No, Women are not simply more liberal than men: The Curious Case of Rape and Abortion

Opposition to legal abortion in the case of rape by gender: 1973 and 2012 GSS

Opposition to legal abortion in the case of rape by gender: 1973 and 2012 GSS

A commenter remarked that women are simply more liberal than men, in reaction to my discussion of marriage. But, that’s simply not true, and even in very twisted situations. While women are consistently more supportive of legalizing same sex marriage, they are, if anything, just as conservative as men when it comes to opposition to legal abortion in the case of RAPE. It’s a bit shocking, but makes sense when you think about the constellation of social locations that result in such a sick-fuck belief. Worse, opposition to legal abortion in the case of rape has increased substantially over the last four decades–for both men and women. And, in both 1973 and 2012 more women are opposed to legal abortion for rape victims than are men (though the difference is not statistically discernible at  conventional levels).  The short answer is that among the radical right, there is an even gender split, contrary to journalistic assumptions about the radical right. When we get to more even issues—like gay marriage, which has yet to cross the majority threashold in a scientific study—women become forerunners of popular opinion (same thing with gun control).

And, of course, the conservative trend should be another wake up call. Americans are not all becoming more liberal, and some are becoming more conservative. This is another indicator of radical opinion polarization—MORE Americans, even American WOMEN, are opposed to legal abortion in the case of Rape in 2012 than was the case in 1973–nearly four decades ago. The difference is both substantial and statistically significant.

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15 Responses to “No, Women are not simply more liberal than men: The Curious Case of Rape and Abortion”

  1. Kate Says:

    I really wish this was an April Fools’ joke.

  2. schmielt Says:

    In some sense, it’s not surprising to me that (some) men (the ones uninfected by religious thinking) would be more supportive of abortion rights, since there’s a fairly widespread opinion among males that they end up financially responsible for an accidental pregnancy that they didn’t want to keep. Not that that explains why women would be opposed…

  3. sherkat Says:

    Pretty sick stuff. What is fascinating is how the fringes of the far right have actually had an impact on public opinion. Some people, including women, are buying into the “legitimate rape doesn’t cause pregnancy” bullshit.

  4. schmielt Says:

    WUT. Who, pray tell, so that I may slap them??

    I think men are also historically more comfortable with the general idea of consequence-free sex being a good and acceptable thing that they are sometimes entitled to, whereas many women are probably still struggling with hangups in that regard.

  5. sherkat Says:

    Hard to say, since these are cross sectional we can’t really show changes in individuals’ orientations, but the uptick is suggestive of more and more people thinking that rape doesn’t justify abortion—then you have to make the logical leap to the reason why—because those dirty sluts will say they were raped, and we know real women never get pregnant from legitimate rape….Jeebus.

  6. Staffan Says:

    Being that commenter, I would say that this isn’t contradicting the idea that women are in general more liberal than men. First off, you need to look at the bigger picture – voting patterns and attitudes that can be seen as indications of some form of liberal orientation. You’re not going to refute a general statement with one single issue.

    Secondly, this example isn’t doing the job. I should think that the opinion of the 76 percent who don’t oppose abortion in this instance are more representative of women in general than the 24 percent who do.

    Also, why no links to your data? It’s not hard to add a link and it would enable anyone reading this to see for themselves.

  7. schmielt Says:

    It’s the GSS. Google it.

  8. Staffan Says:

    I know it’s the GSS, I’m just wondering why he doesn’t add a link to his findings so readers can immediately access the information rather than let them look through the database on their own. What is the point?

  9. fwbritton Says:

    How much of the difference between men and women on this question is the result of the fact that women are on average more religious than men? There are huge differences between the religious and the nonreligious on anything to do with abortion. So here’s the comparison which would be interesting: nonreligious men with nonreligious women, and the same comparison for the religious of both sexes, on the same question. I believe the data to do this is in the GSS.

    • sherkat Says:

      Bingo. That’s the reason for much of the difference, but the differences between genders is not that great, it’s just shocking that the difference isn’t strongly reversed.

      • fwbritton Says:

        Could the remaining gap be bridged by some sort of difference in “nurturance” between men and women, such as shows up here in the sex differences for support for various animal rights propositions:

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/8461/public-lukewarm-animal-rights.aspx

        I’m really speculating here, but what I’m suggesting is that just as women seen to exhibit more concern for the animal beings in this poll, they may have a greater tendency to have the same kind of concern for the fetus, whereas men have a more “hard-nosed” take, on average, in both cases. It seems to me that this notion is testable, though whether the data is readily available to test it is another question.

  10. schmielt Says:

    I really wish we could test women’s opinions over time and see if the views on this topic changed at all for women who were faced with an unwanted pregnancy. (Or has that been done?)

  11. schmielt Says:

    More utter speculation, but it also seems likely that guys, as they’re entering sexual maturity get some kind of hard-assed “Don’t fucking get her pregnant, whatever you do!” kind of speech from their fathers, really driving home the negative consequences of such a thing happening. I’m sure girls get admonished not to get pregnant, too, but just not yet, and with all the positive associations women encounter about pregnancy and motherhood and children, as well as the attention paid to young mothers, the social pressures in favor of being a mother (which may be what they’re really thinking about when they’re answering the question, more than the actual CHOICE part of it) might outweigh the life-changing and possibly devastating consequences of not having that choice. I could be wrong, but I think many guys live in fear of getting some girl pregnant who WON’T get an abortion if it’s inconvenient for them. Surely that plays heavily into their support of that being an option. Whereas some women (and only SOME, but they’re part of the percentage) see pregnancy as a way to “hook him” for good. I think this thinking is even legitimized by the logic of older women that men have to be forced to grow up and settle down, and that it will be good for them in the long run, even if it’s not what they think they want right now. Along the religious lines, they may also be inclined to see pregnancy as “always a blessing” even when it’s anything but, the benefits of which the short-sighted man (or slut) just can’t see yet.

  12. schmielt Says:

    And, I think, for women who have children already, they are heavily invested in defending the virtues of motherhood, even in the face of legitimate criticisms (maybe especially then). In my experience, pregnancy and motherhood can bring out some very defensive behaviors, and even blinders, on many women. It’s like they’re defending the status quo now that they’ve bought into it, to the point that nothing can be allowed on the other side of the scale (the negative side). I bet that even in cases of (and maybe especially then) their own children having been accidental pregnancies, the attitude might often be, “Sure, my child was an accident and didn’t come at the time I would’ve chosen, but s/he’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and changed my life in ways you can’t imagine until you have a child! I wouldn’t trade her for the world! If I had it to over again, I’d do exactly the same thing!” The implication being, of course, that you should have your accident, too, and it will ALSO be the best thing that ever happened to you. You just don’t know it yet, because you don’t yet have the WISDOM which motherhood imparts. There’s often a refusal to acknowledge or admit that perhaps things could have played out in a more advantageous way, when what you’re discussing is your actual child. It’s like they’re afraid they’ll be perceived as wishing they didn’t have their kid, instead of being objective about how it happened and how it could have been made easier.

  13. schmielt Says:

    There’s also surely an entirely honest and sincere thought of, “What if I had had an abortion, and never gotten to know my child? The one I love more than anything? That would’ve been awful!” But they’re not in a position to judge that, since they would never have known the child and wouldn’t know what they were missing, and might have had a different child at a later time that they would love just as much, that they NOW will never get to know, because they didn’t have that abortion. Classic time-traveling conundrum…
    But they never had that other child, so they don’t feel any obligation to defend him, but the one that’s HERE, they sure do! The whole idea of having a “right” to have been born is a bit absurd, if you consider all the possible manifestations of life which are extinguished or prevented for various reasons.

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