Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Claims That Rape In The Military Is Due To ‘Female Sexual Freedom’

Author: June 20, 2013 1:44 pm
James Taranto has decided to inject himself into the military rape issue; problem is, his ideas are all of the antiquated 'blame the victim' variety. Image @PSAWomenPolitics

James Taranto has decided to inject himself into the military rape issue; problem is, his ideas are all of the antiquated ‘blame the victim’ variety. Image @PSAWomenPolitics

James Taranto, a conservative commentator, described the hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms’ nomination to the position of vice-commander of the Air Force Space Command as part of a “war on men.” In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, his definition of this war includes calling the fight against sexual assault in the military as a political effort to criminalize male sexuality.

Sen. Claire McCaskill put the hold on Gen. Helms’ nomination because Helms decided to grant clemency to Capt. Matthew Herrera in 2012, a man under her command who had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault by a court-martial board. According to Taranto, the whole thing was a “he said, she said” situation between Herrera and a female lieutenant, who testified that she fell asleep and awoke to find that Herrera had undone her pants and was fondling her. Herrera testified otherwise, saying that she’d undone her pants herself and responded to his fondling by resting her head on his shoulder.

Herrera was still discharged; however, Helms’ action resulted in his never having to register as a sex offender. Her conclusion, according to Taranto’s op-ed, was that the defendant was more reliable than the plaintiff in the case, because one of the witnesses corroborated more of what Herrera said than what the victim said. However, this witness also said she did see the victim asleep with her head on his shoulder. Nobody actually witnessed any sexual activities going on.

Another woman also accused Herrera of sexual assault, but he was acquitted of that charge because the jury ruled that going into his bedroom with him meant she gave her consent. Taranto explains that while Herrera might be a bit reckless when it comes to his sexual activities, so are the women involved. The victim in the case where Herrera got clemency was flirting with him and got into the backseat of a car with him. So, in Taranto’s eyes, they asked for it and should absolutely not be surprised by what resulted. (By the way, going into someone’s bedroom with them is not automatic consent, any more than drinking, flirting and climbing into a backseat is consent.)

The problem with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the convening authority’s ability to reduce or eliminate sentences for convicted soldiers, regardless of what they’ve done and without having to give solid justification for why. Soldiers, not just female, but male also, find themselves having to face their attackers day after day, often having to greet and salute those same attackers. When the convening authority decides that a sentence is too harsh and changes it so that the attacker is allowed to remain in the service, even if they’re transferred there’s a risk they’ll just continue to engage in the same behavior. They got away with it once, why wouldn’t they get away with it again?

Taranto’s opinion on the issue speaks to a deeper problem, which is rape culture. Rape culture is images, language (including jokes), even laws that validate the idea of rape, and part of that validation is blaming the victim (either in a specific case or generally) by saying that clothing, behavior and decisions (such as the decision to drink, the decision to flirt, the decision to go someplace with a man) invite rape, and that women need to be more careful so they won’t get raped. This is “blaming the victim,” as opposed to addressing rape itself by teaching people not to rape and harshly punishing those who do.

Taranto, in his op-ed, perpetuates rape culture by essentially doing just that: blaming the victim (s). He mentions that there needs to be protection for men against false rape accusations, and that is true, but he says that protection lies in the convening authority’s power to grant clemency. However, this power is not just used to overturn or reduce unduly harsh sentences, but is also often used to keep someone obviously guilty in the military because they’re a good soldier otherwise, or because the convening authority doesn’t want to be responsible for wrecking someone’s life, career, of more.

There is extremely inadequate protection in the UCMJ for victims, however, simply due to the fact that the convening authority can basically do whatever he or she wants in regards to a sentence. Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, for example, provided no explanation at all for why he granted clemency to an officer convicted of molesting a woman who slept in his bedroom. Chuck Hagel and Congress are currently working to remove that option.

Taranto believes that Gen. Helms was upholding her duty to the U.S. and the Constitution by granting clemency, and he appears to believe that’s justice for Herrera. What about justice for the victim? The court-martial board appeared to believe there was enough evidence against him to hand down a conviction, so there must be something to her accusations, otherwise they’d have acquitted him. Where’s the justice for her?

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4 Comments

  • To social conservatives, if a woman is sexually assaulted:
    1) she was probably dressed scantily and therefore had it coming.
    2) it was God’s will, so give thanks for the blessed event.
    3) s**t happens, so suck it up and deal with it.
    4) what’s “rape”?

  • Even if the situation implied consent, that consent can and should be revoked by a simple “stop”.
    Similar situation: two people go to the gym to work out by sparring with each other. This implies a certain amount of consent. One then ignores it when the other says “stop” and continues beating the other up.
    Is that the victim’s fault? No. The attacker should have stopped when asked.
    If the attacker cannot stop himself at any time, if he is at the mercy of his hormones, then I don’t want that person in charge of military weapons.

  • So going into my bedroom implies consent eh?

    It’s amazing to watch the mental twists and backflips of logic the Religious Reich engages in.

  • ohgoodgrief99

    And another regressive fossil is heard from…

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