Addressing Sexual Misconduct in the United States Military: An Organizational Approach

79 Pages Posted: 4 May 2021 Last revised: 18 Mar 2022

See all articles by Laura T. Kessler

Laura T. Kessler

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: April 29, 2021


Sexual assault and harassment are ongoing problems in the military. This Article examines this problem from an organizational perspective. Social science research finds that organizational climate and composition strongly predict the occurrence of sexual harassment. A positive organizational climate decreases the prevalence of sexual harassment, reduces retaliation against those who report it, and lessens its job-related and psychological impacts. In contrast, organizations that tolerate sexual harassment are associated with greater levels of harassment and worse outcomes for victims. Workplaces where men significantly outnumber women are also associated with increased rates of sexual harassment.

Building on this social science research, this Article proposes a set of legal and policy reforms designed to improve the representation of women in the military and reduce its hypermasculine culture. These reforms include establishing diversity goals and targets, instituting gender-neutral physical fitness tests, and requiring draft registration for all qualified individuals irrespective of sex. As this Article’s analysis demonstrates, these organizational reforms would serve the interests of the country and are arguably mandated by the Constitution.

The military is an ideal institution to examine the organizational underpinnings of sexual misconduct. It is one of the largest work organizations in the United States, and the Department of Defense collects and reports extensive, reliable data on diversity and sexual misconduct.

Keywords: military, sexual harassment, employment discrimination, constitutional law, UCMJ, gender, sex, diversity, organizations, discrimination, law, equality

Suggested Citation

Kessler, Laura T., Addressing Sexual Misconduct in the United States Military: An Organizational Approach (April 29, 2021). 94 Temple Law Review 175 (2022), Available at SSRN: or

Laura T. Kessler (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 South University St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
801-585-9697 (Phone)
801-581-6897 (Fax)


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