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Sexual Harassment in the Military
Sexual harassment is a significant issue in the military. Sexual harassment is also a complicated issue in the military. In most workplaces, the major concern in regards to sexual harassment relates to women being harassed by males or by a male-oriented environment. In the military, sexual harassment also extends to include the sexual harassment of homosexual males and the sexual harassment of homosexual females. A look at the military reveals that all of these types of sexual harassment occur, that the sexual harassment occurring is significant and serious, and that the sexual harassment has its basis in the culture of the military, which has ingrained ideas about men, women, and sexuality. Each of these types of sexual harassment will now be considered in turn, with this illustrating the nature, the extent, and the reasons behind sexual harassment in the military.
There is a strong level of harassment against female homosexuals in the military, with this specifically related to a desire to identify and exclude female homosexuals from the military. An article in The Advocate describes some of the issues related to the sexual harassment of female homosexuals. The article describes how Nicole Galvan, a cadet at West Point academy was sexually harassed, leading to her leaving West Point voluntarily. The article describes how Nicole Galvan, who is homosexual, traveled to New York City to celebrate her birthday with a female cadet. After returning from New York City, the two women were called into to see an Army officer, who asked them if they were lovers. Galvan informed the officer that they were only friends, but they were still warned that their actions could be perceived as gay. At that point, Galvan felt that she had been harassed and wrote a memo about the incident. In response, Galvan's diary was confiscated and a full investigation was launched. The article describes the outcome of the investigation saying,
The confiscated material was a collage of Galvan's emotions and thoughts, including her growing acceptance of herself as a lesbian. The military began a full investigation, based on her writings, that targeted as many as 30 women ... She and two others were brought up on charges of homosexuality (Moss 36).
The entire process described in the article is referred to as "lesbian baiting" (Moss 37). This refers to the way that homosexual relationships are not allowed in the military. At the same time though, the armed forces are not allowed to ask recruits whether they are homosexual or to discriminate on the basis of sexuality. The end result is that homosexuals are allowed in the military, but homosexual behavior is not allowed. The process of lesbian baiting becomes a way to force homosexuals out of the military by alleging that they are engaging in homosexual behavior. In ways similar to what Galvan experienced, female homosexuals are often targeted, with the potential for charges of homosexuality used to force them to leave the military. This occurrence is part of a culture with ingrained ideas on gender and sexuality. These issues will be further considered by looking at the sexual harassment of women by men.
The sexual harassment of women by men is a significant issue in the military, not only because it occurs, but also because the threat of being charged with homosexuality is used to coerce women into having sex. One article reports that 18% of women in the Army have been subject to sexual harassment in the form of being coerced into having sex. Another 47% say that they have received unwanted sexual harassment (Newman). The sexual harassment of women in the military became a major public issue during the 1996 Aberdeen Proving Ground scandal. This scandal revealed that female trainees at the Aberdeen Proving Ground were being sexually harassed by male drill sergeants. The investigation into repeated allegations of rape and sexual abuse led to a number of male instructors being charged with sex crimes. Grossman (71) describes the outcome saying,
Ultimately, a dozen drill instructors were charged with sex crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Four were sent to prison; eight others were discharged or punished administratively. Letters of reprimand were issued to Aberdeen's commanding general and three other senior officers. The most serious punishment was handed down to Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson, a drill sergeant sentenced to 25 years in prison for numerous counts of rape and abuse.
Grossman also notes that the problems at Aberdeen led to larger investigations of sexual harassment in the military, and that these revealed a culture was ingrained and often considered the norm. Another issue that complicates the sexual harassment of women is that the possibility of being investigated for homosexuality can be used as a weapon by men. In The Advocate, Moss also describes the case of Amy Barnes, who was discharged from the Navy after being investigated for homosexuality. Barnes is quotes saying that, "If you're a woman and single and don't want to sleep around with every guy, they think you must be gay" (Moss 38). Barnes's opinion is that the investigation and her subsequent discharge is all a result of not being interested in a male sailor. Randy Shilts, the author of Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military, argues that this happens constantly in the military. Shilts describes a number of cases where women have been investigated for homosexuality after claiming they had been sexually harassed my males. Shilts evens goes as far as suggesting that some women in the military allow themselves to be raped for fear of being charged with homosexuality. The suggestion made by Shilts is that the sexual harassment of women is so widespread in the military that any woman not open to giving sexual favors to men is assumed to be lesbian. This describes an environment where it seems to be the accepted view that women should be sexual towards men. With this view, sexual harassment becomes seen as accepted behavior. The end result is that when a woman objects to sexual harassment, it is assumed that the only valid reason for her refusal of men is that she must be homosexual. This illustrates that sexual harassment is largely ingrained in the culture of the military.
The ingrained culture of the military also results in the harassment of homosexual males, where they are specifically targeted and excluded because of their sexuality. In Coming Out Under Fire, author Allan Berube describes how homosexual males have been excluded from the military since the 1940s. He describes how screening out recruits on the basis of homosexuality became part of the psychological tests required for acceptance into the military. As Berube (9) describes psychiatric consultants "received directives from headquarters instructing them to disqualify homosexuals." Berube (12) also notes that the instruction was given to reject any applicant "whose sexual behavior is such that it would endanger or disturb the morale of the military unit." In addition, it was noted that the screening process involved rejecting any man who displayed seemingly feminine characteristics, with this a sign both that the individual was homosexual and that the individual was unfit for military duty. This shows that the military's selection policy was based on the idea that homosexual men were not suitable for military service. This was partly because it was considered that heterosexual men would be uncomfortable with living and sleeping with homosexual men in the way that military service requires. In addition, it was also assumed that a homosexual man was too feminine to be in the military. This illustrates that the military has always excluded homosexual males, with this largely a part of the culture. Even though times have changed since the 1940s, the military still appears to have a culture of exclusion where homosexual men are not welcome. The story of Bryan Harris shows how the problem reveals itself in the modern military. Harris, who is homosexual, was charged with sexually assaulting another man and threatened with spending 30 years in a military prison. Harris was then offered a deal to escape the charges and reduce his sentence. In return for a reduced sentence, he was asked to name other homosexual men in the military that he had engaged in sexual acts with. Harris took the deal and named 17 men. As Romesburg (12) reports, "The Air Force denied witch-hunt charges in the case, but many of the men Harris named were later discharged." The situation is similar to that described for female homosexuals, where they were also sought out and targeted. The most important point about Harris's case is not that he was charged with sexual assault. After all, the sexual assault incident did take place and so this is Harris's issue. The most important point about Harris's case is that the military did not choose only to address Harris's crime. Instead, they used his crime and the charges against him to force him to reveal the names of other homosexuals in the military. This illustrates that…[continue]
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