Legitimate takedown: Todd Akin meets the women of the Internet

Virginia Heffernan, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

You gotta hand it to a guy who wakes up, checks the weather and decides, Today’s the day to opine about rape! Last month, the comedian Daniel Tosh attempted to silence a heckler at the Laugh Factory, saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”

Five weeks and one Twitterstürm later, put “Daniel Tosh” into Google. Suggested searches are “rape joke” and “Daniel Tosh gay.”

Over the weekend, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri saw a chance to follow suit and bullocks up his own Google standing on the eve of an election. Pregnancies from rape, Akin said, are scarce because if “it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

“Rep. Akin Must Resign” says a paid anti-Akin ad on Google today. That’s the first return on an “Akin” search. Feminists decried the comment. Democrats did, and Barack Obama. Then Republicans, then Mitt Romney. Now almost everybody wants Akin out of the Missouri Senate race.

Not long ago it seemed that, with the right P.R. operators, the famous could survive almost anything. Since Web 2.0 brought together video and a robust commentariat, it’s one false move and you’re consigned to D Block with comedian Michael Richards and politician George Allen.

Like a pickup artist who worries that his crude wingman has hurt his chances with the ladies, Mitt Romney and other Republicans are said to be furious at Akin for turning off just the women the campaign was trying to woo. Dude! Don’t talk about rape! Girls hate that!

Today, Todd Akin has released a weird ad in which he, in caramel-colored makeup, says he used the wrong words, has daughters, has a good heart, hates rape and hopes we’ll forgive him. The whole spectacle is just undignified and absurd.

Some news outlets have helpfully taken the time to trace the fallacy of Akin’s wacky rape theory, saying that there’s a medieval or frat-house or nuclear-fusion theory that states that women can’t get pregnant during sex they don’t orgasmically enjoy. Uh. OK. The jokes about that make their own selves.

Over on the feminist blogs, including the inspired Feministing, due diligence is being done to run Akin out of town. Pushing way beyond the questions raised by Akin’s cracked opinions, which distinguished politicians has daughters and which one dislikes rape more, the feminist blogs are unsurprised. They represent Akin—and even the men who seek to temper his comments in their own garbled language—as yet more participants in “rape culture,” the parts of civilization in which, many feminists argue, sexual violence is normative.
 
Reading these blogs against the mainstream media, you might well want to reprise John Edwards’s notion of “two Americas.” The twist is that in this election year one America is female and the other male. In the female one, rape—nonconsensual sex as designated by the party that didn’t give consent—is everywhere, wrecking lives and making sexual harmony impossible. In the male America, “rape” is a subject of jokes and pontification. It’s a trope to be employed wantonly with the boys and judiciously when you’re trying to seduce women.

This second male-America way of thinking about rape—as a subject for humor or political footballery—is probably not going to last long when the intrinsically feminist Internet puts thumbscrews to the weirdos who use it that way. The Republicans are in big trouble today. And Todd Akin, aspiring senator from Missouri, is no doubt not long for this political world.

Maybe Akin was right on one point: The females, it seems, can shut something down. Him.