Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remark may be sinking his Senate campaign in Missouri (though he's not down for the count yet), but he'd be doing just fine in the Roman Senate, according to a post by Andrew Solomon on The New Yorker's website.
Solomon offers a deep dive on the history of children conceived from rape, tackling everything from the origins of Akin's mystical reproductive theories, the lives of rape victims and the lives of children who were conceived from the violent act. "The Roman physician Galen claimed that women could not conceive in rape—could not, in fact, conceive without an orgasm based in pleasure and consent," writes Solomon. The author's knowledge of the subject derives from research for his upcoming book Far From the Tree, an examination of "women raising children conceived in rape." He uncovered a wide range of cultural understandings of rape over time, like this, per Solomon:
Augustine saw a noble purpose in rape; while promising women that “savage lust perpetuated against them will be punished,” he also praises rape for keeping women humble, letting them know “whether previously they were arrogant with regard to their virginity or over-fond of praise, or whether they would have become proud had they not suffered violation.” The Roman physician Galen claimed that women could not conceive in rape—could not, in fact, conceive without an orgasm based in pleasure and consent. Classical mythology is full of rape, usually seen as a positive event for the rapist, who is often a god; Zeus so took Europa and Leda; Dionysus raped Aura; Poseidon, Aethra; Apollo, Euadne. It is noteworthy that every one of these rapes produces children. The rape of a vestal virgin by Mars produced Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome. Romulus organized the rape of the Sabine women to populate his new city.
Read Solomon's New Yorker story in full here.