Chapter 22: Abstract

Sexuality, Sexual Violence, and the Military in the Age of the World Wars

Regina Mühlhäuser (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 339-60.


The two World Wars—with the mass mobilization and unprecedented mobility of men and women—presented new opportunities for soldiers and civilians to engage in consensual amorous encounters, instrumental and commercial sex. At the same time, the experience of brutality, destruction and death lowered the threshold at which sexual violence took place. The boundaries between consensual and forced, non-violent and violent were fluid, and different forms of sexuality and violence merged. This coexistence and, indeed, entanglement of extreme violence and sexual pleasure was shocking for the contemporaries. By focusing on practices, constellations and structures of sexual violence, the chapter discusses the meanings and effects in and for total war.


World War I and II;  military regulations; instrumental  sex; prostitution; rape; sexuality; sexual autonomy; sexual violence; gender.

In Part III: "The Age of the World Wars" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender, War and the Western World since 1600

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