Family Matters

Is “Birth Rape” for Real?

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Giving birth is not a modest affair. After a lifetime spent covering up your privates, there they are, front and center, splayed out for any ole doc or nurse to see. As part of this no-holds-barred experience, aforesaid doc or nurse occasionally plunges an instrument (not of the musical variety) or his/her hand into an expectant mom’s vagina, feeling for the moment when new life is about to burst forth. That’s what they get paid to do.

At least in my own labors, I was always forewarned of the impending probing. But sometimes, according to writer Amity Reed, a woman isn’t asked permission. Sometimes, a woman isn’t treated respectfully on the L&D ward. When that happens, she feels violated, a sensation Reed controversially calls “birth rape.” In a post on by Tracy Clark-Flory, Reed explains the phenomenon: “Fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors … these are the tools of birth rape and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passer-by off the street and tied her up before having his way with her.” (More on 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))

Clark-Flory agrees — as does Healthland — that the actions and attitudes underpinning birth rape are wrong. But the term rankles her. Yeah, it’s wrong to make a woman feel emasculated on what should be one of the most empowering days of her life, but it’s not rape. Doctors, says Clark-Flory, “can hardly be expected to get verbal permission before each and every action they take.”

What do you think? Does birth rape as a concept exist? Is it accurate to call it that?

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