The Gay Bomb covers the US Air Force in glory

The USAF’s infam­ous ‘Gay Bomb’ has won an illus­tri­ous gong at this year’s pres­ti­gi­ous Ig Nobel Awards. Here’s the piece I wrote about it for the Guardian earlier this year:

Armed and Amorous

by Mark Simpson (Guardian, June 13 2007)

Look out! Take cover! Backs to the walls, boys! It’s the Gay Bomb!

No, not a bomb with fash­ion­ably styled fins, or one that can’t whistle, but rather a pro­posed “non-lethal” chem­ical bomb con­tain­ing “strong aph­ro­dis­i­acs” that would cause “homo­sexual beha­viour” among soldiers.

Since the United States Air Force wanted $7.5 mil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ money to develop it, it prob­ably involved more than the tra­di­tional recipe of a six-pack of beer.

According to the Sunshine Group, an organ­iz­a­tion opposed to chem­ical weapons that recently obtained the ori­ginal pro­posal under the Freedom of Information Act, a U.S.A.F. lab ser­i­ously pro­posed in 1994 “that a bomb be developed con­tain­ing a chem­ical that would cause [enemy] sol­diers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their sol­diers became irres­ist­ibly attract­ive to one another.” The U.S.A.F. obvi­ously had no idea how picky even horny gays can be.

Despite never hav­ing been developed, the so-called Gay Bomb is a boun­cing bomb, or per­haps a bent stick — it keeps com­ing back. The media have picked up the story of the Gay Bomb more than once since 2005 –after all it’s a story that’s too good to throw away, and, as this art­icle proves, it’s a gift for dubi­ous jokes.

Mind you, it now seems to be the case that the Pentagon didn’t throw it away either, at least not imme­di­ately. In the past the Pentagon has been keen to sug­gest it was just a cranky pro­posal they quickly rejec­ted. The Sunshine Project now con­tra­dicts this, say­ing the Gay Bomb was given ser­i­ous and sus­tained atten­tion by the Pentagon and that in fact they “sub­mit­ted the pro­posal to the highest sci­entific review body in the coun­try for them to con­sider.” The Gay Bomb was no joke.

So per­haps we should ser­i­ously con­sider probing-however gingerly — what exactly was in the minds of the boys at the Pentagon back then.

The date is key. The Gay Bomb pro­posal was sub­mit­ted in 1994 — the year after the extraordin­ary moral panic that very nearly derailed Clinton’s first term when he tried to honor his cam­paign pledge to lift the ban on homo­sexu­als serving in the U.S. mil­it­ary and that ulti­mately pro­duced the cur­rent “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) com­prom­ise that allows them to serve so long as they remain closeted and are not reported.

The newly sworn-in commander-in-chief was suc­cess­fully por­trayed by the homo-baiting right wing-and by the Pentagon itself in an act of insurrection-as a dirty pinko Gay Bomb that was ser­i­ously weak­en­ing the cohe­sion of the unit and molest­ing the noble, het­ero­sexual U.S. fight­ing man’s abil­ity to per­form his manly mis­sion. “Why not drop Clinton on the enemy?” is prob­ably what they were thinking.

The Pentagon’s love affair with the Gay Bomb also hints heav­ily that tick­ing away at the heart of its oppos­i­tion to lift­ing the ban on gays serving, which involved much emphasis on the “close con­di­tions” (cue end­less TV foot­age of naked sol­diers and sail­ors shower­ing together) was an anxi­ety that if homo­sexu­al­ity wasn’t banned the U.S. Armed Forces would quickly turn into one huge, hot, military-themed gay orgy — that American fight­ing men would be too busy offer­ing them­selves to one another to defend their coun­try. I sym­path­ize. I too share the same fantasy — but at least I know it’s called gay porn.

Whatever its motiv­a­tions or ration­al­iz­a­tions, the DADT policy of gay quar­ant­ine has res­ul­ted in thou­sands of dis­charges of homo­sexu­als and bisexu­als from the U.S. Armed Forces, even at a time when the mil­it­ary is hav­ing great dif­fi­culty mobil­iz­ing enough bod­ies of any sexual per­sua­sion and is cur­rently being pub­licly ques­tioned. But the Pentagon seems unlikely to budge its insti­tu­tional back from the pro­ver­bial wall. Its top com­mander, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, recently defen­ded the policy in out­spoken terms, say­ing: “I believe that homo­sexual acts between two indi­vidu­als are immoral and that we should not con­done immoral acts.” (The good General prob­ably didn’t mean to sug­gest that homo­sexual acts involving only one per­son or more than two were not immoral.)

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a policy that even Joseph Heller would have had dif­fi­culty sat­ir­iz­ing, may be con­fused and con­fus­ing, and it may or may not be repealed in the near future, but it clearly shows that the U.S. remains dra­mat­ic­ally con­flic­ted about itself and the enorm­ous changes in atti­tudes and beha­vior that its own afflu­ence and soph­ist­ic­a­tion have helped bring about.

After all, the Gay Bomb is here already and it’s been thor­oughly tested-on civil­ians. It was developed not by the U.S.A.F. but by the labor­at­or­ies of American con­sumer and pop cul­ture, advert­ising, and Hollywood. If you want to awaken the enemy to the attract­ive­ness of the male body, try drop­ping back issues of Men’s Health or GQ on them. Or Abercrombie & Fitch posters. Or Justin Timberlake videos. Or DVDs of 300.

Or even the U.S.‘s newly acquired British-made weapons sys­tem for deliv­er­ing global sexual con­fu­sion and hys­teria known as David Beckham.

To para­phrase the Duke of Wellington: I don’t know whether they frighten the enemy, but by God they scare the Bejeesus out of me.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

3 thoughts on “The Gay Bomb covers the US Air Force in glory”

  1. Baz: re 300, the Spartans didn’t wear leather jock­straps in battle and neither was Xerxes a drag queen. But that’s Hollywood kink for ya. The Romans were not as keen as the Greeks on all that man-on-man (or rather man-on-boy) action.

  2. I ima­gine this love bomb as a giant bottle of amyl-nitrate left opened on the battle field. Soldiers dis­card­ing their weapons and get­ting out of their gear to get all runty and for­get about the war. Fighting mor­ale would not only be dimin­ished among enemy troops but sol­diers from all sides may want to join in that great orgy! Wearing gas masks with a small can­nis­ter of amyl attached is really great for mor­ale on the bat­tle­field of love — but I digress.
    Since so many have been fired from the US armed forces for homo­sexual beha­viour, it’s clear they have been test­ing this love bomb for a while now. Only, it wouldn’t work too well against armies where it’s actu­ally not illegal to be gay and in the army. i.e. in most of the civ­il­ised world bar a few Anglo-Saxon coun­tries.
    Since the pro­ject has been abor­ted the private sec­tor must have picked up on it, man­u­fac­tured a blue pill and mar­keted it as an erectile dys­func­tion drug for sol­diers who want to get away from the gay battlefield.


  3. You men­tion 300 and it’s only neces­sary to look to the ancient Greeks to see that homo­sexu­al­ity in the ranks doesn’t harm fight­ing effi­ciency — the Romans too for that mat­ter. The Dogmatists intro­du­cing women has done more to cre­ate ten­sion. It worked the way it was done in WWII, but that’s not the way they’re doing it now. Makes me won­der if the Generals do protest too much.

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