Thursday, July 21, 2011

Internal Affairs

A high profile case in Canada against a retired ex-commander in Afghanistan who has pled guilty to a sexual affair with a subordinate raises some interesting questions about life in the military. But it's not the affair that is truly shocking; it's the Canadian military's strict stance on sexual relations while in times of conflict.

Taken from article (

Military regulations bar soldiers, even married couples, from having intimate relations while on deployment.

Really? Even married couples? Even married couples who may both be deployed on the same mission? It's an odd thought. Now, there may be some very good reasons behind this kind of policy. It may be a way to prevent disorderly conduct or distractions. It may also be a measure put in place to prevent soldiers from taking advantage of the local population. But there's something about forbidding sex altogether while on a mission that just seems unnatural.

The case of Daniel Menard is a particular one and has many strikes against it: on the one hand, he cheated on his wife, on the other hand, it was with a subordinate. The cheating issue can be left to him and his wife to deal with, but the issue of having an affair with a subordinate is inappropriate and an abuse of power, regardless of whether or not the affair is consensual.

But the more interesting part of this issue for me is the fact that the military uses this seemingly outdated rule of banning sex altogether. While it seems unnatural, it also seems unreasonable. For all the excellent qualities that soldiers may have, they're also just human. It's not reasonable to expect that while on a prolonged mission that everyone will be celibate. It's also somewhat unreasonable to think that you can stop a married couple from having relations with each other. It's part of the joy of being married, is it not, to have constant access to sex?

Then there's the fact that you can argue FOR sex in times of extreme duress. It can be incredibly relaxing. Nothing clears the head like a roll in the hay, as they say. And quite frankly, if I was caught up in some sort of situation where it looked like the end was imminent, I might want one last romp in the garden of earthly delights. I actually think that's a pretty normal idea.

I'm not suggesting that the military allows for all sorts of behavior when it's in the middle of a potentially dangerous mission. And I'm definitely not suggesting that they encourage extracurricular activity with the locals or the working girls. But perhaps this regulation needs to be reviewed in light of the fact that there may be married military people who want to be together, quite possibly for the very last time? Or that two equally ranked officers who are both consenting adults may want to get together, even in times of duress?

They may be servicemen, but after all, they are only human.

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