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Dear Government: Get Out of My Vagina

If you get upset about liberal vagina politics, you might want to click over to another page now, mmmkay?

smash the patriarchy
Photo: Chloe S. via Unsplash

This week I wanted to write about the kinky sex I’ve had, but guess what, I’m tired of being called a “slut” and a “whore,” so I want to take time and explain to everyone once again why I do what I do.

However, first I’d like to talk about the current climate in which both sexual freedom and women’s rights are being attacked. Let’s begin with rape. Just so we’re clear, here is the dictionary definition of rape: “A type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent.”

What is consent? “Consent is an act of reason and deliberation. A person who possesses and exercises sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision demonstrates consent by performing an act recommended by another. Consent assumes a physical power to act and a reflective, determined, and unencumbered exertion of these powers.”

Consent is the key issue in the modern-day definition of rape. Rape does not require that the rapist use physical force; the issue is whether the person who is being raped actually agreed to have sex. People who are asleep cannot consent to sex. People who have been drugged cannot consent to sex. In many jurisdictions minors cannot consent to sex.

Rape is not a crime of passion; it is a crime of violence. Rape doesn’t only happen to women. Wearing a short skirt and stilettos doesn’t invite rape. Most rape doesn’t occur in a dark alleyway by a creepy stranger; more than two thirds of victims know their rapists. So what does that mean? It means that in the vast majority of cases, a knife isn’t being held to your throat while a convicted felon hisses, “You know you like it” (although that does happen).

The definition of rape has evolved over time. Not so long ago in America, there was a belief that a husband should be able to have sex freely with his wife whenever it pleases him to do so. Therefore, a wife could not prosecute her husband for raping her. Sex was considered a “marital duty.”

You might wonder why our ideas about rape have changed over time. Well, there are a variety of reasons for this shift in thought. First, rape victims and their lawyers clocked countless hours in the courtroom fighting to make judges and juries understand that rape is a serious crime that is perpetrated in many forms, and that it inflicts emotional and sometimes physical harm on the victim, and that the rapist deserves punishment for inflicting the harm. Also, the women’s rights movement helped to clarify that women and men are equals, and therefore, among many rights, we have the right to make choices about who can and cannot touch our bodies. Clearly this is a simplification, because I don’t have the time to explain all the causes that changed our attitudes.

Oh, wait, have we changed our attitudes about rape? I’m not sure that all of us have.

In the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about rape all over the news, because of the upcoming election.

Here’s one remark:

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child” (Todd Akin, U.S. Representative from Missouri and Republican nominee for the Senate, speaking on television defending his opinion that abortions should not be allowed in cases of rape).

Another gem:

“I’ve always adopted the idea, the position, that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life” (Paul Ryan, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin and Republican vice presidential candidate, responding to Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape”).

Let’s take the issue of abortion off the table and focus specifically on the semantics. Concerning Akin’s statement, putting the words “legitimate” and “rape” side by side actually delegitimizes the entire concept of rape, because it implies that some rapes are not valid. Certainly there are times when a rape is alleged but no rape occurred. Such a case is not an “illegitimate rape” but a false accusation. As stated above, any time there is nonconsensual sex, that is, by definition, rape. There is no such thing as an “illegitimate rape.”

I watched the interview in which Ryan explained his view that rape can be considered a “method of conception,” and at no time did he mention that rape is a crime.

These statements are fraught with misconceptions. For instance, contrary to Akin’s assertions, a woman’s body does not reject a rapist’s sperm like a Pepsi machine rejects a bad nickel.

The discussion that these men are having completely neglects to mention the experience of rape for the rape survivor. I’d like to fill you in on that part. As I have written about in the past, I was date-raped. My rapist did not wear a condom. Because my rapist stuck his penis into my vagina while I was asleep, I did not consent. When I woke up, I told him no, but it was too late, and he ejaculated inside me. I was worried that I would get pregnant, because I did not take the pill. I was also worried that I might contract HIV or another STD. I was afraid to tell anyone for months, because I thought that no one would believe me.

My rape is not an exception to the rule; it’s a story that is similar to thousands, hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions of other people’s rape cases. Millions? You might think that’s an exaggeration, but it is likely not. I didn’t report my rape to the authorities. I’m not listed in the statistics, because I never told the police. Only reported cases of rape make the statistics.

I was also molested by my father from the ages of 10 to 13. Therefore, I am an incest victim, as well. I didn’t report that to the authorities, either. Again, my reasoning was that I thought that no one would believe me, or that I might be blamed for the sexual assault.

Discussing nonconsensual sex in the public forum without mentioning its criminality is irresponsible and dangerous. The politicians’ remarks create an atmosphere in which the blame for the perpetration of the crime is shifted from the rapist to the victim.

Now, let me add back into the mix the question of abortion. I’ve never had an abortion. However, my rape could have easily led to a pregnancy. As far as I can remember, I was not penetrated by my father, but had he raped me after I hit puberty around the age of 12, the rape could have resulted in pregnancy. Would I have had an abortion in either case? I’m not sure. Would I have wanted the option? Damn straight I would have.

Why is the government so concerned about my uterus? Why do these reactionaries consider a collection of cells that are injected into the womb without consent to be a person worthy of protection under the law? Why do pro-life advocates not apply the same “all life is sacred” argument to life that is ended because of war or the death penalty? Why the fascination with the space between my legs?

I believe that the answer to those questions lies in the idea, which many conservatives believe, that female chastity is a supreme value, a virtue that should be lauded and defended at all costs. Such a concept furthers the notion that a woman who sleeps with a lot of people, dresses provocatively, or openly expresses her sexuality is a “wicked” woman. In this sort of belief system, wicked women are sinful, and sinners have to be punished. I do not subscribe to this nonsense.

As I’ve said before, sex is a natural part of life. It is the reason we are here on this planet. I believe that I have the right to express myself sexually in any way that I choose, within certain boundaries like proper circumstances, consensual contact, and legality.

In other words, I want to fuck when I want to, and I want the right not to fuck when I don’t want to.

So listen up, federal and state governments: Leave my vagina alone. Focus on improving the economy, and on protecting citizens from crime. I will not stop talking about sex, having sex, or filming sex until the day I die. Sex, sex, sex! Can you hear me loud and clear, Americans?

Originally published by the Huffington Post on Aug 30, 2012

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