GOP Senator Blames Military Sexual Assaults On Pornography

The inability of the GOP to understand the factors behind rape, particularly in the military, is stunning. Sen. Jim Sessions is the latest to get it wrong.

The inability of the GOP to understand the factors behind rape, particularly in the military, is stunning. Sen. Jim Sessions is the latest to get it wrong. Image @ TamingYourAnger

The inability of certain GOP officials to tell the difference between consensual sexual activity vs. forced sexual activity or rape is incredible and terrifying. In the latest development regarding a current hot-button issue — sexual assault in the armed forces — a GOP senator, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), has decided to blame military rapes, in part, on the prevalence of pornography.

At least it’s a step away from victim blaming, or Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ (R-GA) belief that hormones are the cause and rape is unstoppable.

Unfortunately, it’s also not true, and Sessions’ rationale, as Chambliss’, calls attention to away from a real solution to what has been revealed to be a rampant problem. As reported by Think Progress:

Sessions then immediately segued into asking questions about the panel’s responses to sexual assault situations, asking what they would do if “you had a female soldier who had felt she was assaulted by an NCO, higher rank,” leaving his previous comments hanging in the air. He didn’t return to them during the rest of his questioning, leaving his full meaning unclear. However, while a few studies have found that pornography makes men more sexually aggressive, there’s no real-world evidence bearing out the claim that this translates into sexist attitudes or sexual violence. In fact, many more recent studies have been unable to show causation between viewing pornography and carrying out sexual violence.

The truth is that our military is a male tradition, and like so many other male-exclusive traditions, misogyny runs deep. That shouldn’t come as a surprise — in every frontier,  women who have conquered what was previously all-male territory have experienced some of the same. We humans don’t like change or things we don’t understand, and our military is having trouble reconciling the extreme changes that have occurred over the last few decades.

Sessions’ statement is below, also courtesy of TP:

“Mr. Chairman, I’d just add a letter, a document here that was given to me from Morality in the Media. Pat Truman used to be in the Department of Justice. I knew him when he was there. He points out that, a picture here of a newsstand and an Air Force base exchange with, you know, sexually explicit magazines being sold. So, we live in a culture that’s awash in sexual activity. If it’s not sold on base, it’s right off base. There are videos and so forth that can be obtained, and it creates some problems, I think.”

His logic seems to go like this: There is porn. There is rape. Therefore, porn causes rape.

So if blaming pornography isn’t the answer, what is?

Peer leadership. The simple truth of a dominant human group — men, in this case — is that they are not forced to look at or examine themselves as a community, a whole. Changing that behavior is changing the status quo, and people will fight that tooth and nail. The only way to stop military sexual assaults, or sexual assaults in general, is to have men stand up and speak out as well. Part of the nature of misogyny is that women aren’t listened to; in the face of that, what women have accomplished even with lackluster support from their male counterparts (I mean as a species, not as individuals) is breathtaking, astounding; impossible.

But it isn’t enough and it isn’t fast enough. Every day, more women are hurt. Every day, politicians politic and talk about numbers when somewhere, a woman is about to be forced to have sex against her will. And worst of all, in an obscene amount of places, women are trying to come to terms with the violence that has occurred against them. We need to encourage peer leaders to step up and do the right thing; to speak out and end the violence.

UPDATE: This is a personal note by the author. In the context of writing this story, I neglected to point out or mention that an approximate 10 percent of military rapes occur against men (the numbers for rape statistics are extremely difficult to narrow down, due to the under-reported nature of the crime). This isn’t a strictly gender-defined issue. I’m aware of that, but simply forgot. That is my fault, there isn’t really a good excuse, and I sincerely apologize for not including it in the original draft. I am posting this as an update rather than editing the article because I don’t want it to appear as if I retroactively attempted to cover up my mistake.


Political Writer, Justin Acuff Please join me on Facebook, or visit my home site.You can also follow me on Twitter.