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Sex and War Propaganda

Updated on April 23, 2020
World War 2 Propaganda Poster, depicting a Japanese man as a dangerous lurid deviant. Grotesque.
World War 2 Propaganda Poster, depicting a Japanese man as a dangerous lurid deviant. Grotesque.

One of the obvious purposes of propaganda is to make you revile and fear an enemy. Of course, this is done by making the enemy look sleazy, brutal, animalistic and propaganda, ironically, preys on people's base fears and prejudices.

We have sex hang-ups. I guess you must know that. Such hang-ups are rooted in fear and a good dose of hate and even self-loathing. It is probably one of the easiest hang-ups for the propagandists to take advantage of.

So, how have they taken advantage of this basic fear and hang-up, our weird uneasiness about sex? I will go through four decent examples of how propagandists have used our basic anxiety about sex against us to turn us against our so-called enemy and to take up the side of the government. Actually, I've also slipped in an extra example that isn't entirely related to war, but it is the same kind of propaganda as the other examples.

Sometimes the propaganda ploys have worked, sometimes not. Let's explore.

Another grotesque racist image of a Japanese man.
Another grotesque racist image of a Japanese man.

Anti-Japanese Propaganda During World War 2

I think it goes without saying that there was heavy-duty propaganda against the Germans and Japanese during World War 2. Whether you agree with this tactic or not, it becomes very disconcerting how the propaganda against the Japanese took very racist undertones with a heavy emphasis on sex. All of the propaganda was fear-mongering and hateful, and mainly an effort to get people to buy war bonds it seems, but the venom directed at the Japanese had a strong element of sexual fear of a dark race violating "our women". This becomes all the more disturbing when you consider that Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps here in the US during this era. Look at the anti-Japanese posters from that era to the right and below, in addition to the one above.

Nazi Propaganda Films Against Jews

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, worked overtime trying to convince the German public that the Jewish people were a menace. He produced films that depicted Jews like rodents and the men like they were rapists after German women. This is an old game of racists trying to incite hatred.

The Nazi propaganda film, Jud Suss (1940 Nazi version) was the epitome of disgusting propaganda meant to characterize the men of a race as vile predators. But this is typical of venom, gossip and propaganda. Of course, it was used to justify brutality.

Jud Suss poster
Jud Suss poster

Jessica Lynch Debacle

During the Iraq War of the early 2000s, Jessica Lynch and her group had been struck by a bomb while they were traveling in their vehicles. She was taken to a hospital and cared for. Meantime, our government claimed she was a hero who got in a gun battle with Iraqis and that she was raped and brutalized by her captors. Hospital staff were horrified to hear this news, because it wasn't true; her doctor there examined her and saw no sign of sexual assault. Lynch herself said the story of her fighting off the enemy, under fire, definitely wasn't true and many have stated that the "daring" rescue of her by US Army Rangers from the hospital was mostly staged and created unnecessary damage to the hospital. It was said by hospital staff that there was no reason to storm the hospital and that there were plans to return her to the Americans anyway.

Just another example of propaganda depicting the men of a race as vile predators to justify violence against them and also to rally people against them. Quite disgusting.

Birth of a Nation: Pro-KKK Film Supported by President Woodrow Wilson

Indeed, Birth of Nation was screened at the White House under Wilson's administration. He had high praise for the film.

The film was directed by famed movie maker DW Griffith, and chronicles a "heroic" Ku Klux Klan during Civil War and Reconstruction eras in the South battling animalistic blacks who try to defile white women. The Klan eventually restores order and also restores white supremacy in the South.

The film is quite a piece of fiction and tragically sparked the resurgence of the Klan, justifying years of terrorist attacks on African Americans. While the film was not made as war propaganda, it was propaganda justifying a sort of war on African Americans; in addition to defending the South's position during the Civil War.

Quite abhorrent and another good example of the horrors of propaganda.

Scene from Birth of a Nation. Most major characters who were supposed to be African-american were white actors in black face.
Scene from Birth of a Nation. Most major characters who were supposed to be African-american were white actors in black face.

So, there you have it, four prime examples of propaganda using racial and sexual fears to justify brutality and bloodshed, causing problems for years to come.


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