Washington Times' Owens: Sexual Harassment Targets Acting Like 'Fragile Flowers'

Conservative columnist Mackbuin Thomas Owens writes in a Washington Times column published yesterday that women’s rights advocates are waging a “feminist attack on military culture” with their “recent moral panic over alleged rampant sexual assault in the military.”

“The charge of rampant sexual assault is only the latest campaign in a war on military culture,” he writes.

Owens claims that the figures on sexual assault in the military must be inflated because of a discrepancy between the number of people who said in an anonymous survey that they faced harassment and the number of official reports of harassment – a disparity that’s easily explained by the fact that many cases of harassment go unreported. He even claims that efforts to curb sexual harassment represent “the de facto criminalization of normal relations between the sexes of the sort that come about when young males and females are thrown into proximity.”

Essentially, Owens argues that feminists who believe women shouldn’t face discrimination in the military or sexual harassment are somehow hypocritical: “Are women ‘hear me roar’ Amazons, or are they fragile flowers who must be protected from ‘sexual harassment,’ encouraged to level the charge at the drop of the hat?”

Feminism is trying to yank the U.S. military in two directions at once. While claiming that women have no problem meeting the rigorous standards of the SEALs or infantry, advocates of opening these branches to women argue that female members of the military must be protected from the male sexual predators that, we are assured, are widely represented in the military. However, they can’t have it both ways. Are women “hear me roar” Amazons, or are they fragile flowers who must be protected from “sexual harassment,” encouraged to level the charge at the drop of the hat?

In her 2000 book, “Real Politics: At the Center of Everyday Life,” the late American political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain identified the two extremes of modern radical feminism: the “repressive androgynists,” who contend that there are no real differences between men and women, indeed that the idea that there are differences is an illusion fostered by a repressive patriarchy; and the “feminist victimization wing,” which paints the relations between the sexes as a continuous train of abuses by men who victimize women on a daily basis.

For two decades, these wings of feminist ideology have worked in tandem to sustain an attack on the culture of the U.S. military, culminating in the recent decision by the Pentagon to open infantry and special operations to women. In light of the argument that women are capable of performing these elite missions, it is indeed ironic that the wedge issues driving the military toward this end have come from the victimization wing, stretching from the “Tailhook” episode in 1991 to the recent moral panic over alleged rampant sexual assault in the military.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely no excuse for sexual assault. Period. There is no excuse for a superior who pressures a subordinate for sexual favors. Period. The data cited by the Pentagon creating widespread panic within the military are rendered suspect for two reasons. The first problem is methodological: The numbers — some 26,000 active-duty service members out of a population of 1.4 million claim to have been sexually assaulted in 2012 — are based on an anonymous survey. This number far exceeds reported cases of sexual assault.

The second and more significant problem is that the survey uses the term “sexual assault” in a way so broad as to render it nearly meaningless. Indeed, much of what is now covered by the Pentagon’s sexual-assault rubric represents the de facto criminalization of normal relations between the sexes of the sort that come about when young males and females are thrown into proximity.

Filed Under