Naval War College Professor Uses Rape Metaphor, Gets Suspended

photo of karl walling, professor at US Naval War College

Karl Walling, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, has been placed on administrative leave as a result of using a rape metaphor during a lecture on leadership. The lecture, which took place in May, became more controversial after the offensive statements were placed on YouTube. In attempting to make a point about leaders not taking advantage of situations, Walling was explaining Machiavelli’s theory about dominating the enemy, which is referred to as Fortuna, a woman:

“What does a leader do when the bitch won’t put out? I do not mean to be vulgar, but rather to get to the heart of the matter from Machiavelli. If Fortuna will not cooperate, then make her do so. Real men, real leaders do not take no for an answer. Fortuna, said Machiavelli, is a woman, and when it is necessary if one wants to hold her down, to beat her down, moreover, she will like it.”

While Mr. Walling has apologized and it is clear that he was using the analogy to illustrate how leaders should not behave, the ideas presented by his statement are quite worrying.

Misogyny and sexual assault are big problems in the military and much of the trouble relates to a macho culture that is presented to soldiers. As the military is based upon following orders from one’s superiors, there is a high degree of conformity and group-think, resulting in situations where few are willing to challenge common assertions, even if they may be inappropriate or ultimately harmful to the armed forces’ mission. It is very hard for victims of sexual assault to receive proper justice as they are often ignored, dismissed or actively shamed and punished for speaking out. For a long time the military would likely have let comments such as those made by Mr. Walling slide, however, there have been recent efforts to encourage victims to come forward so that they can receive proper treatment and offenders can be penalized. Although these efforts are indeed encouraging, it is clear that if those such as Mr. Walling, who serve in positions of authority, hold such views, it is likely that the military still has a long way to go in helping to stamp out the mentality that violence, particularly against women, is the most acceptable — and effective! — way to deal with difficult situations. Thus, while the suspension of Mr. Walling for his statement is a good first step towards reforming misogynistic military culture, more policies must be put into place so that such incidents do not happen in the future.

Thoughts?



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11 thoughts on “Naval War College Professor Uses Rape Metaphor, Gets Suspended

  1. This article is so poorly written. “Walling was explaining Machiavelli’s theory about dominating the enemy, which is referred to as Fortuna, a woman.” This makes it sound as though Fortuna is just another name for a military enemy, when Machiavelli’s Fortuna is not an actual physical enemy but the concept of luck or chance. “It is clear that he was using the analogy to illustrate how leaders should not behave…” It is not at all clear, at least not from the snippet you have given us. He is describing what Machiavelli sees as the behavior of “Real men, real leaders”…unless the lecturer somehow contradicts it later, how would we take that as an example of how leaders should not behave? I guess you could take the very fact that he uses a rape analogy to say he doesn’t mean it, but it’s certainly not “clear” without further evidence.

  2. Sick? Yes. Surprising? No.

    This guy was just unlucky enough to have his comments recorded and posted on Youtube. I’m sure his colleagues are just as bad, but they’ll get to keep their cushy jobs an mold the minds of our nation’s young, impressionable soldiers.

  3. Have you read The Prince? Machiavelli is not talking about and enemy, but Fortune, and he says that it will respect you more if you are a big strong man and you smack it around a little. Neither he nor the professor are actually talking about rape, and while Machiavelli seems to condone domestic violence, as well as murder and a host of other things, it does not follow that anyone who discusses his concept of making your own fortune is using a rape metaphor or condoning rape or domestic violence. Pick up a used copy for about $4 or get it from the library, it’s a short and fascinating read.

  4. I am sorry, I do not go along with this. I think you and the school misunderstood this man, and are doing him a disservice. I have seen this happen often in the teaching of history– and remember, I am your 70s hairy-armpit brand feminist.

    When you teach history, you must teach about people whose ideas and modes of thought were different from ours, and you must teach about that difference. We are taught now to be tolerant of differences among contemporaries: For educational purposes, we must also be tolerant of differences across time– not to condone, but to understand. And how are we to understand if these ideas are not communicated to us? The past is another country.

    It seems to me that this professor was explaining Machiavelli’s ethos very well. He was not embracing it, or extolling it, he was explaining it in vivid language. I got it, and remember, I’m the hairy armpit girl.

    Wrong to make him apologize, wrong to fire him. Apologize to him. He sounds like a good teacher.

  5. This is ridiculous. Shame on you for perpetuating this crap. You people need to get your heads on straight. Someone’s trying to teach…but wait, what’s this? How dare he talk about a philosophy or subject that is not politically correct? Was that a rape metaphor???! No!!! In literature?!?!?! No!!! Should I listen and learn something or try to get this guy fired?

    This article (and many others on ZL) remind me of those google(?) commercials where someone is asked a question and they start spouting off all kinds of irrelevant information in response to “key” terms. You’ve missed the entire point of this article because you were too busy responding to what you believed was the main idea based on the key term…rape. Was the concept of academic freedom to subtle to trigger your mental search engine?

    You actually said THIS: “Thus, while the suspension of Mr. Walling for his statement is a good first step towards reforming misogynistic military culture, more policies must be put into place so that such incidents do not happen in the future.”

    @#$!@#O$U

  6. I find the professor’s comments somewhat disturbing, but that’s because I think Machiavelli is somewhat disturbing. I think I would want a transcript of the entire speech, though, because it’s not ok to send soldiers out unto the world having picked up the wrong message from your speech…

  7. He deserves to never be given his job back and I hope no one forgets that this man said those things. I’m sick of how we forgive men and women who say things at this level of degradation and pure hideousness. “Moreover she will like it”. I guarantee this man will have his job back in a matter of months when we’ve all forgotten about it. He might offer up a half-assed apology and he may never say anything remotely offensive again but I guarantee the only lesson he’ll learn to keep these comments to himself.

  8. Pingback: Are You Asking to Be Raped? NOT EVER. – Zelda Lily, Feminism in a Bra

  9. Pingback: Did You Know That Women Can’t Be Navy SEALs? – Zelda Lily, Feminism in a Bra

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