With the most dangerous combat positions opening to women, an age-old question resurfaces: How do we deal with sexual attraction—and harassment—on the front lines?

Late into her deployment to Iraq, Lieutenant Laura Westley, along with some of her fellow soldiers, decided to go skinny-dipping in the pool at one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. They were all young, naked, trained to peak physical condition—and away from the prying eyes of commanders. As she swam, Westley began to fool around with a male soldier in her unit.

Westley recounts this scene in her memoir, War Virgin. “Screw this good Christian girl image and marrying my high school sweetheart,” she writes. “I just lived through a war…. It’s time for me to free myself. And man, was I horny.”

When Westley first went to war, she was a deeply naive virgin thrust into a unit filled with testosterone-fueled young men. The experience changed her, and when she returned to civilian life, she started working to foster open discussion about the intersection of sex and military life. “I don’t want what happened to me to happen to other people,” she says.


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