It's clear that contraception is one of those difficult topics in the 2012 election that nobody wants to touch, because neither of the men on the Republican presidential ticket have put forth straightforward statements representing their positions.
Mitt Romney has contradicted himself several times, most recently in his gaffe over the Blunt Amendment which would have exempted religious-affiliated institutions from providing contraceptive coverage to their employees. His position on several social issues (most notably abortion) can be easily found on his website mittromney.com, but there's no mention of contraception. Paul Ryan's views are also scarce.
Why are both men playing it close to the vest? Neither hesitate to voice how they feel about abortion. Is it because they cling to the hope that they'll get the so-called "women's vote" if they remain vague about the particulars of their beliefs?
I've been digging around to see what statements they've made publicly, and there aren't many. And unfortunately, both men have had to deal with the fallout from Rep. Todd Akin's remarks about "legitimate rape" and a woman's supposed ability to "shut down" pregnancy when she's impregnated by a violent assailant.
One disturbing fact that has come to light in the aftermath is Ryan's statement that rape is just "another method of conception."
Yes, he really said that, and as New Yorker contributor Paul Slansky wrote over at Huffingtonpost, "Paul Ryan Said Something That Should Force Him Off the Ticket, But You Probably Didn't Hear About It."
If you look at the video clip embedded in the above article, you may think it weird (as I did) that Ryan said this while being interviewed in what appears to be a hardware store.
His choice of interview location may subconsciously reflect the findings of a study of how male minds work. Apparently when men see scantily clad women, the parts of their brains that light up are the same ones that get excited over using tools like screwdrivers. So when women are objectified, they're literally manipulated as objects. This doesn't justify rape, but it might explain why it happens.
Rape as "a method of conception," by the way, is not an idea unique to Paul Ryan. Historically, some of the most inhumane monsters ever to rule over humankind have encouraged this method of subjugation.
For centuries, rape has been used as a tool of warfare. Conquerers came into towns and villages and raped women and girls so that they would bear their children and demoralize populations. It's been used in Libya, Bangladesh, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the war in Bangladesh in 1971, it's been estimated that as many as 400,000 women were raped.
Tell these women -- these debased victims of war's worst ravages -- that rape is merely "a method of conception."
That's why contraception matters. Because there will be men who think this way and women who will suffer for it. We may not be able to prevent rape in our lifetime, but we absolutely have the means to prevent pregnancy.
If you don't know where the candidates stand on contraception, you'd better find out.