Women in Combat: Is it “Contradicting Basic Biology” to Trust Male Soldiers To Keep it in Their Pants?

WOMYN AT WAR: The latest in The New York Times’ “Women in Arms” series tackles the sexual harassment issue. As few as 10 percent of sexual harassment incidents are reported, and now that women & men are serving together in Iraq & Afghanistan, the numbers keep getting higher & higher. In Women at Arms – A Peril in War Zones – Sexual Abuse by Fellow GIs- we hear the cases of many women who found prosecution of their harassment nearly impossible and the consequences damaging.

In fact, a woman in the military is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq and of 2,171 suspects of investigations that were completed during the fiscal year that ended in September 2008, only 317 faced a court-martial. (There’s a video on page 2 which we can’t embed that you should watch.) The article does briefly mention that 10 percent of sexual assaults are reported by men with male attackers. Interesting b/c perhaps many readers would assume male attackers are gay, but we suspect they often aren’t. For starters, that’s kinda a violation of DADT…

Per ushe, the comments are fascinating in and of themselves (and therefore are specifically referenced in the Metafilter blurb about this article)

Why are women serving on the front lines again? How does their presence help American war efforts? Seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. (James, Brooklyn)

I’m fascinated that this article mentions that something like 10% of sexual assaults in the military are committed against males, and then goes right back to discussing the resources available to women, as if men are never victims, or aren’t eligible for the resources … I know at least one man who was raped while on active duty (roofied at a party by his coworkers while stateside if it matters) and I think it was even more devastating to him than it is for most women. I can only imagine what it’s like for the ones who can’t muster the tremendous courage it takes to come forward. (Nancy, California)

Yes, I get it, women do not belong in combat; they are a distraction that will get men killed. When has this not been so? Will political correctness contradict basic biology? (Joseph, CA)

I’m a company commander and a West Point graduate. I can tell you unequivocally that neither I, nor any of my fellow commanders in my Battalion, tolerate sexual assault or sexual harrassment. (Tony, MO)

While American women may have a choice in that they may opt out of deployment abroad, or leave the army altogether, people in the countries under attack on whom these soldiers are unleashed, have no such option. (Karachi, S.R.H. Hashimi)

The enemy within… These are the results of decades of permissive society, where sex is slowly dominating all aspects of our social relationships. (Tommaso, Italy)

What do you think? The commenters seem to suggest over & over that men & women just can’t serve together, it’s a fact of life. We find that disheartening and think it underestimates men. Perhaps if we didn’t perpetuate the idea that men cannot possibly resist abusing women, it would happen less often. Also while we’re on the topic of the impact of female-male relationships in combat zones, this is a pretty interesting article about Lynndie England from last year.

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Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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17 Comments

  1. As someone who has been in military and/or military-esque training environments, I can tell you that it’s not entirely the male’s fault. There are some women that give a bad rap to females in general which is one reason why there are terms like “Walking Mattress” or “Corps whore”. That being said, since there is such a imbalance in the ratio of men to women I guess men figure they need to be that much more forward and competitive (this isn’t in reference to anything illegal).

    Basically all I’m saying is, everyone needs to keep it in their pants.

  2. I couldn’t finish that NYT Women at Arms article because the treatment of the women in the story was just so upsetting. I also didn’t know that adultery is a crime in the military – that’s totally f*cked up from an outsider’s point-of-view. But it seems to me that the whole issue of how men treat women in combat is way more cultural than biological. Maybe if the U.S. military is like a very intensified microcosm of America with additional traditions, laws, chains of command, fears, etc, thrown on top then maybe American rape culture, slut-shaming, gender inequality, homophobia, etc would also be intensified within that environment.

  3. 1. In response to that first comment you pasted, I’d like to point out that women make up 14.2% of our actively serving military, based on 2008 statistics – I’m assuming “front lines” was only a figure of speech for the person that made that post.

    2. The NY Times article reaffirms my belief that the military will accept anyone into its ranks (except gays of course).

    3. I find it unnerving that “society in general” is now an accepted benchmark for proper behavior.

    4. I understand a war zone is complicated, dangerous, and an overall ugly mess at times but a crime is a crime and it has to be dealt with accordingly.

    5. Also, this notion that it’s a matter of life and death when deployed and reporting abuse can wait doesn’t make sense to me. The military should promptly deal with all reported abuses because IT IS a matter of life and death. The despair, anger, stress, etc. that anyone, regardless of gender, may feel following an attack or incident that prevents you from being 100% when in combat not only puts you at risk but your fellow soldiers at risk as well.

    6. I don’t see why men and women, gays and straights can’t serve side-by-side together.

    7. As for a solution? Enforcing current military law and enacting harsher laws while expanding resources for victims will go a long way but I argue that also, if we have to be involved in military conflict, the U.S. opt for shorter deployments, more frequent and longer returns home, and more mental health services for our troops. Because what we’re currently putting our troops through is truly tragic.

  4. Man, “Joseph from CA” makes me so f*cking angry. Guy, we’re in the middle of two different wars, both of which have lasted what feels like my entire lifetime, and our president just committed 30,000 more troops to one of them. That is literally 3x the population of my hometown. How can anyone be dumb enough to think that any of our troops are there because of “political correctness” and not because they need every single living breathing body they can get? He talks like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a party that we invited women to just to be polite. They’re soldiers, motherf*cker! Unless you want to get a gun and fly over there, shut the f*ck up!

  5. I am a Vietnam Combat veteran. I served with the US Army; 4th ID; 2/8th Inf.; Republic of Vietnam 1969-1970.
    Young men who serve in combat tend to be highly sexed, with a great deal of self respect, very manly, freedom loving, and, of course, courageous.
    I’m afraid the aforementioned qualities are an anathema to American women such that demands by American women that, in fact, men in the military become, as American men in the civilian world are, servile emasculated Helots will destroy our military.
    Since the War in Vietnam, there has been a significant decrease in the USA in both the relative and absolute number of men willing and able to enter into our military, especially the combat arms because of the aforementioned.
    Witness the wide spread use of mercenaries, foreign troops, the Reserves and the Guard in our current conflict.
    The misandric vilification of our military men, full of terminological inexactitudes and specious sophistries, as per the original article is an example of a feminist culture that is destroying our military and our nation.
    Unless the aforementioned is assertively address, the USA, as was the case with the ancient Trojan women, will face the enslavement and defeat that ancient Troy faced.

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