Taking a Good Look at Itself: Addressing U.S. Soldier Sexual Morality during World War I and after September 11th

Janelle Pham, Oglethorpe University

The U.S. military boasts a long history of regulation of sexual morality, starting with World War I. In a concerted program of moral reform, government commissions focused on a program of sexual education of its troops, paired with the efforts by local communities to provide wholesome entertainment and reduce vice. The drawing of “moral zones” around military camps and the internment of prostitutes under The American Plan represented the commitment of the US government to protecting soldier purity from unsavory outside forces. Similar efforts continued during World War II and into Vietnam, to include tight command oversight of servicemember requests to marry non-Americans in the name of national security and troop discipline. This paper examines how the U.S. military continues to maintain an agenda for oversight of soldier sexual morality in a post-9/11 era, albeit in different ways. While mitigating threats to soldier morality in the first half of the 20th century concentrated on external bodies (i.e., civilians, prostitutes and non-Americans), the coalescence of multiple institutional changes in the 21st century military – increasing gender integration, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the beginning of multiple military campaigns with non-traditional enemies and no clear battlefield – prompted a focus on internal bodies (i.e., the homosexual soldier and female soldier). In this paper I take a look at U.S. Army directives, publications and programs which illustrate its increasing focus on threats to sexual morality within its ranks. While maintaining its focus on soldier sexual morality, I argue an additional institutional change – the U.S. military’s shift to an all-volunteer force – complicates this mission because of its reliance on Americans willing to serve. The language of the primary source material studied detail the Army’s efforts to strike a delicate balance between enforcing sexual order and accepting soldier sexual desire.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 185. Sex, Gender and Power