“Monogamy: An Observation”
From April 1971 until late January of 1972, I was a U.S. Army Lieutenant commanding an air defense missile battery in Camp Howze South Korea.
Although I do not know the exact numbers, it was my understanding at the time, that there were about 50,000 American soldiers in South Korea and about 3 times that many Korean prostitutes. Interestingly enough, I suspect the number of prostitutes to be a more accurate number than the number of US soldiers as in every Korean village or city of any size, there was a Venereal Disease (VD) clinic and prostitutes had to be “inspected” once a week and have their VD card punched that they were free of disease. Hard to believe now but normal for that day and time.
Life in Korea as a Korean woman was not easy. Camp Howze was located north of Seoul in a rice farming area with only small villages, dotted here and there and a woman either worked in the fields as a wife or daughter of a farmer or was a prostitute. Many women became prostitutes because they family sold them when they were only girls to some older prostitute who was their pimp providing clothing, shelter and food in return for keeping most of the money from their prostitution activity.
When I was sent to Korea, I was part of a completely new unit that had been formed in El Paso, Texas the year before. Ever soldier in the unit had either come straight from basic training and was the best of the best or was a highly experienced non-commission officer or NCO as the colonel who formed the unit had been in the personnel section of the Pentagon and had hand picked his new unit's soldiers.
So in 1971, about 200 men, most under the age of 22 and unmarried were sent from the United States and our culture to South Korea. At first, many of the soldiers did not know what to make of all the prostitutes available to them but after a while, most soldiers did frequent the small bars, which were in every little town or village.
Prostitutes ranged from very high class and thus expensive to very low class and a guaranteed penicillin shot or perhaps more than one (anyone who had to go the camp doctor for catching a VD more than once a month, had to attend lectures on how to select a better class of woman!). Near the end of the month when a soldier was usually out of money, a low class prostitute could be had for as little as an US Army ball point pen. The highest class prostitutes usually only hung out at the Officer’s club and could run up to $20 or more per night!
And so, 200 horny men were let loose on a prostitute population of at least 3 or 4 times than many and at first, many of the soldiers tried to go through every prostitute in the region. Something I almost expected and accepted but then, after being there for about 3 or 4 months, something strange started to happen. Instead of most soldiers being with a different prostitute every night or when ever they were not on duty, most selected one and “settled down.” What I mean by “settled down” is that they actually moved some of their belongings to the hooch or small house of the prostitute and the soldier and prostitute took up living together. There was no economic advantage to this movement to monogamy, rather all I could see was that monogamy was the natural or preferred state for men. I know, I know, our media and others seem to convey that men, all men, have affairs and monogamy is something women prefer and men do not but that is not what I observed in South Korea.
Given every opportunity to be with a different woman every night, soldiers eventually decided to select only one and then stay with that one. Strange, isn’t it! Oh, I do not mean to say that every one of the 200 soldiers "settled down", as there were married soldiers like me that never bought the services of a prostitute and some soldiers were with a different woman every night but of those soldiers who did "use" prostitutes, the overwhelming majority settled into a monogamist relationship.
When I returned from Korea, I sent the Army a letter suggesting I study this phenomenon to determine if there was some sort of education or other actions that the Army could take to improve soldier moral but I never heard a thing back from the Pentagon.