|Rhea Silvia, 'Date-Rape-Drug' Victim|
It was only last Monday’s strange dream about Romulus and
Remus which got me over my reluctance even to address US Republican Congressman
Todd Akin’s view that women don’t get pregnant as a result of rape. The reason
he may not hear much about such pregnancies is obvious to any woman. If the two
individuals I know personally to whom this has happened are anything to go by, women
who are pregnant as a result of rape get themselves unpregnant fast.
The source of Akin and his fellow idiots’ information seems
to be a 1985 article by one Dr. John C. Willke. According to the website of the
‘Life Issues Institute’, this fantasist is an ‘expert in human sexuality’.
His theory is that in a woman who
is raped, sperm can’t traverse the fallopian tubes because the tubes go ‘spastic’.
|What Does it Look Like 'in spasm'?|
Now the ancient Greeks and Romans were hardly advanced on either
gynaecology or rape. Indeed, with many sexual encounters in classical
mythology, there are variant versions which show how much it was disputed
whether e.g. Helen was forced into sex by Paris or seduced by him. Men have
always liked to imagine that women are enjoying sex which is forced upon them.
There isn’t even a word in ancient Greek or Latin which corresponds to the
modern term ‘rape’, the emphasis being laid more on abduction of another man’s
property than penetration of an actual person’s body.
Yet I am just relieved that madmen like Willke and Akin were
not in control of policing ancient literature, since if their idea had been
given any credence in antiquity, Classics would not exist. The Vestal Virgin
Rhea Silvia was certainly ‘raped’ in the modern sense by Mars, since she was
asleep when he had sex with her. He had used a ‘date rape drug’, the ancient
equivalent of Rohypnol. Her tubes did not go spastic, and she produced Romulus
and Remus. If you can’t get pregnant through rape, we would therefore never
have had ancient Rome AT ALL.
|Was it Consensual Because She Laid an Egg?|
I’m afraid it’s the same with Greek myth and literature, at
least with all of the works dealing with the Trojan War. Helen of Troy may have actively agreed to embark on an
affair with Paris, but it’s not at all clear that either of the mothers the
ancients proposed for her–Leda, Nemesis—wasn’t forcibly inseminated by whatever
means male swans use. Without Helen there is no Trojan War.
If rape victims’ tubes had been believed to go spastic, the
entire genre of New Comedy—Menander, Plautus and Terence—would never have
happened because so many of its plots unedifyingly begin with a baby resulting
from the rape of a freeborn female teenager.
And one of the most astonishing texts in the ancient repertoire
would have to be completely rewritten: in Euripides’ tragedy Ion, the Athenian queen Creusa remembers when she was raped as a
defenceless adolescent by the lustful Apollo, despite her heartrending, ‘desperate
screams for help from mummy’.
|'Expert in Human Sexuality'|
The rape resulted in her pregnancy with the boy Ion: like
countless rape victims before and since, she recalls how she concealed the pregnancy
out of shame, gave birth alone, terrified, and in secret, before trying to get
rid of the baby. Euripides makes his spectators face the longterm psychological
damage these experiences caused Creusa. They continue to haunt her in middle
Akin and Willke urgently require a remedial course in human
biology. But I would be happy to supplement it with a course on rape in antiquity.
It just might make the tubes connecting
their gonads to their brains a little bit less spastic.