Bring Me Men
Military Masculinity and the Benign Facade of American Empire
The masculinity of those who serve in the American military would seem to be indisputable, yet it is full of contradictions. To become a warrior, one must renounce those things in life that are perceived to be unmasculine. Yet at the same time, the military has encouraged and even mandated warriors to do exactly the opposite.
Bring Me Men explores these contradictions in great detail and shows that their invisibility has been central to the process of concealing the darkest secrets of American empire. By examining case studies that expose these contradictions — the phenomenon of male-on-male rape at the US Naval Academy, for example, as well as historical and contemporary attitudes toward cleanliness and filth — Belkin utterly upends our understanding of the relationship between warrior masculinity and American empire and the fragile processes sustaining it.
Aaron Belkin is Associate Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University and Director of the Palm Center, University of California. He was a MacArthur Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford. He has published more than twenty-five books, chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles, most recently United We Stand? Divide and Conquer Politics and the Logic of International Hostility. Visit Aaron's Website
‘In this well-researched, comprehensive manuscript Belkin demonstrates rather convincingly the many contradictions and dualities inherent throughout the US military’s history when it comes to “turning men into boys” via military service. …an important, timely contribution in the academic areas of masculinity, gender studies and political science.’ — Choice: current reviews for academic libraries.
‘Probably no single person deserves more credit for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” than the author of this book. As Director of the Palm Center, Aaron Belkin effectively parried homophobic justifications for excluding gay men and lesbians from the US military, all the while learning unforgettable lessons about the complex culture of military masculinity. This book converts that wisdom into deep scholarship about, and a moral indictment of, the sexual culture at the basis of American military might. This gripping account of the strength and weakness, sadism and masochism, masculinity and femininity, boundedness and porosity, cleanliness and filth that together make up military masculinity – both at the most intimate level of a single troop’s corporeality and the vastest expanse of American imperial power – will shock even those who knew all along that inclusion in the US military would be an ambiguous triumph.’ — Janet Halley, Royall Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
‘Aaron Belkin’s fascinating, original, and authoritative book overturns conventional wisdom about military masculinity and raises important and troubling questions about warrior identity. He shows that over the past century the US military has instilled not just hypermasculinity but also its opposites – intimacy, femininity, queerness, male rape – to create gender confusion in the ranks and then offer blind obedience to authority as the remedy. A must-read book for anyone interested in gender and war.’ — Joshua Goldstein, author of War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa
‘We tend to assume that military masculinity is made through an often brutal suppression of “unmasculine” human qualities like empathy, nurturing, compassion. Aaron Belkin explodes that facile narrative, and reveals the contradictions at the core of the warrior’s identity. The implications for our understanding of gender and American culture more broadly are profound.’ — Michael Kimmel, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology
‘Just as the racial integration of the American military starting in the Korean War and the gender integration beginning with the current all-volunteer force reflected and helped shape American conceptions of race and gender, so does the recent lifting of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly mirror and shape our conceptions of sexuality, and particularly masculinity, in both the military and more broadly in society. Aaron Belkin has been the most prominent analyst of this latter process. This volume reframes our evolving understanding of sexuality and the falsity of the masculine/feminine dualism, and places this process in the context of historical, cultural, and political change in America.’ — David Segal, Director, Center for Research on Military Organization
‘Bring Me Men is a vigorous and fascinating account of military masculinity and its contradictions, its embodiment, and its links to empire. Sometimes funny and sometimes dismaying, Aaron Belkin’s book conveys a strong sense of the emotional violence behind the public face of the armed forces.’ — Raewyn Connell, author of Masculinities
‘A tour de force. Belkin reveals the cultural and historical meanings of masculinity in the military of yesterday and tomorrow, including symbolic and psychological contradictions posed by the sex and gender binaries masculine/feminine, strong/weak, dominant/subordinate, victor/victim, civilized/barbaric, clean/dirty, and straight/queer. A great contribution to contemporary scholarship and policy.’ — Gilbert Herdt, author of Moral Panics/Sex Panics: Fear and the Fight Over Sexual Rights