Ordering the US military to enlist openly homosexual men and women is being pushed as a civil rights matter, with everyone quietly ignoring the “elephant in the living room”: sexual activity.

A similar “elephant” was ignored when women were integrated with their male colleagues in the military. Yes, there was a fairly high pregnancy rate, but if I remember correctly the “disability” from pregnancy in women did not raise women’s total disability rate any higher than that of their male colleagues, who often were injured from accidents and other risky behavior.

The problems of sex in the military is not new. “The Greatest Generation” was indoctrinated with scary films, and could be arrested if they developed an STD (which in pre penicillin days was hard to treat and effectively disabled the soldier). On the other hand, those of us with uncles and cousins who fought know well about the jokes of “don’t drop the soap in the shower”, that General Chennault provided brothels for his “Flying Tigers” to cut down sick days from STD’s, or the British complaints that the Yanks were “overfed, oversexed, and over here”.

So have things changed since the time when Voltaire quipped:”Depend on it. when 30,000 men engage in a pitched battle against a similar number of enemy soldiers, probably 20 thousand on each side have the pox (i.e. syphilis).? Probably not.

So what about the US Military now? (Shhh…don’t want to cause a scandal).

In the past, the Philippines was famous for “rest and relaxation”, to the horror of local feminists. On the other hand, there are enough foreign born wives of military personnel to suspect not everyone was waiting for the girl next door.

But now, the military is serving in Islamic countries where chastity is important, and hanky panky can result in the woman’s death for dishonoring her family. So unlike their dads, exchanging candybars for a honeypot is a no-no.

Today’s StrategyPage has an article on this: Morale: No Sex, please, We’re American Soldiers”.

…General Order Number 1. That means imposing a “no booze, no sex” rule on troops in the combat zone. The alcohol prohibitions apply on or off base, as do the prohibitions on sex, marrying locals or even gambling. Troops are encouraged to spend more time in the gym, or with their video games, or praying. Troops having sex with each other is generally tolerated, although that can cause trouble as well. Only about ten percent of the troops in combat zones are female, and not all are single or in the mood…

Of course, there are those overseas contract workers in the Green Zone who might be willing to make a few extra dollars to send home (but if caught will be sent home). There are outlets in nearby countries. And, as noted, if you are lucky, one of your fellow (female) soldiers will be friendly in more ways than one.

Of course, all of this is hushed up unless things get out of hand, and a unit’s effectiveness is compromised by too many pregnancies, rape accusations, and fights over who gets the girl.

So what will gays bring into the mix?

The problem is not that gays will serve in the military. They already do.

What is being discussed is that changing the law means openly gay men will be allowed to serve, including those who see the military as an opportunity for sexual opportunities (again, some women join for that reason).

In other words, every problem associated with women in the military, from sexual tension in mixed sex units to sexual activity, to sexual harassment, to rape, But all of this “normal’ behavior will become more complicated if a gay man propositions, has sex with, or rapes the wrong man, because of the overtones of horror that many men have of homosexual activity.

Then there is the problem of infectious disease such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, which is more common in high risk populations,which includes multiple sexual partners, certain sexual practices more commonly associated with MSM, and with drug use.

In summary, it comes to the question of “zipper control”. Of course, no one wants to talk about it, because although every public health expert knows that high risk behavior is more common in the gay community, in the military, you have to judge an individual’s behavior.

Lose the “Zipper control” and you end up with problems with military morale, and the best soldiers will leave.

Inject Hollywood values into the military, values that sees no problem with 600 partners a year or quickies in the linen closet, but reprimands a Baptist deacon for saying he believes marriage is ordained by God as being for one man and one woman, and you will have a big problem no matter who is involved.

Recruit people based on their ability to keep military discipline, and the military will be able to cope.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. She blogs at Makaipa blog.

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