Sex Academy: Slut, Dyke or Bitch

 

Air Force Leaders Before Congress

Members of Congress, unable to perform chores of state, called senior members of the US Air Force to testify this week over the Lackland AFB Sex/Training scandal.  It may not be more important than a “fiscal cliff” or “debt ceiling” but it is certainly more titillating.

testes-fying

 

The Lackland case apparently includes 32 instructors sexually abusing or assaulting at least 59 recruits.  The NYT reports that two instructors had “sexual encounters” with at  least ten different recruits each.

Stars and Stripes reports that in 2011 there were 2,933 people investigated by DOD for sexual assault.   Of those, charges have been preferred in 489 cases and  191 people have been convicted.

Air Force Chief of Staff Mark A. Welsh III has said that the biggest barrier to change is the reluctance of women to come forward to complain.  One wonders if General Welsh has seen the conviction statistics?  The odds of action are not very good.

In the Marines at least,  the general presumption is that women “want it.”  Beginning at Parris Island they are taught there are three kinds of Marine women:  if you have contact with a male Marine you are a “slut.”  ”Dyke” may or may not be a lesbian.  Katie Appledorn, herself a Marine, said that, “Bitch is what you are supposed to be…You don’t give the men around you an inch.”  Being a bitch is best and safest.  (Sexual desire on the part of women makes them a whore while the same from a male is natural behavior:  go for it.)

It has been said that “Academic training environments create an unforgivable imbalance of power which makes students vulnerable.”  The power imbalance makes the issue of potential sexual abuse real and serious as Lackland shows.  It also makes it difficult (or just about impossible)  to navigate the notion of consensual sex in such an environment.

The instructors at Lackland were little more than kids in a  candy store.  And, in keeping with the military’s new tolerance of gays, a male instructor stands accused of sexual misconduct with two male students.

Of course, fire and rescue academies face the same challenges and have the same problems as the military.  ”Drill” environments where instructors have at the least the perception of unlimited power can have great potential for incorrect “signals” and unwanted advances.  Sexual conduct in an academy environment between instructors and students, consensual or otherwise, is fraught with danger.  Lackland proves the case.

The inherent power imbalance between staff and students is vivid testimony for recruit firefighters in our profession to be union members from their first day in the academy.  Effective union representation offsets the power imbalance and helps to ensure that recruits are employees and not the candy behind the counter.

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