Religious Right Rape Scale
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (which is my second broadsheet) has coined a very useful term: Religious Right Rape Scale.
He was talking about Todd Akin’s Gaffe, when he said that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” I’m using the term “gaffe” in its Washington sense here, when a politician accidentally lets a thing they really think tumble past the lips when it’s the sort of thing politicians are supposed to obscure.
There have been so many takedowns of what Akin said that I simply don’t have the time to do a roundup of them and if you read this blog you have likely seen them everywhere. It’s baseless, faith-based, medically inaccurate nonsense concocted by someone trying to justify a policy (no abortions, no exceptions) that most of the populace regards as a cruel.
But what he said is, sadly, not uncommon bullshit in the feverswamp of antiabortion activists and the politicians sprung from that well. I could say more about this: the “just world” thinking, the need to concoct some theory why the transparently awful is fair in order to do nothing to change it. This stuff is to rape and forced pregnancy as Social Darwinism is to poverty and the prison-industrial complex. That’s what I have time to write now, and probably others thinking along those lines have or will articulate it better.
But back to Josh Marshall’s term. Of the many, many offensive things about what Todd Akin said, just one is that he postulates a categorization of rape where some are legitimate and some are not. Marshall writes:
Religious Right Rape Scale (i.e., judging all rapes on a scale of 1 to 10, with slut rape being a 1 and ‘legitimate rape’ being a 10).
It is important to have a name for this, it is a thing. The quote from Akin immediately reminded many people of the quote that made South Dakota small-time politico William Napoli a household name for a while. The problem is that it is not a thing that happens only among religious conservatives. It is a thing that Whoopi Goldberg partakes in when she says that what Roman Polanski didn’t wasn’t “rape rape.” It is a thing that judges and juries partake in when they decide that it doesn’t count when it happens to a sex worker. It is a thing that people participate in an inquiry into the moral standing of the victim to complain; examples are too numerous to list.
It doesn’t just happen among religious conservatives; it happens in rape culture. Rape culture is one where the legitimacy of a person’s bodily integrity is up for debate, when people can and will sit around after someone is raped and debate how bad it is and whether we should care, that dismisses rape in lots of situations because it’s not the kind that the culture is really against.
It doesn’t just happen in the religious right, but I think the term is useful nonetheless because, in US political discourse, calling it that sends a message. I am going to use it. I am going to tell people when they’re placing rapes on the religious Right Rape Scale, and I hope that they hear it and realize who they’re helping. Because all victim-blaming and worthiness-weighing helps maintain the world the way guys like Akin and Napoli want it.