‘Dykes’ or ‘Whores’: Sexuality and the Women’s Army Corps in the United States during World War II


Hampf, M.Michaela. 2004. " 'Dykes' or 'Whores': Sexuality and the Women's Army Corps in the United States during World War II." Women's Studies International Forum 27 (1): 13-30. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2003.12.007.

Author: M. Michaela Hampf


When the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was founded in the United States in 1943, utilizing American womanpower was a matter of military expediency. At the same time, military service provided many women with mobility, education, and greater economic and personal autonomy. Women soldiers were subject to rumors and hostility by the public and media that found the stereotypical ‘feminine’ to be irreconcilable with the stereotypically masculine ‘soldier’ and considered both lesbian and heterosexual women’s sexual agency a threat to military masculinity and established gender roles. Archival records of the US Army show that women’s sexuality was controlled by discourses of desexualization and/or hypersexualization, by policies denying their sexual agency and of their victimization. The WAC leadership created an image of the ‘‘respectable’’ female soldier based on assumptions about the class and race nature of sexual morality. During the Second World War (WWII), military psychiatrists’ focus on homosexuality shifted from criminal to medical concepts. Concerns over lesbianism in the Corps, which was the apotheosis of cultural anxieties over women’s entrance into the military, highlight the performative nature and the close connections between the categories gender and sexuality.

Keywords: homosexuality, LGBT, U.S. military, United States, World War II, gender roles, militarised masculinity

Topics: Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2004

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