May 9, 2010
Nonsexual Zones of Trust and Military Policy
The military is under pressure to remove the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (DADT). But to understand what our troops stand to lose if this policy changes, one must first understand sexualized zones, nonsexual zones, and the benefits of taboos.
Historically, one's own gender has been a nonsexual zone. Modern society has devalued this particular nonsexual zone because the Sexual Revolution has denigrated the taboos surrounding it and promoted sexuality at all costs. DADT may be one of the last vestiges of this taboo.
But taboos do not exist simply because of bigotry, as some would claim. Sexual taboos function in society to keep certain areas of our lives nonsexual. Nonsexual zones foster a special kind of trust because a person doesn't have to wonder whether what is said or done carries some sort of sexual implication or not.
Generally speaking, the relationship between men and women is biologically and historically a sexualized zone. Within a sexualized zone, either person has permission to initiate sexual overtures. The other person can turn it down ("not tonight, dear"), but this does not foreclose sexuality in the future. The other person can change his/her mind at any time. Even long-term platonic friendships between men and women have the potential to turn sexual at any time. So within a sexualized zone, sexuality is always an option.
The presumption in a sexualized zone is that when sex occurs, the parties wanted the sex. This presumption creates problems in the case of rape. Typically, the woman claims that the sex was not wanted, the man claims otherwise, and unless the evidence is very strong, the jury may give the man the benefit of the doubt because of the presumption of innocence.
To avoid problematic situations inherent in a sexualized zone, American society maintains separate lavatories, separate shower-rooms, separate dressing rooms, and separate sleeping quarters for men and women in general, because society recognizes that if men and women showered, dressed, or slept together in the same facility, sexual implications would exist, sexual innuendos would be assumed, and sexual overtures would occur.
Conversely, in a nonsexual zone, sexuality is taboo. It never has permission to be there. Thus, it is irrelevant for the incestuous to argue that both were willing adults because blood ties and family relationships are in a nonsexual zone. Similarly, it is irrelevant for an adult to argue that a minor wanted the sex because adult-child relationships are in a nonsexual zone. Once the sexual conduct itself is proven, the presumption is against the sexual perpetrator in a nonsexual zone. Because the presumptions are against them, would-be rapists may be more reticent in a nonsexual zone. This deterrent effect is one of the many benefits of a nonsexual zone.
Homosexuals argue that they are no more likely to rape than heterosexuals. But that's my point.
The sexualized zone between men and women requires separate facilities, not because all men would rape women, but because any one man might. It takes only one. And no one can tell who that one will be. Rapists don't have an "R" branded on their forehead. Neither do sexual manipulators, sexual intimidators, or sexual harassers.
If the military changes its policy, one's own gender becomes a sexualized zone. Wisdom then dictates that in a sexualized zone, separate showering, dressing, and rooming facilities are required, not because every person would rape, but because any one might. It takes only one, and no one can tell who that one will be.
But does anyone seriously think the Department of Defense can or will provide every person in the military with separate showering, separate dressing, and separate rooming facilities?
Some people argue that anyone who has joined the military chose to subject themselves to the military's present arrangement for showering, dressing, and rooming. But this argument ignores the fact that those people joined the military when there was a gender taboo in place to keep their own gender a nonsexual zone. Moreover, if terrorists ignite the Middle East into World War III after the removal of DADT, anyone might get drafted and would have to deal with these issues regardless of choice.
Some people assume that the military has other policies banning sex between servicemembers, so removing DADT won't remove the nonsexual zone. This assumption is based on a false premise.
The military once had a policy that men and women in the military were not to get sexually involved when they are deployed, so the military discharged women who got pregnant after being deployed to Iraq, as well as discharging the men who made them pregnant. But recently the military buckled under political pressure and announced that it was scrapping its pregnancy punishment as of January 1, 2010. Under this new policy, men and women having sex even while deployed will suffer no consequences from the military. In theory, one's individual commander could hold him or her to stricter standard than those issued by military superiors. But what commander is going to go against his superiors?
In light of the fact that now a man and a woman in the military suffer no consequences for having sex even when deployed, if the military then removes DADT, and homosexuality is no longer taboo, there could likewise be no consequences from the military for sex within one's own gender, even when deployed.
But a sexualized zone coupled with intimate access quickly becomes sexually charged.
Given the fact that men and women in the military are already severely tempted to get sexually involved as it is, what would happen if men and women roomed together, undressed in front of each other, and showered together? Knowing that sexual conduct would no longer result in being discharged, wouldn't the temptation to make sexual overtures to that sexy roommate become overwhelming? And wouldn't some even be tempted to force the issue?
Likewise, if the military removes DADT so homosexuality is no longer taboo, there would be no consequences from the military for the homosexual who made sexual overtures to a sexy roommate. And a homosexual tempted to rape the roommate could use the same excuse heterosexual rapists have always used, blaming the victim for inviting it by undressing so provocatively. But the victim will have been "set up" by the military's requirement that servicemembers of the same gender shower, dress, and room together while at the same time the military removes DADT and turns one's own gender into a sexualized zone.
Homosexuals argue that if people trusted them enough to shower, dress, and room with them before the policy change, then what is the difference after the policy change?
Answer: Changing the policy changes a traditionally nonsexual zone to a sexualized zone, and the presumptions shift.
Right now, there is a gender taboo (represented by DADT), so people in the military can rely on the taboo to keep the zone nonsexual. Anyone who wants to bring sexuality into that zone knows that the presumptions are against him or her, and there will be consequences. Therefore, the person who wants the sex is more likely to behave circumspectly within that nonsexual zone.
But if the policy changes and the gender taboo are removed, the presumptions shift, the relationship becomes a sexualized zone, and then the person who doesn't want sex bears the burden to be circumspect.
As a practical matter, this shift means that women can no longer group-shower with women because that action takes on the same problematic innuendoes as group-showering with men; women can no longer undress in front of women because it takes on the same problematic innuendoes as undressing in front of men; women can no longer room with women because it takes on the same problematic innuendoes as rooming with men. And the same problems apply in reverse for men.
Moreover, this shift doesn't just change one's relationship with known homosexuals. It affects every relationship within one's gender. The Sexual Revolution has put sexual preferences in modern society in a state of constant flux. Thus, a person who claims to be heterosexual this year may claim to be homosexual next year and then may claim to be bisexual the year after that, or may go back to claiming to be heterosexual. Who knows? One can never tell who will have fluctuating preferences and who will not.
Nonsexual zones allow a special kind of trust. A person doesn't have to wonder if someone else's sexual preference is in transition. A person doesn't have to worry about problematic sexual innuendoes. A person doesn't have to wonder if what was said or what was done carries some sort of sexual implication. Sex is a non-issue in a nonsexual zone.
But if the military removes the DADT policy, the nonsexual zone of trust within one's own gender will be lost -- a casualty of the Sexual Revolution.