It all sounds a little too familiar.
|The Rape of Europa, Noel-Nicolas Coypel|
|The Rape of Europa, Felix Edouard Vallotton|
|Sun, Moon, and Talia, Chris Beatrice|
Talia, like Europa, does literally nothing to deserve or earn the fate she gets. Both are victims of passing proprietary lust. Both bear children conceived in rape. Both are cut off forever from their families, and from any support system to help them cope with the upheavals in their lives. Their stories are ones that we've heard many times. They're the realities that too many women live with every day. And if they were real and alive today - a kidnapped young woman and a teen mother - they would be among the many that Todd Akin suggested were not "legitimately" raped.
While you let that sink in, let me introduce you to Chrysippus. Because surely you don't think only women get raped.
|The Rape of Chrysippus, KidaGreenleaf|
|Chrysippus and Laius, KidaGreenleaf|
|Math Son of Mathonwy, Margaret Jones|
Appalling as this is, Goewin has, crucially, what Europa, Talia and Chrysippus do not: access to a support system. When Math returns, she confides in him that he can no longer put his feet in her lap, since she's no longer a virgin. And Math responds in a manner that makes him a strong candidate for Best Human Being Ever: he comforts Goewin, marries her, and makes her his co-ruler, with as much authority and power as he himself has. And he punishes Gilfaethwy and his brother
|Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, Margaret Jones|
We never hear from Gilfaethwy again. But Gwydion, the enabler and co-rapist, is one of the greatest and most popular figures in the Mabinogion, the great Welsh collection of tales and sagas. He's a consummate trickster, on par with Loki and Coyote; he wins praise and accolades for his magic and his skillful manipulation of his enemies; and after his three-year punishment is over, Math welcomes him back to his court and relies on his skills just as he always did.
|Olwen, Alan Lee|
What stories like these tell us is that it's been going on forever. This has been happening all around us, basically since humans figured out what they could put where. We're supposed to learn from the past, from the stories we tell. Why haven't we, yet?
Because, for as long as it's been happening, we've been excusing it. It's okay that Uther raped Igraine; it produced King Arthur. It's no big that Zeus raped Europa; she got to be queen of Crete. Todd Akin is the latest in a long line of whitewashing assholes who have been telling us for millennia that the experience of a rape victim does not matter.
But what seems to shut them up, or at least make them think twice, are stories. The stories of the victims, not the rapists or the narrators; the stories told by the people whose experiences are routinely dismissed and belittled. It takes courage, in such a cultural climate, to speak; to insist that your experience is "legitimate"; to demand recognition from those who would prefer to shrug you away. The victims in legend have been used to justify one way of looking at the world; the victims of today, more and more, are refusing to be so used. It's astonishingly, heartbreakingly brave of them.
And we all need to listen.