In the film ‘Full Metal Jacket’ the main character, Joker, and his friend are propositioned by a prostitute while enjoying some R&R. This scene has become a part of how we view the Vietnam war, the rest of the film helped too. It also helped to further to acceptance of prostitution around military bases. It is generally accepted that when soldiers go to war, they also go to prostitutes. Prostitution has a history in war, and a history for the US military. During World War II ‘Comfort Women’ were made available to soldiers of the Japanese army, and later, the US army. These women were often kidnapped, tricked, or otherwise ‘forced’ (the promise of money in impoverished areas was plenty of reason, bell hooks wrote that ‘being oppressed means the absence of choices’). These women, they were actually often young girls, so ‘women’ will no longer be used in this post, were treated like cattle and often transported with the weapons in what were called forward pill boxes (basically, a coffin) from base to base following the troops. The numbers are estimated to be around 200,000 in this system of sexual slavery. One eyewitness estimates that these girls, ‘serviced’ as many a 25-30 men a day. Many were also raped in addition to this (I would argue that rape was inherent given the nature of their ‘recruitment, and treatment within this system).
Ok, but this is a prevention blog post…where’s the prevention?
Prostition around military bases is actually illegal and against military policy for the US military.
So it isn’t an issue, right?
Clearly, the military needs to enforce their own policies better…
But like in every other prevention post RCASA has written, the change needed is a cultural change. We, civilians and soldier alike, need to change the way that we look at ‘the oldest profession.’ Prostitution has gotten much more airplay in recent years under the title ‘human trafficking.’ This is great, however, we need to change the dialogue to discuss real solutions aiming at the commodification of bodies, most specifically women and children. This means changing the way that we look at sex work. We need to stop vilifying sex workers, and focus on changing the education system so that everyone gets a fair education. We also need to increase economic opportunities for our underserved communities so that sex work isn’t the only viable option. Rejecting racism is a clear step forward in ending prostitution around our military bases (there is an inherent racism in this issue). So long as we view others as ‘others,’ we will continue to see these kinds of atrocities.