I'm optimistic that I've found it: an issue about which all of my 23 regular readers can agree! Feminists and Christian conservatives alike (not that those are mutually exclusive categories in Hugo's world) can come together on the subject of punishing U.S. servicemen who visit overseas prostitutes. (Hat tip for all of this to Stuart Buck).
According to a Yahoo news blurb:
In recent years, "women and girls are being forced into prostitution for a clientele consisting largely of military services members, government contractors and international peacekeepers" in places like South Korea and the Balkans, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J), said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill forum on Pentagon anti-trafficking efforts.
Defense officials have drafted an amendment to the manual on courts-martial that would make it an offense for U.S. troops to use the services of prostitutes, said Charles Abell, a Pentagon undersecretary for personnel and readiness.
If approved, that would make it a military offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to have contact with a prostitute, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, an Abell spokeswoman said later. The draft rule is open to 60 days public comment after being published in the Federal Register, she said.
Calloo callay, o frabjous day! I love it when I get a chance to cross party lines and stand with my Republican brethren like Chris Smith. On this issue, I'm with him 100%.
There's a terrific longer piece on the subject in this week's Christianity Today. Entitled "We're Still Supporting Slavery", it's by Preston Jones, a retired Navy man and now a college prof. Here are some key excerpts:
I went to South Korea with the U.S. Navy. All I heard about before arriving there was that it had great and inexpensive hookers, many of whom (I learned) were transported to Pusan from Seoul to accommodate an aircraft carrier's thousands. That's called trafficking.
Trafficking in humans is not new, though it is evil, and in a just world the leaders who have let it go on decade after decade would be put on trial. The drunken deeds of America's unwitting freckle-faces in the brothels of Bangkok are bad enough. The willful refusal among the powerful to acknowledge that each year American troops pump millions of dollars into Asia's vicious skin trade is criminal.
Readers might have noticed that anti-Americanism is on the rise. One of the causes of this in Asia—in Thailand, the Philippines, Korea, and Okinawa—is that up to now the U.S. military has done almost nothing to prevent or slow the growth of an industry that treats poor Asian girls (and some boys) as expendable.
Preach it, brother Jones! He laments:
For the law to be effective, a fundamental shift in the moral culture of the Navy would be necessary. That may be possible, though the long-standing eye-winks of high-ranking officers, the open encouragement of senior enlisted men, and the silence of chaplains have over the years created a sense that, by right, young men in uniform from Nebraska, Maine, and California should have easy access to the bodies of girls and young women from Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Somewhere I have a file of notes I have received from editors at conservative political magazines, from military officers, and from spokesmen at family values organizations. The notes make for depressing reading and usually revolve around a few themes: American troops did not invent prostitution and this kind of thing exists elsewhere in the world. Boys will be boys. Six months at sea is a long time. Japanese men are worse. Criticizing the military is un-American. We don't really care.
The bold emphasis is mine.
While it is possible to construct feminist arguments for legalizing prostitution in wealthy countries (where prostitutes could have legal and medical protections), no one I know in the feminist community believes prostitution in the Third World to be anything other than profoundly exploitative. As a feminist, the sexual trafficking of women and young girls outrages me because it involves such profound degradation of the human person. Prostitution is an extreme form of objectification and degradation, and is incompatible with seeing girls and women as people.
As someone who is an advocate for men, I am always enraged by the "boys will be boys" defense. (Also known as the "all men are dogs" defense). I know what it is to live as a man, and I know damn well that even young men in all-male environments are biologically and psychologically capable of sufficient self-restraint so as not to abuse their sisters! The fact that so many young men are encouraged not to exhibit that self-restraint (and the compassion that must undergird it) is a tragedy for men and for women. Real men never exploit other human beings for their own pleasure. Real manhood -- not puerilty -- is accompanied by a mature sexuality that doesn't wound.
As a Christian, I am deeply saddened by what this means for everyone involved. Prostitution is the furthest thing from a victimless crime. The women involved are psychologically brutalized. Their families frequently ostracize them or humiliate them. Meanwhile, the men involved are deeply affected, usually by having their humanity blunted. The wives and girlfriends of these "johns" are betrayed in a deeply intimate way that cannot help but leave lasting and painful scars. Prostitution represents a profound failure of our obligation to see Christ in one another.
As an American (you'll almost never see me write that), it's a terrible embarrassment. "To whom much is given, of whom much is expected." Our service personnel abroad represent us; the lowliest PFC or sailor is an ambassador for the rest of us. There is no question that any claims we make of moral superiority as a nation will be, in the eyes of the world, tied to the personal behavior of our young folks in uniform. Young American men who visit hookers abroad are providing Al-Qaeda with a PR bonanza.
I assume the best thing to do is to write your congressperson, your senator, and the Defense Department, voicing strong support for this new measure. And for those who have friends and sons and brothers and lovers and husbands abroad -- ask them the questions you don't want to ask. Push them. Hold them accountable. Every man has it within him to see women as human beings, no matter his environment or his libido.
Surely, we can all agree on this.
ECPAT-USA’s military campaign aims to end the U.S. military’s role in sustaining the prostitution industry worldwide. ECPAT-USA is working in coalition with women’s organizations and churches on this issue.
Although ECPAT-USA generally focuses on child prostitution, the military campaign seeks to end the commercial sexual exploitation of both women and children around military bases because the same factors that victimize children also contribute to women’s involvement in the sex industry.
All forms of military prostitution--whether with women or children, with trafficked persons or voluntary migrants--are exploitative and endanger the health, safety and morale of all involved parties, including the military personnel who purchase sex.
Bless their work.
Oh, and for the record: I have to admit that "prostitution" is one of the most difficult words for me to spell. Too many vowels mingling with too many "t"s.