The Majority of Military Sexual Assault Victims Are Men. Now Maybe We Can Fix This?

What Women Really Think
June 24 2013 12:05 PM

The Majority of Military Sexual Assault Victims Are Men. Now Maybe We Can Fix This?

169649199
Sexual assault is not just a women's issue.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Here’s how the debate over military sexual assault has unfolded thus far: Bold female leaders spoke out, smart male allies stood behind them, clueless conservative men started mansplaining the issue, and right-wing media went full misogynist. Because of this, it’s easy to imagine that military sexual assault is mainly a problem of men versus (or attacking) women, but as James Dao in the New York Times explains, in fact, the majority of sexual assault in the military is male-on-male crime.

Amanda Marcotte Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men.

Advertisement

Part of the reason for this is that women are still a small minority in the military, representing only about 15 percent of service members. But what this astonishing number demonstrates is the truth of what feminists have been saying about sexual assault all along: It is not caused by an overabundance of sexual desire, but is an act of violence perpetrated by people who want to hurt and humiliate the victim, using sex as a weapon.

That’s why comments such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s during the Senate hearings on rape in the military are not just offensive, but flat-out wrong. Chambliss acknowledged the gravity of the problem but ended up minimizing it by saying, “Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.” These kinds of comments perpetuate the myth that rape is not that big of a deal, the result of miscommunication, or caused by men being just too damn horny and ladies being just too damn sexy to not rape.

The fact that most military rape is male-on-male also shows how very wrong it is to suggest that the problem is that we let women serve to begin with. Even if you removed them all, that leaves nearly 14,000 rapes a year.

And lest you think this male-on-male crime is the result of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Dao shows otherwise. As one male victim told Dao, “The people who perpetrated these crimes on me identify as heterosexual males,” which is frequently true of male-on-male rape.

It would be nice if the dynamics of sexual assault could be understood and accepted even when women are the victims, but sadly, that’s not the world we live in. Publicizing the percentage of victims that are men will help male victims understand that they’re not alone, and it will help the public at large better realize why widespread sexual assault happens and why it’s so critical to do a better job preventing and prosecuting it. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.