'Legitimate Rape' Was a Medical Theory ... in 1200s

But several modern-era lawmakers share it
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Aug 20, 2012 12:28 PM CDT
This Aug. 10, 2012 file photo shows Todd Akin, Republican candidate for US Senator from Missouri, speaking in Jefferson City, Mo.   (AP Photo/St. Louis Pos-Dispatch, Christian Gooden)

(Newser) – If you found Rep. Todd Akin's comments on "legitimate rape" positively medieval, you're right—quite literally. As far back as the 13th century, a British legal text notes that "without a woman's consent, she could not conceive," the Guardian reports. Centuries later, in 1814, a medical text notes that "without pleasure in the venereal act," conception is essentially impossible, making "absolute rape" an unlikely cause of pregnancy. The idea ties to a prevailing notion of the time: that a woman must have an orgasm to conceive.

But it's not just our ancestors who would have found Akin's claim credible. In the late 1980s, a Pennsylvania state representative called the odds of such pregnancies "one in millions and millions and millions." A decade later, a North Carolina lawmaker said that when a person was "truly raped, the juices don’t flow," reports the Washington Post, which shares a few other examples. It also shares the results of two studies: one that suggests at least 30,000 pregnancies occur from rape every year, and another that found 6.4% of rape victims under age 45 become pregnant. (Read more Todd Akin stories.)

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