I’m of two minds about What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France. On the one hand, the author creates a lively and (according to relatives who lived through it) accurate portrait of France at the end of World War II, complete with extreme deprivation and naked curiosity for the American soldiers. On the other, she puts forward her unrelenting view that the military authorities motivated soldiers solely by the prospect of sex with (supposedly easy and sex-obsessed) French women, and although it’s easy to believe that much sex ensued, the motivational claim seems widely overblown. Isn’t it the case that any army in any country at any time has to contend with undesired sexual behavior on the part of some of its soldiers?
In fact, the author seems happy to interpret any behavior as sexually motivated — in language that is terrifically heavy, as when she states that the parading of shaved women who had supposedly slept with German soldiers was “an attempt to regain virility by reestablishing dominion over women’s bodies”. I suppose that’s why women were so eager to help with the taunting, to regain their virility… Too bad, it’s refreshing to read a book that’s not all about military exploits.