August 18, 2013
Sexual Assault and The Military: The Answer Goes Beyond What the Pentagon or Congress Propose
Recently, the Pentagon announced several measures aimed at preventing and prosecuting sexual assault cases in the military. These changes were apparently supported by many members of Congress, but fall short of what many members continue to demand.
While I am pleased that the military is taking some action to respond to this problem, and pleased that Congress may be pushing the Pentagon to do more, I find much of this discussion about sexual assaults in the military has a certain "Captain Renault – esque" ring to it ("I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"). One must wonder how these actors can be surprised that staggering numbers of women (and men, but my focus today is women) are being perceived as objects by men to be used regardless of whether the women consent.
Consider the culture the military tacitly endorses. It has long been the case that outside many military bases are thriving sex industries. Not only are these industries problematic for women, in their modern day form they are understood to be staffed largely by trafficked women. Although military regulations have been passed to forbid purchasing women for sex, these trafficking industries continue to prosper and it has been reported the regulations are rarely enforced. While one might seek comfort in the fact that recently, as in just this summer, the Military Exchange stores stopped selling "adult" magazines, do not be too impressed. The reason for the change according to the Army spokesman was not enlightenment:
"Along with other magazine sales, sales of adult sophisticated titles at [Army and Air Force Exchange Service] stores have declined 86 percent since 1998," said an Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Antwan C. Williams. "Like their civilian counterparts, exchange shoppers' increased reliance on digital devices to access content virtually has resulted in a sustained decrease in demand for printed magazines."
To appreciate my point I encourage you to go to this link to this news story and see the juxtaposition of an official army spokesman calling these publications "adult sophisticated titles" and the picture of the cover pages of these "titles" which includes "headlines" such as: "Fatal Attraction: 9 Deadly Fetishes." I am sorry, I thought "adult sophisticated titles" were Jane Austen novels.
Is it any wonder, therefore, the result? The military has created a climate in which it tacitly endorses "industries" whose very function is to objectify women as sexual objects for men's use. It has a climate in which its official spokesman refers to violent "deadly fetish" images that objectify women as "sophisticated adult titles." It is a climate with regulations but then fails to investigate hundreds of Department of Defense employees who violate the regulations. Is it any wonder that the people within this climate receiving these messages actually start acting consistently with the messages? Is it any wonder that they actually start to believe that women exist to be their objects to be used regardless of consent? I think not. The only shocking thing here is that the military is surprised.
While it is a positive step that the military and Congress actually have noticed this plight, nothing will change until they acknowledge the elephant in the room. That elephant is the climate they have allowed to thrive on and off base which sends a repeated message about the objectification of women- about denying the inherent dignity of women. Until that is included in the discussion on how to move forward, the climate endorsing this perception of women as objects will continue…and so will the assaults.
I don't think blocking access to sexually explicit material to young adults (which will block it to women too) is really necessary here. Where will we draw the line here? Our culture in various ways is a negative thing, but where does that take you? Nudity alone is not necessary for it to be demeaning.
As to the furtherance of an illegal sex trade, realistically, young men are going to have sex. Young women will as well. It seems pretty naive to expect young adults to stop having sex in their early 20s. Honestly, this will include prostitutes, though it might be distasteful to some people. Prostitution doesn't by definition justify mistreating women. The fact that men and women go to clubs with the eye to hook up, if I might use that colloquialism, often not for a deep relationship, also doesn't mean they think the opposite sex in every case are but "objects."
It is more appropriate though to address prostitution than block access to adult themed materials. Realistically, the "world's oldest profession" (back to Genesis!) is still going to continue. The best approach there in the minds of various activists concerned with the well being of the women involved is not an unrealistic ending of the practice, but more regulation and safeguards.
The military need not encourage sexual desire -- I see them more as responsive to what already exists. There is room to promote the dignity of men and women without censorship or trying to end the sexual desires of young people. The principles of the Catholic Church might counsel sex only in marriage, but there is a middle path here that allows sex outside of marriage but also promoting the dignity of all involved, including in the consumerist world we live in.
Posted by: Joe | Aug 18, 2013 12:01:23 PM
"One must wonder how these actors can be surprised that staggering numbers of women (and men, but my focus today is women) are being perceived as objects by men to be used regardless of whether the women consent."
"That elephant is the climate they have allowed to thrive on and off base which sends a repeated message about the objectification of women- about denying the inherent dignity of women."
I agree that there are endemic problems in the US military with respect to objectifying women, seems to have been a problem through the ages. The US military, unfortunately, is not the Knights of St. John.
Another elephant in the room is the foolishness of inserting women into an environment which is by nature, although duty bound, a radically high testosterone environment. We can continue to pretend that it is a good idea to put young women at risk to the elements, the enemy, the meat grinder in order to placate feminist ideology. Or we can recognize that men, by nature have a role in the use of arms that is fundamentally different than a role for women.
Posted by: ck | Aug 19, 2013 11:39:12 AM
"inserting women into an environment"
How will we segregate men here? The military is going to interact with women in a variety of ways in the course of its business. Will we ban all civilian women personnel from army bases too? History has shown "nature" doesn't stop women from having a role in "the use of arms," including the general system in place.
Posted by: Joe | Aug 20, 2013 11:49:25 AM
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