Sessions joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in time for its second panel of the day, having missed the first session due to a conflicting meeting of the Budget Committee. Once there, Sessions wasted no time diving into the issue, asking several questions of the assembled military commanders in the panel.
During his questioning, however, Sessions brought up his concern that access to pornography on and around military bases was creating “problems” among the soldiers, sailors, and pilots:
SESSIONS: Mr. Chairman, I’d just add a letter, a document here that was given to me from Morality in the Media. Pat Truman used to be in the Department of Justice. I knew him when he was there. He points out that, a picture here of a newsstand and an Air Force base exchange with, you know, sexually explicit magazines being sold. So, we live in a culture that’s awash in sexual activity. If it’s not sold on base, it’s right off base. There are videos and so forth that can be obtained, and it creates some problems, I think.
Sessions then immediately segued into asking questions about the panel’s responses to sexual assault situations, asking what they would do if “you had a female soldier who had felt she was assaulted by an NCO, higher rank,” leaving his previous comments hanging in the air. He didn’t return to them during the rest of his questioning, leaving his full meaning unclear. However, while a few studies have found that pornography makes men more sexually aggressive, there’s no real-world evidence bearing out the claim that this translates into sexist attitudes or sexual violence. In fact, many more recent studies have been unable to show causation between viewing pornography and carrying out sexual violence.
Much discussion has been had over how best to change what has been recognized as a problem with the culture within the military, where sexual assault and rape are severely under-reported. An estimated 26,000 instances of sexual assault in 2012, of which only 3,374 were reported and investigated. A slew of high-profile scandals has also contributed to the view that the armed services are not doing enough to prevent sexual assault in its ranks.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) had also raised several concerning points during the first panel, including that hormones could be sufficiently blamed for sexual assaults and questioning whether the first women to serve on an aircraft carrier were investigated for getting pregnant during their tour. Chambliss’ comments, though, were tempered with a fair amount of blame directed towards Congress and the military leadership alike. “But guys, we are not doing our job. You’re not doing yours, and we are not doing ours with the rates we are seeing on sexual assaults,” Chambliss said. Sessions showed no such circumspection following his comments.