Don't be a slave to sex - Part Two
Sex as a psychological weapon, submission and the last days of Rome.
This is Part Two of an extract from the chapter ‘Don’t be a slave to sex’, from the instant Sunday Times bestseller, Free Your Mind: The new world of manipulation and how to resist it, by Patrick Fagan and I.
High up on the Judean mountains, six miles north of Jerusalem, rests the ancient city of Ramallah. In Arabic it means ‘God’s height’. The city is so ancient, some buildings contain masonry from the period of Herod the Great. It has seen more than its fair share of conflict over the millennia, including in March 2002, when tanks rolled into Ramallah, as the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched Operation Defensive Shield, the largest military operation in the West Bank for decades.
Between the thudding helicopter rotors and the sharp pops of automatic gunfire, the family homes of Ramallah were besieged by noises of an altogether different kind. Among the ancient stone walls, modern television sets panted and groaned, discharging one of the oldest weapons of war: sex.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported how, according to irate residents, Israeli troops had commandeered three Palestinian TV stations in Ramallah and begun broadcasting pornography. An American consulate employee confirmed to the New York Times that the programmes were being aired.
During the conflict, people – religious and conservative people no less – would be switching on the televisions for news and information only to experience the psychological shock of viewing pornography. One Palestinian mother, Reema, told the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘I have six children at home; they have nowhere to go with what is going on here and can’t even watch TV. It’s not healthy really. I think the Israelis want to mess with our young men’s heads.’ Another mother, Anita, complained about ‘the deliberate psychological damage caused by these broadcasts’.
The Israeli military confirmed they had taken over the TV stations and interrupted the programming, but blamed Palestinian leaders for the pornography. Whoever was responsible, what’s certain is that pornography was used as a psychological weapon of war – and not for the first time.
All key combatants in the Second World War used pornography as part of their psychological operations, mostly dropping sexual leaflets on the front lines in an attempt to divide and demoralise enemy soldiers. One leaflet dropped by the Germans, for example, showed an American sergeant lying in bed with a British girl, swooning, ‘You Americans are so different.’ The back of the leaflet reads, ‘The Yanks are putting up their tents in merry old England. They’ve got lots of money and loads of time to chase after your women.’
Sometimes the weaponisation of pornography was a bit more blunt. The US’s Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) conducted covert unconventional warfare operations during the Vietnam War. Staff Sergeant Floyd ‘Pigpen’ Ambrose had a special poster printed featuring a nude, large-breasted Asian woman, and the question in Vietnamese: ‘Who’s sleeping with your wife, and has she got jugs like these?’ As the message got more provocative, the print size got smaller. The Vietnamese soldier would have to step closer and closer to read it properly – thus stepping on the landmine Floyd had planted by the tree. Salacious curiosity would be satisfied at the expense of a foot, or perhaps a life. It was described by the author of SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam as ‘the most mind-blowing dirty trick I ever saw’.
Sex has been a weapon of war as well as a tool of interrogation and torture for aeons. Mass rape has been documented in the Bible; the Vikings pillaged, abducted and raped; and there were an estimated one million rapes that occurred as the Red Army swept into Berlin at the end of Second World War. According to the academic paper ‘Explaining wartime rape’, the most influential explanation for why this happens is strategic rape theory: ‘It is credited with spreading debilitating terror, diminishing the resistance of civilians, and demoralizing, humiliating, and emasculating enemy soldiers who are thereby shown to have failed in their most elemental protective duties.’
While the use of sex in wartime propaganda in war and strategic rape have no obvious relation to your bedroom, the point is that they convey the powerful relationship of sex to mind and spirit. Ultimately, a big part of sex as psychological warfare seems to be about submission. Sex and its myriad permutations of power and submission have propagated a world of books for the purposes of pleasurable fantasy as well as theoretical exploration. For instance, in 50 Shades of Grey, the UK’s fastest-selling book of all time, a young woman is physically, emotionally and sexually dominated by a billionaire. Then there is the famous saying that everything in the world is about sex except sex – sex is about power.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Free Mind to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.