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Aims and Assessment


By the end of this module students will:

  • Understand the multiple ways in which sex and sexuality - understood as a field of human behaviour, as gender identity, and as orientation - have structured US military service in the years since World War II

  • Critically assess how sex and sexuality have given rise to debates within and beyond the US armed forces over who is permitted to serve and on what terms

  • Historicize contemporary US debates about the military with reference to several decades’ past experience

  • Appreciate the ways in which class, race, gender, and sexuality intersect to complicate different individuals’ and groups’ wartime expectations and experiences

  • Make robust arguments, orally and on paper, using evidence to sustain an analytic interpretation

  • Carefully analyse a range of both secondary and primary source materials, including sources produced by active duty personnel and veterans

  • Develop skills writing in different genres with distinct audiences in mind


  • seminar participation (10%)
  • 1 x 1,500 word primary source review (40%)

  • 1 x 3,000 word policy position paper (50%) 

Assignment Instructions

Before you start writing, review this handout for guidance.

Assignment 1: Source review (40%)

Length: 1,500 words

Deadline: Wednesday week 8 (noon)

Select one of the following sources:

  • William Broyles, Jr., 'Why Men Love War,' Esquire, May 23, 2014 [first published 1984] [week 1]
  • Higashi Mineo, Child of Okinawa [week 2]
  • Rhona Marie Knox Prescott, oral history interview with Judith Kent, Library of Congress, Veterans History Project [week 4]
  • Jennifer Lundberg, oral history interview with Kara Vuic, Texas Tech University, Virtual Vietnam Archive [week 4]
  • Jane Blair, Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq (2009) *select one chapter [week 7]
  • Steve Estes, Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out (2007), ch.8, ‘The Ban’, pp.185-209 [week 8]
  • Bronson Lemer, The Last Deployment: How A Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived A Year in Iraq (2011), e-book, *select one chapter [week 8]
  • The Invisible War (2012; Amazon Prime) [week 9]

[NB: If you have identified a primary source of your own that you think would lend itself well to this exercise, feel free to run your idea by me and we can discuss its suitability as an alternative.]

Your task is to appraise your selected source as a piece of historical evidence. Your review must include a discussion of ALL the following elements:

  • Author: what do we know about the person(s) who produced this material?
  • Intended audience: who do we know/imagine was the intended audience?
  • Context: when was this source produced, and what do we need to bear in mind about the specific historical moment that gave rise to it/to which the author(s) were speaking?
  • Key points of historical significance: what are the most important points that scholars of sex and the US military can extract from this source?
  • Evaluation: how rich do you consider this material to be? Are there limitations to the source's utility? What particularities should we bear in mind about the author's perspective?

NB: The latter two elements are the most important parts of this assignment. So, devote no more than 500 words to establishing key issues of author, audience and context, and ensure that you allocate the bulk of the text to your own close reading and evaluation of the source.

Assignment 2: Policy paper (50%)

Length: 3000 words

Deadline: Wednesday week 10 (noon)

This assignment requires you to think yourself into, and articulate, the mind-set of a stake-holder in one of the policy debates that has roiled the US military since World War II over issues of gender, sex and sexuality in the armed forces.

The task has two parts. First, you should select one of the scenarios below and decide whose viewpoint you wish to articulate. This could be the vantage-point of senior army officers; of enlisted men or women; or of a civilian advocacy group (e.g. feminist and/or LGBTQ activists; faith-based social conservatives; civil rights lawyers). You will write a 2000-word long position paper to be submitted to the Department of Defense on the controversial topic at stake.

Your paper must include ALL the following elements, clearly sub-headed:

  • a definition of the problem as your interest group sees it

  • a brief historical account of how this problem has taken shape

  • a series of recommendations for tackling the situation/introducing policy changes

  • discussion of the implications: including, where appropriate, budgetary implications; likely opposition that will be encountered if your recommendations are followed; suggestions as to how the DOD best defuse hostility

  • a brief executive summary of your report

The paper should be written "in character" to the greatest possible degree. Although you should read recent scholarship to help inform your appreciation of the complexity of the situation, your paper should draw directly only from sources/evidence available at the historical moment in question.

The second element of this assignment is self-reflective: a 1000-word discussion of the process by which you researched your report; a brief survey of the academic (or other non-scholarly) literature you drew on; and an appraisal of the challenges of ventriloquizing a historical actor's viewpoint, with which you yourself may not agree.

Please double-space both elements, use footnotes where appropriate, and include a full alphabetized bibliography, listing primary and then secondary sources. All three components should form part of a single Word document or pdf when you upload this assignment to Tabula.

NB: Ensure that you pick a scenario that does not overlap with the topic of your first assignment. If you're in any doubt about this, please ask!

Scenario #1: 1946

The DoD is investigating the issue of service personnel overseas entering into relationships with non-US nationals, fathering children, and wanting to marry local women.

Scenario #2: 1968

The DoD is investigating the exponential growth of prostitution, and also soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases, in south Vietnam.

Scenario #3: 1992

The DoD is reconsidering the long-standing ban on gay and lesbian personnel serving openly in the armed forces.

Scenario #4: 2003

The DoD is considering the issue of whether to open all military occupational specialties to women.

Scenario #5: 2010

After a string of highly publicized stories of sexual assault and rape within the armed forces, the DoD is conducting a review of policy.