This was motivated by a discussion on Facebook, in light of the ruling to repeal DADT. We were talking about how McCain had mentioned that soldiers didn't need such "distractions". I found that interesting, and the more I thought about it, I began to see a pretty frustrating double standard of the way sexual assault and aggression is dealt with in the military.
It's interesting that all of this "no gays in the military" concern is often based in some sort of fear of aggressive sexuality, of unwanted advances, etc. To that I would say- take a gander at the sexual abuse, rape, and harassment that our female service members go through already. That's not something that "might" happen that you're afraid of, it happens at a rate that is higher than for civilians- much higher. One in three women report being raped while serving, and 14% of those rapes are gang rapes. So while everyone is wringing their hands worrying that a gay man is going to hit on someone he is stationed with and offend someone, female service members are actually, in real life, not theoretically, getting sexually assaulted and harassed. And yet instead of dealing with the the REAL, ONGOING, PROVEN problems when it comes to sexual harassment/aggression/assault in the military and the women who have to deal with it, there is all this projected hand wringing over maybes.
This mentality seems to imply that it's just par for the course for a woman to be raped or harassed, but apparently it's just sick and unnatural and terrible and far worse and "distracting" for a dude to get hit on by another dude, or worry about a guy having a crush on him. By all this talking about thinly veiled sexual aggression fears over what MIGHT happen, the fact of the real problem that is already going on is being either ignored, or is seen as being not as bad as potential male on male situations.
Just so I'm clear, it is NEVER ok for anyone to have to deal with unwanted sexual advances. It's not "easier" or "better" or "harder" being a man versus being a woman in those situations. I'm just saying this whole line of argument about "distractions" makes no sense to me. If these kinds of "distractions" are so terrible for unit cohesion, then why hasn't the military done more to protect its female service members? And to give them adequate counseling and care after being raped? Or to make it more difficult for this kind of thing to go on? This problem of military sexual abuse is so rampant, in fact, that the military now allows a woman to anonymously report a rape, without having to formally charge her attacker. This way, if she is afraid of accusing her attacker she can report the incident so that she can get medical care afterward- but often the doctors are untrained in rape trauma, which furthers the damage. All this is to say that if we're going to hand wring over the men having to suffer unwanted advances in a hypothetical future world, we damn sure should be doing more to address what's already happening now.
Which brings me to a logical conclusion question- if "distractions" or possible sexual advances are terrible enough to prevent gays from serving openly, shouldn't those who are against gays serving openly also be against women serving? At least their concerns would be consistent. Because right now, it kind of sounds like people are saying "the current sexual harassment and assault problems we have are ok, 'cause, you know, it's hetero-normative. But potential gay sexual harassment problems are wrong because being gay is wrong". It also sounds like they care more about men being protected from sexual abuse than about women being protected from it. Lastly, let's not forget that women can sexually harass men, stalk them, act violently against them, etc. We already have a mixed sex military, and thousands of cases of sexual abuse, so the concerns about sexual tension or problems with gay people serving are, sadly, redundant. If people want to think that such problems will only begin to exist when gay people serve openly, then they are willfully ignoring reality and being hugely insensitive to the experiences of those in the military who have been victims of abuse.
One of hundreds of articles on the issue of military sexual abuse can be found here- http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-17/rape-victims-ask-military-won-t-tell-on-crimes-commentary-by-ann-woolner.html