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Is the debate over sexual abuse in the military really a 'war on men'?
So says a columnist for The Wall Street Journal
The true victims of sexual assaults in the military.
The true victims of sexual assaults in the military. Win McNamee/Getty Images
T

he military's glaring sexual assault epidemic has proved so troubling that Congress has stepped in with its own suggestions for how to solve the problem. And Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto is standing athwart history, yelling, "Stop!"

Taranto argued this week that those efforts were really a veiled "war on men," and that Congress had embarked on a "political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality."

Taranto's argument focused on Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) decision to place a permanent hold on an Obama nominee, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms. Helms had overturned a jury's sexual assault conviction of an Air Force captain, Capt. Matthew Herrera, an action McCaskill called "unacceptable" because it "further victimizes a survivor of sexual assault."

Taranto said that the case was one of competing, unfounded claims, so Helms was right to dismiss the conviction. And, he wrote, the alleged victim was not without some culpability herself.

It's fair to say that Capt. Herrera seems to have a tendency toward sexual recklessness. Perhaps that makes him unsuitable to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. But his accusers acted recklessly too. The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal. [Wall Street Journal]

Taranto's suggestion that the victim was as much to blame for being sexually assaulted was roundly criticized and mocked.

As Katie J. M. Baker pointed out in Jezebel, Taranto has written a number of questionable columns on female sexuality in the past, including one encouraging young women to "take advantage of the simultaneity of their own peak nubility" to find a husband.

Baker labeled Taranto a "prolific woman-hating troll," and added, "Why does the Wall Street Journal, the best-selling newspaper in the country, publish Taranto's drivel? Are they in it for the pageviews, or do they really think his point of view is worthwhile?"

Though Baker said no one at the Journal has responded to her requests for comment, the newspaper did publish a follow-up video on Tuesday. In that video, Taranto expanded his argument, claiming that a separate alleged sexual assault couldn't have been nonconsensual because the woman knowingly went into a man's bedroom.

Well what is female sexual freedom? It means, for this woman, that she had the freedom to get drunk, and to get in the backseat of the car with this guy. There was another woman who accused him, he was acquitted in this case, of sexual assault. This so-called assault happened in his bedroom, to which she voluntarily accompanied him, even the jury said that was consensual. [Media Matters]

You can watch the whole video below:

In May, the Pentagon released a report estimating that some 26,000 members of the armed forces had been sexually assaulted in 2012. In addition, a number of high-profile officers have been accused this year of abusing their authority and sexually assaulting fellow service members.

At least Taranto didn't blame all women — or porn or hormones — for the high number of assaults. For that, we can thank members of Congress.

Jon Terbush is a staff writer for TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

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