The Sexual Economy of War: Discipline and Desire in the U.S. Army

TitleThe Sexual Economy of War: Discipline and Desire in the U.S. Army
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsByers, Andrew
Number of Pages278
PublisherCornell University Press

In this seminal study, Andrew Byers argues that concerns about unregulated sexuality in the early twentieth century affected every aspect of how the US Army conducted military operations. Far from being an exercise marginal to the institution and its scope of operations, governing sexuality was, in fact, integral to the military experience during a time of two global conflicts and numerous other army deployments. Byers shows that none of the issues related to current debates about gender, sex, and the military--the inclusion of LGBTQ soldiers, sexual harassment and violence, the integration of women--is new at all. Framing the American story within an international context, he looks at case studies from the continental United States, Hawaii, the Philippines, France, and Germany. Drawing on internal army policy documents, soldiers' personal papers, and disciplinary records used in criminal investigations, The Sexual Economy of War illuminates how the US Army used official policy, legal enforcement, indoctrination, and military culture to govern wayward sexual behaviors. Such regulation, and its active opposition, leads Byers to conclude that the tension between organizational control and individual agency has deep and tangled historical roots.

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