Monday, September 11, 2017

An Ounce of Prevention

1 in 6 women in the IDF have been sexually harassed  (Jerusalem Post)
One in six female soldiers in Israel are sexually harassed.  So reports the Jerusalem Post. This is an outrageous situation that ought to be remedied. The politically correct response to this is to get tough on reports of such incidences and to give harsher sentences to those found guilty of it. The problem with that is that as things stand now, accusations of even rape often end up being a ‘he said - she said’ (either with the accused saying it was consensual or denying t altogether)  resulting in no justice for accusers. Only problems.

I happen to believe that when a woman says she was raped or sexually harassed she should be believed. Most of the time it’s true. Nonetheless, it’s hard to prove in a court (even if it ever gets that far) when there are no witnesses other than the participants. In fact I think that the one out of six ratio is probably low. It is probably higher but not always reported for lack of anything to gain and everything to lose.

Why is this happening? I believe the problem is cultural. And it could be remedied in a way that is politically incorrect but very effective at least as far as the armed services is concerned.

The cultural aspect of the problem is western civilization’s obsession with sexual freedom. Ever since oral contraceptives made unwanted pregnancies largely a thing of the past, sexual mores have been thrown out the window. As a child of the sixties, when this change in the cultural paradigm was initiated - I witnessed it. The clarion call of the time was ‘If it feels good, do it’. Hedonism had won the day.  

Unmarried sex has become practically the norm. Even among the more moral element, engaged couples that live together is a lot more common than those waiting until after marriage to do so. The idea of saving it for marriage is practically ridiculed in general society nowadays. What was once considered proper behavior is now a thing of the past. That pre-marital sex is extremely rare among Orthodox Jews is considered an anomaly in our culture. How can you not ‘test the merchandise before you buy it?’…I often hear asked of those of us that remain celibate until marriage.

While one might say that this has nothing to do with sexual harassment of women, and that rape and harassment is about power - not sex,  I beg to differ. While power may be a big part of it, sex is clearly the means of achieving it. To deny that sexual gratification has nothing to do with rape or harassment is to deny human nature. 

When sexual permissiveness pervades the culture, it emboldens some men to ‘make a move’ thinking that the other party is as interested as they are. While that does not always equal sexual harassment, line are too easily crossed because of it. After all isn’t that the way things are always depicted in novels, movies, TV, and music? Sex is what sells automobiles and what sells beer. Casual sex is the norm. One would have to be in complete denial to say that it isn’t. 

We live in a world that is over-sexualized. Presidents in both the US and Israel who were otherwise highly respected have been guilty sexual  harassment or even rape. (Think Kennedy, Clinton, and Katzav.) Is it any wonder that army officers are guilty of it too? Or that sexual activity is so prevalent in the army? When sex is so oversold in a society it makes sexual harassment an easy slope to slide into for some people.

In my view the best remedy to this problem is to segregate the sexes. You can’t change the culture.We are all too deeply invested in it for too long a time. But you can do things to eliminate or at least reduce opportunity. Which is what the IDF ought to do.

I am kind of old fashioned about this. If that makes me sexist in the eyes of some, I can’t help it. I do not believe that women ought to be involved in combat. I actually believe that women are not generally as physically equipped to do so as men.

Yes, I know the argument. As long as the standards remain the same for both sexes and a woman can qualify she ought to be given the same opportunity as men. That sounds good and is the politically correct attitude. I do not, however, think exceptions ought to set policy. In fact if I am not mistaken I believe the general physical standards for army service have been lowered in both the US and Israel just to accommodate women. But even if the original standard is upheld, putting men and women together in an environment where hierarchy is all important, makes women in the military particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment or worse.

This is not to say that women shouldn’t have the right to serve in the military if they so choose. Of course they should. But only in the myriad of positions that are administrative and not combat.

Once you place them in combat units, they are perforce going to have to be involved with men and need to be trained to work together. That in my view is a prescription for the 1 out of 6 sexual harassment ratio.  Increased vigilance and better prosecution of violators of a code of conduct between the sexes will never completely work. Especially in ‘He said – She said’ confrontations that end up letting the accused completely off the hook; leaving the accuser as a trouble maker; and making life even more miserable for her.  Leaving her just as vulnerable as before.

For me this is common sense. Even if the feminist spirit of the times argues against it, isn’t it a small price to pay?  Isn’t an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure?