More on medical rape

// 30 June 2008

Debi formerly of The Burning Times has set up a project to collect women’s stories of medical and obstetric rape. MORAG:

When most women go into hospital to give birth to their babies, or to attend for a gynaecological appointment, they probably expect that the staff there will act in their best interests, be caring, and respect their wishes. For the majority of women, their time in hospital is at least comfortable, with each procedure and process being explained to them and their consent being sought for all actions. Unfortunately, for some women, that is not the case, and they can leave hospital with their new baby, or having undergone a gynaecological procedure, feeling violated, traumatised, and in shock.

The site has a good section on definitions of rape and another on whether experiences as described are “real rape“.

Some background links:

Doctor blogger exploits stories of birth rape and assault, ridicules victims

On postmodernism and medical rape

Medical rape and the medicalization of childbirth

Comments From You

Debs // Posted 30 June 2008 at 7:41 pm

Thanks for spreading the word, Jess. x

Butterflywings // Posted 30 June 2008 at 7:59 pm

Sorry, I’m sure I will get flak for this but – who does it serve to call this rape? Seriously? I could understand if victims said it was *like* rape, felt like rape etc. but it is not rape. What does this achieve? Using a rape metaphor or simile would communicate what these attacks feel like just as strongly.

And I absolutely agree that carrying out ANY medical procedure without consent is a gross violation, an act of complete and utter arrogant entitlement, callousness and insensitivity, and should be subject to disciplinary procedures.

But the motivation is not sexual. So it is not rape.

I don’t buy that “rape is about power, not sex” – I think rape is about both. The issue is that so many men conflate power and sex. But that’s not the issue with medical procedures without consent. Calling it rape is only hyperbole that actually clouds the issue – what is going on here? What makes medical professionals do this? (Yeah, I pretty much know the answer to that – like I said about arrogance, entitlement…).

Debs // Posted 30 June 2008 at 9:22 pm

If a woman who has been violated and treated inhumanely by medical staff when giving birth, or undergoing a gynae procedure, especially if she has not given consent for certain actions, or withdraws consent during the action, chooses to call that experience ‘rape’, then that choice should be respected by everybody.

The MORAG Project is all about women’s voices and women’s experiences, and raising awareness of a real problem in hospitals and the medical profession today. And if women want to use the word ‘rape’ to describe what happened to them, then they have a perfect right to do that. No, it may not stand up in court. No, it may not fit with the definition of rape most people carry around in their heads. But it has to be named, it has to be talked about, and it has to be dealt with. If not rape, then what else?

“Birth Rape is not too extreme a word in the least. I literally had 2 nurses putting full body weight on my legs to hold them apart while another one shoved a hand up inside of me, all the while I was screaming NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I had transferred in from a home birth and they were punishing me.” (

Doesn’t that sound like rape to you? Where is the consent? I believe it is less important to consider the motivations of the offender than it is to consider the consent of the victim.

Kat // Posted 30 June 2008 at 10:38 pm

Butterfly – I’m with you on this. It’s not rape, it’s LIKE rape, I felt that when I first read about it but you have articulated it very well.

Jess McCabe // Posted 30 June 2008 at 11:34 pm

In cases like this, I think it’s best to listen to the words of the women who are describing their experiences. Aren’t they in the best position to describe what happened to them?

We’re not talking a court case here, or legal definitions.

Sarah // Posted 1 July 2008 at 9:37 am

I agree with Debs – we can’t read people’s mind, and we can’t ever know for certain or prove what the motivation was for an act like this, whether there was any sexual element to it or not. What matters more is the harm that is done to the victim, whether she gave consent for the procedure etc.

I do think language is important, however bickering over the use and definition of words is unfortunate in this case if it distracts from the real issue, which is how to raise awareness of this and listen to and support women who have been through it.

Debs // Posted 1 July 2008 at 1:28 pm

Thanks Sarah, it was to try to avoid too much “bickering over the use and definition of words” that I put the ‘Real Rape?’ page on the site, so that MORAG’s position is clear, and we can all move on from that and try to deal with the actual issues.

Butterflywings // Posted 5 July 2008 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Kat.

Merely expressing an opinion, not stopping anyone discussing the issue. Debs, yes, I did read the website. Do you always assume that people who disagree with you are just stupid?

Pretty disappointed to hear a dissenting opinion dismissed as “bickering” on a feminist site – hardly feminist, is it?

dj // Posted 9 December 2009 at 9:14 pm

I have been raped in the traditional sense and in the medical sense. Trust me, it feels the same. Doesn’t the victim have a right to feel violated when they have been violated?

Yazzmyne // Posted 14 December 2009 at 8:37 pm

I wonder if the women who believe that Debs was not raped would still share the same opinion if I penetrated them in their private parts whilst I insist I’m not doing it for my sexual pleasure and they scream ‘Nooooo’ ?

I highly doubt they would *not* consider it as rape. But perhaps if I would put on a white coat and I would conduct the same act in a gyn office, they might be in denial of their own raped feelings? Because afterall, these doctors have studied for it and know what’s good for women, don’t they?

Personally, I can’t see it as a very feminist thing to question the victim’s feelings of RAPE as opposed to questioning the very system in which the actions that cause these feelings are easily justified, because it’s ‘for her own good’, despite that it felt worse than ‘not good’. Or the actions are justified with ‘scientific’ arguments.

First of all science can be manipulated, so it’s not because a scientist says so, that it is actually based on science and secondly science should never gain that much power that it denies a woman’s autonomy over her own body, ‘in the name of’.

BTW I also think that rape is about both power and sex, yet not in the sense that it always is the intention of the rapist to derive sexual pleasure from it. The (conscious or subconsious) intention is to gain power over the victim, through the *use* of sex. It will always be a sexual experience for the victim, because it involves the raping of their sexual organs against their will, but it isn’t always sexual for the perpetuator.

For ex. older women have also been raped, eventhough the rapist did not feel sexually attracted to the victim.

MCKean // Posted 13 February 2010 at 1:36 pm

Butterfly wings.

At one time marital rape was not recognized as rape either.

We should not have to read the mind of a perp.; to prove their intentions were sexual gratification to define an act as rape. If they intend to perform the action, that is to do a pelvic or other intimate exam, in absence of consent this is what matters, not their motive for doing so.

You cannot use rape to educate and then say, well my motives were pure.

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