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Opinion: Why have men lost touch with reality over rape?

By Fiona Lloyd-Davies, special to CNN
August 23, 2012 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Politicians Todd Akin (left) and George Galloway have both caused controversy over their remarks.
Politicians Todd Akin (left) and George Galloway have both caused controversy over their remarks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fiona Lloyd-Davies: I've spent my professional life recording the terrifying testimonies of rape survivors
  • Men either won't talk about rape or never seem to have any answers, she says
  • "I hope it serves to remind us all that there is nothing frivolous, funny or difficult to understand about rape."

Editor's note: Fiona Lloyd-Davies is an experienced documentary producer, who has made films about human rights issues in conflict zones including Bosnia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her film about 'Honor' killing in Pakistan won a British Royal Television Award for Best International Journalism. You can read more about Congo victims at Masika blog.

London (CNN) -- Both sides of the Atlantic, from the furthest spectrum of politics, two men -- wannabe Republican Senator Todd Akin and, from the supposed British socialist left, Respect Party MP George Galloway -- seem to have lost touch with reality.

George Galloway, for those of you who may not have been closely following his every utterance (I'm with you there), has been defending WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy behind the upmarket department store Harrods in central London after being granted asylum.

If only he could pop out and do a bit of shopping. Oops, of course, he can't. If he did he'd be picked up and extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

I'm sorry if I sound flippant. I've spent my professional life recording the terrifying and brave testimonies of survivors of rape, war and genocide, as well as confronting shoulder-shrugging perpetrators to try to get their explanations of abuse and violence. Are we surprised that men in positions of power and influence have "inadvertently slipped up"? My quotes, not theirs.

Akin, for his part, gained international notoriety for suggesting that women could not become pregnant through rape.

This has been a sad, pathetic week for these men
Fiona LLoyd-Davies

It does seem surprising that Akin seems to have such a slim grasp of biology.

I'm assuming as a Republican he could afford a good education. Exactly how is a woman meant to "shut that whole thing down" to prevent a pregnancy from rape? Has it occurred to you Todd that, if we could "shut the whole thing down," there would be no need for birth control? Or does he think we're just not exercising "mind over matter." Let's try harder girls, you never know.

Galloway, during an extraordinary rant in defense of Julian Assange and the allegations of sexual abuse against him, seems to think "not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion." Incredible! And what a bizarre way to describe sexual intercourse. Fancy "an insertion" tonight darling?

You would have thought these two men have nothing in common but I guess misogynists make strange bedfellows. It's even more bizarre to me as a Brit as their comments come just weeks after the Olympics when more Team GB medals rested on women's chests than men's. Aren't we still in the whole "Hey girls, let's celebrate our great achievements" mode?

As a journalist and film maker who first talked to survivors about rape in hushed, dark corridors of refugee camps in Bosnia during the war 20 years ago, it sadly comes as no surprise.

I'm not sure that some men even recognize that rape happens at all. A fellow journalist told me of an attack she survived recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two men armed with AK47s tried to rape her several times as part of an attack involving 10 armed men who threatened to kill her.

She's covered the Congo for many years and knew exactly what happens to women there -- if men can't use their penises they shove bayonets up women's vaginas, or sticks, shoes and even petrol which they then set on fire.

Read international reaction to Akin's "legitimate rape" remark

So the journalist made a conscious decision to be as submissive as possible. It worked to a certain extent; she wasn't physically hurt and the men, with their eyes popping out of their heads, presumably on drugs, didn't have erections. So the "insertion," as Galloway likes to call it, was pretty minimal. But most tellingly was when one of the men tried a second time. This time he asked her, "Are you enjoying this?"

"What could have been going through his mind?" she asked me. "Did he really think that any woman, threatened with death, forced to take her clothes off, pushed to the ground and then made to have sex, could be enjoying it?"

"I feel sorry for them," she said. "They are truly pathetic. Is this the only way they can get sex? And they can't even get an erection. Not even at the end of a gun!"

Opinion: Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over

Rape has always left me with so many more questions than answers. And always to the men. But they either won't talk about it or never seem to have any answers.

During the Bosnian war I spoke to men who said they were forced to rape their daughters or face being killed. It's a terrible choice, no choice at all. Obviously.

But as a woman I ask myself, wouldn't it be better, braver, dare I say it, to die for your daughter than have to live with the knowledge that you defiled her in the most horrible way?

I've never been able to find an answer. Clearly both father and daughter were the victims, but I've still never understood how it was even physically possible. How did they ever get erections?

This has been a sad, pathetic week for these men. I hope that the majority of people are ashamed of both of them and voters exercise their democratic right and vote with their feet. A democrat in Missouri, maybe?

But most of all I hope it serves to remind us all that there is nothing frivolous, funny or difficult to understand about rape. No really does mean no. Any way you cut it. And yes, George Galloway, you do have to ask for every "insertion."

Experts: Rape does not lower odds of pregnancy

Surviving sexual assault: Share your testimony on CNN iReport.

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