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Birth Rape, Is There Such A Thing?

I came across a really interesting article on the Time online recently about 'birth rape', not to be taken literal, the term has be coined to convey what some mothers have felt of being violated during the whole child birthing experience. I found this concept interesting and wondered if mothers in the UK felt the same.

I've been present for two births and as a female spectator my lasting memory has been how little decency one had during the experience, legs open wide, doctors and nurses coming in and out, poking and prodding the mother. Though having spoken casually to a few women who have had children, all have explained to me that once you are in that much pain, ones 'decency' is the last thing your concerned with.
I even remember once when working in a clothes shop that a customer came into use the changing rooms, after parking her double buggy in the changing cubical she was forced to undress in the walkway, having offered her another cubical to change in since I was in plan view of near naked body she replied (something along the lines of) " Its OK, once you've had kids your not embarrassed about what your flashing".

So is it there such a thing as birth rape or does it exists solely in America?

Personally I think labeling the feeling 'rape' is a little bit of an exaggeration, no disrespect to anyone who has felt abused during their labour but rape implies an assertion of power over someone weaker causing mental or physical abuse for ones pleasure. I seriously doubt that many (if any) medical practitioners involved get any sort of pleasure (sexual or otherwise) during the birthing process, I can also understand that after the umpth time of delivery babies a doctor or nurse can be a little forgetful of peoples possible comfort levels since they are doing this a lot in a day. 

Discussing this with a close female friend who has experienced child birth and will soon be revisiting the experience, it was raised that in the situation of health and pregnancy one needs to let go of the social constructs of female 'dignity', which is indoctrinated into us at the earliest age of how to behave like a 'girl' or 'lady' and understanding the 'shame' that resides between our legs which should at all times be concealed and hidden from public attention. There is also a level of contradiction with the notion of female 'dignity' since from adolescents the female sexual organ becomes more apparent in a girls life from periods, sexual intercourse, to the aesthetics of keeping the area 'attractive' by shaving or waxing. As women there is the smear test, various other sexual health tests and of course pregnancy; all of which goes against our initial indoctrination of keeping the female genitalia out of sight.

Obviously no woman should be made to feel violated especially during their labour, though is this idea of birth rape somehow tied to social gender etiquette's or could it be that women in the US are more conservative or prudish to us women in the UK? If so, then how does this gauge with women elsewhere in the world?
Clearly female sexual liberation from patriarchy domination and thinking is still as relevant now is it was when raised in the feminist movements of the 70's; while change is not going to happen over night I do think that discussions on this concept of 'birth rape' more specifically the sexist factors involved in this feeling of violation is worth being raised especially from the feminist perspective. I also think 'birth rape' is wider spread and could help to explain why the C section is gaining popularity, with being 'too posh to push' denoting a sense of dignity in this birthing experience.

Read the Time article here and shares your thoughts; do you think there is such a thing as birth rape? Have you experienced it? ...Do share...


  1. AnonymousMay 01, 2012

    I think it's all a bit attention seeking. I can barely remember any of my four hours of labour due to the excruciation pain which is quickly replaced by the maternal feeling of wanting to make sure the baby is ok. There may well have been 20 people in the room, I would not have noticed! Rape is a very strong term with so many connotations and should not be used so loosely. I bet these women are referring to the moments when they had no control of the situation and that powerlessness somehow made them feel inferior.


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