Are we on the verge of our own American Dark Ages? We now have a major political party, one of only two allowed to exist within our deliberately constrained process of elections, that turns its back on science and rational thinking. Hijacked philosophically by the Tea Party and conservative Christians and funded by corporate America (that has its own agenda), the Republican Party has abandoned reality for a patchwork quilt of religious dogma, superstition, pseudo science and wishful thinking. The result is a continuous barrage of jaw dropping, astonishingly stupid statements not confined to the paid bloviaters of talk radio, but now bubbling up through the sludge to our elected officials sitting in leadership positions in the legislative branch of government. The latest comes from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who claimed in a television interview that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
While some might assume that such a ridiculous notion was pulled from thin air (so thin it resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain), research by blogger Justine Larbalestier reveals that Akins belief is actually grounded in historical precedent. In fact, it reflects a long-debunked eighteenth century assertion based on nothing more than biased male conventional wisdom.
Larbalestier pulls this section from Thomas Laqueur’s book “Making Sex:”
Samuel Farr, in the first legal-medicine text to be written in English (1785), argued that, “without an excitation of lust, or enjoyment in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place.” Whatever a woman might claim to have felt or whatever resistance she might have put up, conception in itself betrayed desire or at least a sufficient measure of acquiescence for her to enjoy the venereal act. This is a very old argument. Soranus had said in second-century Rome that “if some women who were forced to have intercourse conceived . . . the emotion of sexual appetite existed in them too, but was obscured by mental resolve,” and no one before the second half of the eighteenth century or early nineteenth century question the physiological basis of this judgment. The 1756 edition of Burn’s Justice of the Peace, the standard guide for English magistrates, cites authorities back to the Institutes of Justinian to the effect that “a woman can not conceive unless she doth consent.” It does, however, go on to point out that as matter of law, if not of biology, this doctrine is dubious. Another writer argued that pregnancy ought to be taken as proof of acquiescence since the fear, terror, and aversion that accompany a true rape would prevent an orgasm from occurring and thus make conception unlikely.
So we, the voters, are handing the levers of governance to individuals whose belief systems are rooted in an era when female hysteria was a common diagnosis and masturbation was considered a serious public health threat. In other words, we are rewarding stupidity rather than relegating it to obscurity. America has long had a strain of anti-intellectualism, but we are carrying that regressive notion even further by electing officials who vocally denounce science (climate-change deniers) and revel in their superstitious beliefs.
It’s maddening that the society that put the first person on the moon is now electing people who want to dismantle public education and replace it with Taliban-style religious indoctrination. People like Akin (and Bachmann, Ryan, Cantor, Pence and so many others) are attacking the very things that made this country the envy of the world at one time. Not anymore. Today we are in the midst of America’s decline, which is being funded by corporate America and abetted by a misinformed, fearful public.
Ironically, the eighteenth century was the height of the Enlightenment, while in America, the twenty-first century heralds a new Dark Ages.
Late for work. Now where did I put my powdered wig and snuff box?