Mythic Mondays – Legitimate Rape

You know, this is one post I never thought I’d have to write. The level of stupid involved in rape culture and the forced-birth movement is pretty bad, but this comment takes the cake.

Todd Akin, a United states congressman AND a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, stated this weekend that rape rarely causes pregnancy because:

“It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down, But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”

Apparently, according to Akin, a woman’s uterus knows the difference between rape and consensual sex, somehow, and magically destroys sperm that doesn’t have its paperwork in order. I want to meet the incompetent doctors that he said gave him this information.

Was it Galen of Pergamon? He taught that a woman could only conceive if she’d had an orgasm. He taught this is 150 CE, mind you. While he was ahead of his time in cutting edge anatomy…this was also almost 2,000 years ago. He also was a staunch supporter of blood letting, and of fixing ‘bad humours’, which has been thoroughly discredited by modern medicine. As has the idea that a woman needs to orgasm/consent in order to get pregnant.

Todd Akin, a man who has the power to legislate laws that limit a woman’s reproductive choice, while following advice from a 2,000 year old medical book. Not to mention the fact that this man is on the House Science and Technology Committee. Let that roll around in your head for awhile. I’m not even going to debunk this one, because if you believe that a woman’s uterus knows about consent and can decide whether it should get pregnant or not, then you are an idiot. Todd is an idiot.

The really scary thing? Todd is not an isolated case. There’s plenty of documented occurrences of Republican politicians stating this very thing. These are university educated men in positions of power. Jezebel has a recent timeline of some these incidences. Not to mention that this is one of the core beliefs of the anti-choice movement.

‘Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, on Sunday called Akin’s remarks “flat-out astonishing.”

“That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims …That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women,” she told AP Radio.’
The Toronto Star

There’s also the not-so-subtle undercurrent of what he’s saying: Real rapes don’t get women pregnant. Most rapes are just made up by loose women who can’t keep their legs closed and regret it after the fact. So the estimated 32,000 women a year who get pregnant each year from rape? Lying sluts who are just trying to put an innocent man in prison. Stay classy, Todd.

There’s a petition to get Todd taken off the House Science and Technology Committee. ‘Someone who believes nonsense like this has no part overseeing science policy.’ Says the poster of the petition. Seeing as the man is still living in the dark ages, it might not be a bad idea.

Here’s some good posts on the subject of Legitimate Rape, Todd, and Rape apologists:

The myth that women can’t get pregnant from rape stems from basic assumptions anti-choicers make about women.

The Offical Guide to Legitimate Rape.

Akin’s eager apologists

What Todd Akin Said

Mythic Mondays – Reading in Dreams. Batman was wrong!

When I was in early highschool Batman the Animated Series was the shiznet. Everyone I know watched it. Mind you, I also lived in the boondocks and there was a limited selection of what we could watch. Three channels on a good day!

It was well written and very ‘adult’ for a kids show. I tended to take a lot of what they said at face value because of the way it was presented. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Here’s an example: You cannot read in a dream because it’s a function of the left side of the brain. Dreams are a function of the right. This is how Batman broke out of the ‘Inception’ Dream within a dream episode where the Mad Hatter creates a never ending dream world to keep him imprisoned. Apologies if the video below makes you go to Youtube to see it, it was the only copy I could find.

I believed this was true for years. I repeated it to others and helped spread this misinformation. Batman said so! When did Batman ever lie? Well, first of all he mixed up the two. The left side of the brain is the one that’s always been associated with logical tasks and the right side is the one associated with raw creativity. So there’s that.

Then there’s the fact that…I read in my dreams all the time. Signs, newspapers, books, whatever. They have all appeared in my dreams and reading them was no big deal. Ermahgerd! I’m a freak! Only, not really. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest reading in dreams is not at all uncommon.

Anyhoo, the truth is that we don’t really know where dreams come from. Not with any certainty. There hasn’t been very much serious research done on the subject. Researchers in Switzerland produced a paper in 2004 that suggested that they had found one possible location for the formation of dreams. This happened by chance when a 73 year old woman had a stroke affecting that area of her brain. Side effect of stroke: Her dreams stopped. REM sleep continued as usual, but her dreams were absent according to brain scans. REM sleep and dreams are connected, but they are not the same thing and they originate in different parts of the brain. This had the unexpected side effect of busting another popular myth : That humans will die if they can’t dream.

“How dreams are generated, and what purpose they might serve, are completely open questions at this point.”

Dr Claudio Bassetti, of the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland

During dreams, and the rest of the time too, brain activity isn’t localized on one side or the other. The brain just doesn’t work that way. The left side/right side explanation of brain activity has some basis in reality but is wildly over simplified. There are specialized areas of the brain, which work with other specialized areas of the brain and everything between hemispheres is interconnected through the corpus callosum. And hundreds of millions of nerve clusters. There’s a whole lot of communication going on between both sides of your brain. All the time.

“Sure, we have two hemispheres that operate fine independently and have different abilities, but they are massively interconnected and work together as a seamless whole (providing you have never had surgery to cut your corpus callosum).”

Dr Steven Novella, Academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine

We’re not dolphins. We don’t sleep with one side of the brain at a time. And the functions of our brain are not neatly segregated into conveniently coloured portions of the brain. The whole thing is a mess. A mess we haven’t completely figured out yet. But from what we do know, there’s no reason why one shouldn’t be able to read in one’s dreams.

Damn you, Bruce Wayne.

Mythic Mondays – Leprosy

The other day I was watching an episode of National Geographic’s Taboo. It was the episode about outcasts. One of the segments was about modern lepers in India. There was a montage of interviews with random people on the streets of what I assumed were European/North American cities. You know, western, supposedly educated people. They asked the question: Would you touch a leper? The interviewees seemed horrified. One woman flatly states that she would never touch a leper because she knew leprosy was contagious.

This caused a deep sigh to start within me. Accompanied by a slow rolling of my eyes back into my head. The irrational fear that still exists today over a disease which has a cure, and which most humans are naturally immune to, annoyed me greatly. 2012 and we’re still cringing from lepers. How depressing. So I thought that an interesting exercise for myself would be to try to pick a common misconception/myth/urban legend and make an effort to debunk it. Or at least scrape together some information about it in what is hopefully an easy to digest manner. I’m going to call these posts: ‘Mythic Mondays’ because I’m all about alliteration and this gives me a deadline of sorts.

Found in the Public Domain here : ‘’


Leprosy is a skin/nerve disease that causes noticeable disfigurement and nerve damage if left untreated. The very word ‘Leprosy’ is a word which for millenia has inspired fear and loathing for those afflicted. This fear was/is so great that lepers were/are often cast out of civilization and forced to subsist in leper colonies. Leprosy was seen as an affliction that was wrought by the wrath of God ™ as a punishment for the wicked. All of that is well documented. Ancient history, however, is not what interests me about this disease. What I want to focus on is the misconceptions that still surround Leprosy.

First of all, while Leprosy is a contagious bacterial disease, it is very difficult to contract. It requires contact with saliva (not disfigured limbs or rashes) and it turns out that 95% of the human population is already naturally immune from this bacterial infection. Currently something around 150 people in the US contract this disease annually according to researchers at the National Hansen’s Disease Program. Hansen’s disease is another name for Leprosy, and one that doesn’t cause such negative and visceral reactions. “Leprosy is a rare disease and will remain a rare disease,” says Richard Truman, Ph.D.the Chief of microbiological research from that same program.

The cure for Leprosy was discovered in 1981. Turns out that Leprosy is just another bacterial infection and can be cured by pharmaceuticals. In this case, a multi-drug approach using Dapsone, Rifampin and Clofazimine. It takes six months to a year to treat a patient but they are no longer contagious after a few doses. Unfortunately, the treatment does not reverse any disfigurement that has already occurred. And more unfortunately, in places like India and China people will often hide their symptoms so as not to be marked as a Pariah. So that by the time they are treated irreparable damage has already occurred. And considering that even in 2012 there are people who have knee-jerk reactions to the word leper, you can hardly blame them for thinking that they will be shunned.

Tesla and Women’s IQs

“But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men, and as generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.”

Nikola Tesla

Over at Jezebel there’s an interesting article with the straightforward title: Women Are All of a Sudden Scoring Higher than Men on IQ Tests. It follows on the announcement that…well, you read the title. No need to be redundant. Apparently, for the first time since they began keeping records, women are averaging up to 5 points higher than men on Intelligence Quotient tests. This follows on another report suggesting that women are now earning more college degrees than men, and that young professional women are now outperforming young men in the job market.

By the many noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, how could such a thing have happened? You may be asking yourself. This flies in the face of everything that male chauvinist and religious folks have been telling us for ages. Lady-brainz are delicate things that aren’t supposed to be taxed with too much thinking. Thinking causes worry lines…and feminism. Best leave it to the menfolk. Clearly it is time to panic. But first, let’s cast about for something to blame.

Two quotes from the article in the Telegraph suggest that:

One theory for the result is that the demands of juggling family life and building a career have made women more intelligent.

This sounds a little like the reasoning of Evolutionary Psychology. I am not a fan of this budding ‘science’ (And I call this science in the same way I call homeopathy science). It’s a little too have-the-answer-I-want-now-lets-look-for-the-question. You know, the opposite of how science actually works. But that is a post for another day. Suffice it to say that there’s no evidence that multitasking makes one smarter, and plenty of evidence to suggest the opposite.

Another theory is those women have always had the potential for higher results, but are only now realising it.

Which sounds an awful lot like my Tesla quote from the beginning of this post. Oh Tesla, is there anything you didn’t know? Keep in mind he said this about a hundred years ago. Please excuse me while I take a moment to sigh dreamily while thinking of my favourite mad scientist:


If only I had white wings and laser eyes… Okay, I’m back.

Tesla’s quote (and I guess the second quote from the article too) is also an excellent answer to that question asked by angry dudebros everywhere: ‘Yeah, well if women are as smart as men how come they never invented anything?’ See, but then you have to bring up that word that frightens the dudebros: Privilege. If women aren’t allowed to go to school and learn things like engineering, you can’t honestly suggest that women not engineering anything noteworthy makes them stupid. Keep in mind I did say that it isn’t an honest argument. Not that dudebros wouldn’t try to use it anyway.

I know there’s a few other arguments out there as well. One is that the IQ test is flawed. We know this. Of course it’s biased towards people educated in a certain way and with a certain social background. *cough* White Caucasian males *cough* That’s the point, right? The playing field has apparently been leveled. And two, Affirmative Action. What this last one sounds like is sour grapes from someone that is so caught up in this zero sum game of boys vs. girls that they need to cast about for excuses. It almost seems like they’re suggesting the only way a woman could perform equally to a man is by cheating. That there is raw and pure sexism. Also: Fighting words.

The important thing to consider is that over the last 100 years IQ averages have been going up all around as the complexity of the world demands more of us. That means the boys and the girls are scoring better. This is a victory. Yay for education! As far as I’m concerned there is no girls-vs-boys to factor in. It’s a wonderful thing that women are showing more of their true potential. This isn’t something that should make anyone cast about for excuses and vent anger. Higher education has helped us all achieve better scores and this has got to be a good thing, right?