Calling it “rape,” or: the pearl-clutchers of convenience

Originally posted on The Radical Housewife.

You want a trigger warning?  You got one.

Surf away if you don’t want to read the word “rape,” think about the act rape, or get a taste of my wrath directed at pearl-clutchers of convenience who gleefully report about rape all day long in the name of news, but are shocked, SHOCKED that rape might be mentioned in a comic strip.

No, not reruns of Peanuts, silly.  Doonesbury!



Good old Garry Trudeau is wading into the forced ultrasound wars with a series this week featuring the trials of a woman seeking an abortion in a conservative wonderland (or the early stages of the Republic of Gilead).  Trudeau told the Washington Post that to ignore the issue would be “comedy malpractice.”  Bless his feminist heart!

Above is today’s strip, cut from the print editions of the two dailies in my area, the Minneapolis StarTribune and the St Paul Pioneer Press.  I haven’t subscribed to either for many years, due in part to cost-cutting measures that sacrificed journalism in favor of really big type and the kind of salacious reporting that belongs in the pages of In Touch Weekly, not a newspaper (remember when the PiPress’s reporting on SlutWalk Minneapolis appeared in the shape of a woman’s sexy legs?  I sure do).  Thursday’s strip promises to feature a doctor annoucing “by the power invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”


But when the papers themselves can’t control the narrative (rape=kinda sexy), the issue is suddenly controversial, too hot for print.  When Garry Trudeau likens a transvaginal ultrasound to rape, it’s “inappropriate.”  As David Brauer of MinnPost (an online news source staffed by canned Strib & PiPress employees) so astutely observes, children reading their parents’ papers are already being exposed to stories that detail rapes of kids their own age.  

But that’s news, the editorial boards would argue.  People have a right to know.  Following that logic, then, it can’t be controversial that readers have a right to know that transvaginal ultrasounds look like this:




…and that these ultrasound laws coming up for debate would require that women seeking abortions would be forced to endure this vaginal probing without their consent.

Sure sounds like rape to me.

A Pap smear is not rape, despite the suggestion of Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America.  Just like Janice, I schedule Pap smears with licensed, trained professionals whom I trust.  Janice and I consent to the procedure, following the guidelines recommended by our doctors.  It’s not against the law to skip ‘em, though.  We have a choice in the matter.  When we get Paps, we say yes.*

But back to the pearl-clutchers of convenience populating the editorial boards of Twin Cities newspapers, suddenly so nervous about children.  THE CHILDREN!  MY GOD, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Give me a break.

The word “rape” should make people uncomfortable.  How are we going to stop it without talking about it?  How are we going to debate the politics of mandated vaginal ultrasounds without considering that, yes, the procedure looks and sounds an awful lot like rape?

A credible newspaper cannot reasonably claim that news articles on the rape of children (reported in much larger type than appears on the comics page) are somehow less damaging than a comic strip satire.  Pearls cannot be clutched only when it suits….The Suits.

The whole thing almost makes me want to start a subscription so I can cancel it in a huff.  Almost, but not quite!  Happily, these papers are dwindling into insignificance all on their own, due in large part to dumb decisions like this one.

You can keep up with Doonesbury online here:

* can you believe I’m still explaining this yes-means-yes, no-means-no shit?  I can’t, either. 

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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