Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who is a candidate for US Senate, wounded his own campaign and is potentially harming other Republican campaigns (including Mitt Romney’s) when he claimed, in a televised interview, that the female body has “ways to shut that whole thing down” [pregnancy] in cases of “legitimate rape.”
Akin’s comments, taken at face value, mean that he believes that when men force themselves on women sexually, and the women are impregnated, that those women consciously or unconsciously wanted to be fertilized by the men they are identifying as their rapists. In other words, even though these women may have said “no,” or may have fought against their assailants, at some level the fact that they became pregnant meant they and their rapists were creative partners.
This may reveal more about Congressman Akin than that he is ignorant of biology (which he is). It also may reveal a psychological world view that goes something like this: Right is established always through might. The end result justifies the means. And, because the ends of a brutal act may sometimes be as beautiful as a child, it is not up to the person pushing for something to balance the needs of another against his own desires. That is the solitary domain of the person attempting to resist his advances.
How Congressman Akin came to this world view is anyone’s guess; mine would be only educated by these two decades as a psychiatrist. But some people come to such views by virtue of having been victimized by others, but who wish not to identify with the victim’s role. They don’t want to admit to themselves the horror of having been helpless or overwhelmed. That helplessness is sometimes having been exposed to physical or sexual violence, but it could be as simple as having no voice in one’s home of origin and being overwhelmed by an authoritarian parent. Rather than admit that being hurt was wrong, unwelcome and unavoidable, some victims will pretend it didn’t happen that way—that they were never in harm’s way.
The best evidence that Congressman Akin’s statement reflects a world view, rather than a misstatement is that he won’t pull out of the Senate race. He doesn’t understand—and may not have the current capacity (read here, empathy and sensitivity) to understand—that his candidacy is an unwanted intrusion on the Republican party; a political rape, if you will. It fails to incorporate the needs of party and country into his life story and goals. And even if his candidacy should bear fruit, and yield him a Senate seat, that result will not justify his persistence and inability to hear the word “no” from his party.
You see, where God and Truth are concerned, life is long. Whether Congressman Akin wins or not is not the final judgment on his intentions, nor the final outgrowth of his psychology. And no great good is likely to come of either, without retreat, reflection and introspection. His now running for office would seem to be his running from that reality.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.