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Sex and the US Military: from Cold War to “War on Terror” (HI2C6-15)

Module Convenor: Professor Susan Carruthers

Please note that this is a new module, offered for the first time in the academic year 2019-20. This module website is still under construction, and further content will be added over the summer.

Since World War II, the military has loomed large in the United States: significant not only for its war-waging functions and budgetary claims but as a parallel welfare state. The site of intense political contestation, the US armed forces have also formed a battleground in battles over sex, sexual violence, and sexuality: the focus of this 15 CAT module. Organised into three parts, this 15 CATS second-year option module will explore different facets of sex - as a problem and resource - for the US military over the decades since World War II.

Students will first consider the ways in which (heterosexual) sex has been construed, implicitly or more explicitly, as a "reward" for men's military service, and the consequences of this sexual prerogative for militarized communities in the United States as well as overseas. The second section of the module assesses how women have been recruited into and deployed by the US military since 1945, examining debates over women's inclusion in combat roles and how gender has been "weaponised" in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The module concludes by analysing questions of sexual violence, homosexuality and transexuality in the military, allowing students to historicise present-day struggles over who is permitted to serve - in which capacities, and under what terms - in various branches of the US military.