Military rape: Saxby Chambliss, hormones and problems at the top

Women Marines train at Parris Island

The Senate armed services committee is holding hearings on military sexual assault. But the BBC's Katty Kay wonders if the attitudes of those tasked with addressing the problem are actually making it worse.

Gee whiz, there's a hook-up culture in the US military, where hormones are running rampant and before you know it, these things happen. Sew together the comments of a couple of elderly white men in positions of power (the US Senate and the Pentagon) and that's the grossly misleading picture that emerges of sexual assault in the American armed forces.

US Senator Saxby Chambliss, the 69-year-old Republican from the US state of Georgia, is the latest person to utter absurdities about what is being correctly described as a "cancer in the US military".

Saxby Chambliss Saxby Chambliss plans to retire in 2014

Here is what he said at the Senate armed services hearing today:

"The young folks who are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23. Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur."

I'm not sure what's more offensive, the boys-will-be-boys "gee whiz", or describing groping, rape and sexual assault as "these types of things", or the idea that somehow hormones make this inevitable.

Now I confess I don't have a hotline to the inner workings of Senator Chambliss' brain, and maybe he didn't mean to suggest that, but it certainly comes across that way.

We will wait to see if the senator apologises, which is what General Mark Welsh was forced to do after he suggested the "hook-up culture" of young Americans was to blame for the epidemic of assaults.

Here's what he said a few weeks ago: "So they come in from a society where this occurs. Some of it is the hook-up mentality of junior high, even, and high-school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it. The same demographic group moves into the military. We have got to change the culture once they arrive. "

As others have pointed out, this is not just absurd. It is outrageous.

A hook-up is consensual; assault is not. It is a crime.

Which all illustrates how depressingly hard it will be to change the problem of rape and sexual assault in the military. If these kinds of comments reflect the attitudes of even some people at the top, no wonder young women feel they won't be listened to if they report instances of abuse. Because, gee whiz, these types of things are part of hormone-riddled life.

Katty Kay Article written by Katty Kay Katty Kay Presenter, BBC World News

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  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    94. The Originators

    I agree with you in part. Muslims- If they don't like western culture, then let them go to ( or stay in) an islamic state, instead of wreaking havoc in ours.

    Americans- I'd like for us to revisit pre WW I isolationist sentiments (though would want to help the UK if things someday became dire)

    Israelis- would like to support the only democracy (relatively so) in middle east

  • Comment number 94.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    92. "The concept has still gone over your head (whoosh...)"


    and the Nidal Hasan shooting at Ft. Hood was "workplace violence."

    What about the murder of Theo Gogh? What's that? The killer was an overzealous movie critic who didn't like the cinematography.

    "If you want people to start hate muslims you're barking up wrong tree"
    They're doing quite a good job on their own.

  • Comment number 92.

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    Comment number 91.

    Sen. Chambliss may not be PC in our head in the sands society but he is exactly correct! The whole idea of women serving in close quarters with men in the military is so 'asinine'. The idea of having young men and women together, particularly in high-stress situations like combat or in physically close quarters and not expecting problems related to sex is, well, "asinine". Get a life!


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