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sex and the soldier


Martin Bennitt
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Hi all

Just drawing your attention to following at the Musée de l'Armée to spice up any visit to Paris you might be contemplating. Only just heard about it, but will be going along in the near future no doubt

This is the French link

http://www.invalides.org/pages/dp/CP%20Amours%20guerres.pdf

and here is an edited version of a story moved by Agence France-Presse:

enjoy, cheers Martin B

Since the face of Helen first launched a thousand ships against Troy, sex and warfare have been intimate companions. Now the way the two world conflicts of the last century affected the private lives of millions is the subject of a fascinating new exhibition in Paris.

"Loves, Wars and Sexuality 1914-1945" -- in the normally fusty surroundings of the Army Museum in the Invalides military complex -- draws on hundreds of documents, artefacts, posters and photographs to examine how society, the state and the individual deal with sex in periods of "total war."

"Our aim is to help understand sexuality better by looking at it through the prism of war, and understand war better through the prism of sexuality," says Fabrice Virgili, one of the curators.

"In war rules change. People are thrown together in circumstances that would never normally occur. Relationships are flung into disarray. And at the end the way men and women interact is totally different."

From the start of both wars, eroticism was harnessed by governments to encourage recruitment and to beef up martial spirit. Posters of bare-breasted women urging no surrender in 1914 France are juxtaposed with images of muscle-bound American sailors, loading phallic missiles in World War II.

The pain of separation is evoked in examples of "trench art", the handicraft created by World War I troops using shell-cases and other refuse. A diptych etched on pieces of wood sets the "clinch of war" -- two men locked in mortal combat -- against the "clinch of love" on the soldier's dreamed-of return.

Soldiers had little in the way of pornography as we know it -- the few sexually explicit items on display were the property of wealthy collectors -- but they exorcised their lust on magazine pin-ups and fantasies of their own devising.

The inside of a German blockhouse on the French Atlantic coast bears a life-size mural of an ecstatic bare-breasted woman in a shower. In an extraordinary snap-shot from World War I, a north African French soldier lies beside a sand sculpture of a naked girl on a Belgian beach.

"The nearness of death and the acceleration of time encourage a yearning for passion, pleasure, even transgression," says historian Antoine de Baecque. "But at the same time the authorities need to regulate the sexuality of their troops, because it is now a matter of state interest."

For governments at war, sex must be controlled. Mishandled it leads to indiscipline, venereal disease, spy scandals. Handled carefully, it means obedience. Handled malevolently, it is a tool of war in itself: rape has been a right of conquest since time began and the world wars were no exception.

Bordellos were set up by military authorities to channel their soldiers' urges. In World War I French troops got their own "Military Campaign Brothels" in 1918: before then only colonial troops had travelling whore-houses -- so that local girls would not be "contaminated."

Later, Germans stationed in Paris in World War II received a list of authorised "maisons closes" (brothels) -- and next to it a list of the nearest medical clinics in case of infection.

The exhibition includes a rare example of World War I American condoms -- not so different from today's -- and intimate pictures of disease-ridden organs. In a 1916 photograph Senegalese auxiliaries bare their buttocks for mercury injections to combat syphilis.

As for the terror of sexual violence, Russian propaganda posters whip up anti-German hatred with stylised imagery of ravished Soviet maidens. But the reality -- infinitely more unsettling -- is contained in a series of small black-and-white snapshots found on a German prisoner.

They are the only graphic depiction of the sexual act in the entire exhibition, and their impact is horrifying.

For the Army Museum -- just behind the Invalides church where Napoleon is buried -- "Loves, Wars and Sexuality" marks an unusual departure from its traditional displays of uniforms and weaponry, but its director General Robert Bresse -- a veteran of the Balkan wars -- says the theme is essential.

"From my own experiences commanding a thousand men and a few young women in the Balkan inferno, I know well that naivety in the field of sexuality is fatal," he said.

"Separation from loved ones, the sensation of danger, biological urges: all combine to form an explosive cocktail which it is the responsibility of every commanding officer to control."

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Hi all

Just drawing your attention to following at the Musée de l'Armée to spice up any visit to Paris you might be contemplating. Only just heard about it, but will be going along in the near future no doubt

This is the French link

http://www.invalides.org/pages/dp/CP%20Amours%20guerres.pdf

and here is an edited version of a story moved by Agence France-Presse:

enjoy, cheers Martin B

I wonder if they will discuss/show the deliberate use of sex by the deuxieme bureau (intelligence), as perhaps best exemplified by Mme Marthe Richer ( Ma Vie d'Espionne, 1937, and Mon Destin de Femme, 1974). Doc2

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