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Rape and sexual violence in the ranks

Over the past decade, many American commentators have described escalating numbers of rapes, along with incidents of sexual assault and harassment within the ranks, as an 'epidemic.' In this seminar, we'll investigate the variety of crimes related to sex/violence/power that commonly occur in the US military, leaving a profoundly negative imprint on the professional experience of a significant proportion of female personnel in uniform, as well as male victims of rape and assault. We'll consider why military attempts to tackle these problems seem to have done little to stamp out the behaviours in question and the attitudes that give rise to them.

Indicative seminar questions:

  • why are crimes of a sexually violent and/or harassing nature so pervasive in the US military?
  • where do exposed crimes of these kinds fit in the larger matrix of publicized military 'sex scandals'? (What, in other words, makes for 'scandalous' sex in the military, and on whose terms?)
  • is there something peculiar to the US armed forces (as opposed to other nations' militaries) that makes them especially prone to such problematic male behaviour? If so, what do you think might be exceptional in the US case?
  • would you agree that rape and sexual assault in the military-- and victims' efforts to seek justice-- have constituted an 'invisible war'? If that characterization was true in the past, do you think it remains apt today?
  • why has rape and sexual assault been so difficult a problem for the US military to 'fix'?

Primary Source: The Invisible War (dir. Kirby Dick, 2012; watch on AmazonPrime or YouTube) Note: this is NOT compulsory viewing for the seminar, but you may choose to write the first assignment about this documentary.

Required readings:

Robert Draper, ‘The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault,’ New York Times Magazine, Nov. 26, 2014

Helen Benedict, The Lonely Soldier, ch.11, 'I Wasn't Carrying the Knife for the Enemy, I was Carrying it for the Guys on My Own Side,' pp.163-75 (2009) e-book

Elizabeth L. Hillman and Kate Walsham, ‘Rape, Reform, and Reaction: Gender and Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military, in Kara Vuic (ed), The Routledge History of Gender, War, and the U.S. Military (2018) e-book, pp.287-300

Lorraine Bayard de Volo and Lynn K. Hall, ‘“I Wish All the Ladies Were Holes in the Road”: The US Air Force Academy and the Gendered Continuum of Violence,” Signs: Journal of Women and Culture, 40: 4 (2015): 865-89

Supplementary reading:

Heather Antecol and Deborah Cobb-Clark, 'Men, Women and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military,' Gender Issues 19 (Winter 2001): 3-18

Darlene M. Iskra, Women in the United States Armed Forces: A Guide to the Issues (2010) e-book, ch. 5, ‘Gender, Sexuality, and Harassment’

Maj. Katherine A. Krul, ‘The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program—In Need of More Prevention,’ The Army Lawyer, 41 (Nov. 2008): 41-60

Cheryl Lawhorne-Scott et al, Sexual Assault in the Military: A Guide for Victims and Families (2014)

Andrew R Morral et al, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the US Military, 4 vols (RAND, 2016) e-book

Terri Spahr Nelson & Carson L. Jenkins, For Love of Country: Confronting Rape and Sexual Harassment in the US Military (2002) e-book

Meghan O’Malley, ‘All is Not Fair in Love and War: An Exploration of the Military Masculinity Myth,’ De Paul Journal of Women, Gender and the Law, 5: 1 (Fall 2015): 1-40

William L. O'Neill, 'Sex Scandals in the Gender-Integrated Military,' Gender Issues 16, 1-2(Winter/Spring 1998): 64-85

Kristen Zaleski, Understanding and Treating Military Sexual Trauma (2018), ch.3, ‘Rape and Roll Call: How Military Culture and Military Law Affect the Immediate Aftermath of MST’, e-book