Military service may represent the essence of the male role for some men. Women may be perceived as the enemy invading sacred male territory who consequently deserve to be punished. When women enter into gender – integrated basic training units, their ability to successfully complete the training may be threatening to those for whom the military symbolizes the essence of masculinity.
Quasimilitary organizations may be even more vehement in their resistance to women. The various degrading and humiliating attacks Shannon Faulkner encountered when she tried to fully matriculate at South Carolina’s state-supported all-male military university, the Citadel, and the jubilant cadet celebrations after she left suggested she was an enemy to be vanquished. The underlying fear may be if women can do what men can do, male dominance is undermined. Indeed, part of the identity of being male in American society is a certain superiority by virtue of the separateness and distinctiveness of the male vis-a-vis anything female.
The expectation of teamwork may elicit the male athletic model of joining together to vanquish the enemy. Kirby suggests that “in the sporting context, harassment may be intensified by the ‘pack mentality’, the mirror image of the term loyalty, bonding and team play coaches strive to achieve” (Kirby, 1994, p. 226). Military organizations also seek to obtain loyalty, bonding and teamwork, so some military personnel may be vulnerable to the pack mentality that may be a negative by-product of the competitive model of intergroup relations.
General reluctance to report sexual harassment may be exacerbated for military personnel because of the emphasis on the privileges associated with rank and following orders, as well as the negative perception that being female is synonymous with being weak. The limited formal sanctions levied on high-ranking male military personnel and the informal sanctions directed at their female accusers in well-publicized cases point out the challenge of trying to change gender expectations embedded in an organization.