Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
This project focuses on interactions between US soldiers and sex workers around US military bases throughout Asia, with an emphasis on South Korea. These interactions display how the US military enforced the image of white American masculinity at home and abroad during the Cold War-era. Through these interactions, white American soldiers constructed an image of masculinity and power, while placing the impetus on the women. This construction of masculinity fits into long-standing patterns within American society and is also evident around military bases in other countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan. The first chapter provides a brief historical overview of sex workers and the US military, sex work in Korea, and the US military presence in Korea. It also outlines three justifications used by the American public to rationalize soldiers entitlement to the bodies of sex workers. Chapter Two examines depictions in American newspapers of venereal disease around US military bases in Asia, and portrayals of Asian sex workers as unhygeinic and immoral. This chapter also examines the realities of venereal disease control methods. These methods included protecting soldiers through anonymity, and controlling sex workers through mandatory quarantine and tagging. The third and final chapter examines depictions of Korean and Japanese women in novels and films of the Korean War. It explores the model of the ideal Cold War-era “American Soldier,” and how white American soldiers sexualized Asian women to affirm their masculinity and power during periods of R & R.
O'Donnell, Lydia Claire, "Constructing Cold War Masculinity: The US Military and Sex Work in Korea from 1953 to 1992" (2020). Honors Theses. 249.