Commander Honors relieved of command – PLUS: My un-PC thoughts on sexual harassment

Posted by: ST on January 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Commander Owen HonorsJust got done reading the spirited comments to Ed Morrissey’s post at Hot Air on the news that the Navy has relieved Commander Owen Honors of command in light of “racy videos” which apparently show varying degrees of simulated sex acts and alleged gay slurs, among other things (I can’t comment too much on the videos – I haven’t watched them). The comments at HA overwhelming support Owens, and decry what they feel as a dangerous culture of political correctness permeating through the military, adversely affecting morale and hurting distinguished careers. Some speculate that, considering the videos are four years old, Owens might be being deliberately targeted by someone who has a grudge and who doesn’t want to see him promoted. Others opined that it was perfect timing for the videos after the repeal of DADT.

I’m interested in your thoughts, especially if you’ve served in the military. My general thoughts on DADT have been mixed for sometime. Unlike with gay marriage, which I strongly oppose for reasons mentioned here (hint, left wingers: it has nothing to do with “hate”), DADT has always struck me as bad policy because it meant that qualified gay men and women could serve in the military — they just couldn’t talk about it, unlike heterosexuals, who could. Not only that, but in pondering the issue on the whole, I support – in general – anyone, male, female, white, black, straight, or gay who is willing to put their lives on the line for their country. They shouldn’t have their medals stripped or be discharged from the military on the basis of sexual orientation.

BUT … and you knew this was coming … my concern with gays serving “openly’ in the military were and are the same as the concerns many had and still have with women serving in the military in terms of the “political correctness” factor. The military is a pretty rough and tumble place, and some of the types of humor and ways to relieve boredom and stress are not necessarily ways that are fit for civilian consumption – workplace or otherwise. That is not a positive or negative assessment. It’s just a statement of fact. The military is one of those places where I’ve always considered that you need to be able to “roll with the punches.” That doesn’t mean “roll with sexual harassment”; it means “have a thick skin” or “man up”, including being able to recognize when the sexual jokes and off-color humor actually equates to real harassment, not just “offense.” You are going to see and hear things that you won’t always like, but think long and hard before you label it “harassment.” The word “harassment” – especially when used in conjuction with “sexual” – has been so watered down that it means almost anything these days, whether you’re in the military or not. Being “offended” does not equate to “being harassed”, contra to our PC politicos and their allies MSM. Military grunts make fun of everyone, not just one particular group – heck, they make fun of themselves! – and if you can’t handle ribbing, you definitely shouldn’t sign on for the military, because you’ll be faced with a lot worse things than ribbing should you be called to serve in a combat role. Not only that, but from the comments I read at Hot Air and elsewhere, the videos were pretty tame in comparison to what many sailors and soldiers have heard and seen over the years in the name of stress relief as part of the rough and tumble culture that is the military.

No doubt, in the military – as has been the case in other fields – real, bonafide, no-question-about-it sexual harassment has happened, and it’s despicable and should be dealt with swiftly and justly. But at the same time, you being offended by something sexual in nature does not automatically mean that you’ve been “sexually harassed.” I can’t speak in specifics in terms for what exactly constitutes sexual harassment in the military, but did you know that here stateside it’s considered sexual harassment if a shop employee has a revealing poster of a woman posted at his station, and a female co-worker happens to walk by and notice it and become “offended”? Some sexual “harassment” is based on nothing more than the feelings of someone else. A guy compliments a co-worker’s new hairdo. A female walks by the break table and hears her male colleagues discussing their weekend “conquests,” etc. These are things *I* have heard, and in the case of the former, I smiled and in the latter I just rolled my eyes. Sadly, there are other women who would consider that harassment.

Yes, I know that what was in the videos was supposedly much more controversial than my civilian examples, but my point on a more general level is that “harassment” and “offense” are not the same thing. There’s also something to be said for “poor taste.” If the videos are how others described them, perhaps Commander Owens should have been reprimanded. But relieved of command? Many are arguing that’s way too harsh for what the Commander was trying to do, which was, according to the accounts of many in attendance, to boost morale using off-color attempts at humor by making fun of, well, just about everyone. Was anyone offended by the videos? I’m sure they were, but from what I’ve read about them they don’t rise to the level of “sexual harassment.” Sexual harassment, to me, has always been about a) the suggestion by a superior that you’d lose your job if you didn’t peform “favors”, and 2) unwanted touching and/or crude commentary repeatedly directed at you in the workplace, regardless of your requests to stop. I guess I’m old school like that.

Anyway, that’s my expanded .02. Your thoughts?

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12 Responses to “Commander Honors relieved of command – PLUS: My un-PC thoughts on sexual harassment”


  1. ShiftyJ says:

    It’s even more ridiculious once you actually see the video.
    It’s been up on youtube since this nonsense began…

  2. LindaF says:

    You know, I really don’t get it. The inconsistency of saying that ANY action that even hints of sex is an outrage, but, somehow, actually sexually assaulting/harassing/hitting on women in the workplace is OK, provided you’re the “right” political affiliation.

    The really weird thing is they’re not even embarrassed about it.

  3. I didn’t serve. From what I have read there were a lot of sailors who complained, and this alone tells me that the videos were over the top.

    It’s one thing for a petty officer to make such videos. That would have called for a reprimand. But for an officer, let alone a senior one, to do so shows a startling lack of judgment.

    Absolutely he should have been relieved of command. The Navy has many, many, qualified officers who can take his place, so that’s hardly an excuse for keeping him.

    As for sexual harassment, no no no on your suggestion that it is “a) the suggestion by a superior that you’d lose your job if you didn’t peform “favors”, and 2) unwanted touching and/or crude commentary repeatedly directed at you in the workplace, regardless of your requests to stop.”

    I’ve been a member of an HR dept (not now though, thankfully) and between that and a management class I once took I assure you that a person can bring and win a lawsuit even if the crude comments were not directed at them specifically. As long as they happen to hear them your company is at risk.

    “But at the same time, you being offended by something sexual in nature does not automatically mean that you’ve been “sexually harassed.” ”

    Not exactly true. It all depends on the nature of the comments, but I assure you that any company that lets this stuff go on after someone complains is asking for a (successful) lawsuit.

  4. ST says:

    Tom, I’m well aware that people who’ve overheard crude remarks can sue, too – that was part of my point. The term “sexual harassment” has been watered down (“I’m offended over what I heard two cubicles over, and I’m gonna sue!”) and overused as much as “racist” (“You disagree with affirmative action – that makes you a racist!”). It doesn’t mean what it used to. Not many people will disagree with that, regardless of what the law says.

    And, FWIW, I’ve worked in HR for years and have also been a part of sexual harassment training sessions. While I don’t agree with many of the laws (primarily due to their vagueness) it’s my job to recognize what is considered sexual harassment under the law – even if I personally disagree with some of what’s considered “sexual harassment” these days.

  5. Tango says:

    Wow! Just imagine! Sailors being lewd and crude! Shocking!

    Listen folks – the mere fact that this incident is coming to light after four years have passed should tell you something. Somebody’s planning to make his (or her) bones out of this incident. Tailhook, anyone? (That witch hunt went on for years).

  6. puffpiece says:

    I can’t help but think there is more to this than meets the eye. Commander Owen Honors deserves better than a “political correctness” sacking but I’m thinking the guy made one too many command enemies. The military can be sucky like that.

    And yes, I remember Tailhook and all the media piling on. Hopefully this will not turn into a witch-hunt. With a lot more victims of political correctness getting hurt in the process.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is a difficult subject. I work in a place where the humor can be pretty crude and men and women participate.

    I’ve also walked down the street and had men yell obscene things to me just because they are in a group and I am alone. It was their fun to make me uncomfortable so they could bond as men.

    I’ve worked in a place where a man continually made sexual comments about me to fellow workers even though he knew I didn’t like it. It made my workday hellish, to be frank.

    So, what’s the answer? Truth to tell, I don’t know.

  8. kbob in Katy says:

    Best to relieve the CAPT. We would not want to put all his experience and training into protecting the nation because he has offended someone – 4 years ago.

    Actually, I am offended that anyone is offended. They sleep under the blanket of protection that the military provides, then attempts to destroy the military while paying lip service to “honoring the troops.” Well, this is life in the real world. Warriors can be rude crude and socially unacceptable. But you are alive and free. End of the story.

  9. John Bibb says:

    Good thing they don’t videotape the crossing the international dateline “parties”!
    There would be a lot of new Captains!
    Go Navy!

  10. Paul says:

    How about the use of “poor judgement” in the case of Honors ?

  11. Kate says:

    Am I missing something here? These videos were not required viewing were they? People didn’t get written up for not watching them, right? They may have been in poor taste and shown some poor judgment on the part of the officer, but really, was anyone truly harassed? I am assuming these were viewed via a closed-circuit station aboard ship like morning announcements, etc. You could choose not to listen/watch and just go about your job. Did he say….attack gays/women/anyone he didn’t like of any persuasion? All these inferences were conferred upon him by the viewer…who can still complain about them. I am assuming also that there must have been some guidelines regarding the content i.e. no outright pornography could be broadcast, for example. If sex acts were portrayed in some other way and were offensive and were the reason for dismissal, the maybe we shouldn’t let anyone watch MTV????

    This severely waters down harassment of any kind….where you would lose your job, suffer physical harm, public insult, slander, etc, etc. I am sure a real “man” who found these offensive would have gone directly to this guy and lodged a complaint…or tried to reason that he should tone down the sexual content.