Sexuality, cohesion, masculinity and combat motivation

designing personnel policy to sustain capability

Charles A. H. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


How might mixing the sexes affect the capability of small combat teams? As Australia integrates women into its combat arms, the policy challenges that sexuality presents may prove more enduring than those of gender. Objections to integration based on women’s capabilities are expected to quickly become redundant, although the masculine culture of combat units demands careful management. Hyper-masculinity can undoubtedly be hostile to women, but is a long-established way to meet the profoundly unnatural psychological demands of close combat. Effective integration therefore appears to require careful adjustment of Army’s methods of building team cohesion. Furthermore, even gender-neutral approaches to generating the cohesion that is so vital for combat arms will not change the potential for sexual interaction that mixing genders creates. The social dynamics involved represent some level of risk to the trust on which cohesion depends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-78
Number of pages21
JournalAustralian army journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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