Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Proceedings article calls out the Navy’s hypocrisy about sex between shipmates

The October issue of Proceedings has a strongly argued article by Kevin Eyer, a retired cruiser skipper, saying that the Navy is being hugely hypocritical about the amount of sexual activity going on inside its ranks. "The truth is that men and women are having sex with one another, regularly, and in blatant disregard of ...

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The October issue of Proceedings has a strongly argued article by Kevin Eyer, a retired cruiser skipper, saying that the Navy is being hugely hypocritical about the amount of sexual activity going on inside its ranks.

"The truth is that men and women are having sex with one another, regularly, and in blatant disregard of regulations," Eyer writes. "Cavorting with the foreign populace has been replaced by cavorting with shipmates." Yet the Navy turns a blind eye to this, he says, except when it involves the top people aboard a shipper -- the commanding officer, the executive officer, and the command master chief. When those people join the dance, they tend to get their heads placed on pikes.

Aside from those poor guys, he concludes, "A new sort of [heterosexual] 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' approach has become the de facto law of the land."

The October issue of Proceedings has a strongly argued article by Kevin Eyer, a retired cruiser skipper, saying that the Navy is being hugely hypocritical about the amount of sexual activity going on inside its ranks.

"The truth is that men and women are having sex with one another, regularly, and in blatant disregard of regulations," Eyer writes. "Cavorting with the foreign populace has been replaced by cavorting with shipmates." Yet the Navy turns a blind eye to this, he says, except when it involves the top people aboard a shipper — the commanding officer, the executive officer, and the command master chief. When those people join the dance, they tend to get their heads placed on pikes.

Aside from those poor guys, he concludes, "A new sort of [heterosexual] ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ approach has become the de facto law of the land."

Eyer doesn’t offer much in the way of a solution. He asserts that "Fraternization is bad for combat effectiveness." That might be true in the context of the contemporary American military, but I don’t think it can be elevated to a general principle. After all, the Spartans fought pretty well, and as I understand it they encouraged sexual relations between their equivalent of senior NCOs and younger soldiers.   

What would happen if we made sexual relations between sailors acceptable as long as it did not occur on board? That is, make de facto the Navy’s de jure.  

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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