Wednesday, November 21, 2012

La Affaire of General David Petraeus and the Hypocrisy of Matters Sexual

General David Petraeus takes an oath of office as the CIA Director from US Vice President Joe Biden (left: his wife Holly holding the Bible in a White House ceremony, Sept. 6, 2011)

The affair of the four-star U.S. General and CIA Director David Petraeus and its domino effect on others are not surprising in the light of the amount of exposure US armed forces personnel get to sex and sexuality.This affair made the General resign from the CIA.

The US is famous for its record of individual rights over societal rights, freedom of expression, freedom of information, and human rights. Because of these, pornographers are allowed to produce unabatedly, swinger and swap clubs (where one can exchange sex-partner or one’s own husband or wife with another willing woman or man) proliferate, high sexual content in entertainment programmes (TV shows, movies, comedy clubs) in day or prime time are on the increase and online soft-core and hard-core pornography is available at home and work. Fornication, adultery and homosexuality are generally tolerated. Strangely, extramarital sex and homosexuality among some high positioned persons are frowned upon. The same thing happened with the case of General Petraeus.

When in the first year of my Master’s course (we used to have evening classes at that time) on journalism at the University of Dhaka in 1969-70, we had a subject, called Current Affairs. We had to know the history and latest situation on important hot-spots of the world, such as the Vietnam War, Kashmir situation between India and Pakistan, Middle-East crisis, and so on. The regular coverage of the Vietnam War was in newspapers and magazines. With much curiosity and interest I would read about it in local as well as US newspapers and magazines. On my way to the university, I would stop for an hour or so at the United States Information Service (U.S.I.S.) library on Topkhana Road opposite to the Dhaka Press Club. I also would visit the British Council Library on Fuller Road near the University of Dhaka. The news coverage  -- especially photographic images -- of the war that ended in 1975, is still vivid in my mind even after 37 years.   

One US army veteran, who returned from Vietnam duty, joined the University of Portland, in Portland, Oregon, where I was also a student on the University and Congregation of Holy Cross scholarship. When I came to know that he was a veteran, I used to talk with him about his war experience. One day he asked me if I would like to go with him to a US armed force base outside Portland. I was too eager to go as I was interested in seeing how army personnel live and work. At the camp, my friend returned his uniform, caps, boots and other items. The person in charge of the depository asked me if I was interested in joining the army. I said, “No, thanks. I am a foreigner here. Moreover, I don’t want to kill anyone!” The gentleman laughed uproariously. Then my friend took me to a large recreation room to meet with some of his acquaintances. Some army personnel were watching a pornographic film there. I was surprised because, coming from a conservative society in Bangladesh, it was beyond my imagination that someone could watch pornographic movie so openly. On top of that, how could, army people, who were supposed to be so self-disciplined, respectful and dignified, could stoop so low? Later, on our way back, I asked my friend why the army allows pornography to be viewed so openly.  He replied that armed forces personnel live such a tense and stressful life that they need recreation for a release.  Anyway, I was wondering, in one year or in their stint at the armed forces, how much pornography they get exposed to regularly and what the effect of these would be on them and their families.  Later, wouldn’t they see women as cheap shots and easily available to feed their fantasies?

During my readings on the Vietnam War, I came across of the news of groups of US armed forces personnel, after serving a period of time in the war fields, being shipped to Thailand for rest and recreation. Their main destination was the Bangkok’s red light areas and night clubs. The notoriety of the US Naval Base at the Subic Bay in the Philippines in relation to the exponential growth of the nearby Olongapo red-light district is well known. Anyone can guess what happened in those two places.

According to the Wikipedia, during World War II, swinging (exchange of sex-partners between two couples, but at that time called ‘wife-swapping’) began among US Air Force pilots and their wives for having a close bond among them so that in case of death in war, the other couple could take care of the dead pilot’s wife and children. In the 1950s, some armed forces personnel kept up this practice and later it spread to US city suburbs among other citizens. Gradually, swinging spread to different western countries.

Rape and other types of sexual violence and assaults are on the increase in the US armed forces. Women are coming forward to protest and demand a redress of this sad environment. The costs of sexual violence in these forces are immense.

The divorce rate among the military personnel is on the increase, too. Reasons for divorce among the veterans are stress from the war front, mental issues and infidelity.  Many of these veterans are more likely to have emotional affairs or extramarital sex. Over 30% of the veterans are said to have sex outside marriage. This is the double the national rate for US civilians.

There’s a common saying: “You are what you eat.” Similarly, it is also true that you are what you feed your mind. A lot of pornography, sexuality and sex have their natural effects on military men and women and their families. These effects are not positive, of course.

The affair of General Petraeus is the culmination of the duplicity maintained in the armed forces regarding rest and recreation and increased sexualized atmosphere within.The US government will do a great service if it gives a serious look at the the problem of too much sexualization and redresses it.

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