‘Legitimate rape’?: What was Todd Akin getting at?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Conventional wisdom — from the right and the left — seems to insist that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo) is toast in his bid to oust vulnerable U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill this November.

I’m not so sure.

But it might help if he would at least explain himself. (He has issued a statement saying he “misspoke,” but that doesn’t really answer anything.)

The obvious questions:

1). What did mean by “legitimate rape”? Was he referring to a stranger grabbing you in a dark alley versus, say, “date rape”?

Or was he implying that exceptions to abortion law leads women to retroactively claim that consensual sex was a rape — in order to procure abortions for convenience? (If that was what he meant, it is certainly politically incorrect, but at least explainable.)

2). What did he mean when he said, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”?

I’ve heard speculation that women are perhaps more likely to conceive with a partner they deem successful or handsome — or that they are in love with. Others believe that female orgasm actually increases the odds of conception. This may or may not be junk science. But it would at least provide context. Is that what he was getting at?

Is there any science to back up Akin’s claim? It seems not.

This is obviously a serious conundrum. Akin’s words impact the national environment, seeming to reinforce the “war on women” narrative. And the fact that he is running against a woman (who is arguing that his comments are indicative of deep-seated character issues) doesn’t make his task any easier.

Having said, that, the national media tends to overplay such scandals. Can Akin explain himself and put it behind him? I think it depends how he explains himself.

The next few days will be vital.

Matt K. Lewis