In sexual harassment training we discuss two types of harassment, Quid Pro Quo and hostile environment. In both cases the standard that often has to be determined is “did you know or should you have known” that harassment of either type might occur. Because if you did and did nothing to prevent the occurance your defense is going to fail.
Well that is something the U.S. Navy is going to be well aware of this fall. They are sailing into dangerous waters. They are currently training 24 female officers to serve on four submarines. Now the Navy has been whacked several times for sexual harassment claims, most notably in the Tailhook Scandal. So I am sure they are paying very strict attention to this situation. I would imagine there will be significant pressure put on the captains of those vessels to make sure that all behavior on the part of the crews is above-board. Six female officers will be assigned to each boat with two serving per shift. They will share the same stateroom so that there is no bed sharing with men. The one lone bathroom, also known as the “head” , that is shared by all the officers onboard will have a reversible sign indicating which sex is in there. (Hmmm… have male officers been trained well enough to put the seat down or since women are entering this male domain will they be putting the seat back up?)
Of course the behavior of the women will be scrutinized closely. However, I am sure that all these female officers realize they will be held to a high standard. Regardless, in a situation like that, with periods of long confinement onboard there are going to be plenty of opportunities for banter back and forth that has the chance to turn ribald, as it often does with men away from female company for long periods of time. Everyone will need to be on their toes because the Navy is not going to be able to claim “we didn’t know that would happen.” Ignorance will be no defense.
Spouses are not too happy that this is occuring. They know how confined the spaces are on a submarine and imaginations will be working overtime thinking of spouses rubbing by female officers in a passage way. If you have ever seen the movie Operation Petticoat (and you should) you will know what I am talking about.
Good luck to them all. I hope it works well. Good sailing.
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