fates as Americans that a laugh might unite us to the larger good.

avatar Vance Freeman August 31, 2012 at 8:22 am

Ms. McWilliams,

I had forgotten about those depraved scenes in Rand’s novels. I think it’s interesting to point them out in light of Akin’s statements and many on the right’s embrace of Rand. But your article is ultimately just snarky. Calling Ron Paul a Randian when he has openly criticized Rand’s views on Christianity and morality is irresponsible. It sounds like the attack articles from the right where someone is criticized for a favorable comment about Marx. So Pope Benedict is a Marxist because he agrees with Marx’s description of the alienation of man? This sort of unnuanced blag is best suited to other publications, but not the Front Porch. Please take it elsewhere.

avatar Lenore Ealy August 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm

AMEN! very well done. And why I’m not in the end a classical liberal and not a devotee of Rand, whose understanding of man allowed for very little of the humane virtues.

avatar Lenore Ealy August 31, 2012 at 8:10 pm

modification of earlier post: AMEN! very well done. And why I’m not in the end a classical liberal and not a devotee of Rand, whose understanding of man allowed for very little of the humane virtues.

My point echoes Roy Olson’s above… there are many many better sources for the case for fiscal conservatism and limited government Ryan is trying to make.. Hmmm, the U.S. Constitution, Tocqueville’s warnings of the potential for soft despotism, Mises and Hayek…

Best I can tell, Akin used an unfortunate choice of words to in trying to say that violence often has inhibiting effects on conception. I don’t know the science on this, but it would be interesting to see the stats on abortions that result from violent rape vs. those that result from consensual, even if regretted, sexual relations. I suspect that the latter category has by far the larger “n”.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins September 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm

What did Ron Paul criticize about Rand’s views, and when did he criticize it?

When is the most important question, although exactly which parts of the books that are required reading for his staff he rejects is relevant too.

Sharon Angle said “social security is dead” until the Republican Party realized she was their only chance of knocking off Harry Reid, and sent a team in to put words in her mouth. Ryan is more than capable of putting fresh words in his own mouth for the sake of winning an election. “Pay not attention to my core values, focus on the fact that I’m a fresh young face with ideas you haven’t heard a lot about before…”

avatar Patrick September 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm

It seems that once again the Republican party has allowed the Democrats to shape the limits of the debate.

The likely meaning of Rep Akin poorly stated term “legitimate rape” referred to a violent sexual assault. By the way was Rep Akin given the opportunity to face his accusers and explain his meaning of this term? Today with the “Plan B” available over the counter and that giving this drug as part of a rape exam and treatment protocol ; how many really think that this policy could be quickly and easily changed based upon the opinion of one politician?

Although cases of rape and incest is the reason for less than 1% of abortions, this always seems to be the cause of a pregnancy for the pro-abortion argument. Shouldn’t the debate be about abortion be centered upon the pregnancy terminations for the greater than 99% of abortions that were not caused by rape?

The pro-life politicians would better further their arguments by focusing upon the emotional effects of abortion. For instance many more abortions are performed on young women who don’t want an abortion but are coerced by a husband, boyfriend or family members and this has a long term negative effect upon these unfortunate young women.

Tying this to the economy would be a better strategy: for instance, do you want your taxes used to pay for an elective abortion? How about the 3% sales tax for homes sales or the transfer of money from Medicare to fund Obama care to pay for elective abortions or for college a student’s contraception?

avatar Emmett September 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm

@Stephen

I don’t understand how Mr. Aiken is guilty of gross ignorance, as you put it, either under your own criteria or under a universal definition. What fact is he guilty of “ignoring”, and grossly?

Let’s start with your own criteria. You say that “this article totally misunderstands what he was saying. When he used the phrase “legitimate rape” he did not mean “rape that is justified,” but rather “actual rape” (in contrast to sexual intercourse that is later claimed to be rape).” So what is it about what you admit he was really trying to say that shows gross ignorance?

Now let’s turn to the universal definition. My dictionary says that legitimate can mean, “actual or genuine”. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/legitimately
What would be wrong with a person citing what he believes to be a medical fact, and using a modifier which says, “I’m only talking about cases that really happen”? Would it have been wrong for Akin to have said, “I am in favor of IRS audit reform, because the number of cases of legitimate fraud, as opposed to those cases where people just settle with the IRS to make them go away, are relatively few.”?

It seems like it’s just become the cool thing to say, ‘Akin is ignorant, a fool, etc.’, assuming, ‘how far can I go wrong with some Christian Republican hick from Missouri?’. But no one, that I have found, can articulate exactly what he said that was “grossly” wrong, i.e. wrong enough to banish him from political life, not just “He could’ve phrased that more clearly” (an error which I imagine is committed by a politician somewhere practically every minute of every day).

This episode just goes to prove, once again, that you mention “abortion” and people’s reasoning facilities shut down.
You mention “rape”, and people’s reasoning facility shutdown.
It is double indemnity, here.

avatar Cait September 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

@Emmett

Here’s the part that was grossly inaccurate:

“Akin’s response was that it was his understanding from doctors that it’s rare for someone to become pregnant from rape. He said, ‘The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.’”

The female body can in no way, shape, or form expel sperm it doesn’t want. If that was the case, accidental pregnancies would never happen because we could just decide not to become pregnant. Since this is not the case, victims of violent, forcible rapes do become pregnant. What Akin is implying is that if you do become pregnant (which happens just as often as it does for any consensual couple having unprotected sex), you must not really have been forcibly raped; you must have secretly wanted it somehow, or else your body would have prevented the pregnancy. He’s telling all the women out there who have become pregnant after being raped that their experiences of being violated in the most intimate way possible don’t matter, because secretly they must have wanted it.

If he actually has that little knowledge of a woman’s anatomy and bodily processes, then he has no business speaking about it. If I know nothing about fishing, am I going to lead a two-week fishing seminar? I know politicians can’t have in-depth knowledge about every issue that ever crosses their paths, but this is a big one for a lot of people, and having information so incorrect about such a basic part of that issue makes him unfit to speak about it.

If someone can explain to me what he could possibly have meant that could result in “misspeaking” that way, I’d be happy to hear it.

avatar Michael Maedoc September 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I agree that the author has misused Akin’s name. She has misrepresented his argument acting on the assumption that everybody knows he’s wrong. But, the comment section has brought out the real problem with this debate. No one has established what he was saying leaving only the progressives to define and distort its meaning. A news talk host at MSNBC suggested that Akin believes that a woman can will herself to not get pregnant. This, belief, of course, is an incredible misrepresentation. We need to be more honest and interpret Akin’s comments in light of what a reasonable person should conclude based upon Akin’s beliefs and background. Pandering to the public ideas created by the media is far from reasonable, its downright ignorant.

avatar Emmett October 8, 2012 at 10:52 am

@Cait

“If that was the case, accidental pregnancies would never happen because we could just decide not to become pregnant.”.

You yourself said that Aiken only said that it was rare. Rare and never are different categories. So why did you even introduce the term “never”?

“What Akin is implying is that if you do become pregnant (which happens just as often as it does for any consensual couple having unprotected sex), you must not really have been forcibly raped; you must have secretly wanted it somehow, or else your body would have prevented the pregnancy. ”

Boy, I don’t know how you unpack all of that out of one short sentence by Akin.

“The female body can in no way, shape, or form expel sperm ”

Akin didn’t say anything about expelling sperm. There are several stages involved in pregnancy up through and including implantation, all of which have to happen, sine qua non, and none of which involve sperm being expelled from the vagina.

The idea that pregnancy happens less often in rape than it does in consensual sex, has been a talking point in pro-life speakers’s bureaus for decades, and has been endorsed by Dr. JC Wilke and is based on studies done years ago. You may not like the studies, but there’s no reason to call for the nullification of a primary election and the banishment of an individual from civilized society because he relied on these studies for one of several thousand talking points that he will use during a Senate campaign.

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