So the civil war in Syria continues to rage, it's a total meat grinder, and both sides are desperately vacuuming up reinforcements throughout the Muslim world. Sunnis go fight to topple Assad, and I was just reading an article today about how Shiite militiamen get bussed into Iran for training before being sent on to Damascus. Jihad is a male-dominated occupation, and recruitment for that purpose is focused on taking advantage of the stupidity, boredom, gullibility, and bloodthirstiness particular to young men. As a former enlistee, I can relate, but a certain amount of women do get swept up into the call for holy war.

A while ago, I remember reading about some American-born lady from Detroit who converted to Islam and ended up dead in an ambush in northern Syria. Then this morning, an article about how some Tunisian politicians are raising the alarm about local girls being recruited into "sexual jihad." Since they can't fight, their role in the conflict is as comfort women who support the revolution by banging front line troops. It's a scare story about how "their" women are being passed around like sex toys and sent home pregnant, and I don't know how true it is in any of the particulars, but stories like this have been circulating in the Arab media for a while. There's always a cleric around with a controversial fatwa to fan the flames, like this one authorizing special short-term marriages for foreign fighters in Syria.

They're called mut'ah, and they might last anywhere from an hour to a year. It's like a pressure release valve on social controls that lets men get their sex on without Allah getting involved. It seems pretty advantageous for horny men and the groups that want to control them, but the benefits for the women involved are a little more mysterious. There's this weird association between getting laid and going to war, along with the idea that it's a particularly cruel fate for a young man to die a virgin. The local boy's supposed to march off when the bugle calls, and the girl next door has to do her part by giving it up the night before he ships out to boot camp.

One of the guys in my platoon was an 18 year old kid — the youngest guy in the whole squadron. In the usual course of teasing and harassment, he was forced to admit that he was, in fact, a virgin. Before we deployed, his squad leader took him out on the weekend, driving hours and hours from our middle of nowhere base to arrange for him to lose his cherry to a prostitute. At the time, I thought that was a pretty great thing for an NCO to do for his squaddie, but I've been reconsidering a number of things since then.