The notion that war is intrinsic to manâ€™s nature is dealt a powerful setback in Stan Goffâ€™s Sex and War. Goff, a former Special Forces sergeant, argues persuasively that rather than being born that way, men are made into killers by governments, corporations, and systems of power. Drawing both on his experiences in the military and on his reading of feminist writers such as Patricia Williams, bell hooks, and Chandra Mohanty â€” and as the father of a son stationed in Iraq â€” Goff journeys through wars, ideologies, and cultures, revealing the transformation of men into killers. His story encompasses not just the battlefield and the book, but the Swift Boat Veterans controversy, the eros of George W. Bush, pornography, the Taliban, and gays and lesbians in the military. Goffâ€™s remarkable ability to connect his own personal experiences to contemporary feminist criticism makes for a provocative discussion of war and masculinity.
On â€œSex & Warâ€
â€œMen should thank Stan Goff for this loving challenge to us to reject all aspects of the male dominance of our society. In his riveting blend of personal experience and thoughtful analysis, Goff stares down the most brutal aspects of masculinity without flinching, as he opens up a crucial discussion about how we can get beyond being â€œreal menâ€ and beyond the cruel institutions and practices men have created.â€
Dr. Robert Jensen
Professor, School of Journalism at University of Texas, Austin
author of â€œCitizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim our Humanityâ€ (City Lights Books, 2004)
â€œIn Goffâ€™s hands, the language of militarism, redemption, violence, sexist-misogyny, and war are prosaic yet poetic grenades, lobbed at American empire, television, the Hollywood cinematic machine with its mind-numbing trifles, religion, and neo-cons and iconoclasts like Condoleeza Rice, Rumsfeld, and Michael Moore â€“the sacred and the profane are thrashed out in this opus on sex and war. Like prophesied deliverance, Goffâ€™s insights should move those of us hitherto wishy-washy liberal-leftists, complacent hard leftists, and the seeming voices-in-the-wilderness race-gender-class radicals to rethink our strategies for bringing about a new human condition.â€
T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, (Ph.D., Brown, 1994) (Director) teaches comparative diasporic literary and cultural movements, Francophone Studies, critical race studies, feminist theory, Jazz Age Paris, film and hip hop culture. She is also Professor of French and Italian. Her books include Negritude Women (2002), Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive Narratives in French (1999), Frantz Fanon: Conflicts and Feminisms (1998). She has co-edited three volumes, the latest of which includes The Black Feminist Reader (Blackwell, 2000). She is currently working on two books, one on young black women and hip hop culture and the other on black women in Paris from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
SEX AND WAR
By Stan Goff
Reviewed by William T. Hathway
â€œStan Goff was the ultimate warrior, a combat-hardened member of the Rangers, Special Forces, and Delta Force. His conscience proved stronger than his military indoctrination, however, and he quit and turned against the stateâ€™s institution of terror. Once outside it, he devoted himself to understanding the social and psycho-sexual roots of organized violence. SEX AND WAR is his third and most ambitious book on this topic.
â€œThe book is constructed as a mosaic, and thatâ€™s a difficult art form. Each piece needs to have its own discrete integrity, and it also needs to fit together with the others into a whole.
â€œStan Goff has mastered this technique. SEX AND WAR is written in riffs and blips, in shards, with lots of edges. Some English comp instructors would give it a D for organization. But this seems the right form for this topic in our fragmented time. When the reader pulls back from the pieces, the overall pattern emerges. The book has two perspectives: in your face and off the wall.
â€œGoff writes often with grace, always with energy, and almost always with clarity, but his zest for theory sometimes propels him into convoluted, abstract sentences that require a second reading to spring forth the meaning, but the backpedaling is worthwhile.
â€œHe flashes from vivid descriptions of his military operations, to related stories of the plight of women forced to live under patriarchal militarism, to insightful renderings of the stunted psyches of warriors, to Marxist analysis of the USâ€™s violent drive for hegemony, then he connects us to the work of other writers on these issues, thus extending the discussion out in many directions.
â€œHe gives us insider reports on the military mentality that make clear the inevitability of atrocities. Then in a synaptic leap he shows that the abuse of women is a similar syndrome but much more widespread throughout society. In his portrait of a Delta Force friend turned rapist, we see how rape in all its varieties is a mainstay of patriarchy as a whole, not just its military branch.
â€œGoff was a medic, among other things, in the Special Forces. Now he emerges as a diagnostician of the pandemic pathology of our culture. And like a good medic, he has suggestions for curing us of this disease of sexualized violence.
â€œSEX AND WAR is both a personal and an analytical tour de force. Itâ€™s a book that only Stan Goff could write, and Iâ€™m very glad he did.â€
William T. Hathway is author of the novels A WORLD OF HURT and SUMMER SNOW.