Let's use “legitimate rape” comment as a learning opportunity - LivewellNebraska.com
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Let's use “legitimate rape” comment as a learning opportunity

Lindsay Novak is a certified sex therapist based in west Omaha. She blogs every Tuesday for Livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Lindsay here.

Although it's suggested sex and politics not be discussed at the dinner table, the combined topic seems to be gaining public attention.

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin's comments have stirred a fury among both men and women. In response to his position on rape and abortion, he was quoted saying, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.”

He's not the only politician to make a verbally challenged mistake about rape. In 2011, Kansas state Rep. Pete DeGraaf got heat for his comment about a bill prohibiting health insurance plans from covering abortions, including when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

DeGraaf suggested women should “plan ahead” by buying a separate policy that covers abortion. When asked to explain how women are supposed to ‘plan ahead' for issues over which they have no control, DeGraaf was quoted saying, “I have a spare tire on my car. I also have life insurance. I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”

Without sounding like a feminist on a soapbox, I would like to clarify some misinformation about rape, for both education and politics' sake.

First, rape is a crime about power, which includes a choice and behavior on the perpetrator's behalf. Since a victim is not able to prevent rape from happening, our social messages must be carefully scrutinized to prevent blaming the victim.

Recently, after a rape at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the university promoted warning messages to women about closing and locking their windows at night. While this safety information is important, it doesn't necessarily take a stand against the perpetrators.

Thanks to our constitutional freedoms, Americans are allowed to speak freely about their beliefs. But bottom line: No rape victim asks, invites or deserves to be raped. And when taking a stance on abortion, in cases of rape or not, educate yourself.

Todd Akin's comment about the female body "preventing pregnancy" in cases of rape was not based on facts.

Not once have I read medical or sexual health research that backs up the claim that the female body reacts differently to rape. In fact, the female body cannot distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sex. Some women report experiencing orgasm during rape, acquiring a sexually transmitted disease and becoming pregnant.

But to end on a positive note: One benefit of sex becoming a part of a political debate is that society is encouraged to discuss and question our own — and our politicians' — beliefs about sex, sexuality, intercourse, abuse, orientation, etc.

Use this as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of your position on sexual health.

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