Doonesbury is currently running a series on women in the milirary and being rather blunt about physical assault--not by an enemy combatant, but by male colleagues.
I was still in the Army, when women became an active participant in that occupation, brought on by the introducton of the all-volunteer Army. The draft had become unpopular during the Vietnam Follies. Because women were not allowed in combat units, other units received more than their fair share. I was assigned to an aviation unit, which performed non-combat missions. We had a bunch of girls, which ensured new leadership challenges for officers.
I do not recall any instances of rape or even sexual harassment of women. I am sure that things were going on behind the barn, so to speak, by was not aware or interested. No one complained.
That said, I do know one incident of...I would not call it harassment, but more like attempted fraternization. To my surprise, I was propositioned by a young, attractive private. One Saturday afternoon, I was on duty at the airfield and sitting at my desk with paperwork. This female soldier was cleaning the hallways. (There must be a cliche in that.) She had removed her uniform blouse and was wearing a tight white t-shirt. After a few pleasantries from the doorway of my office, she approached, plunked herself on my lap, and tried to kiss my lips. I am sure that I was surprised, but my reflex was to turn my head to avoid her kiss. I told t her hat this was not going to happen, so she left and continued with mopping. I did not report this “harassment”, bring the matter up with anyone, and we never spoke of this.
I can empathize with her brazenness. I was an officer, who earned more money than a private. I drove a Porsche, which sent a whole bunch of different signals to different folks. I will not comment on relative attractiveness, but she could have done worse. She could not have known that I was happily living with my future wife. For her, the risk of failure was worth a shot at success. After all, guys are known to be easy targets for female wiles.
Given strict laws in the United States about workplace sexual harassment (in California, a female receptionist can sue her employer, if she feels harassed by someone delivering a package to the company) and the progressive nature of the military, I am surprised that such behavior is tolerated. I was able to fend for myself, but young girls are less equipped to face the challenges of combat...with friends, not foes.
I noticed a headline in today’s London Telegraph, which claimed that “Swedes are more sexually liberated? This is a cliche, which seems to persist.
I recall an incident in my youth, which tends to suggest the opposite. I worked during one summer vacation for a music college, which held its summer session at a beach resort. I heard that two secretaries were being sent from the main campus: one English and one Swedish. Upon seeing them for the first time, prejudices that preceded them were confirmed. The English girl was dark-haired, tall, and slim. She could have been a fashion model. The Swedish girl was, of course, blond and shapely. She was more attractive, but unapproachable.
Proof of the cliches’ foolishness came quickly. The English girl drank, smoked, flirted, and partied. The Swedish girl was pleasant, but introverted. The key factor was revealed at the beach: the Swedish girl wore a non-revealing, one-piece bathing suit, whereas the English girl paraded around in the smallest bikini I had ever seen.
It seems that both countries prefer to hide behind cliches about their nation’s sexuality, pleased with what the world thinks about them. My guess is that all nations are the same, only the image is manipulated.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.