Although the military has made efforts to eliminate sexist speech, some recruits report that it still exists, says Professor Burke. Women soldiers, says Franklin, are called “fresh fish,” “target practice,” “wookie monster,” “walking mattresses” or “waste of money.” Of these names, “target practice” bothers her the most: It means to her that women in the service represent only “something to f**k.” Although forbidden, sexualized language is reported to be part of boot-camp training, as when recruits are taught a certain rifle movement by saying “up the skirt, pull down the panties.”
Talking about sexualized violence is a common bonding experience for male soldiers, Franklin says. She remembers sitting around a bonfire with a group of infantry men during field training and listening to them tell stories about giving women “the angry dragon” or “a jelly doughnut.” Sounds harmless, couldn’t be more vile and violent. As her fellow soldiers explained to her: An angry dragon is when a male ejaculates in a woman’s mouth and then smacks the back of her head, causing her to choke and blow semen out her nose. The jelly doughnut involves ejaculating on a women’s face, then punching her in the nose.
“We’re just basically seen as concubines,” says Franklin. That gross misperception of women soldiers as sex objects keeps with a historical framing of females as “sexual booty.” As Helen Benedict, professor of journalism at Columbia University and author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq (Beacon Press, 2009), explains, “Some men feel that if a woman joins the military she’s doing it because she wants to be used for sex. Why else would you join a violent, all-male organization unless you wanted it? So women ‘deserve’ it if they get raped.”