Sisterhood Blog

The Enduring Rape Myth Created by Nazis

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Usually on the internet when Nazi analogies come into play, it means Godwin’s Law—the theory that all online arguments will eventually devolve into a Hitler comparison—has been invoked and the conversation is over.

But in the case of the “women who are raped can’t get pregnant” myth, a myth Republicans love to perpetuate, there’s actually truth in the comparison. This is because the myth originated with a “study” that was actually, gruesomely conducted in a concentration camp. As Emily Bazelon reminded us during the Todd Akin “legitimate rape” hullabaloo, this lie originates in part from an Nazi experiment.

Women were told they were on their way to die in the gas chambers—and then were allowed to live, so that doctors could check whether they would still ovulate. Since few did, Mecklenburg claimed that women exposed to the emotional trauma of rape wouldn’t be able to become pregnant, either.

The reason this is back in the news, and Bazelon had to remind readers about the original connection, is because another Republican, Trent Franks, perpetuated the medically inaccurate rumor as the GOP tried to push a 20-week abortion ban through the House, saying, “my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject—because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

Though the comments weren’t exactly the same as Akin’s, they were disturbing as part of a trend of thoughtless, untrue, sexist remarks from politicians on the subject of rape and abortion and female anatomy in general.

The Tumblr “It’s Not Just Akin” is keeping track of all these absurd, cringe-worthy statements made by politicians about women’s bodies, comments that have been matched by a continual stream of legislation to not only end abortions, but discount and trivialize the experiences of rape victims. See also: Democratic and GOP men’s intransigence on the issue of moving military rape adjudication outside the “chain of command.”

So why, after the 2012 elections are these anti-choice, anti-woman bills still passing, these comments that, let’s note again, harken back to Nazi experiments, still coming down?

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan has some thoughts:

Why would the GOP, a party that was open palm spanked in the 2012 elections and that admitted its continued existence depended on “get(ting) with the times” (not saying dumb crap about rape) regress to the same old rhetoric that got them in trouble in the first place? Because they think no one’s paying attention, and the ones that are won’t remember when it counts.

She’s right. There’s a level of numbness that sets in when you scroll through the Tumblr and realize how pervasive this kind of talk is. Yet we have to take note: as disturbing as reports of the government spying on our phones and our computers, the government getting into our bodies and our reproduction—old story that it is—should be provoking protest, too. We can’t succumb to outrage fatigue, because they’re not succumbing to misogyny fatigue.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Abortion

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.