‘Protection against the Lust of Men’: Progressivism, Prostitution and Rape in the Dominican Republic under US Occupation, 1916–24

Wright, Micah. “‘Protection against the Lust of Men’: Progressivism, Prostitution and Rape in the Dominican Republic under US Occupation, 1916–24.” Gender & History 28, no. 3 (November 1, 2016): 623–40. doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12242.
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Abstract
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This article explains the disparity between the United States (US) military government’s efforts to defend and empower local women during the first occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–24) and its reputation for tolerating sexual assault. It argues that US officials, inspired by a progressive ideology that linked the social, economic and political spheres, set out to reshape Dominican sexual and gender norms as a means to ensure political stability. Yet, these efforts fell victim to both Dominican and US Marines’ conceptions of gender and normative sexuality. Building upon a thriving body of scholarship that addresses the significance of US efforts to redefine Dominican gender norms, this article analyses the military government’s policies towards women and provost courts’ responses to sexual assault. It concludes that, combined with an aggressive anti-prostitution campaign, the military government’s reforms succeeded only in creating an atmosphere favourable to crimes against women. Moreover, rape and the way it was prosecuted revitalised the patriarchal norms that US officials had set out to transform, thus setting the stage for the regime of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, whose thirty-year dictatorship depended on the conspicuous control of women. Thus, US policies and attitudes not only ensured the failure of progressive reform but also contributed to the ongoing subjugation of the very women the military government had pledged to empower.
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