I love my local public library’s book and magazine holdings–even if I don’t always love what I learn via all information sources. While browsing the magazine racks this weekend I came across GQ‘s red tagged Special Report on sexual assault in the U.S. military–“Son, Men Don’t Get Raped” by Nathaniel Penn. There’s a certain irony in this September 2014 issue of GQ as this is its style edition and there are lots of photos of great looking guys wearing wonderful clothing throughout the magazine. So many in fact that I had some trouble navigating my way to the article that had caught my attention. To clarify, not because I was distracted by the images, but because of the sheer amount of fashion pictures. It’s all about a man’s image. And this article offers a haunting and compelling counterpoint to all those slick photographs of handsome, healthy masculinity. What happens when a basically healthy man is destroyed by his fellow man via sexual assault?
Penn’s piece offers a shattering look at the ongoing, and increasing, issue of male sexual assault in the military. The number of victims are in the thousands, these men have no recourse for medical aid of any kind from the VA, they are discharged from all branches of the service if/when they report being sexually assaulted by their comrades and superiors, and the consequences damage them for life. Penn eschews a straightforward narrative prose approach by letting dozens of quotes from victims speak for themselves to tell their stories, which taken as a whole present a damning portrait of how the American Armed Forces across the board is NOT dealing effectively with sexual assault by men against other men. The issues of power and control are in full throttle swing here on multiple levels and the picture is appalling. Indeed the military has succeeded in de-humanizing itself from the very top ranking officers down to the lowest ranking private. There is no compassion, there is no legal redress, there is no medical treatment offered, there is no accountability. There is only abuse and destruction of men by other men on the psychological, physical and emotional levels. There’s not much to recognize of the noble ideal of officers and gentlemen in this scenario which is destroying the lives of men who joined the military to serve their country.
The bottom line is that–the men who swear to defend the United States of America by doing military service do not defend each other—they enter a system in which rape, a crime of power and control, is rampant–and clearly no one within the system gives enough of a damn to do what needs to be done to address the problem. Other countries have–but not the United States. Here the victim still pays the price for the behavior of the criminal.
Yes, son, men do get raped all the time in the military — and it’s not by enemy forces, but by their so-called brothers in arms.
Kudos to GQ for publishing this devastatingly candid article about an issue apparently no one in the U.S. government really wants to do anything about. Why is that? Refusal to face reality that the military system is dysfunctional and destructive and therefore counterproductive? Because it’s run by damaged people with power and control issues of their own? Because the public lives in denial of reality? Because it’s hard to accept that the ideal is not real? Or ____ ?
Link to GQ — “Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”