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In merely thirty-eight seconds, Republican representative Todd Akin of Missouri revealed an incredibly ignorant and offensive perspective on rape and its potential consequences. When asked if abortion should be permitted in the case of rape, Akin, currently the state’s republican nominee for the Senate, dismissed pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” as a rarity. Akin did not expound on what constitutes “legitimate rape” versus “non-legitimate rape,” but his distinction implies that the estimated 32,101 pregnancies as a result of rape were somehow or another not born of a real crime. Akin goes on to say that doctors have informed him that the female reproductive system “shuts down”  in the event of rape, and thus pregnancy as a result of rape is a rare occurrence.

As the LA Times reports, women’s rights advocates have since spoken out against Akin’s remarks. Among them is Gloria Allred, who cited Akin’s ill-informed views on biology and hierarchization of rape as dangerous:

“Sometimes it’s child rape, sometimes it’s stranger rape, sometimes it’s acquaintance rape, but whatever you call it, it is rape. For him to put misconceptions into the marketplace of ideas, this is dangerous.”

Mike Huckabee, however, defended Akin’s remarks on his radio program, citing people such as Ethel Waters and James Robinson as admirable human beings who were the result of forcible rape. In an effort to shine a positive light on Akin’s statement, Huckabee also shows little sensitivity to the potentially traumatic after-effects of rape or sexual assault by focusing on chance positive outcomes. Though by citing extraordinary people as products of rape, Huckabee does contradict Akin’s statement that “legitimate rape” does not often result in pregnancy.

The Onion satirized Akin’s absurd viewpoints in a recent article. The article quotes a fictional woman who has become pregnant after what she thought was rape, but is now “relieved” to learn it was not, though her words are ridiculous, they are perhaps what people such as Akin believe to be true of what constitutes “legitimate rape”:

“Now that I know the truth, I realize none of the telltale signs of legitimate rape were there at all,” mused Byers, noting that her body did not in any way shut down but in fact continued to register excruciating pain throughout the entire cruel ordeal. “I must have at least subconsciously wanted it—otherwise, the sperm wouldn’t have been able to enter my body.”

Rep. Todd Akin: No pregnancy from ‘legitimate rape’ [LA Times]

Pregnant Woman Relieved To Learn Her Rape Was Illegitimate [The Onion]

Hollaback! has already spent years fighting street harassment and is now taking a stance against campus harassment. According to the initiative’s website, “62% of women and 61% of men report being sexually harassed on college campuses,” and within the US “51% of male students admit to sexually harassing their female counterparts.” Recently there have been many high-profile incidents of sexual assault or harassment on college campuses, including otherwise well-regarded universities  Yale and Boston University.

Like street harassment, harassment on college campuses is often portrayed as “normal” and not taken seriously, though it in fact contributes to a hostile environment for specific groups that are frequently the targets of harassment. As the video above explains, the Hollaback! Against Campus Harassment campaign hopes to create a space for students to share their stories and learn that they are not alone. The initiative also hopes to provide educational resources on campus harassment create an online community where students can receive support. For more information, check out their website where you can also donate to the cause.

Via Sociological Images is a video highlighting the incredible amount of sexualization present in the representation of young girls in the media. The video by Alexandra O’Dell, a student at North Idaho College, uses examples ranging from advertising to music videos to children’s toys, such as the pole dancing dolls pictured above. In a previous post I talked about media’s infantilization of female sexuality and its harmful effects, which, as this video shows, include low self-esteem and disordered eating, in addition to contributing to a society that makes girls susceptible to sexual assault. The video is well-worth a watch.

Diff’rent Strokes star Todd Bridges went on CNN to speak out on the sexual abuse he faced while working as a child actor, a problem that is rife within the entertainment industry. As reported by The Root, Bridges and child actor Cory Feldman are making a public case for California legislation to offer protection to children working in entertainment from sexual predators.

Bridges demonstrates a huge amount of bravery in speaking about the molestation he faced at the hands of his publicist at the of 11. As a result of the abuse, Bridges says he felt ashamed, degraded confused about his sexuality. Even after revealing the abuse to his parents, Bridges was stalked by his abuser. Though his mother supported him, Bridges says his father did not believe his allegations.

With legislation that would require background checks on people working with child actors, such as publicists and managers, Bridges hopes to protect any child working on showbusiness from facing what he did. The desire of many parents to put their children into entertainment enables people in positions of influence to abuse their power and cause potentially long-lasting harm to children. The lack of protection for child actors makes showbusiness “an open field to child molesters,” in Bridges’ words.

Todd Bridges: Protect Child Actors From Sex Abuse [The Root]

Had enough of the “Shit X Say to X” meme? There’s at least one more worthwhile incarnation to check out. In honor of International Anti-Street Harassment week there is now a “Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street” video. The speakers in the video address many common myths surrounding street harassment, such as that it’s a “compliment,” it’s ok because everyone else does it, or that what how a woman presents herself on the street can make it ok. Though men are frequently  responsible for perpetuating street harassment against women, that does not mean all men are ok with it, and in fact those who commit it also contribute to perpetuating harmful stereotypes about men. Street harassment negatively affects many people, and the more who speak out against it the better.

The UK organization This is Abuse has launched a new rape-awareness campaign geared towards 13-18 year olds. Central to the campaign are videos that enact situations that teens may commonly face. In the video below, a boy chooses to not to respect a girl’s wishes to stop the sexual encounter and rapes her. The male actor watches his actions from the outside, and attempts to tell himself to stop. As the video shows, no matter what has come before in this situation, no matter how “ok” the boy may think it is, sexual intercourse without consent is rape. Without her consent, he has no right to access her body in such a way.

The videos take a positive step in asking the person who has caused harm to change their behavior, rather than blaming the person to whom the harm is being done. It does however run the risk of presenting perpetrators as strictly male, and victims as strictly female. A new series of videos might demonstrate through other situations that sexual assault can occur between people of all genders and sexual orientations.

Like a previous campaign by Men Can Stop Rape, This is Abuse reaches out to a heterosexual male audience. Often this kind of onus is placed on women, who are usually positioned as the victims of rape, to “be more careful” in order to “avoid” rape. As Jezebel notes, the video moves away from a victim-blaming mentality:

Aside from the ad’s rawness, what stands out is that it’s aimed at boys. For once someone’s telling them not to rape, rather than telling girls not to drink or wear short skirts or go out by themselves.

The videos show that rape is not simply a “woman’s issue”, it is everyone’s issue. It is everyone’s responsibility to recognize rape and put an end to it.

Scary But Smart PSA Combats Teen Rape [Jezebel]

This is Abuse

“Women’s health takes a backseat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.”

Contraception and access to it has been a huge issue in recent US politics, buy why is it such a hotly debated topic (between some)? Why is there such conflict over providing affordable contraception?

Conservatie radio host Rush Limbaugh has finally put the reason for such discomfort over affordable contraception into the the open: People are uncomfortable with women having sexual freedom. It all comes down to slut-shaming.

As shown in the video above, Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committe on women’s health and contraception. Following this, Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitue.” Limbaugh’s disgusting words against Fluke have since received a huge amount of media attention. Here is an excerpt of some his language, via the Huffington Post where you can listen to an audio clip of it:

“So the woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she’s having so much sex – and her buddies with her – that she can’t afford it,” Limbaugh continued. “And not one person says, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?”

In addition to the publicity Limbaugh has incurred, his hateful speech has brought upon some backlash. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has condemned Limbaugh’s words, Obama has personally called Fluke to offer support, and advertisers have even pulled spots from Limbaugh’s programming. As New York Magazine points out, in calling Fluke a “slut” Limbaugh has finally put the underlying reason for the contraception debate into the open, thus eliciting a huge mainstream media response:

I suspect it’s because it almost feels like a relief to have the bile out in the open, instead of in a coded subtext as it has been in the recent debate surrounding women’s contraception.

He has shown that he believes that women’s sexual choices are a public, governmental issue. His words show that he is afraid of a woman who chooses to be in control of her health and sexual choices, and thus he must belittle her.

The long-term effects of Limbaugh’s words remain to be seen. He has lost advertisers, but he is not the only one who has rallyed against contraception. Republican Nominee hopeful Rick Santorum has made it a centerpiece of his campaign to make judgement calls on other people’s sexual practices. Perhaps his stances against sexual freedom will be subject to backlash as well, or the slut-shaming mentality underneath them will be made visible. Fluke has demonstrated incredible bravery in speaking out in favor of women’s health, and I can only hope others will follow in her path.

Thanks to Lily for the tip.

Rush Limbaugh On Sandra Fluke, Obama Call: Having ‘So Much Sex’; Parents Should Be ‘Embarrassed’ (AUDIO) [Huffington Post]

Why Is Everyone Paying So Much Attention to Rush Limbaugh? [NYMag]

Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ comment draws rebukes from all sides [LA Times]

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