Sunday, August 18, 2013
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.