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Sexual Harassment: Tail Hook-Scandal Analytical Essay

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Updated: Nov 1st, 2019


The Tail hook scandal of 1991 was military scandal in the United States. The implications of the scandal were quite enormous and have continued to be relevant in the United States military up to date. The scandal involved sexual harassment of a female officer by a navy male pilot at a Las Vegas hotel convention.

This scandal generated heavy stigma for quite sometimes and it resulted to destroying careers of very many people. Consequently, the event attracted extensive attention from the public as it raised questions concerning the effectiveness of the justice system in the US military, as well as concerns on gender issues in the forces (Kammer, 1994).

The scandal began during the return of naval aviators from Desert Storm missions in September 1991. There was a party for their return which involved several wild party activities by voluntary participants such as gross indecency and sexual suggestiveness.

According to Faludi (1994(a), in the fateful day, a marine Corp captain according to Lieutenant Coughlin’s account, grabbed her from her back but an attempt to turn around to confront the captain were frustrated by another person who held her from behind making it easier for the captain to force his hands through the female officers’ tube top.


Public official have the responsibility to ensure that in all their activities relating to their public office, they adhere to a code of ethics outlined in their line of duty at any one given point. Study shows that, there are a number of ethical statements that every public offer ought to observe (Cooper, 2012).

These ethical codes include: integrity, selflessness, honesty, and accountability. In the Tail hook-scandal report on sexual harassment, there were clear violations of ethical standards by the military officers who sexually harassed their female colleague at the party.

The incident that took place in September 1991 in the navy Taillhook convention witnesses a violation of ethical standards by several navy officers. This ethical violation was not only a disgrace to the navy but also to the US military as a whole. During the party, female officers as well as guests, encountered navy aviators who had their buttocks or breasts grabbed. Worse still, some of the men aviators attempted to force these female gests and officers to strip.


The public officials involved in the Tail hook scandal were accountable to the Tail hook Association, the leadership of the aviation community in the navy, as well as to the general public.

According to the Department Of The Army (1993), accountability was one of the most difficult issues to establish in relation to the 1991Tail hook scandal. This was because there were various forms of misconduct that come to light and the navy leadership tacitly approved them or permitted them to continue. For this reason, the people who were accountable to the Tail hook scandal were indeed the Tail hook Association as well as the leadership of the aviation community in the navy.

An investigation in to the Tail hook-scandal revealed that not only were the individual officers responsible for violation of ethical standards in the forces, but also there was a revelation of a distressing trend lay down by the armed forces leaders who often than not concealed such occurrences or even Shan them away (Department Of Defense, 1992).

It has been reported that the leaders in the armed forces were well aware of the existence of the similar behaviors since 1989. Nevertheless, they overlooked the incidences and at times demonstrated tolerance. This was in line with the contempt attitude held by many man in the military towards their female counterparts (Boo, 1992).

The report further elucidate that, despite numerous complaints leveled by women regarding sexual harassment in the navy, the leaders never took any serious actions against the perpetrators. As such, the perpetrators and their accomplices were able to obstruct any kind of investigation.


In an effort to prevent future events such as the Tailhook scandal, the scope of investigations in cases involving sexual harassment in the US military should be comprehensive in that the investigation can cover all the other laws and regulations relating to sexual harassment and violation of ethical standards (Browne, 2007).

This step can indeed be helpful in preventing incidences such as the Tail hook incident as the laws and regulations can address individual accountability both for the perpetrators and failure by the leadership to provide a clear avenue for investigating reports of similar nature (Jaffe, 1992).

Media and other nongovernmental entities

The role of the media and other non-governmental organizations were very crucial in the exposure of sexual harassment of women in the military. Following the Tailhook scandal, Coughlin one of the victims was featured in magazines such as the New Women Magazine with her story as well as in the Glamour Magazine. The intervention of the media is cited by many as the major factor that led the navy to institute an investigation on the Tail hook scandal.

According to a study conducted on media report, there were more than 600 stories which were published by mainstream newspapers relating to the Tail hook scandal (Ogden, 1994). This goes to show that the role of newspapers and other forms of media such as television played a crucial role in bringing the Tail hook scandal in the public domain.

The media focus on women in the military began during the Gulf War in the 1990s where women were deployed in the war more than ever before in the history of US armed forces.

This war was quite significant in the history of the united state and thus attracted extensive media coverage especially in relation to the contribution of female officers in the war. The reality of women combatants was brought to the Americans attention and the by the media as well as challenges they were going through (Faludi, 1994(b).

One of such challenges was sexual harassment in the US military especially in the navy, which was for a long time being covered up by the top ranking officials. After the inclusion of female officers in the army, there were concerns related to sexual harassment which caught the attention of the media and non-governmental organizations (Frieman, 2008).

The report on the Tail hook scandal was not an exception as the report had been sat on by the military officials not until it leaked to the national media. The media and other non-governmental organizations especially the feminist propagated the issue until the military had to look into it.


Boo, K. (1992). Universal soldier: what Paula Coughlin can teach American women – sexual assault victim demands justice – Cover Story. Web.

Browne, K.. (2007). Military Sex Scandals From Tailhook To The Present: The Cure Can Be Worse Than The Disease. Duke Journal Of Gender Law & Policy Vol 14:749 2007.

Cooper, T. (2012). The Responsible Administrator: An Approach to Ethics for the Administrative Role. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Department Of The Army.(1993). Sex scandal. Military Law Review, vol 140: 27-100-140

Department Of Defense. (1992). Tailhook 91 Review of the navy investigations. Web.

Faludi, S. (1994 a). Going Wild? Web.

Faludi, S. (1994 b). . Web.

Frieman, J. ( 2008). Reporting Sexual Assault of Women In The Military CARDOZO Journal Of Law & Gender. Vol. 14:375

Jaffe, G. (1992). Army worries about ‘toxic leaders’ in ranks. Web.

Kammer, J. (1994). . Web.

Ogden, J. (1994). Tailhook ’91 And The U.S. Navy. Web.

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