Off the clock with The Checkout Girl: All hands on deck*

U.S. Navy Capt. Owen Honors made news this weekend over a series of videos he produced and showed to the 6,000 sailors aboard the Enterprise, an aircraft carrier based in Norfolk. The issue? The videos include gay slurs and overtly sexual themes (among other things). The Checkout Girl has some thoughts about it — you probably will as well.

(*Bleeding hearts need not apply.)

Our friends over at the Virginian-Pilot recently broke a story about a series of videos produced and shown aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise which, like the newspaper, is based in Norfolk. The videos, which star a man named Capt. Owen Honors, are titled “XO Movie Night” (XO is short for Executive Officer, the person second in command of a ship, after the Commanding Officer). They offer a “humorous” take on issues that sailors deal with on a regular basis (think those awful workplace harassment or diversity training videos you’re made to sit through when you start a new job), and were shown to the 6,000 sailors and Marines once a week for about two years.

One of the videos was posted on the Virginia-Pilot website (after being edited for language and to protect some of the sailors involved). From what I can discern, it’s the last in the series and a sort of bittersweet homage to the whole project. It features clips from previous videos and a rockin’ soundtrack that includes Starship’s “We Built This City” because, well, why not? Also, in a twist that made me rewind twice to be sure, Glenn Close appears in one of the videos, sitting in the XO’s chair. The military is so Hollywood.

Highlights of the video include: two female sailors in the shower together; two male sailors in the shower together; (simulated) rectal exams, masturbation, and gay sex; eating and drinking from the toilet bowl; and the XO dressed in drag, more than once (*clears throat*). It’s like a night with Andy Dick, caught on tape.

The video project looks to be one long ego fuck for Capt. Honors, who seems to fancy himself quite the comedian. One sailor interviewed said that “He was the one coming up with scripts and the jokes. He was the one planning it.” Well, duh. But it’s not funny. At all. The material is presented with the message that if you don’t laugh at or are offended by it, you are a homosexual. He also uses the terms “gutless” and “bleeding hearts” to describe the people who have complained in the past about the videos. He also states that “The Captain or the Admiral don’t know about the contents of this video, and should not be held accountable”, indicating that he has been made aware that some people are uncomfortable with the videos and he knows what he is doing is wrong. And, if it’s true that the Commanding Officer didn’t know about the contents of the video, what else didn’t he know was happening on his ship? Capt. Honors was cultivating a culture that promotes aggressive sexual behavior and bullying with the videos. How many incidents of such things went unreported during his time as XO for fear of retribution (some sailors are refusing to speak about the videos, stating just that) or just plain lack of response?

Isn’t it time that the military move into the 21st century? How dated is this angry frat boy attitude that boobs are awesome, dicks are funny, potty humor rules, and, if you don’t think so, you are gay or weak? If these videos were to surface from any other place of employment, heads would roll. Lawsuits would be filed. Boycotts would be organized. Gloria Allred would be in front of an army of cameras within minutes. Why, then, can the military get away with these things?

As a military ex-wife, I have a hard time believing that the Commanding Officer had no knowledge of the videos. In my experience, there isn’t anything that happens on a base or ship that the CO is not privy to. I’ve also seen people broken by the attitudes demonstrated by Capt. Honors. I’ve nursed more than one woman bruised by an angry soldier. I’ve held the hands of sailors affected by friend’s suicides. But who can you talk to when having any kind of feelings about anything at all is seen as a weakness? When being human is mocked and treated with disdain?

Oh, and why was it the last video of the series? Because Capt. Honors has been promoted to Commanding Officer of that ship. That’s right, he’s the man in charge now. That’s like making a notorious murderer the sheriff, because he’s been in town the longest and knows how to shoot a gun. The Navy has launched an investigation into the videos, but the ship is weeks away from deploying. Let’s hope something is done before these people are stuck at sea with this man as Commander. And that all he gets is that wild night with Andy Dick that he so rightly deserves.

(Image released by the U.S. Navy)

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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