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Todd Akin: Legitimate what?

Over the past couple of days, the regina mom has read a number of pieces, some humourous, in response to a statement by U.S. Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri, regarding the medieval concept of legitimate rape.

How long has this no-pregnancy-in-rape theory been around?

"The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant has long roots," says Vanessa Heggie at Britain's The Guardian. Think 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts — Fleta, from about 1290 — has this familiar-sounding clause: "If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman's consent she could not conceive." Samuel Farr's Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, a treatise from 1785 (second edition 1814), elaborates: "For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant."  

What's the medical underpinning of this theory?

From medieval times until the 19th century, doctors and laypeople alike widely believed that women only conceived if they had an orgasm, since the presumed female "seed" — needed to complement the male sperm to achieve pregnancy — was thought be secreted only during sexual climax. "By logical extension, then," says Heggie, "if a woman became pregnant, she must have experienced orgasm, and therefore could not have been the victim of an 'absolute rape'."

Interestingly, and in stark contrast to what the right wing nut jobs (RWNJ) in the US have been saying, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon recently shared their findings into a hormone that's present in semen. They now believe it "nudges a woman's body to ovulate."

In a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Saskatoon-based researchers and their colleagues in Chile went sleuthing in llamas and cows for the identity of a seminal fluid protein they'd previously found sends a signal to a female's brain. That signal prompts the female brain to release hormones that stimulate ovulation.

Veterinary biomedical sciences Prof. Gregg Adams, who is with the university's Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says he expected to find a brand new protein in the seminal fluid. Much to their surprise, they found this poorly-understood protein (called ovulation-inducing factor or OIF) is the same molecule as an old friend in the nervous system that's critical for normal neuron function.

(h/t DAMMIT JANET!)

the regina mom cannot wait to see how the RWNJs respond to this piece of legitimate science!

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