The Unexpected Group That Wants to Teach Male Politicians How to Talk About Rape

The president of Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, has volunteered to coach the Todd Akins of this world how to speak about rape. One problem...

Marjorie Dannenfelser, an original organizer of the Susan B. Anthony List, has offered to put words into the mouths of male politicians who insist upon speaking about rape as though it were a minor detail. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Getty Images)

Jan 15, 2013· 2 MIN READ
Sara Benincasa is a blogger, comedian, and author of 'Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom.'

Well, this is unprecedented. The anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List has apparently decided the GOP needs a bit of communications training when it comes to speaking of the issue of sexual assault.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser announced on Monday that her organization plans to put together a training program for politicians to teach potential candidates to discuss rape in a less scandal-provoking fashion than the freewheeling theorizing and medical misdiagnosing espoused by now-former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) or current Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)

MORE: The War on Women’s Worst Quotes—As Voiced by Women

Dannenfelser blames pro-choice activists for the firestorms around Akin’s and Gingrey’s incendiary quotes, accusing pro-choice proponents of focusing on rape as “a tactic to [force pro-life lawmakers to] talk about this rather than the 98 percent of abortions because they know that they lose it.”

In other words, pro-choice activists draw anti-abortion politicians into rape debates in order to trap them into saying…well…things like the following:

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” —Akin, August 2012

“[Akin is] partly right on that … We tell infertile couples all the time … ‘Don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right, wasn’t he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak.” —Gingrey, January 2013

“One of the things we really can do is to help march candidates through all the tough questions, help them formulate the best response, the most articulate, compassionate response they can, and then memorize it.”

When she stepped forward to offer her services as sensitivity trainer for office-craving male politicians commenting on rape, Dannenfelser could’ve easily added to the list of cringe-inducing quotes having room for improvement:

“Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant, and the parents are madder than a wet hen, and she’s not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was part of the program.’ All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she’s underage. And [my father] just said, ‘Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,’ he said, ‘they rape so easy.’ ” —Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard, December 2011 [Rivard lost his bid for reelection in 2012]

“I struggled with myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen.” —Indiana Treasurer of State and GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, October 2012 [Mourdock lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2012]

Dannenfelser presents the art of projecting concern for women who have survived one of the most brutal experiences life has to offer largely as a question of memory training: “One of the things we really can do is to help march candidates through all the tough questions, hear what they have to say, help them formulate the best response, the most articulate, compassionate response they can, and then memorize it. That’s what most candidates do on issues that are not sensitive. They need to do it on the ones that are most sensitive, because those are the ones they get flat-footed on.”

But Dannenfelser's angle may not differ much from her potential students.

After Akin made his comments, Dannenfelser argued that pro-choice candidates such as Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin’s opponent in the 2012 election, were “trying to use this issue as a smokescreen to hide from their radical, pro-abortion records that are out of step with the majority of Missourians and the American people.”

Dannenfelser also came to the defense of Mourdock’s “rape is something God intended” remarks, saying, “Richard Mourdock said that life is always a gift from God, and we couldn’t agree more. To report his statement as an endorsement of rape is either willfully ignorant or malicious.”

What do you think about the rape commentary made by politicians during the 2012 election? Get into the mix in COMMENTS.