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Is Porn on Military Bases Really a Big Deal?

In the age of internet porn, I can’t imagine why anyone is in a lather about Playboy and Maxim and Curves being sold in military exchanges.  But they are.

An anti-porn group has been urging Congress and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to remove adult materials from military exchanges.  Karen Jowers of Military Times reported,

“Morality in Media contends that the sale of explicit materials in the exchanges contributes to the problem of sexual assault in the military and says the Pentagon isn’t following the letter of a law intended to prohibit the sale of sexually explicit material on Defense Department property.”

Now the Senate has ordered the Pentagon to notify them within 180 days about what steps will be taken to comply with the prohibition.

And I’m thinking, Really?  Are we really going to link the sale of Maxim magazine at the exchange (not at 7-Eleven or the airport or the iPad near you) to the estimated 26,000 sexual assaults in the military?  Are we really saying we are going to get rid of some magazines on bases and posts and thus end the problem? Really?

Like the shoppers in this new report point out, even if these magazines are removed from the exchange system, servicemembers can still easily get the content elsewhere:

I am no fan of pornography. I have written before about how it crushes hope from relationships. And our own Ms. Vicki frequently writes about the way pornography addictions destroy military marriages.

But I’m having trouble getting worked up about the sales of these magazines at exchanges.  Because what is sold in stores seems like nothing compared to what is available at home on the internet.

Taking up time and energy to diddle around with sales of these magazines at the exchanges seems like a strange use of our firepower. It is like trying to end teen pregnancy by banning Bratz dolls.  Or ending violence in schools by tossing out anyone who bites their Poptart into a gun shape.  Or fighting obesity by banning  drinking cups larger than 16 oz.

You can make an argument that these things are linked to the problem you are trying to solve, but the link seems a little weak, doesn’t it?

So why do we do that?  Why do we jump at enforcing these weak links?  Probably because they are small. Probably because they are easy. Probably because jumping on a bandwagon against the sale of Playboy at Lackland AFB is so much easier than actually figuring out how to solve the big problem of sexual predators in the military.

I think officials may be hoping that if they put enough of these small things together they will turn into something big. So the Army and Navy have ordered a clean sweep of all sexual material from the workplace. Every member of the military has been ordered to take more training on sexual assault. The chain of command is on a seek and destroy mission for sexually explicit items (if they weren’t already doing that before.)

I secretly don’t think this is going to work. I secretly think that these changes will only seem petty and officious and arbitrary. These small decrees will only give officials something to focus upon in the workplace.

But we don’t only live in the workplace. The military might be an institution, but it isn’t a total institution. It doesn’t prevent people from being raised in a world where pornography is an industry that is worth billions and billions of dollars.  It doesn’t prevent people from being socialized to objectify women from birth. It doesn’t begin to address the meaning of power in the military.

So go ahead and do the little things that are easy to identify and easy to solve. That is a step, I guess. But don’t kid yourself that this will begin to cure the scourge of sexual assault in the military, because it won’t.

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.

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