An applicant for any sensitive national security position is required to demonstrate they can protect classified information under the 13 adjudicative guidelines, both during the initial investigation and periodic reinvestigations.

Sexual behavior is the fourth guideline. If anything manifests under Guideline D, the applicant may have issues that demonstrate risk to national security and require mitigation. Sexual behavior issues can include illegal acts, legal activities between consenting adults, or acts, though not involving sex, which have a sexual nature. The issue is always the concern to national security and whether the applicant can be trusted.

Guideline D: Sexual Behavior

It is tempting to think Guideline D only applies to sex offenders, sexual harassers, and sexual predators. It’s easy to understand why a criminal may be denied a security clearance for sex crimes committed. But sexual behavior includes so much more; fetishes, prostitution, trading sex for favors, adultery, and multiple sex partners are just a few.

Sexual behavior that involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, reflects lack of judgment or discretion, or which may subject the individual to undue influence or coercion, exploitation, or duress can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information.

Discovery Opportunities

The opportunity now exists for security clearance investigators to consider an applicant’s social media presence. Technical devices, social media, websites promising discreet services, and the abundance of opportunities and ease of access to many forms of sexual behavior can give a person a sense of complete privacy and no accountability. However, the same opportunities can also provide telling evidence. Discreet affairs, pornography addiction, multiple sex partners, and other behavior can be discovered using the same technology that provided the opportunity. We saw this manifested in the Ashley Madison hack.

Impact of Sexual Behavior

The point is that any act committed with the intention of hiding its existence begs the question – how hard will the applicant work to keep the behavior hidden? Would they submit to blackmail, coercion, or other scheme to provide sensitive data to unauthorized persons? This point applies to any of the other guidelines to include foreign influence, alcohol abuse, foreign preference, etc.

5 sexual behaviors which resulted in clearance denial

The following cases demonstrate different manifestations of sexual behavior which have led to a denial or revocation of security clearance. Some cases involve criminal behavior while some of these clearance denials result from consensual adult decisions and do not break the law or require a court hearing.

Sexual Harassment

Making comments about another person’s physical appearance, telling sexually explicit jokes, or making outright displays of a sexual nature to those who object can be considered during security clearance procedures. A judge denied a security clearance applicant who demonstrated sexual behavior of a public nature in his place of employment, The behavior is a security concern when it reflects a lack of judgment and discretion. In this case the applicant made unwanted comments and sexual advances at several companies, with some actions resulting in lawsuits. The conduct was too serious and too recent to mitigate.

Affairs, Prostitutes and “Massage Parlors”

For approximately 30 years, an applicant was involved in a variety of sexual behaviors to include continuously visiting prostitutes and receiving sexual acts in massage parlors. While the applicant attempted to rationalize these acts as legal since massage parlors are legitimate businesses, the judge deemed them of a public nature, reflecting a lack of discretion and judgment. The judge further concluded the length of applicant’s sexual activities suggests a continuing problem.

Adultery – An Issue of Judgment, Blackmail

An applicant had an affair with a Japanese woman which included multiple sexual encounters.  He also had sexual contact with three other citizens of foreign countries and continued to make contact with them on a regular basis. Other issues with this case fall under foreign influence and preference. Concerning the affair, he did not inform his wife about this relationship nor did he receive counseling or attempt other mitigation efforts. His clearance was denied.

Swingers and Security Clearances

Even the most open minded clearance applicants generally aren’t willing to admit they regularly engage in sex acts with multiple partners. But hiding this information is one potential way of losing your security clearance. An Army Major General was removed from his sensitive position for leading a swinger’s lifestyle.

Public Sex and Your Security Clearance

An applicant engaged in a public sex act; out in a park, in an open space. The applicant claimed that it was a private matter between two consenting adults. However, the applicant’s privacy argument is not well-founded as the sex act did not occur in a residence or other private place such as a hotel room. If you answer nature’s call without the police coming to report you, your clearance will likely be unaffected. If you decide to go buff in the bluffs – and the police catch you – your clearance could be in jeopardy. Particularly if it demonstrates a pattern of risk-taking behavior.

These are but a few of many examples of security clearance denials based on sexual behavior found in public record. There are many more not covered here where an applicant was able to successfully mitigate the issue – but it was still a red flag in the security clearance process.

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Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP is a podcaster, consultant and author of NISPOM, security, and risk management topics. Jeff's first book was a study guide for security certification. Soon after, Jeff began writing other security books and courses, and started his company Red Bike Publishing, LLC. You can find his books, ITAR, NISPOM, PodCast and more @