The Power of Language: "Legitimate Rape" and Efforts to Change the Definition of Rape

Last year, former senator Todd Aikin (R-MO) made the following comments about “legitimate rape” that outraged women and feminists nationwide. (Not insignificantly, Senator Aikin sat on the Science Committee in the House of Representatives at the time he made these comments…the science committee.)

Shortly following the senator’s debacle, then-Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan insinuated that rape was simply another form of conception in an interview in which he was asked to comment on Aikin’s comments. So here’s the important context to their public comments: both Ryan and Aikin have been proponents of trying to change the language that legally defines rape in an effort to make it illegal for women to have access to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. Read more about their efforts to narrow the definition of rape to proven ‘forcible rape.’

What’s the current legal definition of rape? As of 2012, according to the Department of Justice, the definition is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”  The definition is used by the FBI.

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One thought on “The Power of Language: "Legitimate Rape" and Efforts to Change the Definition of Rape

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