Posted by: secondeguerremondialeclairegrube | March 22, 2015

What women do

What women do

Grüß Gott !

After the Liberation, in 1944, French women chase the American soldiers for enchanted things.

What soldiers do / Sex and the American GI in World War II France / Mary Louise Roberts / Chicago Press / 2013:

« Even if not new, however, the myth of American abundance gained new force during the war. On the one hand, the French were emerging from one of the most somber periods of their history. »

« But the most important product drawing lines of privilege between the two peoples   – sex – was French, not American. In France, remembered GI Jack P., everything was in short supply except alcoholic beverages, bread as only French could make it, and women. »

« During their time in France the GIs bought an extraordinary amount of sex. Prostitution became a widespread phenomenon during the years 1944-45 because sex was the one good not availale at the local military store. »

« Norman peasants were not without chips to play. Dairy products, beef, and alcohol – all were impossible to find in army stocks. The local French farmers were the first we dealt with. We traded them soap and cigarettes for eggs, chickens and cider. »

« So the people of France had plenty of soap and cigarettes and we had plenty of beverage and food, concluded Mark G. »

« Erotically charged and deliciously sensual, the cigarette also became a singular object of French desire. It encouraged flirtation between GIs and French women. »

« Cigarettes could be traded fo pretty much anything and would buy more than either francs or invasion money. For a pack of cigarettes, claimed Peter B., a GI in Paris didn’t have any trouble to find a prostitute to spend a night in bed with him. »

« When Walter Brown arrived in the big city, « women chased us all over the place. When we went into cafes to eat they came in and sat near us asking us to sleep with them for cigarettes. » Sex could also be had for a pack of chewing gum. »

« Many female civilians who were not prostitutes also engaged in sex for certain products. – She wants soap and cigarettes. I want a f – . » When Arthur Miller took up residence in Paris he grimed at the pretty girls swapping Luckies for a grope in the dark and concluded that French dignity had collapsed. »

« The word France in Europe and throughout the world is linked to the idea of a brothel. »

« From the French perspective, the GI presence in towns and cities had transformed the sexual attitudes of young women. Social workers heralded a new type of amateur prostitute who sold her body because the Americans had given her « the illusion of an easier life, making her reluctant to pursue serious work. A greedy attitude » had overtaken women, insisted Alfred Scheiber. »

« Tempting arguments » such as chocolate and cigarettes helped the GIs turn even honest women into bad ones. The result : women of all classes, seemingly undeterred by old prejudices, were prostituting themselves – and not strictly out of economic need. »

« The arrival of the Americans with their Camels, their chewing-gum, and their chocolate, agreed the Parisian police, had caused and outbreak of uncontrolled prostitution. The lure of American commodities was leading a whole new classes of women into the business, making the prostitute much more difficult to define. »

« As the physician Jean-Charles Bertier put it, clandestine prostitution recruits its personnel from all classes of society ; and by that fact, is indefinable. These dire warnings suggest that the threat posed by the new prostitute lay in her ability to blur two sacrosanct distinctions : between economic need and commodity desire, and between the prostitute and the respectable woman. »

« The women’s magazine Marie-Claire described how one young woman named Nicole wished her English was better so that she could lurk around Americans to beg for cigarettes or a piece of chocolate. »

« Women who « shamelessly offered » themselves to soldiers were sometimes dubbed boniches, a perjorative for « maid ». These women were often daughters of « good » families who chose to frequent the GIs as girlfriends and fiancés. »

« Fears for sexual behavior and national reputation were rooted in the occupation. A columnist for the Journal de la Marne struk a sensitive note in 1945 when the accused women seen with the Americans on the streets of Reims as being no different than wartime whores and tondues. »

« A large proportion of prostitutes, it was rumored, were married to French prisoners in German stalags. The myth of the prostitute-wife transformed sexually available women into objects of disgrace and anger. »

« During the months after the landings, commodities such as cigarettes and sex became central to how the French and Americans came to understand each other. From their pockets the GIs produced enchanted things : Hershey bars, chewing gum, Lucky Strickes. »

(…)

« During the German occupation, the maisons de tolerance operated with efficiency, but when the Americans arrived, they were overwhelmed by demands. A new type of sex worker took to the street, and sexual labor became chaotic, illegal, and unprofessional. »

« During the war, historian believe, it had been married women, in particular the wives of French prisoners of war, who out of economic desperation had serviced the sexual needs of the Nazis. Now a new generation took to the street. Remarking on the youth of this new generation, Richard referred to them as « enfants », as did Gaullist commissaires in 1945. The police also called them « très jeunes filles. »

« GI Jack P. was shocked by the youth of French whores : « As we moved deep into France, one of the things that amazed me was the number of young girls around selling sex. These girls, most of them obviously from Paris, appeared to be no more than perhaps twelve or thirteen years old. »

(…)

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« and not strictly out of economic need »

Claire GRUBE

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