Among the more buck-passing and diversionery arguments proffered to explain what's emerged from Abu Ghraib is this truly far-fetched column
by Linda Chavez, which seeks to lay the blame on having women in the ranks of the American military.
Now, you do have to sort of center yourself for a moment to be able to take such ridiculousness seriously. But here goes ...
Chavez's argument is that having women in integrated units is bad for good order and discipline. But more specifically she argues that "putting young men and women at their sexual prime in close proximity to each other 24 hours a day increases sexual tension [and that] military service has become heavily sexualized, with opportunities for male and female soldiers, sailors and Marines to engage in sexual fraternization, which, though frowned upon -- and in certain circumstances, forbidden -- is almost impossible to prevent."
Now, I don't think it makes much sense to draw any social policy lessons from this -- not about women in the military, gays in the military or anything else. The real issue is some ugly mix of poor oversight, abetting policy and the darker, more malleable side of human nature
. Let's also note that the issue is not the nature of the sexual dimension of this, but the fact that it is coerced and punitive
Yet who can ignore that the subtext of all this is homoerotic? And just how does having women in the armed forces contribute to this? If you're going to draw a social policy lesson from this, I'd say Chavez's is hardly the most logical. More plausible, though not the most probable explanation, would be the homophobia that is unfortunately quite entrenched in the US military and indeed throughout much of American society. Let's be frank, if there's an issue of 'sexual tension' involved when men try to humiliate other men by calling them 'fags' and forcing them to simulate homosexual acts, I'd say it's an issue of sexual tension between men, rather than between men and women.