Close Quarters

A sexual scandal is rocking the Navy--the biggest military scandal in years. It's even forced the secretary of the Navy to resign. More than 70 pilots are being investigated on charges of assaulting and molesting several female naval officers at a recent conference. The pilots apparently constructed a sort of gauntlet and attacked the women as they passed through. And this is only the worst episode in a brewing pot of troubles. The congressional General Accounting Office recently published statistics showing that between a third and two-thirds of women at the nation's three military academies say they have been sexually harassed. Keep these statistics in mind as we move to another news story--again about the military. In recent months, 3 members of Congress introduced a bill to end the ban on homosexuals in the military--a bill that with pressure from gay activists and sympathetic treatment in the media is likely to pass. The bill is dressed up with a high-sounding title: it's called the Military Freedom Act. What supporters fail to see, however, is that it would seriously impinge on the freedom of heterosexuals in the military--and would greatly exacerbate the thorny problem of sexual harassment. You see, joining the military is not like getting any other job. Soldiers are often called on to share intimate quarters 24 hours a day--sleeping, showering, and dressing together in the same facilities. That makes the issue of homosexuality exceedingly sticky. I remember being in the Marines myself, and I can assure you, it would have been an impossible life if every time I took a shower I thought the guy standing next to me might be looking at me with sexual interest. I would consider that a serious invasion of my privacy. The military clearly recognizes the need to protect privacy in the case of men and women. We all agree that a servicewoman should be able to shower or dress without worrying about a man looking at her with sexual overtones. That's why we'll never see mixed showers or dormitories. But in exactly the same way the servicewoman should be free from worrying about another woman looking at her with sexual overtones. The principle in both cases is the same: Our military personnel should be protected from being treated as sexual objects. The bill allowing homosexuals into the military would eliminate that protection. In the bunkers, in the showers, our servicewomen and servicemen could find themselves unwilling objects of sexual interest--just as much as if the military had decided to mix men and women. In my view, this is nothing short of sexual harassment--forcing military personnel into a position where they are vulnerable to unwanted sexual attention. What an irony it would be if our government, while going after sexual harassment between men and women--as it's doing in the Navy case--were to pass a policy virtually guaranteeing sexual harassment between homosexuals and heterosexuals. It's difficult enough to teach men and women how to treat each other in a proper manner when they live in stable, heterosexual communities. A special effort is required in the military because of the close quarters and shared facilities. And if we add a homosexual element to that, there is virtually no way to protect people's privacy and preserve their sexual dignity. If this isn't sexual harassment, I don't know what is.


Chuck Colson


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