“During their time in France, the GIs bought an extraordinary amount of sex. Prostitution became a widespread phenomenon during the years 1944-45 because sex was the one good not available at the local military store.” – Mary Louise Roberts
This quote is from Mary Louise Roberts’ book, What Soldier’s Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France. The book is about, well… exactly what you’d expect from the subtitle. It’s about all the sexing that GI’s were doing after liberating France from the Germans. And oh man, was there a LOT of sex!
What I loved about this book is that it takes on an interesting/controversial topic. Many people, who’ve never served their country and/or fought in a war, have a type of mythos surrounding war and the military. As though soldiers stop being people when fighting and merely become “soldiers.” But the truth is that a soldier is still just a person, and guess what, people like sex.
[pullquote]”Comprised of the contact of flesh and the exchange of bodily fluids, the sexual encounter between soldier and prostitute could not have been more intimate. At the same time, however, such intimacy became deeply politicized as it crossed national borders.”[/pullquote]Anyone who’s served in the military, or who enjoys history, knows the stories… it happened in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even Iraq. I had one friend tell me that “If you’re ever in Baghdad … just go to the drycleaners on base and tell them you lost a red sweater, then a few minutes later they’ll send a girl to your room.”
Now, with me sharing that red-sweater story, and Roberts’ sharing her stories, a lot of people will become upset that these stories, no matter how truthful, shouldn’t be told because of the light in which they present soldiers. That’s a bunch of bullarky. No soldier fights and risks his life just to have history whitewashed. Interesting stories should be told, no matter how they make someone/something look. And a story about the liberation of France, told from the POV of prostitutes, is definitely an interesting story that needs to be told.
Here’s the beginning of Chapter 5: The Silver Foxhole, to give you an idea of what you’re in for:
“The liberation of Paris was a precarious time for prostitutes like Marie-Therese Cointre, who had plied her trade with the Germans. In August 1944, a neighbor invited her to go out to welcome Charles de Gaulle. “If you want to get a punch in the mouth, that’s fine, but I’m not going!” she replied. Cointre knew all too well that the French Resistance of FFI was publicly shaving the heads of women who had slept with Germans during the occupation. In the turbulence of the Liberation, the FFI sometimes failed to make the distinction between a professional prostitute and a French woman guilty of “horizontal collaboration.”
If you’re interested in history, sex, and prostitution, pick up a copy of the book (but be forewarned, the author does a bit of political proselyting–just keep that in mind.)