Marine Cyber-based Sexual Abuse Scandal Reveals Systemic Military Problem
In the wake of the recent scandal involving hundreds of U.S. Marines being investigated for sharing nude photographs of women—including some of which were allegedly taken without the consent or knowledge of the subject—it’s important to recognize the link between this investigation, as well as the military’s enduring culture of sexual harassment and assault, with pornography use.
It is clear that the military has a pornography problem.
The recent scandal of active duty and retired members of the U.S. Marine Corps trading nude and sexually explicit images of women, some of them featuring fellow Marines, demonstrates how sexual harassment and violence in the military do not occur in a vacuum.
As the Internet pornography generation enters the military, it is no surprise that the predatory attitudes and behaviors taught in pornography may spillover into their professional lives.
The collective participation by hundreds of Marines in the trading of sexually explicit images—some purportedly obtained through stalking, and others with comments that included allusions to sexual assault and rape—suggests a frightening level of sexual callousness. But using others and raw sexual objectification are the ABCs of pornography. It appears that these Marines have learned their pornography lessons well.
Research show that pornography use is strongly linked to aggressive and even sexually violent behaviors. For instance, a 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike.
Another meta-analysis of 46 studies reported that the effects of exposure to pornographic material are “clear and consistent,” and that pornography use puts people at increased risk for committing sexual offenses and accepting rape myths.
This aggression and allegiance to pornography above all else is being demonstrated by the numerous threats targeting Thomas Brennan, the Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient who first reported on this scandal, and his family. Threats have included that Brennan’s wife should be raped, that he should be waterboarded, and in one instance someone even offered a bounty for nude pictures of his daughter.
We call on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to investigate this scandal and ask the Secretary of Defense to implement system-wide changes within all military branches to recognize the harms of pornography within the context of sexual assault and harassment prevention.
On March 20th, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation will host a national briefing called The Freedom from Sexploitation Agenda at the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. Topics such as the harms of pornography and ways to combat sexual exploitation in the military will be addressed. You can learn more and RSVP to attend at
You can learn more and RSVP to attend at endsexualexploitation.org/freedomagenda.