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Soldier Boys and Girls Together Spell S-E-X

The recent spectacle of Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller being grilled concerning the Facebook nude-photo scandal before an “irate” Senate panel—including women such as Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen exercising their (as the black celebrity Janelle Monáe would phrase it) “vagina power over men”—provided an hilariously entertaining theater of the absurd for those realists among us.  If they’re insistent on “getting to the bottom of things,” I think they’re late to the party.  That, in a literal sense, seems already to have been accomplished.  Ladies, who the hell do you think you’re kidding?

The acclaimed writer James Gould Cozzens won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1948 novel Guard of Honor, noted for its exceptional verisimilitude depicting military life, in which near the conclusion the inevitability is aptly portrayed of an upstanding male captain and female lieutenant, when thrust into a stressful state of propinquity, succumbing to the “temptations of the flesh.”  Furthermore, one might recall that Earnest Hemingway begins his classic war novel A Farewell to Arms with allusions to the central role of the Italian army brothel and the young soldiers’ preoccupation with sex.  As for the nude photos causing the present uproar directed at the male Marines, quite a number of the female pictures were obviously “posed”—if you get the implication.  (Yes, I confess I peeked, but that’s all part and parcel of doing conscientious research!  Ahem!)

Time magazine, long known for its politically liberal slant, ran an uncharacteristic cover story in 1992 titled “Sizing Up the Sexes: Why Are Men and Women Different?” in which it was asserted that scientifically we are learning that “gender differences have as much to do with the biology of the brain as with the way we are raised.”  Now, throw in the obvious multifarious physical differences as well and we have two creatures that are biologically complementary and meant to function that way for the preservation of the race.  Not “same-same” and interchangeable as some gender-redefining, social-architecture-busting feminists seem hell-bent on trying to prove, much to the detriment of society in general and military cohesion in particular.

Let’s be clear, I’m not referring to the entire spectrum of problems associated with integrating young males and females into the same rigorous combat units—more broken bones, prolapsed uteri, costly pregnancies, harassment issues, etc.  No, I’m alluding only to the intractable challenge of preventing these high-hormoners from veering off mission to (framing it in Shakespearean terms) create the “beast with two backs”: a detour degrading both unit readiness and efficiency.  And eventually wasting the taxpayers’ money with Congressional hearings, pompous speeches and fatuous testimony.

Believe me, I know whereof I speak.  During the Vietnam War era, I was assigned in a civilian capacity with every branch of military service.  (Never mind in what capacity—those who know me, already know; those who don’t, don’t need to know.)  It was the opportunity of a lifetime to observe human nature, and to form certain conclusions about said behavior.

One WW II veteran I worked with related to me how during the war, stateside, he had been assigned shore patrol duty.  One night he observed a WAVE in the park beside the base with her skirt up straddling a public water fountain.  He rushed over and demanded an explanation!  She blushingly explained she’d just consummated a relationship with a sailor in the bushes and now was attempting to douche away any consequences.  A unique solution, perhaps, but not an atypical problem, he opined.  And speaking of unique solutions, one airman described to me how he and a female cadet, worried their bunk might bang against the wall, fitted their combat boots on the legs of the bed to prevent slippage.

When I was stationed in Bangkok, Thailand, I was billeted in the Chao Pia Hotel, the transient lodging for military officers and location of the Officers’ Club.  I remember passing the time of day at the bar with a captain from a base down south who was there on leave for a few days.  He was trolling for “a score,” and declared he’d never failed to connect with some servicewoman also on leave looking for a little action.  Never, he claimed, had he needed to waste his time or money on prostitutes.  Smooth operator!

On another occasion I was drinking beer in a German village with the Army first sergeant of the post’s HQ detachment, and, getting into his cups at one point, he confided to me that the previous day he’d gone to deliver some paperwork for the post XO.  Knocking on the office door and getting no response, he found it unlocked and proceeded to walk in, only to observe out of the corner of his eye the captain and his secretary on the office couch engaging in an “afternoon delight.”  He kept his eyes straight ahead, dropped the papers in the inbox and beat a hasty retreat, locking the door as he left.  Well, in the XO’s defense, the secretary wasn’t actually in the military (a German national married to a soldier in Vietnam).  And a real hottie!  I swear, I’m not making this stuff up!

As the obsession with interspersing women more and more into combat roles with men proceeded in the 90s, I questioned a policeman acquaintance of mine about his experiences when a soldier in the Gulf War.  “There seemed to be a lot of hanky-panky back during the Vietnam War among servicemen and women,” I declared.  “What did you observe during the Gulf War when they were even more commingled?”

“Oh my God!” he exclaimed, and shook his head, laughing.  “Everybody was hosing everybody.  And many were parlaying that to their own advantage.”

Well, so there it all is.  And yes, I have taken note and discussed this with female veterans, getting a high degree of corroboration, but in deference to a sense of residual chivalry, it just doesn’t feel proper to reveal the details.  It would seem that at least back in the old WW II days, they tried to maintain some semblance of propriety, separating the women from the men into the WAC, WAF and so on, commanded mostly by women.  Perhaps we should consider reinstituting those branches with separate barracks from the men divided by a barbed-wire entanglement.  Then at least in the dark of night with the clandestine movements back and forth they’d all be getting much more proficient at navigating an obstacle course.  Maybe somebody should run that by Senator Shaheen?

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Mark Scheel
Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.

4 comments to Soldier Boys and Girls Together Spell S-E-X

  • mistermuse

    I’ve have to take your word for all the military hanky-panky, Mark, because I witnessed none during my two years as a draftee back in the early ’60s (admittedly all spent stateside) — not that your accounts surprise me, but I don’t see their relevance to unwanted or forced sex in individual cases, if you’re implying that anything goes because boys will be boys and girls will be girls. I doubt that’s what you mean, but it sort of came across that way to me.

  • Hi mistermuse,

    Good to see your comment. No, there’s nothing in the piece that alludes to rape per se, unless someone wants to stretch the definition to Facebook, a bridge way too far in my opinion. Well, you must have served in a protected shell somehow! Ha. Of course, at that time they hadn’t mixed the genders as they have now. Believe me, what I related only scratches the surface, and remember I didn’t relate the females’ accounts–some more shocking than the guys.

    Hope you got your water problem solved!


  • Don Frankel


    Thank you for this article because when I first saw this story on the internet I just thought it was silly and dismissed it. I didn’t even read about it. I should never do that because now I’ve learned that young men and women have been having sex! OMG! Who knew? And young men looking at nude pictures of women! Perfidy! And young women posing for pictures nude! More perfidy if that’s possible.

    But this reminds me of an old baseball story. A young Mickey Mantle who had gotten married in the off season singled and was on first base. The older veteran playing first asks Mantle. “Hey Mickey you got any nude pictures of your wife?” A bewildered young Mickey blurts out. “No.” And the old veteran asks. “You wanna buy some?”

  • Don,

    I hesitated to put that story out because I knew it would be terribly shocking to some. Yes, who knew! LOL 😉 And thanks for reminding me what we’re really dealing with here–PERFIDY!

    That’s a great Mantle story–hadn’t heard that one.


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