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Soldiers Explicit About Ban Say Congress Has No Business Removing Adult Magazines

Thu., May 2, 1996

They weren’t exactly selling out - the Playboy, Penthouse and other such magazines peeking from behind the “Adult” placard at the PX here Wednesday.

Instead, preferred fare among the strapping, brush-cut soldiers seemed to be muscle, auto and history periodicals. Even so: Take away the racy digests stacked discreetly on the highest rack nearby? Not on your life, bub.

As a congressional committee was approving a measure Wednesday that would ban the sale of sexually explicit magazines and videos at military installations, soldiers, sailors and Marines were voicing chagrin at the idea.

The freedom to make “choices like this,” summed up a member of an elite Army honor guard unit, is “why we’re here.”

Soldiers, who are at risk of being shot or worse, said a sergeant from an intelligence unit, don’t need to be “saved” from risque magazines.

And an officer from a reserve outfit in Kansas wondered: Doesn’t Congress have anything better to do? Still, the House National Security Committee heeded what congressional staffers said were numerous complaints from bases around the country about the availability and visibility of such magazines and videos.

And on a voice vote the committee decided to place in its version of next year’s defense authorization bill an amendment banning the sale on bases of items “with visual depictions … the dominant theme of which depicts or describes nudity, including sexual or excretory activities or organs, in a lascivious way.”

The amendment, supported by Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., Christopher Smith, R-N.J., and Robert Dornan, R-Calif., would not prohibit members of the service from subscribing to such materials or buying them off base.

“They may have a Constitutional right to read it,” Bartlett said in an interview after the vote. “We have no Constitutional obligation to provide it in our military stores.”

“The military is not going to be complicit in making this kind of material available to our young people,” he said. “We do not think it is in the best interests of our families.”

Many service members interviewed Wednesday, though, objected.

“We’re all grown people,” Pfc. Mark Kraus, 22, a member of the Army’s elite “Old Guard” ceremonial unit, said as he browsed through an auto magazine at the exchange here. “That’s our choice. Choices like that are why were here. To preserve those.”

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