Debunking the Myth of Universal Male Privilege
Existing legal responses to sexual assault and harassment in the military have stagnated or failed. Current approaches emphasize the prevalence of sexual assault and highlight the masculine nature of the military’s statistical composition and institutional culture. Current responses do not, however, incorporate masculinities theory to disentangle the experiences of men as a group from men as individuals. Rather, embedded within contestations of the masculine military culture is the unstated assumption that the culture universally privileges or benefits the individual men that operate within it. This myth is harmful because it tethers masculinities to military efficacy, suppresses the costs of male violence to men, and positions women as perpetual outsiders. Debunking the myth of universal male privilege in heavily masculinized institutions would advance gender equality and shift the law reform focus. It would bring sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual harassment into the same frame as the military mental health crisis and even mass solidier-on-soldier shootings. This would reveal the gender equality implications of military mental health and disentangle masculinities and military efficacy. Debunking the myth of univeral male privilege would yield more vigilance to how law reforms can exacerbate hyper-masculine violence. It introduces new entry points to gendered violence in the military, expanding the focus from incident-based responses to recruiting and training.