Two Air Force JAGs, Major Ken Artz and 1Lt Peter Smyczek wrote a fascinating article that supported General Mark Welsh’s assertion that the accepted culture is part of the sexual assault problem in the military. Entitled “Sexual Assaults in the Military: Porn is Part of the Problem,” their piece began with a simple statement [emphasis added]:
If our military is to lower its rate of sex crimes, it must limit its members’ consumption of pornography and educate them about its risks.
The JAGs point out that the Air Force must address the underlying behaviors that lead to sexual assault — not merely attack the symptom, assault itself.
Regrettably, the Air Force is still not warning its Airmen of the dangers to their lives and careers associated with frequent consumption of legal adult pornography…
Current Air Force training does not address these types of behaviors and root causes, such as pornography consumption, that lead to sex crimes…
Although it is an issue that some still try to debate, mounting research shows that legal adult pornography is dangerous
Unfortunately, the JAGs face an uphill battle with their argument. Any opposition to pornography is automatically assumed to be moral or religious in nature, which places it at a disadvantage — even if it is correct.
In fact, there’s already a Federal law banning the sale of pornography on military facilities, as this official military press release noted in 1998. A local article noted the Navy repeating the inspection launched by General Welsh in the Air Force last year, and highlighted the 1996 Military Honor and Decency Act. The Act was supposed to eliminate sexually explicit material from military stores. It was opposed as unconstitutional but upheld at the Supreme Court.
Still, while the inspections have resulted in cheerleader posters and Men’s Health magazines being removed from units, the Pentagon has not said anything about the pornography available at the base store.
So why do bases and posts still sell sexually explicit magazines? According to the Department of Defense, they’re not officially sexually explicit, as the Family Research Council pointed out years ago:
[T]he Board reviewed Celebrity Skin, Penthouse, Perfect 10, Playboy, [etc] and determined that, based solely on the totality of each magazine’s content, they were not sexually explicit. Therefore, the sale of these magazines on DoD property is permissible.
Even a Canadian military chaplain, blogging as the Mad Padre, dared to raise the topic of pornography as a cause:
Another trend, and I’m surprised that no one has mentioned it in this context, is pornography. Perhaps its the elephant in the room, but I think it needs to be discussed in relation to the issue of how women are mistreated in the military. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the military culture tolerates, and even encourages, the consumption of porn…Feminists have been saying for decades that the consumption of pornography encourages men to objectify and dehumanize women, and I agree with this basic argument because I see it in my military peers. I don’t see a way to make pornography magically disappear, but I don’t see any way forward for militaries composed of men and women until we can start talking about it.
For its part, the US Air Force Academy is trying to address “causes,” by having a visiting professor come in and teach a course on “Men and Masculinity.”
[Christopher] Kilmartin’s fall class will examine how masculinity is constructed, how men are socialized and how individuals form gender ideology.
“There’s a lot of theory in the first part” of the class, he said. “The second part includes discussion of men’s issues: work, mental health, physical health, relationships, sexuality, violence, and contemporary topics like the prison problem, pornography and prostitution.”
Unfortunately, the public face of the military’s fight against sexual assault is still reactive, as when it targets servicemembers who post offensive material on Facebook. Facebook actually shut down one such page for US Marines, though it immediately returned.
That’s not to say the US military doesn’t have some moral standards when it comes to such behavior, as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently ruled, and as a guardsman recently discovered. But as General Welsh tried to state, there are other cultural issues at play. Until a culture exists in which all sexuality outside of marriage is discouraged — as opposed to ignored or even vaunted — there will continue to be problems.