In 2008, U.S. Servicemen and -women reported 2,923 sexual assaults. In 2012, reported sexual assaults rose to 3,374. Whether this constitutes a spike, given the varying extent to which the majority of sexual assaults in the military go unreported, is moot. Obviously there is something wrong with our military.
But what can the military as a cultural institution do about it? Consider these trends:
- The U.S. military’s mission has changed dramatically since Vietnam. Winning hearts and minds and peacekeeping have replaced the straightforward objectives of identifying the enemy and defeating them. Further, combat has changed with technological advances, diminishing the usefulness of traditionally masculine attributes of strength, stamina, and bravery. A woman is just as qualified as a man to defend against cyberterror threats or to serve as an Air Force air traffic controller or drone operator.
- With less risk to life and limb entailed in new mission objectives and advanced technological warfare, the Services cater to the career-minded as much as to the red-blooded patriot. Many recruits see military service as an opportunity where they can acquire marketable skills and college scholarships. Twenty percent of Air Force recruits are women. It’s no surprise, then, that Lackland Air Force Base, home of Air Force basic training, is ground zero for military sexual abuse.
- The days of classy, alluring pin-up girls like Rita Hayworth are gone. George C. Scott’s rendition of General Patton (in which he chides one soldier, “This is a barracks, not a bordello”) would be horrified by the crude, senses-dulling images in modern pornography. It’s not just magazines. Any fantasy or fetish can be sated at any time at an Internet terminal, mobile or stationary. Navy Lieutenant Michael Howard, a licensed therapist and chaplain who specializes in treating sexual addiction, says he wouldn’t be surprised if 20 percent of military personnel were addicted to online porn.
- Since the advent and popularization of reproductive circumvention, we have moved steadily from a courtship culture to a competition culture. “Liberation” from the consequences of sex has alienated men from women. The appreciation and respect due to women is a stark anachronism in modern times, as everywhere the unnatural dogma is enforced that men and women are equals in every aspect of life, especially in the workplace.
These trends originated outside the military and have seeped into it, and since their inception they have been borne aloft by the inevitability of time.
Not only have these trends pushed men and women closer together, increasing opportunity for sexual temptation, but they also have robbed men of the mental mechanisms that help to humanize women, to elevate women above the level of objects that exist or don’t exist for their pleasure.
It cannot be repeated enough times. Man’s attraction to the female form is the most powerful instinct in his life. Civility requires discipline taught by fathers and sexually tactful public values. Today we have fewer of both.
This is not an excuse for sexual assault. The majority of men marinate in this toxic stew and don’t become sex offenders. For that, credit is owed to the residue of a culture that respected the differences between men and women, a culture whose foundations we razed a long time ago.