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.

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

  • rate this

    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!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    89. First off let me apologize for getting off topic, but as a former serviceman, Cameron's statement on Woolwich relative to Villiers' on the islamic makes me livid.

    As far as Venables goes, well I must say that your child murderer protection program is quite effective-- too bad you don't your protect your servicemen in their own country that well

  • Comment number 89.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Ms. are so transparently liberal left. Rape is awful and unfortunately real. Real in all parts of the world. You choose to consentrate on the U.S Military (easy non retalitory target). Why dont you do a big newsflash on rape in Muslim countries and communities or is that ..well just a little risky for your career. Your a it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    86. "Press are not allowed to influence case or jurors.
    I suppose they don't need to when you have spineless politicians spinning it for them.

    It's up to the courts to find them guilty"

    You mean the same courts that set Jon Venables free so he could pursue child porn after molesting and murdering James Bulgur?

  • Comment number 86.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Ask a atheist for help. One complained about one picture hanging in a military place and within one hour it was removed. being a non religion you get help, being sexually assaulted you don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    PjONES...Well said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    78. The Originators "The Islamist Centre being treated as Hate Crime due to EDL Graffiti"

    I guess eyewitness accounts of the murderers shouting "Allahu Akbar" while hacking Lee Rigby to death was not?

    "News Reports about suspects in Woolwich killing are bound by law not to prejudice case against them / jury"

    I guess the police will be charged for shooting them w/o sufficient evidence then?

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    As a white liberal I was surprised and disturbed by Kay's insinuation that insensitivity to rape has something to do with being an elderly white man. Elderly I can somewhat understand (old=old-fashioned) and male (assuming men are less outraged by rape)--both of those connections are lazy and bigoted, but have at least some logic to them. But why does it matter that he is white?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I'm reminded of a time when to qualify us boys had to run 3 miles while the girls ran 2.... Do you think watching someone who came in as a PFC (e-2) and was a SSgt in 3yrs was causing great things - guys were 8 yrs in grade... Yes there can be resentment... I can't understand why the victims aren't going to PMO... God knows we busted all manner of idiots for drugs, etc. This is BS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Alan T2. Your legal system is sue happy..and the Nation is run at every level by Lobbyist ,Lawyers and Litigation. These three L's will finish the US off in the not to distant future. As far as old white men in Congress, they are the three L's. America has a great military and devoted service people. Ms. Kay dont confuse the US Military with Congress, US Colleges have amazing rape stats.

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Islamic Center burned down with no one hurt.

    MP Theresa Villiers said: "This kind of hate crime is absolutely despicable."

    Drummer Lee Rigby brutally hacked to death in broad daylight.
    "Woolwich killing a betrayal of Islam", says Cameron

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Good Luck getting white republican men to do something about rape/sexual assaults in the military. These are the same republicans whose members said there is legitimate rape and it is God's will when a woman is raped. Now, another republican - Chambliss is blaming rape/sexual assaults in the military to male hormones. Republicans are insensitive, out of touch with most Americans and the real world


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