How are We to Raise Men Who Don’t Rape When Images & Conversations of Childbirth Include Casual Violation

Tue, 08/21/2012 - 15:25
Submitted by Anonymous

Everyone is up in arms about Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape”. Rightfully so. But I’ve been feeling irritated by everyone’s Tweets and Facebook posts and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

It finally clicked for me when I read Eve Ensler’s beautiful Huffington Post letter to Akin.

What I realized is that I feel angry because many people of the people who are so up in arms about this Akin’s remarks are also quick dismiss women’s rights in childbirth and support violation in that arena.

ACOG (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology) wrote an excellent statement in response to Akin’s remarks yet in recent years they have waged veritable warfare on the homebirth movement and thus, essentially, women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies. Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, has done incredible advocacy work for women’s bodies, women’s rights and women’s sexuality for several years. Unfortunately, the only representation I have ever known her to give of childbirth, describes a birth that sounds replete with violation, though Ensler [url=
]describes [/url]it as beautiful and a sacrifice.

What Akin said was wrong. His words were horrifying, disrespectful, misogynistic, and dismissive. There is no excuse for what he said and it is disturbing to think of all the other people in this country and the world who agree with what he said and who think other horrifying, disrespectful, misogynistic, and dismissive things of women.

And, I am saddened that the insidious misogyny that takes place leading up to and during childbirth goes largely unnoticed – oftentimes by women’s healthcare advocates, women’s rights advocates, women’s sexuality advocates, and human rights advocates (ACOG and Eve Ensler included). I am angered that choice and positive, loving environments are so often spoken about as selfish and a risk to the baby.

I have watched doctors with whole hands in vaginas, pressing their fingers all around the vagina as women begged, yelled, screamed for him or her to take his or her hands out, to stop; and the women are ignored and it is considered health care rather than violation or rape. I have watched women be manipulated and lied to so the doctor could get a mom in the position he or she wants, though it’s not where a mother wants to be and there is no clinical medical risk to her being in the position she wants. I have watched mothers with a look of terror on her face as something is being done and no one pays attention to her terror. I have been a part of someone asking a mom if what is happening is okay, as she responds unsurely and quietly, “I guess” – which, to me, is no permission at all.

And I have watched, all too many times, as women felt depressed, angry or frightened by what happened, by how she was treated during her birth and she is mostly met with the comment, “All that matters is that you have a healthy baby”. Essentially, she gets the repeated message that violation for the sake of a baby, for the sake of your child, is okay. Or, as Ensler so beautifully says in her Huffington Post letter, she is experiencing “re-rape”.

Fortunately, we live in a culture in which, by and large, people acknowledge the horror of rape. Unfortunately, we are being inculcated into a culture in which violation is acceptable in the form of childbirth. And how, exactly, are we to raise men who don’t rape and violate when images and conversations of childbirth include casual violation? How exactly are we to raise women who don’t believe they deserve to be violated and who believe all rape is legitimate rape, when we say that for the sake of a baby, violation is okay?

I wish people knew that birth can, and usually would, take place in a healthy fashion even without whole hands “up there in her vagina feeling and turning”. I wish people knew that when whole hands do need to be “up there in her vagina feeling and turning” that that care provider could make eye contact and doesn’t have to “talk casually – like she was turning a loaded faucet.” I wish people knew that in serious medical situations that do require a doctor, nurse or midwife be more hands-on, there is still the room to talk to a woman with respect, to explain what’s happening. There is the possibility of looking a laboring mother in the eye and saying “I hear you”. There is the possibility of making choices for your own body and for your own baby and it doesn’t mean you are being selfish and putting your baby in danger.