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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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31 Responses

  1. ginmar
    ginmar December 4, 2006 at 10:42 am |

    “Liberal pussies”? Wow. Yeah, I’m sure they’re referring to cats.

  2. the jester-in-exile
    the jester-in-exile December 4, 2006 at 12:25 pm |

    not enough justice was served, in my view — the 3 others WHO WERE CHEERING SMITH ON as he assaulted nicole are equally guilty.

  3. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate December 4, 2006 at 3:51 pm |

    Now, I suspect that the reporter would argue that he used the term “cried rape” to characterize the defendents’ sentiments, not his own

    .

    That’s how I read it.

  4. Kyle
    Kyle December 4, 2006 at 5:05 pm |

    No doubt, a disgusting example of American troops abroad and the jester-in-exile is right about punishing all those who were present during the rape. But I find the examples from article you posted, Jill, to show how those who join the military only bring sexism and racism into the system, rather than the opposite, which says that the military grooms the behavior from top down. You’re right, these cases of sexual violence are not isolated incidences, but is rape ever an isolated incident? (No…not in this patriarchal, sexist world.) Are you really more likely to be a sex offender if you wear a uniform?

    It is disgusting how the military fails to punish these soldiers properly, but it can also be proven how officers are systematically trained to prevent such behavior. And the anecdote from the Air Force Academy Prom is crude, but I fail to see the difference between the play and any how-to civilian sex program.

    Just because the military instills the violent objectification of an enemy during combat (and rightfully so) does not mean it does the same with the sexual objectification of women. The institutionalized connection between the two is just not visible.

  5. Kyle
    Kyle December 4, 2006 at 8:12 pm |

    For the soldiers that commit rape during war, the act could be represent a wide variety of issues including the “individual men asserting control and dominance over women by sexually abusing them, and (2) men collectively keeping all women in a state of fear.” Maybe a soldier is personally using rape to “demoralize an enemy,” but that would be the soldier’s individual idea and clearly a misconception of what is taught to him or her. The bottom line is that the military is not an institution thats promote rape or the sexual objectification of women in any way.

    I understand how the military could magnify the already “aggressive and mysogynist” culture we live in, but that is not the intention of the military and therefore it is not institutionalized. Proof can be found in the training itself. Officers candidates in all branches are consistently and constantly taught the abhorence of sexual violence and the necessity of its prevention.

    I’m unconvinced that watching pornos before bombing runs is institutionalized as procedure in the military. And sure, referencing the penis as a gun is a part of standard cadence, but it is also meant to differentiate between a “rifle” and a “gun.” The term “gun” is never used in the military, and neither is the penis.

    But perhaps the absence of women from key components of the military, such as the infantry and special forces, does contribute to their ultimate objectification among enlisted soldiers. The U.S. military was always ahead of its time when it came to race and ethnicity issues (though it may be difficult to come out and applaud a current system that should have always been the norm). Might we see the same driving progression soon than later in regards to gender and sexuality? Quite possibly.

  6. Heraclitus
    Heraclitus December 4, 2006 at 8:37 pm |

    Another great post, Jill, apparently tossed off while listening with one ear to your instructor.

    And the information in that article is simply nauseating.

  7. Thalia
    Thalia December 4, 2006 at 8:57 pm |

    Apparently the fact that she was “drunken” is a key element in the story.

    Funny, when I read that my first reaction was that the victim being drunk should mean it’s more likely to be rape, not less likely, as her ability to consent is more questionable.

  8. exangelena
    exangelena December 4, 2006 at 10:10 pm |

    Sort of OT, but this article from Time Asia about the sex industry in the Philippines was illuminating and depressing.

  9. Henry
    Henry December 5, 2006 at 1:05 pm |

    The fact that there is a market for prostitution around overseas miltary bases says nothing about anyone’s “perceptions of women”. There’s a market for prostitution , especially in Iraq, because you have a lot of lonely, stressed out men who have little or no access to women for extended periods of time. It doesn’t mean they view all women as objects. When you’re in a situation that’s shitty in just about every way, you’re a lot more likely to be less discriminating regarding prostitution. Being away from home sucks. There’s nothing you miss so much as the company of women.

    Secondly, rape is not a “war tactic” for the US military. Nobody’s leading “rape squads” in the field. At no point in boot was I instructed in anything regarding women with the exception of “stay away from female Marines in anything but an official capacity” and “sexual harrasment in any way will ruin your life”. Pretty much the opposite of sexual objectification. And I can’t speak for the Air Force, nor would I want to, but in the Marines I’ve seen something as small as some mutually flirty emails destroy officers’ careers. Sexual misconduct is treated very seriously.

    This is not to be cavalier about rape or sexual assault. I think that LCpl should be hung up by his feet and beaten with a sack of doorknobs. But to act like every incident of some douchebag commiting a crime is evidence of the evils of the patriarchy or what have you is ridiculous.

    LCpl Henry Murphy
    1 MARDIV
    USMC

  10. Laurie
    Laurie December 6, 2006 at 12:50 pm |

    Henry:
    With all due respect, that’s why god gave you *two* hands. There is *never* a good excuse for visiting a prostitute — honestly, I don’t care how lonely you are — especially one in a war-torn country. These women don’t want sex, they don’t want to be close to a man; they want to EAT. Can you imagine, given the religious upbringing many (if not most) of these women have had, the mental damage they suffer becoming *prostitutes*?!!? When it’s have sex with men you don’t know and wouldn’t associate with or go hungry, or have *your children* go hungry, the choice is pretty obvious. Except it’s not really a choice in that case, is it?

    Re: instutionalized disrespect and objectification of women
    I notice that Kyle mentioned that officer training emphasized that any type of sexual assault is to be watched for, discouraged, and brought to trial/punishment. I’m very glad to hear that, really. However, I notice that he mentions only *officer* training — what do the guys who sign up as regular recruits get? And how much of the bias that they bring with them is actively countered? I hate to say this, as I’ll sound horribly classist and I don’t mean to, but certain attitudes towards women do seem to follow class lines. (For example, I rarely run into overt sexism out here in the middle class in the Midwest). If your recruits are generally from the lower classes or from areas where biased attitudes towards women are prevalent, well…. your training would have to work awfully hard to counter that. I suspect it might tend to get in the way of other training necessary to turn out a soldier. Or at the least, that might be the perception. (I admit I’m speculating here.) In this case, I can see where, in the absence of training to counter it, biases against women would tend to proliferate. (Men DO tend to try to “out-macho” each other in large, relatively confined, single-sex groups, especially YOUNG men.) Given the number of military women coming back with stories of harassment and assault, I’m very afraid that this is indeed what is happening.

    We need to change their minds about how to treat women *before* they get into the military, I think. Which comes back to fighting the patriarchal attitudes where ever we find them. Even *I’m* not so blind/naive as to assume that since I don’t encounter them, they don’t exist.

  11. Lya Kahlo
    Lya Kahlo December 6, 2006 at 1:10 pm |

    ” These women don’t want sex, they don’t want to be close to a man; they want to EAT.”

    Oh, but a solider boy’s dickly needs so far outweigh the basic human rights of some meaningless woman!

    out of curiosity, do the wives/gf’s back at home know the soliders are over these using desperate women? I bet that’s something (else) the soliders leave out of their letters home, huh.

  12. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub December 6, 2006 at 1:20 pm |

    Look, the fact that women are regarded as something one has “access” to is pretty freakin’ demeaning to women. You have access to things.

    Women don’t always have “access” to men, and we don’t have the unending opportunity to buy the sexual services of exploited men. And really, thank God for that. I probably wouldn’t have the problems I have with prostitution and sex work if it wasn’t always based on the woman (and a few men) as service provider/man as consumer model, but in areas of occupation and war, one can’t just chalk it off to another job or empowerment or whatever. The prostituted woman in an occupied nation–or a nation that “hosts” a hyperpower like the US–is extremely vulnerable. She’s reviled by her fellow citizens for being with the occupier, she’s reviled by her family and neighbors for being a “bad” woman, and she’s reviled by her johns for being a prostitute and for being one of the colonized.

    You can’t separate this from patriarchy. Or from White supremacy (and yes, there are plenty of soldiers of color who engage in this, but let’s face it, our nation is run by Whites and is pretty racist).

  13. zuzu
    zuzu December 6, 2006 at 1:27 pm |

    And it’s not like the military and prostitution haven’t been tied together for millenia, with “camp followers” and “comfort women” and brothels run by the military itself.

  14. Roy
    Roy December 6, 2006 at 1:56 pm |

    Laurie,

    If you’re not running into overt sexism in the middle class, I think you’re lucky. I don’t know that sexism limits itself to a given income level. You *might* be able to make an argument that sexism is more *blatant*, but sexism is “alive and well” at every income level I’ve seen. When you start dealing with upper-class sexism you’re looking at people in positions of power and authority, and I’ve seen some of them get *quite* nasty.

    As far as the military goes: There are official policies, and then there are the how those policies are enforced. The official policy is definitely “Sexual harassment is a serious issue.” Does that mean that every soldier or every officer is going to enforce it, though?
    Of course not.
    “You Men know our policy on sexual harassment *wink wink, nudge nudge*- so don’t do anything that could get you in trouble. Ha ha!”
    As far as I’m aware, the DoD’s “official” stance is that soldiers are *not* to engage in “business” with prostitutes- there was a proposal up in 2004 from the Joint Service Committee on Military Justice to make “patronizing a prostitute” a punishable crime, regardless of whether it was deemed “consensual” and regardless of whether prostitution is legal in that country (I don’t know if it passed, though).
    Even if that’s the “official policy,” though, it doesn’t mean anything if nobody is willing to enforce it- like if you’ve got an officer from “This Man’s Army” looking after His Men, turning a blind eye while they “blow off some steam.”

  15. Laurie
    Laurie December 6, 2006 at 3:39 pm |

    Roy:
    You better believe I know I’m lucky! I did say “overt” — the stuff I actually do run into is more subtle and slippery and hard to combat. *sigh* One of the reasons I hang around and read the feminist blogs I do is to help form coherent arguments as to why such and such behavior is unacceptable, and “yes, I do TOO have a sense of humor; that’s just not funny!” ;) Part of the reason I run into so little is that I primarily work with women, and the men of my general acquaintance either actually are less sexist or know better than to show it around me. *grin* Although, come to think of it, I *have* blown a few female minds with certain thoughts….

    I knew I was making a broad generalization with the class remark, but here’s the thing — that’s where I’ve heard the most blatant examples of sexism in my (admittedly small/narrow) experience. And it doesn’t seem to matter if one has managed to get through college and climb the social/income class ladder — the attitudes that one forms at a young age seem to cling unless one *deliberately* tries to reform them. I also believe that the statistics are that more military recruits come from the lower income classes than the middle and higher ones, and that does seem to be borne out by the experience I’ve had. A may not lead directly to B in this case, but they do seem to share the same space, as it were.

    Thank you, BTW, for making my point more clearly as to the difference between “official policy” and “reality” in the armed forces. It’s discouraging, to say the least, but until *someone* starts to take it seriously, it will prevail. Personally, I think we need to keep working on the pervasive vein of sexism in society in general as well as put pressure on the military to *actually* face the music. Not entirely sure how to do that just now, so I just do what I can.

  16. Roy
    Roy December 6, 2006 at 4:31 pm |

    I definitely think you’re right on about attitudes formed at a young age. The longer an attitude or belief goes unchallanged, the harder it is to change it. So, by the time any particular person reaches college (which, for some people, may be their first taste of feminism), they tend to have really set positions on a lot of things. If they’re not already looking to challange their views on something, it can be *very* difficult to persuade them. I’ve definitely seen people like that.
    You know, I think that’s probably a major problem with the military, too, now that you’ve got me thinking about it. I mean, it’s the officers who are responsible for enforcing policy, but officers stick around a *lot* longer than the average recruit. While Joe Macho might be a really blatant sexist, he’s probably going to be gone in a matter of years. Officers, though… they stick around for decades.

    RE: feminist blogs – I just recently discovered a how active the feminist blogosphere is, but I’m finding it very interesting and informative. I don’t know what rock I was hiding under that I didn’t notice before.

  17. Henry
    Henry December 6, 2006 at 5:15 pm |

    To be clear, the prostitution I was referring to in Iraq doesn’t involve Iraqi women. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I’m unaware of it. I was referring to US servicewomen, which is definitely not uncommon. As for having two hands: masturbation while on deployment is like a sport, fer chrissakes.

    Since the general opinion here seems to be that we’re all fresh out of the trailerpark or ghetto when we enlist I’m not surprised that it’s seems natural that we want nothing more than to dehumanize wimmin’ (especially furrin’ wimmin’). It is most likely correct to say that if someone is generally sexist when he enlists but conducts himself properly on duty, no he will not be corrected. We have equal opportunity classes mandated once a year, but thats about it. Other priorities and whatnot.

    As for wives/girlfriends knowing what’s going on in the field? I doubt they want to know, just like guys in the field really don’t want to know what their wives/girlfriends are doing while they’re out getting mortared and shot at. Spousal infidelity is an epidemic in the military. It’s no accident that our divorce rates are so high.

  18. exangelena
    exangelena December 6, 2006 at 9:55 pm |

    Henry – Um, I don’t think I expressed any racist (ghetto) or elitist (trailerpark) sentiments.

    To all in general – sexism and misogyny are, sadly, universal in most societies. Sexist men are in all races, religions, socioeconomic groups, nationalities, political parties, etc., which is why I hate to see people try to blame one group of men for sexism. There are middle class men who are extremely misogynistic and working class men who are not sexist – I have not yet seen any stats that measure rates of sexism in income levels.

    That being said, all this stuff about foreign prostitutes and the US military really hits a nerve with me, because a man in the 70s once called my mom (an Asian US citizen) “mama san” when he saw her on the street – because he saw Asian woman and made the cognitive leap that Asian woman=prostitute. (No clue, btw, whether he was a civilian or a veteran). I think that the portrayals (and sad realities) of Asian prostitutes fueled by the demand in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea has led to the stereotype that Asian woman=prostitute=submissive sexual commodity. I shudder to think that millions of American men look at me and automatically assume that’s what I am.

  19. mythago
    mythago December 7, 2006 at 12:58 am |

    For example, I rarely run into overt sexism out here in the middle class in the Midwest

    Probably because you’re middle-class, and the sexism of people like you is mostly invisible to you.

  20. Lya Kahlo
    Lya Kahlo December 7, 2006 at 8:35 am |

    ” I doubt they want to know, just like guys in the field really don’t want to know what their wives/girlfriends are doing while they’re out getting mortared and shot at. Spousal infidelity is an epidemic in the military.”

    That’s an excellent evasion of the question. And also an excellent strawman.

    The impression I get from this is, “oh well, it’s okay for me to buy sex from this woman or that woman becaus the wifey’s at home probably screwing the pool boy.”

    Not very sturdy.

  21. Roy
    Roy December 7, 2006 at 1:36 pm |

    Henry,

    1. Nobody expressed the opinion that most enlisted men and women come from ghettos or trailerparks- asserting that most of our enlisted come from mid and low income households (a statement of fact about income) is *not* the same as asserting that they come from “the trailerpark or ghetto” (a loaded statement suggesting classism and racism). Further, when you’re talking about who, exactly, is enlisted, you’re not talking opinions- you’re talking facts. It’s a fact that, as of 2004, over 50% of our enlisted force come from households with incomes of 40K or less per year. It’s a fact that only 10% of enlisted men and women in the army have college experience, let alone a degree (which is the *highest* percentage among the four branches), while 90% of officers undergraduate or graduate degrees. The DoD has all kinds of information on the breakdown of our armed forces that anyone can look at.

    2. Whether you “want nothing more than to dehumanize wimmin'” or not wasn’t really the point, as I took it. The point was that certain actions *do* dehumanize women. Whether a soldier paying a prostitute for sex is intentionally setting out to dehumanize and take advantage wasn’t the point. His actions have impact beyond his intentions- that, because of his background, or his training, or any other number of factors, he doesn’t see his actions as dehumanizing could pretty easily be seen as a problem, too. Which is worse? Knowing that your actions dehumanize a woman and take advantage of the appaling conditions she’s forced to live in and doing it anyway, or being so desensitized, so self absorbed that you don’t even realize her condition in the first place? Seems like *both* are a problem.

    3. As Lya points out, you really avoided the question with your comments about infidelity. If a soldier is so concerned that his spouse is going to cheat, shouldn’t that have been a concern, you know… *before they got married?* That he thinks his wife might cheat on him doesn’t excuse cheating on her, anyway. And it certainly doesn’t justify doing so at the expense of another person. I can’t imagine that divorce rates are helped by, say, paying a girl for sex.

  22. Laurie
    Laurie December 7, 2006 at 3:43 pm |

    Mythago:
    (I said:) For example, I rarely run into overt sexism out here in the middle class in the Midwest

    (You said:) Probably because you’re middle-class, and the sexism of people like you is mostly invisible to you.

    Sorry, I was a bit oblique in that statement. The operative word was “overt” — as I said after, I DO get to see the more subtle, slippery stuff that’s hard to combat. I was theorizing whether the more overt stuff makes it into the military and is subsequently NOT combatted at all. Oh, and I’ll admit that I don’t get to see the stuff that the middle class might dump on women/people that they perceive to be of a “lower” class, although I did get to see the elitist attitudes of a “higher” class worker with regards to a “lower” class worker (I worked as a medical secretary for years. Most of the docs were nice, but rather condescending. Drove me NUTS.)

    That said, I’d like to point out that I realize that I’ve led an apparently VERY sheltered life. *grin* Even though both of my parents came from a pretty low income background, even though we never really had a lot while I was growing up, and even though my dad served in the military (WWII, for anyone who cares — he was an MP), I was raised to believe that there was no reason that I couldn’t do or be anything I wanted to, provided I got the schooling. For all the very stereotypical gender roles that were followed in my family, somehow they didn’t seem to restrict *me*. I was a feminist before I actually knew what the word meant. Maybe it had something to do with growing up in the 1970s. *shrug* For whatever reason, I haven’t run into a LOT of overt stuff. Doesn’t mean I don’t think it exists, just that I haven’t seen a lot of it.

  23. Laurie
    Laurie December 7, 2006 at 4:06 pm |

    Henry said:
    — To be clear, the prostitution I was referring to in Iraq doesn’t involve Iraqi women. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I’m unaware of it. I was referring to US servicewomen, which is definitely not uncommon.

    Ummmmm, sources for that information? Unless you can cite someone who has done a *study*, I’m afraid I have to take that statement as hearsay and camp gossip, and with a GIANT grain of salt. Given the statistics that are coming out of the VA right now, I’m skeptical that servicewomen are “prostituting themselves” as opposed to being pressured into “service”, so to speak. I’d be interested to hear where you have gotten your information.

    — As for having two hands: masturbation while on deployment is like a sport, fer chrissakes.

    Well, that’s good, ’cause I know privacy is in short supply in the field. So — you have that “release”. Use it!!! Being lonely and stressed and scared and needing human companionship is NOT an excuse for *using* another human being when it is not consensual! And simply paying a woman who accepts said payment doesn’t necessarily *make it* consensual, either. The fact that the wife MAY be fooling around at home doesn’t make it right, either. (To be clear, I have NO respect for people who fool around while their spouse is deployed. That’s just *wrong*.) I understand there are non-fraternization rules, and that has got to make it hard for everyone. But you know what? No one has ever died from sexual frustration, particularly if they could blow off some steam solo. Please — you sound like a bright guy, so wrap your head around this. No one — NO ONE — is ever entitled to the use of another person’s body. EVER.

    I’d also like to apologize for implying that all service wo/men are from trailer parks and ghettos. That was certainly not my intent, and I apologize for any insult. Actually, out here, the men and women who are likeliest to take the military option are from rural areas where there simply isn’t any work and further education is out of the question, at least for the short term. And those rural folks here in the Midwest *are* the ones most likely to hold tightly to gender stereotypes and biases. If they don’t get the type of training that the officers might, I can see where their beliefs could become an issue. That was the only point I was trying to make.

    Anyway, be safe, Henry. Even though we might disagree, I’d like to see you get home safely. You’re doing a tough job that I am not sure I could do, and I do respect that.

  24. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub December 7, 2006 at 4:15 pm |

    To be clear, the prostitution I was referring to in Iraq doesn’t involve Iraqi women. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I’m unaware of it. I was referring to US servicewomen, which is definitely not uncommon. As for having two hands: masturbation while on deployment is like a sport, fer chrissakes.

    Um, so you’re saying that US servicewomen prostitute themselves? There are US servicewomen who blog who’d disagree with that.

    Besides which, the starting off point was a news story about the rape of a Philipina. And you cannot deny that around army bases, there is a large “market” for prostitution, and many of those prostitutes are not US servicewomen.

    Since the general opinion here seems to be that we’re all fresh out of the trailerpark or ghetto when we enlist I’m not surprised that it’s seems natural that we want nothing more than to dehumanize wimmin’ (especially furrin’ wimmin’). It is most likely correct to say that if someone is generally sexist when he enlists but conducts himself properly on duty, no he will not be corrected. We have equal opportunity classes mandated once a year, but thats about it. Other priorities and whatnot.

    Henry, you spoke about women as things that men have a right to have access to. That’s pretty damn degrading. Again, women aren’t raised to feel entitled to “access” to men. You take a look at some of the crap that went on in Okinawa and Korea, and get back to me about how the army doesn’t have issues about women. You take a look at the systematic rape of US Servicewomen, and get back to me about how the army doesn’t have issues about women. But the beatches are just not important enough–other priorities and whatnot.

  25. Henry
    Henry December 7, 2006 at 6:21 pm |

    The use of the phrase “access” in no way implied entitlement or degradation of any kind. If I live near a supermarket, I have access to groceries. I’m not entitled to walk into the store and eat whatever I want. If I’m at home, I have access to women. I can go to the club, or the bookstore, or the laundromat and talk to some. Access refers to the simple fact of being near something, and in the case of deployment, the simple fact is there are very few women present, especially in combat units. You can’t have an empowered, totally equal, completely non-exploitational relationship with women even if you’re the most sensitive man on earth if there’s no women there. That’s all I was trying to say. Way to be overly sensitive about language.

    I’m not saying all US servicewomen, or even a majority, or even a statistically large number prostitute themselves. I am saying it occurs, yes. Call it hearsay if you will, fine. And maybe I wasn’t clear, I’m not trying to give the impression that prostitution is super fantastic, or justified in these cases (although in certain situations I reckon prostitution doesn’t exploit anyone). My initial point was just to say that the fact that men overseas pay for sex doesn’t automatically mean they see all women as objects or less than human. Most of these guys are barely grown, and they’re not thinking about the issue that deeply. When some bar girl overseas comes up to a young Marine or soldier, she’s not advertising how shitty her life is. She’s whispering in this drunken kids ear about how he can have some of what he’s been lying awake thinking about for months at a time. Is it wrong? Sure. But stress and loneliness will often conspire to have you do things that are wrong if you don’t have to see the results. Doesn’t make him a monster.

    And finally, yes, we have other priorities. I’m sure alot more could be done to prevent sexual assault in the service (and everywhere else, for that matter). I don’t really know what those things are, but I’m sure more could be done. The point is that everything the military does takes a backseat to making us more ready to close with and destroy the enemy. Period. Like I said, I can’t speak for the other services, and I don’t want to. When I say we have equal oportunity classes once a year, it’s because that’s all we have time for. Between deployment, and deployment workups, regular field exercises, rifle qual, and all the other things Marines have to do to be combat ready, we dont have a lot of time. All we can do is take individuals who break the rules and come down on them.

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