Professor criticizes academy's reaction to sex assault report
By ALEX JACKSON | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: January 21, 2013
A Naval Academy English professor is calling for the legalization of sex at the service academies.
In an article posted last week on the website of The Atlantic magazine, professor Bruce Fleming criticized the Annapolis school for its reaction to a December Department of Defense report showing a 23 percent spike in reported cases of sexual violence and assault at the nation’s service academies.
The academy began the second semester with a “Sexual Assault ‘Stampout’ Stand-down,” a mandatory meeting held to address the report.
A rule instituted later that night, Fleming wrote, requires a second-class midshipman to patrol the corridors of Bancroft Hall, the dormitory of the midshipmen, until after midnight to make sure no one is being assaulted. Then, he wrote, a first-class mid takes over the patrol until 6 a.m.
Fleming, author of the 2010 book “Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide” and an outspoken critic of the academy, said the new policy adds to an “atmosphere of fear and repression” and has infuriated mids.
The Naval Academy would neither confirm nor deny the policy Fleming described. But in December the academy did say it would respond to the Defense Department report by increasing leadership presence in Bancroft.
“It is not our practice to comment on the personal views of employees,” said Cmdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the academy. “However, we stand by our record of producing the nation’s finest leaders and welcome others to review the facts on their own.”
Sexual contact is prohibited on the Annapolis campus, Fleming wrote, and sex is prohibited among midshipmen in the same company or between upperclassmen and plebes. A mid who wants to date someone in his or her company must apply for a “love chit” and change companies first.
Fleming claims any contact with sexual overtones, even hand-holding, is forbidden on campus. Academy brass, he wrote, justify the prohibition of sex on campus with the “general articles” of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — including No. 133, which outlaws “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
As the academy regards midshipmen of each class year as having separate ranks, it uses an article forbidding sex between officers and the enlisted to outlaw sexual contact with plebes anywhere, even off-campus.
The method of “policing normal varieties of sex” isn’t working, Fleming said.
“Because all sex is forbidden, we can’t talk with them (midshipmen) about distinguishing between OK and not-OK,” Fleming writes.
“All we can do is yell louder, threaten them with expulsion, create a hostile working environment ... make them even more resentful than they already are, and keep them up all night so they sleep through their taxpayer-supported $400,000 education.”
At the “Sexual Assault ‘Stampout’ Stand-down” earlier this month, academy leaders were joined by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert.
The stand-down followed last month’s release of the Defense Department’s annual “Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies,” which showed formal reports of sex assault at the Naval Academy down to 13 in the 2011-2012 academic year, from 22 the previous year.
But the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Air Force Academy saw spikes in reported incidents, according to the report.
A Pentagon survey, however, indicated many assaults were not reported. Some 225 midshipmen, including 135 women, said they were the victims of unwanted sexual contact.
Fleming wrote in www.theatlantic.com that mids he spoke after the stand-down felt as though they were being told that they are “potential rapists.”