By LEAH RUPPANNER, The Conversation
Earlier this year, Norwegian sociologists Ulla-Britt Lilleaas and Dag Ellingsen released a report on their country’s armed forces entitled The Army: The Vanguard, Rear Guard and Battlefield of Equality. Counter to expectations, the study found that the recent introduction of unisex dormitories in the Norwegian army was associated with a decline in sexual assault.
Unisex dorms eroded gender divisiveness, which was replaced by a shared status as soldiers. Soldiers in these units developed a shared fraternity. This is not to say that some soldiers did not develop romantic relationships, but when they did they were separated from shared dormitories.
The main conclusion of this study is that male and female soldiers can live harmoniously in a shared space without increase in sexual violence against women. The bigger question about expectations of masculinity and sex requires additional investigation.
The study may also have resonance for the Australian armed forces, which have in recent years struggled with sex scandals and how best to respond to them.