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Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes

The Regulation of Female Sexuality during World War II

Marilyn Hegarty

Publication Year: 2008

Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes offers a counter-narrative to the story of Rosie the Riveter, the icon of female patriotism during World War II. With her fist defiantly raised and her shirtsleeves rolled up, Rosie was an asexual warrior on the homefront. But thousands of women supported the war effort not by working in heavy war industries, but by providing morale-boosting services to soldiers, ranging from dances at officers' clubs to more blatant forms of sexual services, such as prostitution.

While the de-sexualized Rosie was celebrated, women who used their sexuality—either intentionally or inadvertently—to serve their country encountered a contradictory morals campaign launched by government and social agencies, which shunned female sexuality while valorizing masculine sexuality. This double-standard was accurately summed up by a government official who dubbed these women“patriotutes”: part patriot, part prostitute.

Marilyn E. Hegarty explores the dual discourse on female sexual mobilization that emerged during the war, in which agencies of the state both required and feared women’s support for, and participation in, wartime services. The equation of female desire with deviance simultaneously over-sexualized and desexualized many women, who nonetheless made choices that not only challenged gender ideology but defended their right to remain in public spaces.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to several individuals and institutions who supported me during the years that I researched and wrote this book. From the beginning, Dr. Leila J. Rupp and Dr. Susan M. Hartmann have been staunch supporters; I am deeply grateful to both of them. To the anonymous readers of the manuscript, I thank you for your time and effort;...

Abbreviations List

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p. xi

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pp. 1-11

In 1995, as the United States celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, and in 2004, as it celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, the country remembered and honored the heroism, hardship, and sacrifice that characterized the war years. For the most part the retelling focused on men and military matters. The story of World War II has not, however, been entirely gender blind. The...

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1. The Long Arm of the State

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pp. 12-41

Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in June 1942, nine hundred girls and women were arrested on morals charges in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. These arrests came about as a result of the efforts of local, state, and federal government, assisted by various social agencies, which were launching a campaign to control the spread of venereal disease during wartime through the suppression of prostitution....

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2. Prelude to War

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pp. 42-60

While the military sector realized that, in the event of war, plans for military engagements would necessitate more modern tactics and techniques, both the military and other government officials continued to look to the past for strategies to fight against venereal disease and the so-called reservoirs of disease—prostitutes. Hence, the roots of the sexual discourse that influenced World War II policies were deeply...

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3. “Reservoirs of Infection”: Science, Medicine, and Contagious Bodies

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pp. 61-84

The wartime definition of contagious bodies was a product of discourses of medicine and science, including the social sciences. These discourses include not only those circulating during the 1940s but also those of the preceding decades. Ideologies, theories, stereotypes, attitudes, and perceptions of gender, class, ethnicity, and race that surfaced...

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4. “A Buffer of Whores”: Military and Social Ambivalence about Sexuality and Gender

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pp. 85-109

The problems emerging from the ambivalent policies surrounding wartime gender and sexuality were seldom openly addressed. However, during one of the official discussions regarding military appropriation of female sexuality to meet men’s sexual needs, Dr. Sheldon Glueck posed a few difficult, but illuminating, questions. “Here are the practical issues,” he said. “In the first place you prevent prostitution; in...

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5. “Spell ‘IT’ to the Marines”: The Contradictory Messages of Popular Culture

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pp. 110-127

During the war years, print media functioned as a site of mobilization and control where the tangled themes of sexualized morale maintenance and transgressive sexuality played out in all their complexities and ambiguities. Popular magazines, in particular, served as dispensers of wartime propaganda, including propaganda aimed...

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6. Behind the Lines: The War against Women

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pp. 128-155

Throughout the previous chapters, women have been perceived through an official and primarily male gaze. While the authoritarian gaze continues to frame the narrative, this chapter also provides a brief glimpse of the experiences of actual women ensnared by the wartime campaign. We encounter some women who overtly resisted widespread repression, as well as the more general resistance to accepting

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7. Conclusion

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pp. 156-163

In the preceding chapters we have followed the workings of a large-scale and multifaceted wartime campaign to control and prevent venereal diseases in the armed forces through the repression of prostitution. By focusing on the apparatus of the state and, in particular, the SPD during mobilization and wartime, we have also seen the unfolding...

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Appendix 1: The Eight Point Agreement

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pp. 165-166

It is recognized that the following services should be developed by State and local health and police authorities in cooperation with the Medical Corps of the United States Army, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery of the United States Navy, the United States Public Health Service, and interested voluntary organizations:...

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Appendix 2: The May Act

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pp. 167-168

An Act to prohibit prostitution within such reasonable distance of military and/or naval establishments as the Secretaries of War and/or Navy shall determine to be needful to the efficiency, health, and welfare of the Army and/or Navy....

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Appendix 3: Federal Agencies: The Social Protection Division

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pp. 169-171

The SPD, established in March 1941 operated, at first, out of the Office of the Coordinator of Health, Welfare, and Related Defense Activities. After a series of reorganizations, the SPD became a division of the OCWS established within the FSA. During mobilization and wartime the OCWS operated to develop and coordinate programs to meet emergency...


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pp. 173-226


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pp. 227-243


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pp. 245-250

About the Author

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p. 251

E-ISBN-13: 9780814790823
E-ISBN-10: 0814790828
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814737040
Print-ISBN-10: 0814737048

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 229444695
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes

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Subject Headings

  • Sexual ethics for women -- United States -- History.
  • Women -- Sexual behavior -- United States -- History.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- United States.
  • Soldiers -- Sexual behavior -- United States.
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