Indecent Behavior

Paid & Public Sex
Stripper Several of the suites hired strippers to perform in the evenings, and some officers paid them for oral sex. In other cases strippers were hired to perform at bachelor parties or other "private" parties in which sexual acts were performed with suite members. While legal in some counties in Nevada, prostitution is prohibited within the Las Vegas city limits. Certain activities, such as sodomy and conduct unbecoming an officer violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Other witnesses reported couples engaging in oral sex and sexual intercourse in open suites, pool patio area and tennis courts.

Indecent Exposure
A common form of indecent exposure at Tailhook was aviators publicly exposing their testicles. The pool patio deck was a popular place for this activity. It is clear from the number of accounts that this activity was not uncommon in the military. One officer said he learned about exposing his testicles in the Naval Academy when a senior cadet demonstrated it to him. The practice was also popular at naval officers' clubs, training squadron parties, golf excursions and at "wingings" when naval aviators are awarded their pilots' wings.
During interviews, aviators described exposing their testicles as "a manly thing to do" or "an act of defiance." Another suggested that it was all about one-upmanship, or "trying to be more rude or wild than the next."
Often groups of aviators were seen milling about in their suites or in hallways with the testicles exposed but acting if nothing was happening. Some would casually introduce themselves to women and mingle with them until they noticed.
One civilian woman reported seeing this activity take place in the presence of a Navy captain, who took no action. When the woman accidentally brushed up against an aviator who was exposing himself and expressed shock, the Navy captain laughed and told her to ignore the activity.
On the other hand two Naval commanders said they took some form of corrective action against aviators. For example a Naval Reserve commander saw a young white male who he thought to be an aviator exposing his testicles in the pool patio. The commander told the young man to put his testicles back in his pants and act like an adult. The aviator turned red in the face and left the area.

A popular T-shirt sold at the convention read: "If You Got 'Em, Hang 'Em."

Sharking
This behavior involved aviators biting attendees on the buttocks. Although the origin of this activity is unclear, one Marine major indicated that sharking had been taking place between males and females for about 20 years. Other officers and one civilian said that it sometimes occurs on a consensual basis at naval officers' clubs. Some others referred to a "butt rodeo" where the biter clasps onto another person's buttocks until shaken loose.
As for non-consensual behavior, eight individuals one of whom was a man, were forcibly bitten at the conference. At least two people suffered bruises to their buttocks. A variety of other body parts were reported bitten, including ears, ankles, and the neck. One fight resulted in two men seeking medical attention.

Zapping
Zapper
Woman with various
squadron zappers
on clothing.
In this activity, aviators slapped squadron logo stickers onto female body parts. According to a retired officer, zapping originated years ago when Marine Corps and Navy officers "zapped" visiting aircraft. This evolved into indiscriminate zapping, and has apparently occurred at Tailhook since 1985. Many officers admitted zapping women, and a majority of the attendees said they were not offended or upset by the zaps.
However, three woman, including a female commander, said they were zapped in private areas while passing through the hallway. One of the woman had her skirt lifted and blouse ripped in the gauntlet while she was zapped on the crotch and breasts.
Several instances of voluntary exposure by women were witnessed. In one case, a male aviator approached a woman who was sitting on another man's lap and asked if he could zap her breast. The woman responded, "sure" and lifted up her top. Moments later she allowed a second man to zap the other breast.
In one other report, a woman walked into the VA-128 suite, lifted her shirt to reveal five or six zappers (squadron stickers) covering her bare breasts and asked officers to re-arrange them.

Back to Index

pilots, jets, & the enterprise | tailhook '91 | old navy/new navy | what ails the navy? | readings | reactions | tapes & transcripts | admiral boorda's in basket | chronology of women in the navy | explore frontline | pbs online | wgbh

pbs online

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS