Conservative says gender essentialism explains military sexual assaults?

From Right Wing Watch‘s current reporting on the CPAC, including comments made during a panel discussion by Elaine Donnelly:

One of Donnelly’s main arguments did not seem exactly respectful of our armed forces: she said repeatedly that servicemembers can’t be counted on – or trained – to control their sexual urges. That’s why, she said, we are losing so many ship captains due to sexual misconduct. Sexual mistreatment of women in the military is not their fault, she said, but it’s not surprising.

I don’t know how many ship captains we’re “losing” to charges of sexual misconduct, but if she’s talking about the most recent case, she’s way off base. Regardless, take a look at that argument again: men are aggressive, especially sexually, and that’s just the way they are. It can’t be changed. Rape is bad, sure, but you know, we just shouldn’t put people in those situations, because people are animals driven entirely by their instincts, which can’t be controlled, so of course bad things happen when you let women in the military, or let them wear short skirts, or, heck, let them leave the house without being accompanied by a male relative and swathed in a burqua….oh wait.

If the conservatives want to see the face of “creeping Shariah,” they ought to look in the mirror. Rape apologism (“she deserved it, she didn’t take care of herself, she never should have been there/worn that/drunk that/trusted him”) is only a short step away from the obvious solution of legalistic limitations designed to “protect” women. The recent piece I was critiquing in the link above only suggested the softer form of social pressure, with advice from Dad not to get in a car with a guy, but really, since conservatives and the Religious Right in particular seem so hell-bent on legislating what happens inside my uterus, it’s not unreasonable to say that they have much more in common with their imaginary enemies, the Shariah-imposers, than they’d like to admit.

(NB: I can’t seem to find a transcript of what she actually said, but one of her flowcharts (yes, she used flowcharts – and bad ones, at that) includes the statement “Gays No More Perfect Than Anyone Else.” Score one for the Mistress of the Obvious here. But since that statement helps lead the path of illogic on the flowchart to “New Forms of Sexual Misconduct,” it seems to confirm that she thinks people in general can’t keep their pants on, especially not when they’re anywhere near a bed. This is probably also a dogwhistle to the vile lie that gay people are just waiting with bated breath to rape their straight counterparts.)

About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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5 Responses to Conservative says gender essentialism explains military sexual assaults?

  1. It doesn’t even matter – gay or straight – sexual misconduct & abuse occurs amongst the male population against each other if females are not available (as in the case of all male training facilities). Also, according to people I have known who have witnessed this first hand, women in the army *harass & sexually assault* as well, it just doesn’t get reported as often. If you get abused as a male and you see it as a shameful thing, it gets buried and people eat up the available statistics. Same thing with the idea that getting sexually abused as a boy turns you gay: gay men tend to be sensitive enough to report it, while straight men will repress so statistics end up proving to conservatives that homosexuality is a product of outside influence.

  2. Literata says:

    Voracious Boot, I’m not going to try to address all the issues I raised; I just want to clarify that I recognize sexual assault happens among people of all genders and orientations. Regardless of who does it to whom, it is wrong and should not be tolerated. It certainly shouldn’t be explained as “natural,” which is what I was trying to focus on here.

  3. SLG says:

    Hey, Literata?

    Can’t a behavior be both “natural” and “wrong”?

    Signed,
    The Defenders of the Idea of Original Sin

  4. Literata says:

    Short answer: Sure it can. But I’m not defending the naturalist fallacy here. (At least, I don’t think I am!) Desire isn’t necessarily a good thing because it’s natural; I’m trying to say that I think our troops, like most adults, can be taught to keep their pants on, and ought to be held responsible when they behave unethically, regardless of whether it’s “natural” or not.

    Long answer: Depends to some extent on how you define the terms, of course. I’m not a complete relativist, but I do think context matters. Sexual desire is, in and of itself, no more right or wrong than other drives, like hunger. It’s how we use it that matters. That’s why I don’t defend the naturalist fallacy; we’re not lions or tigers, to satisfy our hungers – of any kind – on a whim, without thought for the consequences.

  5. Realistic Feminist says:

    Come, Voracious Boot, let’s not distract her with other facts or theories…clearly, her mind is made up!

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