During the recent election season, a handful of male Republican politicians made some now infamous comments about rape. The common theme in all these comments was implicitly or explicitly blaming and/or holding women responsible for rape (e.g. Missouri Rep. Todd Akin asserted that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant) while ignoring or condoning men’s role in rape (e.g. Wisconsin state Rep. Roger Rivard stated that “some girls rape easy”).
While these comments are problematic for a number of reasons, I want to point out how they are grounded in false and gendered views of biology. Specifically, these comments echo biological determinism: the belief that our biology determines our desires, characteristics, and actions. Because women have so few eggs (approximately 500 in total compared to the millions of sperm men produce daily), women need to be selective in who they choose to have sex with. They should limit sexual encounters to men who they think would make the best fathers; that is, men who would produce the best genetic offspring and who will be able to provide for the offspring. Moreover, since women will be responsible for childrearing, they should be careful to pick men who will make this investment worthwhile. Women’s passive sexual “nature”—i.e. their weak libido—is thought to aid them in making good choices about mates. In contrast, men have no reason to be selective. In fact, because they have so many sperm and because they are not responsible for childrearing, they have no constraints on whom to have sex with. If we accept there is a “biological” urge to procreate, then men are “naturally” inclined to have sex with as many women as they can.
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