(S)excess Ledger on The HMAS Success

This is a guest post from Tony…

In light of the recent beat-up scandal surrounding the HMAS Success, and Deputy Prime Minister Gillard’s declaration that “the navy must investigate allegations that sailors were challenging each other to have sex with crewmates, warning such behaviour had the potential to discourage women from joining the defence forces”, it might be worth examining this ‘scandal’ in more detail.

What part of the behaviour of the sent-home crew members does the Navy, and Ms Gillard, find objectionable?

Is it the fact that crew members are engaging in apparently consensual sex while at sea (nowhere has it been alleged that any of these acts were against anybody’s free-will)?

Or is it the fact that the some sailors saw such acts as conquests? Or is it that they were gambling on the outcome?

Or could this all be just confected outrage, fanned by the media and taken up with gusto by our politicians, designed to maintain an unrealistic ideal of the members of our armed forces, instead of conceding that such behaviour is relatively normal in today’s society?

Or maybe our politicians are engaging in a bit of double-edged dog-whistling, hoping to appeal to those groups in society that are meant to be concerned with ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’, while at the same time pushing the buttons of some of the more moralising members of the electorate?

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65 Responses

  1. Tony,

    I agree, I can’t see the problem. As Adrian mentioned yesterday, he thought that the women on board the ships were probably doing something similar.

    Unless there is a rule against fraternising while on board, this is a bit of a WTF story.

    Pretty sure the moralising from a political perspective will be coming from both sides here. Gillard is the one who’s been quoted but I can’t see the LNP (except possibly Wilson Tuckey or Heffernon) saying anything different. Pretty sure Sue Goward will have a bit of a say as well (just for good measure).

  2. What I find interesting was the time lag between the discovery and it being released/exposed by the media.

  3. This is definitely a “Who really gives a damn?!” story and I’m kind of disappointed it’s getting so much airtime. (See, I too can use an apostrophe correctly when I want to 😛 )

    Let us assume that the women were not aware of the bet… how does this make the actions worthy of media comment let alone a reply from our politicians? Guys do this kind of thing – it’s not something I particularly like or have any respect for, but it happens.

    Unless there is some regulation broken (which there may be – but I haven’t seen a mention of it), this is not news. It’s just some males trying to prove their manliness in one of the dumbest ways possible.

    Now, I’d like to know what was on their list that is actually newsworthy. I mean, I might be interested in hearing that there was a 100 “points” allocated to the Cher position (i.e. having sex while dressed like Frankenfurter and straddling one of the ship’s cannons).

  4. “cher position” – now that’s funny.

  5. How does one prove a conquest?

    A photo, a piece of underwear or a snail trail on the pool table?

  6. Unless there is some regulation broken (which there may be – but I haven’t seen a mention of it), this is not news. It’s just some males trying to prove their manliness in one of the dumbest ways possible.

    That ‘proving their manliness’ can lead to rape and women being portrayed as sexual objects and conquests rather than work colleagues. A culture of institutionalised sexism should not be acceptable in any organisation and the navy has to respond appropriately by sacking the men involved.

    Why should a woman be made a sexual target (with the possibility of ugly outcomes for her) when she is simply doing her job?

  7. And of course there are no people who ever ever have had sex with a co-worker/s.

    However, the difference is that in an office or on a landbased worksite the person has the option of walking out the door. At sea or in an isolated area if there is pressure on another person to have sex (the blokes too, as some may have been pressured to ‘join in the fun’)..and as above you can’t just walk out the door if you don’t like it.

  8. […] Discussion of the issues at Blogocrats. Related PostsConsent is not a "furphy", AndrewActually, Margie, it looks like it's columnists […]

  9. Adrian – we should have all women ships and all men ships – problem fixed … battalions might be interesting too …

    Min, I’m afraid its not quite the same as an office or even land based for ADF personnel … it may mean actually going to war with your partner (for want of better word) -defence of a loved one may override the need to follow orders to save many … gets quite complicated … and I know people will call me all sorts of names (chauvenist etc) but mixed sex in the situations that ADF members are expected to work in, is always a problem … the ADF (all arms) cannot be compared to civilian occupations …

  10. TB..son has always been on mixed gender ships and there was never a problem. That is, women were treated the same as the blokes..that is, as one would want one’s sister treated. At least it was this way on the Tobruk.

    I think that most men these days can have friends who are female without there being any sexual connotation.

    And as far as difficulties in the theatres of war and defence of a loved one..isn’t this the same thing as mateship?

  11. And as far as difficulties in the theatres of war and defence of a loved one..isn’t this the same thing as mateship?

    ❓ 😯 ❓

  12. If this story was intended to push the buttons of the moralists with their own barrows to push, it seems to have worked!

    I haven’t seen any reference to rape or male sailors forcing themselves on their ship ‘mates’ as of yet so that line of so called debate is not an issue.

    I’m not aware of the regulations of the Navy but there seems to have been some kind of breach to action the alleged offenders being sent home.

    I reckon the whole thing is a beat up myself and would not be surprised if females got up to the same behavior.

  13. TB..I knew that you would say something like that.

    Mateship..a special bond between blokes. If one goes into a theatre of war, one looks after one’s mate. These days a good mate/friend can be male or female.

    And this is where sex aboard ship can ruin things, the same as sexual harassment in any workplace can ruin things..it’s a betrayal of trust.

  14. Navy dragged feet on bullying claims

    Navy fears further sex scandal details

    TOP brass in the Royal Australian Navy fear any widening of the inquiry into sailors ticking off sex acts on HMAS Success because it could reveal the extent of illicit sex at sea…

    …But a senior RAN officer told the Herald Sun that sexual horseplay was “rampant”, despite rules prohibiting on-board relationships.

    The officer claims a proper inquiry would “put rugby league sex scandals to shame”.

  15. kittylitter,

    Fair comment about the culture point but as discussed over at pure poison, the media aren’t reporting this as a culture issue but rather a sex scandal. Much the same can be said of the way the NRL ‘scandals’ were reported. If the problem is one of mysogeny or the men treating the women as sex objects only then the media should focus their criticism on that – as it is currently reported, a lot of us read it and think of it as moralising and switch off. The way the public look at these issues is often affected by how they are first framed by the media.

    I must say that I think that this issue is far from limited to to males. I know when I was at Uni that there were a group of girls running a similar competition. I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right, I’m simply asking whether there is actually a wrong here (Navy policy and rules aside)?

    Does coming down on this sort of activity like a ton of brick actually discourage people from enjoying sex and being comfortable talking about it. I can’t help but think that some of the group sex NRL situations were very consensual but it was the social stigma associated with the act that ultimately turned what was enjoyable at the time into something the participants subsequently became ashamed about and hid. By moralising this particualr situation, are we actually stigmatising sex?

    I don’t have a firm view of this one way or the other, and my thoughts actually developed as I was writing this.

  16. You do know it is against regulations to have sex at sea, even amongst husband and wife, and in fact no fraternisation or overt touching is allowed.

    What happens ashore stays ashore.

  17. Interesting that no-one is commenting about the (consensual) sex with female officers. Had male officers had sex with female sailors many questions would have been asked. The difference in ranks, the lack of power in the relationship, the dangers of sexual harassment would all be raised, Why not ask these questions of the female officers concerned. Why were only male sailors removed from the ship? If having consensual sex is such a crime then why havent any females been removed?

  18. TB Queensland, on July 6th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    This is a valid point and has been bought up especially for front line troops. If you were to see your lover (hetero or homo) blown away then there is an extreme likelihood you will lose it, thus not only putting yourself at risk but your comrades fighting beside you as well. No amount of training can assuage this understandable reaction.

    —————————
    The worst sex scandal in the US Navy on a mixed gender support ship (US women weren’t allowed to serve on warships) was the discovery of a brothel onboard being run by women.

  19. So, if having sex at sea is against regulations then surely the females are just as guilty and should have also been sent home?

    This ledger would have indicated the females in question.

  20. Mobius..my thought is that if you see any friend blown to pieces, whether or not you have had sex with that friend..that a person would lose it.

  21. scaper I believe the ledger was a point score for conquering a female sailor. That would almost certainly have been done on a run ashore with alcohol involved somewhere in the mix. There is very little opportunity to consummate in private onboard and a great chance of being caught. Bloody hell masturbating is hard enough.

    An officer would have scored high as fraternisation between sailors and officers is scorned upon and they normally don’t mix in the same social circles or drinking haunts/dives.

  22. Min, on July 6th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    No Min, especially for outfits like Marines and Special Forces. You can train to turn off and concentrate on a job and orders no matter how much horror surrounds you. This is not true for lovers where a bond exists that often overrides any training. You have to be truly heartless to not react irrationally to a lover being killed beside you.

  23. Or a friend Mobius…or a brother…or a sister..

  24. Fair comment about the culture point but as discussed over at pure poison, the media aren’t reporting this as a culture issue but rather a sex scandal.

    Agree about media portraying it wrongly, haven’t looked at pure poison yet D55 will go there now.

    Does coming down on this sort of activity like a ton of brick actually discourage people from enjoying sex and being comfortable talking about it.

    Are they being paid for enjoying sex? I didn’t think the navy was in the business of enabling sex, encouraging sexual encounters and sex counselling. Just because women are in close proximity to men due to their occupation, doesn’t mean they have to tolerate men forever humping their legs – some self control on the part of men might be appreciated.

    They have rules against on-board relationships for a reason. Too many issues of jealousy, conflict of interest, favouritism, ‘pack’ mentality, sexual objectification and also victimisation of those who don’t or won’t participate in the ‘fun’. Real people usually end up getting hurt.

  25. scaper, hope you never get put on a list, (can’t see sailors going for you, though did say you have nice legs), any list … just being on it doesn’t mean you are guilty …

    … you’d make an interesting jury member…

    MIn, mateship is different to love (as I’m sure you know) – I’m talkng about a love interest …

    eg I’m an officer (or non-com) charged with a mission I have two mates and my lover as part of my team, they are all specialists (as they would be these days) and I come across a dangerous demolition job required to undertake to get to my objective. My lover is the dems expert but I decide to protect her and send the other two in, instead because of the perceived danger … my mates go because they know my relationship with the dems expert … can you see the dilemmas that can be created?

  26. Adrian, if this consensual sex did indeed happen on shore, possibly during leave is that breaking the regulations?

  27. As Mobius mentioned previously, this is not something that occurs on a regular basis..but rather it is a one-or two of. The problem is when complaints have been made previously that these have been fobbed off or hidden under the counter.

    You have it Kitty..it’s the victimisation of a fellow worker that is the problem. One might choose to have sex ashore with a workmate, but if that workmate is running a tally book with betting odds, then it becomes victimisation.

  28. Bloody hell masturbating is hard enough.

    😯

    I must have had too much practice. 🙄

  29. “… you’d make an interesting jury member…’

    Yes, I did because evidence is paramount, especially in a murder trial.

    I would think that if a woman’s name was on that ledger and she scored a few hits that would at least indicate that she was possibly guilty of breaking the regulations…or are you of the belief that only one party is guilty?

  30. Point taken TB. But then you’re a gentleman.

  31. scaper…, on July 6th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    …coersion … springs to mind …

  32. Maybe my comment at 3:59pm is why I need to repent on the other thread (he threads today seem to have a common link).

  33. I would think that if a woman’s name was on that ledger and she scored a few hits that would at least indicate that she was possibly guilty of breaking the regulations…or are you of the belief that only one party is guilty?

    The ledger and the sex competition mean that one party is guilty of a conspiracy to co-opt the women into breaking the regulations.

    Navy sex game claims disturbing, says PM

    The Navy has confirmed four members of HMAS Success’s company were removed from the ship in Singapore in May after female crew members made complaints about the alleged sex game.

    Why complain if it’s all in good fun?

    Sounds a little more offensive than just ‘enjoyment’ of sex, more like sexual competition which likely involves sexual harassment and predatory behaviours.

  34. Only for you, joni, only for you … 😆

  35. Coersion is a distinct possibilty but thus far there has been no mention in the media so that line is speculation.

  36. no mention in the media so that line is speculation

    … and what was yours …, scaper?

    …then surely the females are just as guilty and should have also been sent home?

    I think that was MY point about YOUR speculative post and I provided a “reason” for you to reconsider your position – “… surely … just as guilty …” – it isn’t speculation I guess, more a conviction … without evidence …

    … murder trial? As I said interesting jury member …

  37. Again, you confuse a question with speculation.

    I was asking Adrian a question I believe because he seems the only one here that is familiar with the regulations.

    Maybe an interesting jury member but it is a matter of getting the facts before making a judgement…unlike others…

  38. I give up …

    I suggest you re-read your own comments, scaper

  39. Coersion is a distinct possibilty but thus far there has been no mention in the media so that line is speculation.

    “The individuals were removed from the ship after an equity and diversity health check, which led to a formal inquiry being initiated,” a defence statement said.

    “During the equity and diversity health check a number of concerns were raised by female crew members. These concerns are now subject to formal inquiry.”

    scaper, look up the defence equity and diversity plan and you will see that it is not speculation. It is a specific, internal check on the organisational culture and this is where the complaints were raised.

  40. kittylitter, on July 6th, 2009 at 3:52 pm Said:

    I probably wasn’t all that clear in my earlier post where I said:

    Does coming down on this sort of activity like a ton of brick actually discourage people from enjoying sex and being comfortable talking about it.

    This was directed at the issue of reporting sex “scandals” generally (ie, the NRL ones as well). A couple of points I want to make clear, I don’t condone the abuse of power in a workplace for sexual advantage. This applies accross all workplaces. Also, If the ‘game’ was aimed at encouraging others to break the Navy rules related to on ship conduct, it is also wrong. My comments were rather directed at the reporting of situations where there is no illegal conduct concerned.

  41. My comments were rather directed at the reporting of situations where there is no illegal conduct concerned.

    Sorry dave, I thought you were commenting on the navy’s response and attitude.

  42. Min, on July 6th, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Min, not friends in most cases as troops have seen their friends getting blown away in just about every war since the first one. I’m fairly certain I could keep on doing my job and continue to fight under orders if my best friend was killed or wounded next to me. But my lover would be a totally different story. As to family, I guess emotionally that would be the equivalent of having a lover fighting next to you. In any case it is rare to have lovers or family as a comrade fighting beside you.

    ———————————————–
    scaper.

    What happens ashore stays ashore and is none of the military’s business as long as it’s legal in the country it is being performed and doesn’t bring disrespect to the uniform or service.

    ———————————————–
    joni, on July 6th, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I’ll clarify. On warships, masturbating in private is hard enough and nigh on impossible, even for someone who is very practiced at it.

    ———————————————–
    If you haven’t been on a warship then the next chance you get, and open day at Garden Island Sydney or Garden Island Rockingham or if a ship visits a port near you and has an open day, go have a look. If you ask nicely you may even get a sailor to show you below decks and even the mess decks.

    A women I ended up going with for a long time did this when I was duty sentry during an open day.

    Modern warships are almost luxurious compared to the destroyers around when I signed up, but the new ships are still cheek in jowl none the less.

  43. “If you ask nicely you may even get a sailor to show you below decks..”

    I should be so lucky…

  44. Mobius re: In any case it is rare to have lovers or family as a comrade fighting beside you.

    I have to dispute this one (hugs anyway). But what about the French Resistance..what about all theatres of war where the battle ground is your village or town. Apart from structured armies, in all other areas of conflict then you have beside you your son, your daughter, your wife, your mother.

    My point was that a friend (wife/lover/bloke) is always important..and that this is especially so in Australia where the bond of mateship is probably stronger than for other nations. It’s a national trait.

  45. Gave an opening and voila…

    You probably wouldn’t be surprised by the number of gays who have asked to see below decks and have been granted access. It is great to see their reactions to the cramped quarters and bunks stacked three high sleeping 30 to 50 in a space not much bigger than a one bedroom flat.

    I’m not going to deny that there are sailors who are homophobic, but in my time I have mostly seen straight sailors treat gays with modicum of respect. I guess when your backyard is Kings Cross then you learn it takes all kinds to make a world and to be kind to those who are different doesn’t cost the world.

  46. D55,
    I’m just back from pure poison. This commenter says it all really.

    confessions
    Posted July 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    As someone esle on insiders said if daring to have sex and gambling on it happened in any workplace it would be considered harrassment. Sex between consenting workmates is not the issue here, it’s the issue of what this alleged behaviour says about the culture of the navy, and what it says about creating a professional environment in which women feel an equal part of the team, not some knuckle-dragger’s sexual conquest fantasy.

    Seems scaper is running the same line as andy bolt (who woulda thought?), who trys to spin it into a consent and a male discrimination issue.

  47. Mobius..have you been on the Tobruk lately..it’s the same plastic chairs and laminex tables..

    At least they don’t have to hang hammocks as per hubby’s cousin who served in the Malay conflict. And yes he did eventually get his medal.

  48. Min, I served for a very short while on HMAS Vampire (now showing my age) for a month before they ripped out the hammocks and replaced them with fence wire folding bunks. You can see Vampire and the mess I lived in at the Maritime Museum Darling Harbour Sydney.

    I spent time on Tobruk as well, but since the Army also live onboard I guess the Navy aren’t going to put out their best furniture 😉 . By the way laminex is extremely dangerous in war as was found out by the Brits during the Falklands war.

  49. I heard that, Adrian! 😉

  50. There have been sex scandals on the King’s ships since at least the days of Nelson. Hell, there were women aboard the Victory at the battle of Trafalgar. And what went-on below decks when they sailed into port would turn the chaplain’s hair white.

    Times may have changed, but it seems sailor haven’t. Not much, anyway. It’s one of their great traditions.

    A good flogging, that’s the ticket. (There’s another Great Navy tradition)

    Horatio himself would probably agree, but he’s a bit busy with another fella’s wife, right now.

  51. There have been sex scandals on the King’s ships since at least the days of Nelson. Hell, there were women aboard the Victory at the battle of Trafalgar. And what went-on below decks when they sailed into port would turn the chaplain’s hair white.

    Times may have changed, but it seems sailor haven’t. Not much, anyway. It’s one of their great traditions.

    A good flogging, that’s the ticket. (There’s another Great Navy tradition)

    Horatio himself would probably agree, but he’s a bit busy with another fella’s wife, right now.
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  52. What part of the behaviour of the sent-home crew members does the Navy, and Ms Gillard, find objectionable?

    I thought the decision was taken by the Captain of the ship in question who apparently conducted some type of investigation and made his decision on the basis of what that investigation revealed. I also understand the incident happened some months ago. Gillard et al simply responded to the ‘news’. And did so in a remarkably predictable way.

    Imagine if Gillard said something on the lines – it was ‘only a bit of fun’ or ‘it happens all the time’ (which may be true) and thereby undermining the Captain as well as ridiculing the complainants and their families etc. Laughable.

    Is it the fact that crew members are engaging in apparently consensual sex while at sea (nowhere has it been alleged that any of these acts were against anybody’s free-will)?

    Oh dear. ‘Consensual sex’ in a closed community characterised by rigidly stipulated, hierarchical, unequal power relationships? And there is supposedly nothing wrong with that? Please.

    The Captain who presumably is responsible for ensuring that there isn’t any behaviour likely to be prejudicial to the good order and discipline on the ship would have no choice but to act when the matter was bought to his attention. The fact that he felt the need to send four home (which is in itself is a poor reflection of the ship’s culture and therefore himself) suggests that there was something serious afoot.

    A bit like University Lecturers who seduce students, teachers who do the same and bosses who take advantage of secretaries. Apart from the legal risks involved, there is also a serious ethical dimension.

  53. N5, you can add bringing disrepute to the Service, uniform and his ship, which is what I think the Captain would have based sending the sailors home for.

    I don’t think your last paragraph holds in this case as it was junior sailors planning on conquest of females of any rank, with higher ranked females garnering higher points. In this case it is the female officer who holds the power.

    Also Tony’s statement of “consensual sex at sea” is wrong, as there is no sex allowed at sea at all, even between married couples, though I do believe the Navy do not normally post a married couple to the same ship.

    —————————–
    True story of one of my trips Up Top. The ship was the Fluffy Duck, look it up to find out which ship it was. Reb prize for the first one who can name it.

    As a break from the ship and because it was being cleaned by contractor top to bottom the Captain organised cheap room deals at a fairly swank hotel in a major city of a S.E. Asian country. This 20 odd storey hotel was basically three blocks laid out in a square with one side open and a large tropical swimming pool in the centre of the square.

    Some of the gay sailors onboard (and remember homosexuals weren’t allowed in the services at the time) decided to have a daisy chain in the pool after midnight when the pool lights had been switched off. Hotel staff heard noises from the pool so switched on the lights catching the men out, as well as allowing all those on the balconies of the three sides of the hotel that faced the pool to clearly see what was happening, which included the Captain and his wife, who he had flown in from Australia.

    Those sailors were flown home that day with a mightily peeved off coxswain as escort. I never heard of the sailors involved again, they were discharged quickly and quietly. Their replacements arrived onboard at the next port a week later.

  54. Mobius… you served on Miglo? 😉

  55. I guess,joni, wins the C&W CD, sreb!

    MIne’s (note the possessive apostrophe) great BTW, play it every night!

  56. MIne’s (note the possessive apostrophe) great

    possessive apostrophe ? Surely it is the ‘ommission’ apostrophe? Wasn’t the original construction – ‘Mine is great’ … which became mine’s great? The ‘ommission’ being the ‘i’ out of the ‘is’. Yes? No?

    Just askin … from thou who ‘knows’.

  57. Enough’s enough! It’s not important whose apostrophes are where, or who’s misusing them, even for those apostrophes’ sakes.

    Take a given apostrophe: if it’s not in its perfect position, that’s not perfect, but for the purposes of purposeful communications, it’s perfectly acceptable, isn’t it?

    Pedants and pedants’ pedantries aren’t important when they’re compared to commenters and commenters’ comments; or, regarding commenters, whether they’re getting their comments’ points across to other commenters.

    It’s the purpose of a given comment to convey its commenter’s thoughts. If only those commenters who’re interested in who’s interested in where they’re putting their apostrophes were more interested in whose interest it is they’re holding with their interesting comments, things’d be a whole lot more interesting, wouldn’t they?

  58. Indeed! And clearly Tony, you think it’s important enough to make a complicated post that’s perfectly correct.

    From a simple question … LOL.

    Now about Simon and his world view.

  59. Mobius Ecko, on July 7th, 2009 at 7:58 am Said:

    I don’t think your last paragraph holds

    Probably not. Simply, I am not across the specific factual ‘detail’ because, generally, I am more interested in the reactions of ‘distant’ critics (and the questions they raise) who are prepared to give meaning to the Captain’s decisions without being acquainted with his ‘facts’.

  60. Beautifully composed Tony. Superb structure. An exercise but a pleasure to read.

  61. bew-ti-fool(l)

  62. Erm … N5 … if memory serves me correctly, whenever the issue of the apostrophe arises on this blog (or earlier on Tim Dunlop’s) the pedant we refer to is yourself …

    …the point some of us have been trying to make (obviously drove ToSY to distraction and you missed the point/joke as usual)…

    … and you are correct I mistakenly referred to possessive, instead of ommission in my eagerness to giggle …

    … and I would have thought – from thee (rather than thou), unless we are referring to a particular deity of course … Just askin’ (omission apostrophe …)

  63. “obviously drove ToSY to distraction ”

    I think Tony loves his grammar too TB; I meant it when I praised his superb composition.

  64. TY, HD.

  65. Tony,

    “Pedants and pedants’s pedantries” and “commenters and commenters’ comments.. regarding commenters”

    Excellent. Not a bad effort there, son.

    Almost up there with Danny Kaye’s “Pill with the poison…chalice from the palace” number.

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