Tragically, sexual exploitation is a prominent issue in all of the United States military branches.
The U.S. military not only experiences frequent high-profile scandals of sexual assault or rape, but its personnel also regularly experience cases of rampant sexual harassment, pornography use, revenge pornography, strip club patronage, and purchasing of prostituted or sex trafficked victims.
Meaningful actions the military could take to improve this systemic culture of sexploitation include developing and enforcing a code prohibiting the patronizing of strip clubs, instituting mandatory training that addresses the harms of pornography consumption, developing and providing treatment programs for personnel struggling with sexually compulsive behaviors, and instituting routine audits and removal of pornography found on military computers, storage drives, work areas, and officer’s clubs across all branches of the armed services.
Pornography is a major contributor to the culture of sexual assault and harassment in the military.
We receive a steady stream of comments from servicemen and women and their spouses regarding the widespread availability of pornography in the U.S. Military, especially while on deployments overseas. In addition, The Military Honor and Decency Act requires the U.S. Department of Defense to remove all sexually explicit materials sold or rented by the exchange services, commissaries, and the U.S. Navy ships’ stores. However, until 2013 the Department of Defense allowed pornographic magazines to be sold across all military branches.
In 2013, after consistent public pressure from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation including being placed on its Dirty Dozen List, the Department of Defense stopped selling pornography on Army and Airforce bases. The Navy branch of the military still allows pornography to be sold on base.
Scandals of revenge pornography and non-consensual nude photo sharing have plagued the military.
Research about the harms of pornography shows that pornography use is linked to increased sexual aggression, belief in rape myths, and even to increased rates of sexual violence.
Many military personnel frequently patron strip clubs, illicit massage parlors, and purchase sex both at home and abroad, all of which directly foster and promote sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
It’s time to recognize that individuals cannot objectify, demean, and use women sexually in one area of their life, and then respect, obey and cooperate with them in the workplace without any consequences.
Efforts to address the problem of sexual exploitation in the military cannot be successful unless they take the full spectrum of sexual exploitation into account.
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