On Saturday, the military news website the War Horse broke a horrifying story of female exploitation and abuse in the Marine Corps. The story spoke of the existence of a shared drive containing hundreds of naked photos of female service members that had been posted to a closed Facebook group with about 30,000 members, many of them active-duty Marines.
The photo sharing began less than a month after the first Marine infantry unit was assigned women, Jan. 5. The salacious account underscores ongoing problems of sexual harassment within military ranks. The all too familiar story speaks to the unmentioned rape culture in North America. The Brock Turner incident still fresh in our minds. And it highlights a larger societal problem when women are objectified, perceived as inferior to men.
Dozens of now-deleted Google Drive folders linked from the Facebook page included dossiers of women containing their names, military branches, nude photographs, screenshots of their social media accounts and images of sexual acts. Dozens of other subfolders included unidentifiable women in various stages of undress. Many images appear to have originated from the consensual, but private, exchange of racy images, some clearly taken by the women themselves.
According to the Washington Post, after the accounts were deleted, the Marine Corps contacted the employer of the Marine veteran who initially posted the Google Drive link on Marines United. He was fired from his position as a government subcontractor in the United States, according to Maj. Clark Carpenter, a Marine Corps spokesman.
Female Marines subjected to online harassment on Marines United and other pages began to come forward, detailing that the problem was larger than any one group.
“It’s Marine Corps wide,” Marine Pvt. Kally Wayne, 22, told The Washington Post. Wayne joined in 2013 and was removed from the service three years later for disciplinary problems.
Erika Butner, a Marine who left the service recently, told American Military News that “this scandal has never been a new incident within the military, but I am glad it is finally getting the recognition it deserves.”
In an overwhelming majority, society passes off masculine aggression, abuse and even assault as healthy masculinity. Higher rates of sexual violence tend to be more prevalent in cultures that encourage objectification of women.
“As a rape survivor, I can tell you that this exact behavior of sexualizing and objectifying women is why so much sexual harassment runs unchecked in the Corps. It’s become so normalized in the military that women just have to deal with it alone,” Erika Butner added.
Objectification in the media too is a hot button issue. Recently, French label Yves Saint Laurent has been accused of ‘degrading’ models and ‘inciting rape’ with their new French advertising campaign. The posters sparked outrage, petitioners are calling for a ban on the campaign images.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), Caroline Kitchens writes, “Recently, rape-culture theory has migrated from the lonely corners of the feminist blogosphere into the mainstream. In January, the White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by ‘[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country (USA), which too often allows this type of violence to persist…’
High ranking officials in the Marine United case released a statement saying, they are taking “all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,”.