In the follow up to Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recent announcement that all combat jobs will be open to women, there have been several articles highlighting men’s fears about working with women on the frontline. In particular, a survey of Special Operations men found that the majority would prefer not to work with women, and that some held serious “fears” and “concerns”- especially in relation to women’s apparently unpredictable bodies. That’s right, the Special Forces- the tip of the spear, the elite of the US military- are scared about the three P’s: periods, pregnancy and PMS. Most of these discussions pit women’s unpredictable, leaky, and fragile bodies against men’s stable, solid, and predictable ones. But is that true? Well, if folks want to take the debate to this level, its worth considering what science tells us about men’s creaky, leaky, fluctuating and hormonal bodies and how this might impact their combat readiness.
So, I’ve compiles a list of 3 ways men’s bodies might be a liability in combat. It starts with- you guessed it- unexpected erections (bet you didn’t expect to see that arrangement of words in an IR blog post today).
1. Unexpected Erections: Did you know that men, on average, get 11 erections a day? That can be a serious physical liability in an intense combat situation. If we are going to talk about unexpected pregnancy or women’s PMS, we should talk about men’s boners too. Sounds silly? Well, it is actually a serious consideration. It should be noted that erections aren’t just about sexual arousal, many men experience “reflex erections, which can happen when a man is nervous, scared, angry, or under stress.” Sounds like a definite combat liability- particularly with younger male troops. Also, men can get unexpected erections due to the need to urinate, which can be a reality for soldiers travelling or in action in the field. All these fears about women ‘holding it’ and getting bladder infections in combat might be nothing compared to the risk of men ‘holding it’ and getting an erection. I’ll spare you all the jokes about negligent discharge (ok I won’t), but in all seriousness, we need to ask if men’s unexpected erections put troops at risk.
2. Testosterone is unpredictable and fathers loose it rapidly: Continue reading