On Friday and Saturday of the convention, "hospitality suites" hosted by various flight squadrons were the scene of what can accurately be described as debauchery.6 The activities included performances by female strippers, sexual interaction with these strippers,7 drinking "belly/navel shots,"8 which entails men drinking alcohol out of women's navels, "butt biting"9 and leg shaving,10 which are what they sound like, and "ball walking," which consisted of fully clothed male officers walking around with their genitals exposed.11 The activities spread into the third-floor hall linking the suites. A "gauntlet" (or "gantlet")-a double line of male aviators, one on each side of the hallway-was set up, and those women who had the fortune or misfortune, depending upon their preferences, of finding themselves in the hallway were fondled and groped as they walked past the men.12 One of those women was Paula Coughlin, an admiral's aide who claimed that she had been victimized in the gauntlet.13 Depending upon whose version of the story is believed, she reported this activity to her boss within a day or a couple of weeks, and the Chief of Naval Aviation learned of the event sometime shortly after that.14 Although the convention took place in early September, it did not make the news until late October,15 at about the same time that the nation was transfixed by allegations of sexual harassment by Anita Hill against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.16 A. The Reaction The reaction of the Navy and Congress to the Tailhook mess converted an out-of-control party into a career-killer for hundreds of Navy personnel and a morale-killer for thousands of others.
Kingsley R. Browne,
Military Sex Scandals from Tailhook to the Present: The Cure Can Be Worse than the Disease,
14 Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/djglp/vol14/iss2/2