Todd Akin’s Ill-Informed Commentary: A Response from The Ignant Intellectual

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The intersection of power, privilege, and ignorance can be a perilous epicenter. As it stands, privilege, when abused and not perpetually checked, can develop into an albatross of mental stagnation and ignorance. When that level of encumbrance meets power, it’s a guaranteed cataclysm. An example of such a misfortune is what the world saw during the taping of The Jaco Report on FOX 2. During an episode of the show, Todd Akin, Missouri Senate Republican Candidate, made a comment that sent every ovary and vagina in America and abroad into an uproar. Since Todd Akin’s ill-informed comment regarding the biology of rape and pregnancy, opinions have been airborne. From well-known female writers like Eve Ensler to lesser-known female writers like…ME! From the moment Akin spewed his male and white privilege across the room, my mind went somewhere. The majority of the responses that I have read position females as survivors and males as privilege-wrought, anti-feminist, imprudent antiquates. I challenge us to view this dyad from a rarely discussed angle. Comments like Akin’s prompt me to wonder if, given the number of under-reported male violations, some of these men are actually rape survivors who choose to project upon females value-laden sentiments from unhealed spaces. DISCLAIMER: I am not suggesting that Akin, is (or is not) a survivor. But surely not all of these dudes are genuinely assholes, right? Surely not all of the remarks and decisions being made by males in power regarding the female body are just ignorant men using their privilege to make decisions for a female body within which they have no lived experience, right? While that may be part of the argument, let’s dig a little deeper as I find the majority of the responses to comments made by Akin (and others like him) to be pedantic and stop prematurely. In my opinion, someone somewhere in some of these men’s lives told them (verbally or non-verbally) something that sent an overall message that what was happening was not legitimate. In turn, like many survivors, they repeat what they were told…either directly or indirectly in word, action, or deed. Silencing is exceptionally loud.

The moment someone is born, a certain sociological crime is committed. Actually, it is committed every moment of every day, but its intensity increases every time a baby enters the world. The crime is the propagation of a widely accepted untruth: that we are merely ‘genders on legs’. Culturally, we have a tendency to ‘genderize’, essentially, every part of life. From which restroom we use to what color clothes babies wear to even whom is more often raped and/or molested! Little of our socialization transpires exclusive of our birth-assigned sex and our socially-assigned gender. (Because the topic of sex versus gender is not the purpose of this article, I won’t devote much energy to that, except to say that sex is biologically-assigned and gender is socially-constructed). Within the first few seconds of meeting someone, we have already gendered them according to the sex we perceive them to be, which means that we have categorized them based on our existing concepts of what a girl and a boy should be, do, and have endured. Dude, what is your point? Glad you asked! Not only have we been self-relegated to simply ‘walking genders’, so much of our existence, including non-consentual sex, is determined, quantified, and stratified by gender. Not only are they highly racialized, rape statistics are also disproportionately gendered, both academically and in our everyday mental processes. When we hear the words ‘rape’ or ‘molestation’, because of conditioning, we automatically think ‘female’ or ‘girl’. So much so that when a male suggests that he has been sexually violated, his entire manhood is called into question even sometimes to the point of having his sexuality interrogated. Rape statistics are overwhelmingly reported as (female) rape, whereas rape of males is generally documented as prison rape or as a weapon of terror in warfare. In fact, the overall notion of violence has grown to become a rather masculine term. So it makes sense that when males, such as Akin, speak on the topic of sexual violations, we rarely even think that they could, indeed, be speaking from a place of personal experience and that, because of the social stigma around men and rape, these experiences may be being presented as projection and/or displacement. However, if a woman had made a comment like Akin’s, after the initial shock, our response and subsequent analyses of her statement would have been completely different. We would have probably been less likely to demonize and more likely to victimize her—thus sympathize with her. Even demonization and victimization are gendered, but that’s a whole nother talk show. My point is that, globally, we seldom mentally/socially position men as sexual abuse survivors— unless of course, we are trying to figure out why one of them is gay!

We primarily view them as perpetrators and because we so readily genderize sexual abuse, our responses often fall short. While I am not saying that Akin is a survivor of sexual abuse, I postulate that this incessant gendering has a direct effect on conditioning and conditioning is often so unyielding in our psyches, that it might as well be proven fact. Admittedly, Akin and countless other powerful men could be just that reckless, but I argue that more men in power than have admitted, have been violated sexually but because of how male sexual violence is societally positioned, their spiritual and social residual energies manifest in very peculiar ways. And when this residual energy resides within the intersection of power, privilege, and ignorance, there is no telling how it will reveal itself. We must challenge ourselves to think beyond what we see. Seldom are people just assholes for asshole sake. Aside from male privilege, many of the opinions and statements made by our men are really the unhealed, hurting, and silenced little boys trapped inside of them needing to be heard. Few things are random and we all carry trauma. Ironically, despite all of the trauma, pain, and unhealed energy in the world, we respond to each other as if we are the most healed and polished people walking. Remember, we don’t see things are THEY are, we see them as WE are.

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