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Group Ties Sexual Assault to Base-Sold Porn

military porn

If Pentagon brass and Washington lawmakers believe tackling military sexual assault is about changing military culture then they need to get Playboy and other such magazines off base exchange shelves and out of the electronic reach of mobile devices, an anti-pornography group says.
 
The group, Morality in Media, is calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to do just that, arguing that you can't expect to stop sexual exploitation in the military if you allow sexually exploitive magazines and websites on military bases.
 
"The problem [of sexual assault and sexual exploitation in the military] won't be solved until the culture of exploitation is ... until they stop selling pornography," Patrick Trueman, president of the organization, said in a telephone interview.
 

The Pentagon has not said if it is looking at removing the iconic Playboy and other titles from the exchanges, while a Boston college professor and activist argues that the magazines are a minor part of the problem, and that its Trueman's other demand – keeping pornographic sites off electronic devices – that should be the goal.
 
"Forget about Playboy or Penthouse – that's not the problem," said Gail Dines, a sociology professor at Wheelock College in Boston and an internationally known anti-pornography activist. "We've gone far beyond that … The internet has made [hard core] pornography affordable, anonymous and accessible." Dines also said that the average age at which boys are seeing this kind of porn online is between 11 and 12 years old.
 
By the time a boy is 18 and joining the military, according to Dines, he has already been exposed to hard core and has no use for the titillating photos offered up by Playboy and the like. It would, she said, "be akin to having a hardcore whiskey drinker go back to beer."
 
Dines supports ridding the exchanges of the established magazines, but with most young men getting their porn on their personal laptops, tablets and phones the move will not make a dent.
 
But blocking access to such sites would come with its own set of problems, according to Gene Policinski, executive director of the non-partisan First Amendment Center. "These proposals would have steep hurdles in getting approved, and there would be additional challenges in actually applying them," he told Military Times newspapers in a recent interview. "I'd hate to think somebody in military housing could face charges because somebody's son or daughter snuck a look at HBO."
 
The DoD has had the authority to bar magazines and videos from bases since the Military Honor and Decency Act of 1996, and has done so in hundreds of cases where its review board found "the dominant theme … depicts or describes nudity, including sexual or excretory activities or organs, in a lascivious way." But the DoD Resale Activities Board of Review has given a pass to Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler and other titles.
 
On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers who have linked such magazines to sexual assault declined comment when asked if their sale on base is part of the problem and if they should be pulled.
 
Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., cited Trueman's letter during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual abuse earlier this month. A spokesman for his office said Sessions was not available for comment when asked if the magazines are part of the problem and should be pulled. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., also declined to comment. Broun in 2008 unsuccessfully pushed legislation to ban the magazines, telling Newsweek that their availability in military exchanges is partly responsible for an increase in military sexual assault.
 
Other lawmakers also declined comment, among these Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-NY, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Ha., who watched this month as legislation they filed to take the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases out of the hands of commanders failed.
 
Both lawmakers are among the strongest pro-women voices in Congress to hit military culture as a big part of the problem, with Gillibrand stating flatly in a June 9 "Meet The Press" interview that military sexual assault "is a culture problem from top to bottom."
 
But a spokeswoman for Gabbard said the congresswoman would not comment on whether the magazines are part of the problem culture or should be pulled from the exchanges; Gillibrand's office did not reply.
 
Other lawmakers who to decline comment or not respond included Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., John McCain, R-Ariz., Jackie Walorski of Indiana, Vickie Hartzler of Missouri, Martha Roby of Alabama, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Randy Forbes and Scott Ridgell of Virginia, Trent Franks of Arizona, John Kline of Minnesota, and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
 
Military sexual assault has always been a problem, but with the increasing numbers and roles of women in the military since 9/11 the issue has grabbed more attention. Over the past year dozens of instructors at the Air Force's sole basic training base have been prosecuted for various sexual misconduct charges, including sexual assault and rape. More recently, some high-ranking military members responsible for programs to prevent sexual assault have themselves been charged with the crime.
 
Hagel in May called for a culture change to ensure "every service member is treated with dignity and respect, where all allegations of inappropriate behavior are treated with seriousness, where victims' privacy is protected, where bystanders are motivated to intervene and where offenders know that they will be held accountable by strong and effective systems of justice."
 
But the Department of Defense has largely ducked the question of whether the availability on base of magazines depicting naked women is part of that culture problem.
 
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, agrees that the magazines should be chucked from the exchanges, but entirely rejects the idea that military culture is to blame for sexual assaults.
 
“Who defines military culture? When did that occur?” she asked. The problem is not military culture, she said, “it is policies that depart from the high standards and core values of military culture. These include honor, courage, commitment, integrity, selflessness, respect, and the like.”

Donnelly believes the fault lay with "the sexualization" of the military with repeal of the ban on gays serving openly.
 
"Several years ago Congress passed a law saying no pornography on military bases and for a number of years it was violated, ignored or disregarded," she said. "Now, because of the increase in numbers of sexual assaults – actual and estimated – now all of a sudden people are looking at pornography on the bases as one factor contributing to the problem. But it's a broader problem. It's the sexualization of the military."
 
With repeal of DADT, she said, the administration and now the military is saying that sexuality does not matter. "It matters very much, on both fronts, for heterosexuals and homosexuals, and the overall effect is to sexualize the armed forces in a way that is unprecedented. Now military leaders are trying to mitigate the problem."
 
"It's the policy makers that should be held accountable," she said, not the military.
 
Greg Jacob, a former Marine and now the policy director for Service Women's Action Network, is not surprised that not everyone is on the same page. "Everybody agrees on the culture [issue]," he said. "They can all agree on the diagnosis but they don't always agree on the treatment."
 
He said it is also clear that many military leaders are not serious about changing the culture, pointing to a recent Air Force-wide inspection that found thousands of items considered pornographic or unacceptable for workplace and common areas.
 
"It was a top-level order, and the units had three or four months to prepare for it, and they still found 20,000 objectionable things. So they don't see it as a serious contributor or a serious piece of the problem," he said.
 
Jacob believes the Defense Department will, at some point, consider whether these publications belong on sale at military installations.
 
"If they are serious about culture change and creating an environment that's not hostile to women, it's something they'll probably take a look at," he said, but also noted that the military "is also serious about cutting down on alcohol consumption, but they have Class 6 stores on every base."

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