Policing Sex and Marriage in the American Military


Policing Sex and Marriage in the American Military

The Court-Martial and the Construction of Gender and Sexual Deviance, 1950–2000

Kellie Wilson-Buford

Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series

342 pages
1 table, index


November 2018


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2018


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2018


$50.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The American military’s public international strategy of Communist containment, systematic weapons build-ups, and military occupations across the globe depended heavily on its internal and often less visible strategy of controlling the lives and intimate relationships of its members. From 1950 to 2000, the military justice system, under the newly instituted Uniform Code of Military Justice, waged a legal assault against all forms of sexual deviance that supposedly threatened the moral fiber of the military community and the nation. Prosecution rates for crimes of sexual deviance more than quintupled in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Drawing on hundreds of court-martial transcripts published by the Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces, Policing Sex and Marriage in the American Military explores the untold story of how the American military justice system policed the marital and sexual relationships of the service community in an effort to normalize heterosexual, monogamous marriage as the linchpin of the military’s social order. Almost wholly overlooked by military, social, and legal historians, these court transcripts and the stories they tell illustrate how the courts’ construction and criminalization of sexual deviance during the second half of the twentieth century was part of the military’s ongoing articulation of gender ideology. 

Policing Sex and Marriage in the American Military provides an unparalleled window into the historic criminalization of what were considered sexually deviant and violent acts committed by U.S. military personnel around the world from 1950 to 2000.

Author Bio

Kellie Wilson-Buford is an assistant professor of history at Arkansas State University.


"The author has shined a spotlight on the power and reach of the military justice system not only with regards to gender, sexuality,marriage,and family, but with regards to its power and control over military culture."—Wade P. Smith, American Journal of Sociology

“A far-reaching and harrowing analysis of the American military justice system’s policing of marital and sexual lives of service members during the second half of the twentieth century. . . . [This is] an original and important contribution to the historiography on gender and sexuality studies in the American military.”—Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Facade of American Empire

“Kellie Wilson-Buford has thrown open a surprising window on the contested workings of patriarchy. If you’re digging into the politics of marriage, read this book! If you’re exposing the militarization of morality, read this book! If you’re questioning the gendered history of the Cold War, read this book!”—Cynthia Enloe, author of The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging Persistent Patriarchy

“Essential to the study of gender, sexuality, military culture, and crime, each of which matters in distinct but related academic disciplines and to policy-making and social justice advocacy. . . . [This book] reveals the U.S. military’s practice with respect to crime, sex, and marriage in a way that will enrich the fields of gender and sexuality studies. It makes [both] careful and novel arguments.”—Elizabeth L. Hillman, president of Mills College and coauthor of Military Justice: Cases and Materials

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Author’s Note
1. Engendering Military Marriages
2. Policing International Military Marriages, 1950–75
3. Enforcing Monogamy
4. Normalizing Heterosexism and “Natural” Sex
5. Protecting the Public Morals
6. Policing Sex and Marriage, 1976–2000

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