“By 1972, on the eve of the American military’s withdrawal, prostitution had become an industry, the result of what Kathleen Barry calls ‘the industrialization of sex.’ That is, prostitution was not simply a matter of personal choices or of private sexual desires. There were institutional decisions, there were elaborate calculations, there were organizational strategies, there were profits. The U.S. allies–the governments of Australia, South Korea, and the Philippines–also had sent thousands of men to fight in Vietnam; they too made calculations and decisions about their male soldiers’ sexual needs and about how Vietnamese women could best meet those needs. The war stories from the soldiers in these countries have barely begun to be told in public. At the war’s end, between 300,000 and 500,000 Vietnamese women were working as prostitutes in South Vietnam. An estimated four-fifths of them were afflicted with venereal disease.”
–from Maneuvers (Enloe 2000, p. 67)
I call my mother, do you know if she was a prostitute? No, she doesn’t know. She probably was, I say, with the authority of someone who has just read a passage in a book. And then the scene from Platoon comes to mind. When I was about 7 or 8 my father gave me his blue record player and a suitcase full of 45s. I used to play “These Boots Are Made for Walking” again and again, moon boots catching on the rug in my bedroom. I’m not saying he would’ve been above paying a woman for sex. He was promiscuous and his first marriage ended because of it. But I question if my father would’ve believed a prostitute who said she was pregnant with his child. My mother a thief and liar, a no good rotten bitch, he would say. What would he have said of yours?