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The Effects of Military Life and Combat Experiences on Human Sexuality

Dr. Kennith D. Rich, non-command lieutenant, US Army, location classified

Abstract: A study of the influences of active combat military service on human sexual behavior. Study focused on eight heterosexual adults, four male and four female, all in relationships of varying degrees of commitment but with regular active sexual contact. Study subjects were observed in their usual habits and behaviors, both on downtime and in periods of active combat deployment. Due to privacy objections by some subjects, not all subjects could be directly observed engaging in intercourse, but other behavior indications of recent sexual activity provide a reliable baseline. Results show a marked increase in sexual contact directly following active combat deployment, and also a marked decrease in discretion during sexual activity by all subjects when under the influence of adrenaline.

Keywords: Sexual Behavior, Adrenaline Effects, Combat Psychology

The present paper examines the effects of active combat deployment on sexually active couples serving together. Subject names will be withdrawn to protect doctor-patient privileges and to protect subjects from disciplinary action by higher command, due to the military practice of forbidding sexual contact between team members. The goal of this examination was to investigate the immediate effects of combat experience on the human sex drive. The working hypothesis was that the adrenaline rush and threat of bodily harm or even death experienced before and after combat would result in a greater level of sexual contact between couples. Due to army fraternization regulations, data on co-deployed couples is scarce to nonexistent, and the discovery of several sexually active couples in an actively deployed combat team allowed the author to observe this previously little-studied behavior.

It is commonly known that adrenaline is a potent aphrodisiac (1). The extreme-sport athletes focused on by Keller and McRory, however, lead lives nowhere as dangerous as the military man or woman deployed in active combat. With a job several orders of magnitude more stressful and potentially harmful to life and limb comes a directly proportional greater adrenaline high, which many active duty members actively seek out and even enjoy. Also, the military tends to attract those individuals with a pre-existing inclination towards thrill seeking via personal endangerment. (See the author's previous paper, "Adrenaline Addiction, Thrill Seeking, and Combat Effectiveness"). Females in the military tend to display an inclination towards dangerous and exiting activities and displays of bravery equal to their male counterparts. (Author's previous paper, "Definitely Not the Gentler Sex; Examples of Female Effectiveness on the Battlefield")

A preliminary interview with the study subjects turned up varying responses. As a whole, the male group was more forthcoming, with exactly one subject readily volunteering information, though taking the subject's pre-existing inclination towards attention seeking and mild narcissism this was not entirely surprising. Indeed, this one subject entirely made up for the reticence of all seven others, readily going into detail about a long and incredibly extensive sexual history. This may have been intended to make the author feel uncomfortable, but fortunately as a doctor the author was immune to such things. The seven other study subjects had an initially less forthcoming reaction; the author was told to 'mind his own goddamn business', was threatened with physical harm, was cursed at in no less than seven languages, was threatened with a reduction in rank, was threatened with having his car and civilian residence blown up, and was promised a swift and silent death should he ever broach the subject again. (For a closer look at the hostile reactions of certain personality types often found in the military to psychological help or scientific inquiry see the author's paper "Passive Aggressive and Aggressive Resistance and Ego Disorders Amongst Soldiers.")

Undeterred from this rare opportunity, the author adopted a less confrontational research method of simply observing the subjects in their normal day-to-day activities. Having written his doctoral thesis on unconscious behavioral tells the author was well qualified for this type of research. He also managed to secure the aid of several of the other soldiers in the unit as research assistants. Due to the somewhat close living conditions of the average military base, it is nearly impossible to keep any activity entirely secret, and this proved to be an extremely productive method of gathering information. Thanks to the aid of these volunteer assistants and his own observations of behavior, the author can be confident in reporting his results.

A study of the behavioral patterns of all four couples during downtime revealed sexual activity that varied from couple to couple but was well within the normal levels one would expect from individuals with healthy sex drives in the prime years of life. Interestingly, there was a small but noticeable upswing in frequency of intercourse directly following PT (Physical Training, for the non-military readers), which presents an interesting way to judge the effectiveness of a DI at stimulating combat conditions.

Before deployment in combat zones, if the study subjects were informed of their deployment any length of time before leaving base, there was a marked increase in sexual activity. Somewhat to the author's surprise, however, this did not carry to directly preceding deployment.

Observation of all eight study subjects directly prior to combat deployment revealed a marked increase in adrenaline levels and general non-sexual excitement, but interestingly little actual intercourse. Upon questioning the less threatening subjects once more, the author was told on no uncertain terms to go do something both physically impossible and morally objectionable in no less than three religions to himself, and his relationship with both his mother and the family dog was questioned. Fortunately, the lack of any sort of shame on the part of the same subject who readily volunteered his sexual history came through yet again, and the author was able to learn that prior to a mission a professional soldier generally is too focused on the mission and its requirements to indulge in sex. This was explained with a faint hint of condescension and the study subject insinuated that the author had likely never enjoyed female companionship of any sort and that the study subject rather felt sorry for him. The author chalked this up to the subject's ego complex and standing dislike of psychiatric treatment and the individual whom is tasked to provide it.

During combat the instinct to survive overtakes all other needs. Directly following combat situations and when all subjects were back in a safe place, however, was when the really interesting findings of this paper took place.

There is little doubt in the author's mind that actively serving in combat side by side is a potent aphrodisiac for a couple. Frequency of sexual encounters for all four couples increased by a factor of almost two hundred percent during the twenty-four hours directly following a combat mission. Most intriguingly, even for the most private and least cooperative of the subject couples discretion seemed to decrease in an inversely proportional manner to the level of danger just experienced and the amount of violence recently inflicted. This can be attributed to the well-known fact that intense sexual desire can overshadow common sense, judgment, and apparently whether or not the equipment being used as a support surface is highly classified and experimental.

Given the fact that members of the sexually active couples also happen to be some of the ranking officers and some of the most effective combatants on the base, the upswing in sexual contact directly following a combat mission also often leads to other soldiers seeking the council of the author, convinced that a demotion in rank/painful death by PT/general painful death will result from a recent inadvertent interruption of a couple. This is made much worse by the fact that on a cramped base some unusual locations will end up being utilized by a couple in search of some modicum of privacy, oftentimes if the couple is still riding the adrenaline high from battle somewhat loudly and without much shame.

Interestingly enough, the types of somewhat aggressive personalities that volunteer for military service also seem to be rather straightforward and shameless when it comes to intimate interactions with their sexual partners. While this is highly conducive to a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship, in light of the difficulty keeping activities entirely secret on a military base, it can be somewhat demoralizing for other soldiers on base who are not getting sex on a regular basis.

This attitude towards sex was accentuated in all study subjects in a directly proportional relationship to how much violence and danger had recently been engaged in. Directly following intense combat, even the most discreet couple was heard making use of the armory on one occasion and a helicopter on another. The more habitually shameless of the studied couples went so far as to actually make use of the desk in the author's office, which the author learned of by walking in on the activities through sheer bad timing.

Given the individuals involved, the author is still unsure if his interruption was entirely unexpected. Given the somewhat tense past relationship between the author and the most irritating of the study subjects, it is entirely possible that the object was purely to inflict mental trauma upon the author. Given the complete lack of shame from the personality of the male subject in question and an admittedly devious and impressive intellect, the object might have been to cause the author to remember the remarkably athletic, entirely unspeakable, mental trauma inducingly graphic sight whenever he sits down at that desk to do paperwork for the rest of his deployment. It is worth noting, to somewhat convey the character of the individuals involved, that the only explanation or apology offered the author was that 'his desk is just the right height, and you were supposed to be off duty for the day.'

In conclusion, the author would note that combat deployment does have a direct correlation to increased sex drive and sexual activity, and also an inverse correlation to the amount of shame displayed by a couple during the actual sexual intercourse itself. For those interested in military psychology or simply in dealing with difficult patients and situations, the author encourages them to read his forthcoming article "Trauma Therapy for the Psychological Professional; An Examination of Coping Methods for the Psychologist With Mental Scars"

Kenneth Rich is one of the preeminent experts on military psychology.

"Extreme Sports and Sex Addiction", Keller and McRory, 1986