Free American Military Culture And Violence Against Women Course Work Example

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The hegemonic status of the United States military results in unequal and unfair treaties with other, less powerful countries; these treaties often include clauses that make prosecuting the US military men difficult. In this essay, I argue that the military power of the US has created a culture for American soldiers which eliminates potential consequences for violent crimes; this culture has led to an increase in violence against women from other countries as well as against women within the United States military. Assault, murder, and rape by the US military personnel go unpunished. These acts of violence are perceived in the military culture as natural and understandable reactions to the extreme circumstances of war and deployment. Without the restraint of consequences from their own government and with the knowledge that other governments have no power to enforce punishment, the US military culture has created conditions that allow military personnel to engage in violence against women. This permissive violence has infiltrated the American military and led to increased intra-military sexual assault.

A study by Ramon Hinojosa found that military men often situate their personal qualities above those of other men in order to assert dominance. Hinojosa specifically focused on men in the military to demonstrate how members of each branch of the military privileged their qualities over those from other branches (such as intelligence, toughness, alertness, etc.) to establish a hegemonic structure within the military itself. He explains that high heterosexual tendencies, aggression and physical violence are three qualities associated with the military (Hinojosa 180). This sexual hypermasculinity creates a culture that glorifies sexual conquest and violence. That culture parallels the US military culture, which works to assert dominance over other countries. Hinojosa connects the behavior of service men with the idea of American dominance by explaining that American service men are agents of America’s place of supremacy in the world and have the legal right to use lethal force in order to maintain this supremacy over others. The tools they use to enforce this supremacy are violence, aggression, physical ability, self-discipline, and high risk-taking, making both individuals and other nation-states submit to American political and military desires. These are the tools of the hegemonic masculinities that service members and the American military culture share (Hinojosa, 180). Hinojosa clearly explains that the American mission of controlling other countries, bending them to American will, creates the perception for the agents who are assigned to accomplish that mission that the citizens of these other countries must bend to their will as individuals. The manifestation of a culture of sexual dominance, violence, and American hegemonic goals leads to violence against citizens in other countries, most especially women.

The consequences of this oversexed, hypermasculine culture are not just theoretical. In an article entitled “Modern-Day Comfort Women: The U.S. Military, Transnational Crime and the Trafficking of Women,” authors Donna M. Hughes, Katherine Y. Chon, and Derek P. Ellerman discuss how a booming industry of sex trafficking has developed around military bases in South Korea to meet the demand of American soldiers. Beginning in the 1950s, shortly after the US established a military presence in South Korea, the Republic of Korea and the US Forces in Korea (USFK) together set up ‘rest and relaxation’ centers to provide entertainment and improve morale among American service members (Hughes, Chon, and Ellerman 903). These stations, as well as most of the nightclubs and bars surrounding the US military bases, camp towns known as kijichons, featured rooms for prostitution. In 2002, an estimated 20,000 women existed in these kijichons for the explicit purpose of providing sexual services to United States military personnel. The use of Korean women to service the sexual needs of soldiers dates back to World War II when the Japanese military set up what were known as “comfort stations” where women, mostly Korean, were placed in camps to provide Japanese soldiers with sex. Some Asian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) assert that after Japan’s defeat, the US military took over and continued to operate these comfort stations (Hughes, Chon, and Ellerman 903).

The same article also explains the repercussions of the Status of Forces Agreement between the Republic of Korea and the US. The SOFA, basically a treaty between the two countries, includes a clause that makes it difficult to prosecute American military men who commit crimes in Korea. An unpublished report asserts that between 1945 and 1999, American soldiers committed more than 10,000 violent crimes against Korean citizens (Hughes, Chon, and Ellerman 904). More recently, several high-profile assaults, rapes, and murders of Korean women by American military men have caused public outcry because the men were not prosecuted. These men all state that they became angry at the women because the women refused to have sex with them. Although these crimes were supposed to be punished by the US military in lieu of the Korean government, in most cases the soldiers were merely transferred to another post (Hughes, Chon, and Ellerman 904).

These examples demonstrate the effect of the US military culture on violence against women. Under the guise of protecting soldiers from unfair prosecution by a foreign government, the military has instead created a culture where military personnel are not punished in any way for the crimes they commit. Worse, the military encourages the use of women for sexual pleasure by working with the Korean government to operate “rest and relaxation” stations for soldiers. This sends the message that not only is it acceptable to engage in prostitution but also encouraged. The verbiage “rest and relaxation” makes the exploitation of women sound harmless, and the lack of any punishment for military men who violently abuse women makes their actions harmless as well.

The violent, sexualized culture is not only directed at women from other countries but also at American women as well. Specifically, American service women have recently begun speaking out against the sexual harassment and assault they endure from their fellow military members. The same culture that creates a sense of American dominance over other countries has created a sense of male dominance over women with the US military. In an article discussing the “Bro Culture” of the military, Sara Sorcher explains that within the military women are perceived as second-class citizens (Sorcher). This perception stems from the not-too distant past when the military was comprised of only men as well as the rule that women could not serve in combat. This rule was partially repealed in June of 2014 and women could now serve in selected combat roles; however the decades of denial of upward mobility for women attained through combat experience has led to a vast disproportion of men to women officers—the same officers who are responsible for preventing and reporting sexual assault (Sorcher). Furthermore, the same “bro culture” that marginalizes women also silences them. Women are discouraged from reporting sexual assault because, as one young soldier explains, men hold the idea that if a woman in the military is assaulted it is partly her own fault because she did not belong in the military in the first place. The dominant ideology is that if a woman voluntarily puts herself in the company of a large number of men, especially when those men do not have easy access to consensual sex, she should expect that those men will aggressively make advances at her (Sorcher).

Under the culture of permissive silence, intra-military sexual assault has exploded. A study in 2010 found that while 2,617 cases of sexual assault were reported, the number of unreported cases could top over 19,000. In the Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, Lindsay Hoyle explains that this outrageous number of cases reflects harm to the military as well as to the victims because in the 2010 Annual Report of Sexual Assault in the Military, the Department of Defense agreed that rape and sexual assault impeded the military’s readiness and impaired the mission accomplishment (354). However, just as in cases involving women from foreign countries, assaults on American military women are not punished by the Department of Defense. Of the 3,192 cases of sexual assault reported in 2011, only 492 suspects were sent to court-martial and of those, only 240 actually proceeded to trial (Hoyle 355). Many of the victims of intra-military sexual assault blame the culture of the military that they describe as overly masculine and misogynistic, that dismisses accusations and discredits those who levy sexual assault charges, actions that consequently end up punishing the victim rather than the attacker (Hoyle 355). The dominant American hegemony designed to subordinate other countries and citizens of other countries has filtered into the ranks of the military itself where women are classified as subordinate to men and are subjected to sexual assault with no hope of recourse against the perpetrator.

Sexual assault within the military has received much attention in recent years due to the increase in reported cases of assault and the number of civil and legal suits being brought to court that involve intra-military sexual assault. Many within the government and military are striving to eliminate sexual assault and change the culture that accepts and normalizes sexual assault. In a Senate Armed Service Committee Hearing in 2013, General Martin E. Dempsey stated that military service came with too many inherent risks on its own and because of this should never include the risk of sexual assault. He asserted that, because sexual assault betrays the very trust on which the military profession is founded, it is a crime that demands accountability and consequences (Should Decisions 11). Military and Congressional leaders often speak of training and discipline as the foundation of military service and cite the Uniform Code of Military Justice which prescribes punishments for any conceivable military offense as the best apparatus for punishing sexual offenders. Others however assert that punishment for intra-military sexual assault should be removed from the hands of the military justice system because the military is the very organization that fostered the culture that for so long has accepted sexual assault. The suggestion to try offenders in non-military courts is met with fierce resistance from those within the military and from many Congressional members because they assert that civilian and government courts do not provide a range of possible consequences or punishments like military courts provide (Should Decisions 15). However, if the culture is really to change, the responsibility for enforcement and punishment needs to be taken away from the military apparatus until it can demonstrate a proven ability to deter and eliminate intra-military sexual assault.

This subject interests me for several reasons. First, the recent attention that the media has given to sexual assault within the military has brought the previously undiscussed issue to the forefront of the list of problems with American’s cultural perceptions of women. Violence and sexual assault especially have become a topic that no longer suffers under the taboo of “people do not talk about that” but instead have become an open and recognizable problem in society. Also, I believe that intra-military violence relates to the domestic culture of police violence. The recent uptick in police brutality accusations has led to a widespread mistrust and suspicion of law enforcement officials (Fletcher, 2014). This mistrust is mirrored in the military. American domestic culture venerates and almost idolizes United States military personnel. Television advertisements, parades, news stories, and social promotions all focus on providing a well-deserved “thank you” for those who service in the military. However, this constantly perpetuated idea that soldiers, just because they are American soldiers, can do no wrong is exactly what established the culture that led to the permissive and excessive violence against women in the first place. With the knowledge of widespread sexual violence, both against women from other countries and against women serving in America’s military, perhaps we as a society should tone down the hero worship of soldiers and instead hold them to the same standards as we do every other member of society.

Works Cited

Fletcher, Michael A. “Mistrust of Police is Highest Where Law Enforcement is Most Needed.” The Washington Post. 29 September 2014. Web.
Hinojosa, Ramon. “Doing Hegemony: Military, Men, and Constructing a Hegemonic Masculinity.” Journal of Men’s Studies. 1 March 2010: 179-194. Print.
Hoyle, Lindsay. “Command Responsibility—A Legal Obligation to Deter Sexual Violence in the Military.” Boston College International and Comparative Law Review. April 2014. Print.
Hughes, Donna M., Katherine Y. Chon, and Derek P. Ellerman. “Modern-Day Comfort Women: The U.S. Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of Women.” Violence Against Women. September 2007: 901-922. Print.
“Should Decisions Regarding the Prosecution of Sexual Assault Cases in the Military be Removed from the Chain of Command?” Congressional Digest. October 2013: 11-31. Print.
Sorcher, Sara. “How the Military’s ‘Bro’ Culture Turns Women into Targets.” National Journal. 15 September 2013. Web.

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