Women are far more likely than men to be kicked out of the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gays in uniform, according to government figures released Thursday that critics said reflect deep-seated sexism in the armed forces.
Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Palm Center, a University of California, Santa Barbara, center specializing in gays and the military, said one partial explanation is that homosexuality is more common among women in the service than among their male comrades.
But Frank and some women who served in the military said the gap could also be a result of "lesbian-baiting" rumors and investigations that arise when women rebuff sexual overtures from male colleagues or do not meet traditional notions of feminine beauty.
"It's very clear the military comes down harder on women than on men, but the question of whether they come down harder on lesbians than on gay men is harder to answer," said Palm Center director Aaron Belkin. "We don't know whether the statistics reflect lesbian-baiting or just a higher rate of lesbians in the military."
Frank said the increases are all the more surprising because the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was largely driven by the argument that "straight men won't tolerate serving alongside known gays."