Francine Banner


This Essay critiques from a feminist perspective the repeal of Public Law 103-160, 10 U.S.C. § 654, colloquially known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," exploring previously unexposed connections between increasing rates of sexual assault in the U.S. military and the longstanding, disproportionate enforcement of military anti-homosexuality policies against female service personnel. The discourse surrounding the "Don't Ask" repeal overwhelmingly has centered on issues regarding the integration of openly gay male soldiers into combat units. This Essay argues, however, that the historical overrepresentation of women as victims of military anti-homosexuality policies, the underrepresentation of women in crafting such policies, and rising rates of sexual assault among troops suggest that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was less about prejudice against serving in foxholes with gay male service members and more about the persistent reluctance to open high-level military careers to women. Uncritically embracing the repeal without carefully examining the discriminatory history of the armed services' anti-homosexual policies, their effects on female service personnel, and the mechanisms in place to protect such personnel from discrimination in the future is shortsighted and risks further entrenching harmful sexist and heterosexist values.

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