Wisconsin lawmaker says “some girls rape easy,” makes it worse by explaining what he means

Did you hear the one about the Republican politician who made an outrageous comment about rape and then just kept talking himself into a hole? No, not that one.

It starts off more confusing than anything else. Last year, Wisconsin state Rep. Roger Rivard–who has earned the endorsement of Paul Ryan–told a newspaper, in the context of discussing the case of a teenager charged with sexual assault after having sex with an underage girl, that his father always used to tell him that “some girls rape easy.” That sounds like it’s probably horribly offensive, but I don’t really know because I can’t even begin to guess what it means. Well, yesterday Rivard assured the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that his comments were take out of context and offered this full and enlightening explanation. Let’s savor it, shall we?

He told the Journal Sentinel that his father had advised him not to have premarital sex, and he took that seriously.

Alright, so his dad decided to keep up the pretense that there was a chance in hell that his son would actually not have sex before marriage. Kinda shitty parenting, if you ask me, but hey, apparently this is a myth that many people, even today, are very invested in maintaining.

“He also told me one thing, ‘If you do (have premarital sex), just remember, consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry,’ ” Rivard said.

Well, this is actually promising. Right, so you’re making out with a girl and things are heating up but then suddenly she tells you to stop? And you’re confused because you thought everything was going well, but, as dad reminded you, even if someone said “yes” to one thing, they might change their mind and you need to stop–or else it’s rape. That must be what he meant, right?

“Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant and the parents are madder than a wet hen and she’s not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was part of the program.’

Oh. Wait–let’s slow it down…

“Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant”

As if by magic! Suddenly, this girl–I’m sorry, young lady–get’s pregnant. And this entirely unexpected twist is but tangentially related to the sex you were also partaking in and definitely has nothing to do with the fact that your dad, for all his advice about rape, neglected to mention that if you do have sex, you should remember to use protection.

“and the parents are madder than a wet hen”

Ok, turns out this is actually a real saying, not just another one of Papa Rivard’s nuggets of wisdom. Carry on…

“and she’s not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was part of the program.'”

Duh! God forbid she’d admit to not only letting a boy get her knocked up but actually wanting to have sex herself! In Papa Rivard’s conservative worldview, it goes without saying that a woman wouldn’t want to own up to such a dirty, shameful thing. Thanks to that sexual revolution that probably happened around the time young Rivard inevitably started having premarital sex, this worldview isn’t quite as prevalent among those of us actually living in 2012. But it’s clearly still with us. So what now?

All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she’s underage. And he just said, ‘Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,’ he said, ‘they rape so easy.’

Got it. In short:

"those bitches"

As Jill points out, what’s so sad here is that this fear of lying bitches–in which Papa Rivard is hardly aloneonly makes any sense within the conservative worldview where sex is seen as a bargaining chip instead of a fun joint activity and female sexuality is stigmatized and punished. “Why would the lying woman in Rivard’s story lie unless she feared retribution for having sex?

“What the whole genesis of it was, it was advice to me, telling me, ‘If you’re going to go down that road, you may have consensual sex that night and then the next morning it may be rape.’ So the way he said it was, ‘Just remember, Roger, some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning.’

Words means things. The fact that some small number of women lie about being raped does not change the reality that rape is rape and consensual sex is consensual sex and it is actually very important–for the many people who are raped in the real world and also the many men falsely accused in Papa Rivard’s fevered imagination–that everyone understands that there is a clear difference.

“So it’s been kind of taken out of context.”

LOL. This is my favorite part. Rivard is so totally clueless that at this point, he’s actually thinking, “BOOM. Nailed it. Context, bitches.”

And then a few hours later, no doubt after hearing from some very stressed advisers, he issued a written statement to clarify his clarification:

“Sexual assault is a crime that unfortunately is misunderstood and my comments have the potential to be misunderstood as well. Rape is a horrible act of violence. Sexual assault unfortunately often goes unreported to police. I have four daughters and three granddaughters and I understand the importance of making sure that awareness of this crime is taken very seriously.”

I’m thinking Rivard might have to pull out few more female relatives and offer several more uncontroversial statements of fact about how “rape is bad” to roll back this one.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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