A letter to Paul Ryan about forcible rape

Dear Vice Presidential Hopeful Ryan,

I am somewhat perplexed at your condemnation of Todd Akin and his use of the term legitimate rape (“Outrageous,” I think you called it). After all, it is clear that legitimate rape is a synonym for your no less insulting term forcible rape. And don’t you try and wiggle out of forcible rape Akin-style, because forcible rape is the exact terminology you used in the No taxpayer funds for abortion act. Yes, yes forcible was dropped, but I’m sure it meant something to you and your 200+ co-sponsors at the time.

As forcible rape is not a medical term that I, or any doctor with the exception of Ron Paul, am familiar with I need clarification. And frankly, since you introduced us to it I think you should explain it. Otherwise, I’m left with the assumption that your definition involves significant evidence of a physical assault (broken bones, lacerations etc.) and in addition, this event will only be validated as a rape after the victim has completed a rape kit and charges are underway. I guess fear of reprisal, shame, devastation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and distrust of the blame-the-victim defense tactics are silly things, and ought not to get in the way.

My dear Paul (can I call you that? After all, given your interest in helping victims of rape we must be colleagues of sorts), I ask of you only one thing. To watch this video and tell me if it meets your definition of forcible rape. While many women are physically brutalized during their rape, most are raped by friends or acquaintances in a manner such as this. While no bones are broken in this video, it is frightfully realistic for an educational video and the heartbreak is painfully evident, enough so that many rape victims will not be able to watch it.

I eagerly await your reply,


Dr. Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. I still have a hard time calling what happened to me a rape, even though I cried and said no several times in a similar situation, until I finally stopped arguing and just let it happen. It is commenters like Karen Brice that keep the doubt in my mind. That attitude permeates the culture and is one reason why rape continues. It is why I have to argue with other health care professionals, including other doctors, about what sexual assault really is, and what consent really is.

    Rape is rape. Consent is consent.

  2. I almost didn’t leave a comment, but I have to. The video is a poor example of what a rape is and it won’t convince anyone, much less a GOP legislator/candidate, of anything other than the fact that the girl in the video had it coming. I’m not saying she had it coming, just that this is a poor example of rape. In my case when I was raped I was raped by someone I had known for years and trusted. I was a married woman in my own home with two small children. I was doing nothing that would lead my rapist to believe I wanted sex with him or his attention. I said no loudly and vociferously when my rapist overpowered me. I struggled and fought and kept screaming no. Unfortunately, he was strong enough to overpower me and pinned down my legs and arms. I was left with no bruises or marks. I could have filed charges but who would have believed me? Who wants to go through a legal process where the rapist is going to get off and the victim is going to be seen as either an idiot or someone not worth the time of day for the legal system? Most women that are raped face the same situation. Who will believe them? Who cares? No one, except other women who have been in similar situations. Todd Akins’ “mistake” was in verbalizing what many men, and women, in the Republican party think, that women cannot take care of themselves, that they have no right over their own bodies, and by God they’re the ones that are going to fix the woman problem because they’re the party of family values and moral purity and they know what’s best for women. Right. For the rest of my life when I vote, it will not be for a Republican who has taken the GOP/Tea Party platform of sending women back to the stone age.

    1. I was not going to comment, until I read your own comment. I am extremly appalled at your statement. Your comment was tantamount to blaming the victim. Was this womens’ rape not real rape because she shook her head indicating ‘no,’ a physical refusal, instead of voicing loudly ‘no’? Is it less real rape because she was willingly kissing him before deciding to end the encounter, but was forced upon. Are you insinuatinng that if you lead a man to believe you may, possibly want sex, but than change your mind, that the following rape is your own fault? Your judgment that you’re “not saying she had it coming, just that this is a poor example of rape”, is tantamount to saying ‘well, she SORT of had it coming.’ This is not a poor example of rape; It is rape.

      1. If you had read my comment fully, you would have seen where I did not blame the victim. This is what I said: “The video is a poor example of what a rape is and it won’t convince anyone, much less a GOP legislator/candidate, of anything other than the fact that the girl in the video had it coming. I’m not saying she had it coming, just that this is a poor example of rape.”

        I did not say the type of rape portrayed in the video was not real. What I’m saying is if you want to convince the Republican party of what rape is or isn’t, a stronger example needs to be used because let’s face it, what is shown in the video is exactly what most GOP legislators see rape as being. I would in no way blame any victim for any crime, especially in rape cases. Now, personally, from what I saw in the video, the girl didn’t exactly put up a big fight against the guy, she just laid there after saying no. If you think this is going to convince a GOP legislator of anything, I would guess it would convince him that he doesn’t need to change his mind on rape.

      2. 1. NOBODY has rape coming to them.

        2. There are people who would say you deserved to be raped for having a man in your house, not stabbing or shooting him, or screaming until it alerted someone.

        Women and girls are trained to “Keep sweet”. Don’t complain, don’t hurt someone’s feelings, don’t reject advances, be nice all the time, defer to men and older people.

        This means that they literally do not have the tools to say NO. They’ve been trained to put their feelings aside, to submit, that they don’t matter. There’s also the fact that men so expect this docility, compliance and deference, that a definite refusal, a NO, can lead to being maimed or killed.

        Are you American? If so, You live in a country where the leading cause of death in pregnant women is domestic violence. Unrelated men, male acquaintances, casual boyfriends… You honestly expect them to take selection politely, when men are happy enough to kill the wives/partners who are carrying their offspring? Yeah, right.

        Women and girls know this, they know male violence and freeze out. of self preservation.

        Stop victim blaming. Rape is nothing more than nonconsensual sex. Not NC sex with a stranger, not NC sex + violence, NC sex + threats, NC sex while drugged or drunk, not NC sex while screaming and kicking.

        It’s sex without a YES, sex without consent, under ANY circumstances. Anyone who tries to claim otherwise is a pawn in rape culture’s sick blame game.

  3. Hi Jen, the Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” and the Paul Ryan’s rape definition like just another “Mehtod of Conception”; the lies of “Physicians for Life” and Mitt Romney’s silence on the matter, don’t you think we’re facing the beginning of a new Ethnic Cleansing based on the former Jugoslavian civil war model?

  4. The alleged rape started with kissing and fondling by both parties. The fondling then moved to power of him over her pushing her on the bed. She made a comment about “not here”. She is turning her head from side to side that is a bodily reaction to saying stop. The problem is she is not saying anything to clearly state that she wants him to stop. Can we define in law the body movements, emotions that say to another person to stop? The words, STOP, NO, etc., are not exchanged . It is obvious watching it that he is moving too fast against her desire for more.

    If the girl after the alleged rape went to an ER. Now a physician saw the girl who exclaimed what happened. The physician examines the girl to see if there is evidence of what she is saying. If the evidence is present, can the physician document in the health record about the girl being raped.

    Rape is forcible! Rape is a crime! Rape is sexual intercourse or oral sex when either of the partners are under 16. The problem is can we really be specific in our laws to define rape.

    1. “The problem is she is not saying anything to clearly state that she wants him to stop.”

      No, the problem is that she did not clearly, enthusiastically, and continually consent to sexual activity. Women are not in a continual state of consent until they say no. (No one is.) Consent doesn’t automatically exist – even if partners have known each other, or are on a date, or are married, or had been kissing. Even if they were in the middle of sexual intercourse. The whole point of the advert is that he should have actually *looked up at her* and been concerned about consent, rather than assuming she consented.

      “Can we define in law the body movements, emotions that say to another person to stop? The words, STOP, NO, etc., are not exchanged .”

      If it’s so hard to tell when someone consents, how is it so clear in this video that she doesn’t consent? Men aren’t stupid. However, women often have very good reason NOT to actually say “stop” or “no.” Rapists generally don’t react well to that – and yet we blame the victim for not going against her instinct not to escalate.

      Or if it’s so damn confusing to know if a partner wants to have sex, here’s an easy way: ask “is it OK if we keep going? Does this feel OK? Can I do (X)?” How hard is that?

      1. This is true I was alone with the guy who raped me at 4am (he broke in while I slept) and I was almost 100% certain that he wouldn’t leave unless he got what he wanted and that he would probably kill me and yeah I froze up big time. He was very agitated and I didn’t want to escalate the situation. Before that happened to me I didn’t even know that people especially women reacted that way when they were in danger, I kind of knew, but I’d never experienced it only saw it acted out on t.v. etc… But as always because it was an acquaintance rape the prosecutor didn’t go forward because a jury wouldn’t convict as far as he was concerned so yeah my introduction to rape culture involved all of that plus PTSD.

        I’d just like to say thanks Anna for making this comment because alot of people don’t know what it means to be in this situation and go through this. It’s not as simple as we would like it to be sadly.

    2. Wrong. The lack of a ‘No’ is not a ‘Yes’. Many victims freeze up. In addition, girls and women are socialised to never bluntly refuse anyone, to defer to others, to keep the peace.

      Your attitude is what enables rape culture, it’s pure victim blaming.

  5. Politicians are only after one thing : votes . If things like this gets them votes , they are quite happy . ( Wages , expenses , pension ) .

  6. Sadly? The Paul Ryan, Todd Akin types will not see that as rape. They will say…”Well, she was kissing on him, leading him on, she asked for it.”

    There is no teaching those sorts.

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