Chapter 23: Abstract

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

Regina Mühlhäuser (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)


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.


Instrumental Sex; Military Regulations; Propaganda; Prostitution; Rape as Weapon of War; Sexuality; Sexual Autonomy; Sexual Violence; Gender Roles; World War I and II; Asia; Europe; Japan.

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

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