Every day, young children and families are exposed to pornographic images in military exchanges around the world, despite a law restricting the Secretary of Defense from allowing the sale or rental of sexually explicit material on Department of Defense (DoD) property. The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 contains a loophole which allows these materials to be sold or rented in exchanges under current DoD regulations. Congressman Paul C. Broun (R-Georgia), M.D., introduced the “Military Honor and Decency Act (H.R. 5821),” which closes that loophole so pornographic publications aren’t sold or subsidized by military exchanges. Legislation like H.R. 5821 would protect military families from the harmful effects of pornography and would encourage a family-friendly environment on military installations.
In a statement on his website, Rep. Broun states, “Allowing the sale of pornography on military bases has harmed military men and women by: escalating the number of violent, sexual crimes; feeding a base addiction; eroding the family as the primary building block of society; and denigrating the moral standing of our troops both here and abroad.”
H.R. 5821 restricts the sale of these publications by modifying and redefining the terms “sexually explicit,” “lascivious,” and “nudity.” This will more broadly define pornography so that inappropriate materials currently sold on military installations will now fall under the prohibited items category. USA Today reports, “Ten years after Congress banned sales of sexually explicit material on military bases, the Pentagon is under fire for continuing to sell adult fare, such as Penthouse and Playmates In Bed, that it doesn't consider explicit enough to pull from its stores.” Broun’s wording will restrict these publications and those similar to them. This legislation also requires that the DoD meet annually to review materials currently sold on installations to determine if they should be prohibited.
In a recent interview with Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) Director of Legislation and Public Policy, Shari Rendall, and Policy Analyst Martha Kleder, Rep. Broun shares what spurred him to take action against this harmful policy. A military spouse contacted his office after she and her children witnessed an officer purchasing a pornographic magazine. Watching the man who she had taught her children to respect buy a magazine that degrades women was truly disheartening both to her and her children.
A CWA staff member, who is also a former military spouse, shared that she complained numerous times to Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) employees about the graphic magazines being sold in the military exchange where she shopped. Given half-hearted excuses and blatantly apathetic responses from the employees, she took it upon herself to turn the magazines around and hide the covers with family friendly publications whenever she had the opportunity. “It was frustrating to walk through the exchange with my family and be subjected to the sexually explicit images displayed at eye level,” she says. “Ultimately, pornography harms individuals and families, and the Department of Defense should promote a healthy family environment. The military prides itself on its standards of honor and respect, but how honorable is it to degrade women and feed sexual addictions?”
She was not alone in her disapproval. Several of the military spouses she was close to also had negative experiences as they waited in line to purchase items from the exchange. One mom had to literally cover her two young sons’ eyes as they passed by a popular men’s magazine that displayed a woman’s backside, wearing only a thong. Both boys’ eyes were as big as saucers as they asked, “Mommy, why is that lady naked?” There are numerous examples of how frustrated military members and their families are with the immoral atmosphere that seems to be prevalent or even encouraged in their environment.
A recent situation on an Army installation in Europe provoked a strong response in the military community. The spouse of an active-duty Army member is selling calendars, filled with her own pictures, to members of her husband’s unit and the general public. The backlash has included hate mail, acts of vandalism to her property, and a push for the Army to remove her from the community. Seth Robson, author of a recent Stars and Stripes article on the situation, reports that “The irony of a bikini calendar generating so much controversy when thousands of adult magazines are sold by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service has not escaped McCoy [her husband]. ‘Downrange it is pornography with a capital P,’ he said. ‘There is hard-core pornography everywhere and nobody cares. Every soldier could back me up, but they don’t want their wives to know that, and the Army doesn’t want the public to know that.’”
While the violence against this woman is inexcusable and reprehensible, it does evidence the undercurrent of desperate frustration present among military spouses. Pornography, and the sexual addictions it feeds, is destroying countless marriages. Many wives feel helpless in fighting this battle. By no means can a calendar model be blamed for the culture of pornography present or the marriage it damages, but, unfortunately, she has become the face that embodies the problems in that community. She rightfully assumed that this type of behavior would be accepted in her community and that it would be a willing market for her calendar. Who wouldn’t make the same assumption, considering the materials that are sold in exchanges around the world? Situations like this will only continue unless moral standards are set and enforced by the Department of Defense.
The Military Honor and Decency Act (H.R. 5821) will tighten the standards for publications sold on military installations and will help to improve the morale of military members and their families. Female military members who know the degrading effects of pornographic material have thanked Rep. Broun on numerous occasions. Regardless of how members choose to spend their own time and money, the Department of Defense needs to stop subsidizing pornographic materials and stop subjecting families to an environment that condones such materials.
Please contact your Representative at 202-224-3121 and ask them to support and cosponsor H.R. 5821, legislation that will protect families and the upright moral standard for which our military is best known.