World War I—The Propaganda-Based Battle of the Sexes

I want to tell you. I hate sin (repeated three times). I am charged to tell our people, that some do not realize, that the devil has device after device, and he carries them out in ways that they do not expect. Satan’s agencies will invent ways to make sinners out of saints.

I tell you now, that when I am laid to rest, great changes will take place. I do not know when I shall be taken; and I desire to warn all against the devices of the devil. I want the people to know that I warned them fully before my death. I do not know especially what changes will take place; but they should watch every conceivable sin that Satan will try to immortalize.

— Ellen G. White, Manuscript 1, 1915

Those were the last words of testimony that Sister White gave several months before she passed away, which was on July 16, 1915 CE. Some changes had already started the previous year (1914 CE), when WWI began in Europe and two percent of Seventh-day Adventists were disfellowshipped there for not joining the military and were forced to reorganize in the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement, which would hold true to the “commandments of God and the faith of Jehoshua” (Revelation 14:12). Is it okay to join the military? Here is what the Spirit of Prophecy had to say about the previous major war in Ellen White’s lifetime—the U.S. Civil War:

I was shown that God’s people, who are His peculiar treasure, cannot engage in this perplexing war, for it is opposed to every principle of their faith. In the army they cannot obey the truth and at the same time obey the requirements of their officers. There would be a continual violation of conscience. Worldly men are governed by worldly principles. They can appreciate no other. Worldly policy and public opinion comprise the principle of action that governs them and leads them to practice the form of rightdoing. But God’s people cannot be governed by these motives. The words and commands of God, written in the soul, are spirit and life, and there is power in them to bring into subjection and enforce obedience. The ten precepts of Jehovah are the foundation of all righteous and good laws. Those who love God’s commandments will conform to every good law of the land. But if the requirements of the rulers are such as conflict with the laws of God, the only question to be settled is: Shall we obey God, or man?

— Ellen G. White, 1 Testimonies, p. 361

So, big changes were already starting to take place in the shaking and sifting of the Assembly in Europe, but these are not the ones that Sister White was referring to, though they are related, for the Reform Movement would accept marriage reform so as to not allow for remarriage except in the case of death of the spouse, according to words of our Messiah. The key here is marriage and its destruction. World War I violently tore it apart due to the separation of families as many men joined the military and the devastation of war causing a mental and moral breakdown among the soldiers. Obedience to God would have protected men from this breakdown and the searing of their conscience in war, which is why it is so important to be conscientious objectors as the Spirit of Prophecy promotes.


Men and women were expected to be mutually bound by their service to their country, whether as loyal wives and mothers or warriors. Their sexual instincts were supposed to be suspended while both sexes dedicated their energies to fulfilling their mutual roles for the nation. Poems and feature articles in front newspapers, both those produced by military officials and by soldiers, were filled with tributes to loyal women who, along with God and faith in the fatherland, gave men the psychological strength to fight bravely. Women were expected to play an almost mythical role as sacred, waiting figures. Australian newspapers bolstered an image of women who, like those in ancient Greece, sent their men off to war without complaint or any mention of personal needs. This image of the patient and loyal woman on the home front was supposed to serve as a fantasy for lonely soldiers, and military and civil authorities tried to reassure men that dreaming of idealized women at home provided enough sexual satisfaction. In their letters from the front, especially in the first year of the war, soldiers reinforced the home front’s perception that they remained sexually “pure” while on the front lines, and they reassured their wives and girlfriends that “foreign” girls did not tempt them to stray.

The propaganda image of men as abstinent heroes dedicated to the nation was undermined by a crisis that served as a flashpoint for sexual tensions between combat and home fronts. The spread of venereal disease (VD) reflected the reality that sexual adventure proved to be a popular relief from the stress of the front for millions of men dislocated from home and distant from traditional social structures. Hospitals in cities like Freiburg, Germany, where soldiers in transit to the front mixed with an ever-expanding market for prostitutes, overflowed with infected men and women to such a degree that beds for VD patients had to be set up in lecture halls and makeshift clinics. In a March 1915 letter exchange with the state secretary of the interior, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921) declared that the VD crisis had reached such an epic scale that it weakened the German army’s fighting strength and required “an energetic state intervention” to protect against the disease’s spread.

Militaries organized systems to regulate sexual behavior. The German military organized a system of regulated brothels just behind the lines, with medical examinations of prostitutes. The French military also expanded a system of maisons tolerées (tolerated houses) where prostitution was carefully regulated.

— Crouthamel, Jason: “Sexuality, Sexual Relations, Homosexuality.” International Encyclopedia of the First World War. (Full article)

[Note: All emphases in the quotes in this article are my own.]

The government-legalized prostitution, which was meant to guard the health of the troops, encouraged men, who otherwise would not have ventured in brothels, to do so. And this news made its way out to the world, which incensed women on the home front. They became encouraged to be unfaithful to their war-torn husbands—many of which remained innocent—hearing that their men were engaging in prostitution, even though some of the reports were exaggerated.

This rebellion of many women was likely inspired by Satan, and few likely recognized the permanent repercussions this would have in reshaping society. And the media—largely magazines at the time—sensationalized and glorified the sexuality, which, at that time, meant women flirting and exposing her ankles, and even more if she were to lift her dress, which was being suggested in pictures. Before that time (during the lifetime of Sister White and millennia before), women’s ankles were modestly covered with clothing, since desensitization had not occurred yet and any part of the leg of a woman was considered sexual. And in the years to come, more and more of the leg would be exposed. The media thus multiplied the rebellion.

French popular media was filled with images of the “Flirt 1914,” women who displayed greater sexual freedom, especially in urban scenes where the dislocation caused by war made it possible to explore spaces and behaviors that were once taboo. Paul Géraldy’s (1885-1983) popular war novel, La Guerre, Madam (The War, Madam), depicted a soldier returning to Paris shocked by war widows who flaunted their sexuality and seemed more interested in their own material pleasures and gratification than the reality of the war. French soldiers’ newspapers also expressed resentment towards women enjoying themselves and seeking illicit sexual liaisons while their husbands sacrificed themselves at the front. These resentments intensified and further damaged relations between men and women as the traumatic experience of the war unfolded.

While French soldiers expressed resentment about women at home flaunting their sexuality, they were also incensed by reports of sexual violence inflicted by German soldiers on French women in occupied territories. Rape became a nationalized issue in the context of total war. In September 1914, the French government set up a commission, similar to government inquiries in Britain and Belgium, to investigate reports of rape committed by German soldiers. Testimonies to the commission revealed the brutality of rape, as French women reported the humiliation and violence they suffered at the hands of the occupying army…

In propaganda illustrations of rape, stories often implicitly humiliated French husbands and spurred them on to fight more aggressively. Rape narratives were used to justify the war. The British government tried to “market the war” and ultimately generated a gendered language about “just war,” as historian Nicoletta F. Gullace has argued, by reporting German atrocities.

Ibid.

Thus, the media war propaganda shifted from depicting and promoting chaste behavior, which is what pre-WWI society expected, to dramatizing and exaggerating the rape to make the Germans look evil. But the problems went beyond heterosexual issues. New problems arose, again with war excuses (“relief from the stress of war”) for implementing new devises and trends, that to this day are plaguing society.

As emotional connections with women were strained, men sought other paths of support. Front newspapers depicted men who were loyal comrades and devoted to the nation. But soldiers who wrote in these newspapers also expressed fantasies about gender transgression, disillusionment with the emotionally stifling expectations of the masculine ideal, and desires for nurturing and love, even with other men. Recently, historians studying front newspapers have emphasized the predominance of a hegemonic masculine image defined against the deviant, effeminate male “other.” However, men writing for front newspapers, especially the frontline trench newspapers, also mocked the hegemonic masculine image and explored new emotions and behaviors, even those deemed “effeminate” and “deviant.” They portrayed loving other men as a desirable and acceptable component of the front experience…

Seeking emotional support, including love and tenderness, men “replaced” women by taking on feminine roles, emotionally and even sexually. Soldiers’ newspapers depicted men acting as surrogate women in a variety of ways, including building a domestic sphere at the front. However, front soldiers did not just want to emulate missing women for psychological and emotional relief. They also fantasized about escaping their male gender roles and expectations by changing genders…

When otherwise heterosexual comrades dressed as women in the context of entertainment, military authorities tolerated this as a temporary act of relief from the stress of war. Theater groups, for example, regularly dressed men as women to comedic effect. Soldiers performed plays for wounded comrades just behind the lines, and these were enthusiastically embraced by the military as good for morale. But front newspapers contained numerous articles by soldiers who suggested playing with new gender roles stemmed from more than just the need for entertainment. They offered poems and cartoons in which they fantasized about taking on feminine characteristics like love and nurturing.

Ibid.

Here was the postwar societal aftermath:

In 1921, Hirschfeld and Stöcker organized a Berlin meeting of international organizations at the World League for Sexual Reform, where the agenda included lectures on dysfunctional heterosexual relationships and lectures on homosexuality as a natural phenomenon. Women’s rights and homosexual rights activists shared resources in lobbying Weimar’s health and interior ministries to reform sex crimes laws. This meant abolishing Paragraphs 184.3, 218 and 175 of the legal code, which restricted access to birth control and criminalized abortion and homosexuality, respectively, though they were not successful in dismantling these laws.

Ibid.

So far, we have read of government-supported prostitution and homosexuality in the name of health and war-coping strategy, which greatly increased sexual passions and later led to a post-war movement of sexual deforms (not reforms), including abortion. We also read of propaganda exaggerating German raping to increase the war passions. The following journal article explores how that propaganda effort went even a step further, which was a very tragically transformative step:

In order to make sense of the unprecedented sexual violence unfolding on its soil, France of the years 1914–1915 drew on diverse sources, not least its colonial imaginary, to reify the Germans as rapists. The acts of sexual violence, both real occurrences and exaggerated propaganda, became posited through a racialising binary pitting civilisation and barbarie. As Nicolas Beaupré (2015) has noted, the repeated wartime claim of French civilisation against German barbarie was also often underpinned by the anxiety – or the denial – that the war in itself transformed anyone into ‘barbares’, regardless of national identity. Through this fraught and traumatic historical configuration, France posited itself as the embodiment of civilisation while Germany embodied barbarie. In the media and literature of the period, sexual violence became a distinctive and racialised feature of the German-as-barbarian. Conversely, consensual sexual and amorous encounters became a distinctive feature of the French-as-civilised.

— Ibáñez Aristondo, A. (2022). Seduction, Aggression, and Frenchness in LA VIE PARISIENNE (1914–1918). French Cultural Studies, 33(1), 40-58. (Full article)

This was perhaps the single most influential change in world history—again, propaganda in the name of defeating the other side in war. As the article continues, this seems to have occurred right around the time Ellen White died:

The binary civilisation vs barbarie initially expounded a lexicon of hatred against the Germans. However, La Vie Parisienne was one of the first media that started conveying this binary primarily through narratives of love, seduction, and desire among the French from 1915 on.

The omnipresence and popularity of visual representations of sexualized relationships in La Vie Parisienne is a paradigmatic example of a broader shift in mass-entertainment occurring from mid-1915 onward, a time when ‘while depictions of trench life polarized into propagandist stereotypes and disturbingly realistic exposés, the home front became fascinated with the love life of the *poilu’ (Rearick, 1997: 24). [‘poilu’ were French infantry soldiers during WWI]

Ibid.

From then on, constructed representations of norms of seduction and desire were intended to be a work of cultural embellishment, a constant celebration of Frenchness through sexual attractiveness and availability for women, and virile ability to flirt and seduce for men. In wartime La Vie Parisienne, nearly all representations of sexualized relationships were heterosexual and occurring outside marriage. Most of them involved French soldiers and young women.

Ibid.


This was the beginning of an era of moral depravity, both in the world and, unfortunately, in Christendom. Volumes could be written about the massive change that came about, and yet because many do not know this history, we think that the way men and especially women dress (even conservative Christians) and act is perfectly normal. People who lived into the new era were so traumatized by war that the societal change seems to have been somewhat unnoticed, except by the Plain People (Amish, Hutterites and Mennonites) who, did not accept much of the change, since they were already somewhat detached from society in their own communities.

Adventists, on the other hand, and even Reform Adventists, accepted many of the new norms as everyone else did, especially in regard to dress, most likely because they had not taken Ellen White’s writings, particularly the Testimonies, seriously enough, including her appeal for a revival and reformation. A revival of true piety Godliness would have protected us from the change into the modern Western culture.

It should be understood that before World War I, no woman in the West (Europe and America) would leave the house without her legs completely covered and something covering her head. But culture is an extremely powerful force, and God’s people failed to recognize Satan’s plan to convert the Assembly to the world. And with immodesty in dress and behavior came much divorce and crime. So many evils came out of it, including the entertainment media.

During World War I and following, major film and entertainment companies established themselves to become the Hollywood that many still love and idolize today—Columbia, MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount, etc. The founders of these companies were freemasons, as well as the father of American animation, James Stuart Blackton, who made the first propaganda film, for WWI, a few weeks after Ellen White died. Film became very popular after that, especially as a diversion from the severity of war. And media has been used ever since then to propagandize government and secret society agendas.

Even today, those who profess to be the remnant people of God are using this invention of animation and fast scene changes, which turn off the frontal lobe, all in the name of ministry. And then there is David Sarnoff, who was a 32nd degree freemason of the Scottish rite, and who invented radio and television (see p. 470 of this PDF). Satan was using all these men to take control of the masses, turning people away from God through addictions and distractions.

The Maybelline cosmetics company also started up 1915 CE, making mail orders available by the end of that year. Previous to this, obvious cosmetic use was only by prostitutes and performers, and even the more subtle “natural” style was only used by the wealthy (and not for the eyes). Thus, modern makeup was born to make women look sexy—no longer biblical housewives and homemakers, but sex objects for men (and also taking all the jobs due to the shortage of men). The women not being as much in the home and the wearing of makeup and baring of ankles with high-heel shoes gave the modern woman a new identity.

And in the 1920s—known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’—young women who dressed this way, and who, by then, had skirts nearly up to the knees, yet with boy-like “short” hair (not very short by modern standards), bare arms (which before was considered immodest for women), and danced to jazz music, were called ‘flappers.’ (A ‘flap’ was originally a slang word for a young prostitute and the later ‘flapper’ was termed for young women who dressed like prostitutes.) The forbidden knees could now be seen when women sat down or danced or when the wind blew. The conservatives early on thought it was scandalous, but later that decade even the conservatives were dressing similarly, thus showing how rapidly culture changed.

Today, Seventh-day Adventists think it is entirely appropriate to appear in the meeting house for worship dressed in this risqué way, even calling it “dress reform” (due to not wearing pants), but it is indeed dress deform to immodesty beyond what any woman publicly wore in Ellen White’s lifetime.

Another major uptick came in the full maturity of the sexual revolution in the 1960s. This is when pornographic material started coming into the mainstream. Cable TV allowed for movies with sex scenes to come into homes where even children could watch.

Later came the internet, and with that came a universal presence of pornography, which many, many professed Christians are addicted to and do not know how to break it. The most sure way is quit is cold turkey—cutting internet off completely—but that may not be desirable for many people. Then the only other option is to swear a very carefully-worded oath to God in the Name of Jehovah to not visit sexual websites. The oath should be taken very seriously, but if broken due to strong temptation/addiction, there should be major consequences. Within the oath to not sin there can be provision made for if it is broken, such as a large donation, and confession of the sin to someone, and ban from the internet for x number of years upon second or third (or even first) offense, remembering that the Plain People can be quite happy and have no internet or television in their homes. Piety with contentment is great gain. Start a healthy addiction to replace any sinful addiction that fuels a fervent piety.

People generally spend way too much time online. Phones should be reserved for emergencies, and computer internet usage should be prayerful. Internet usage in general is just not natural and tends to negatively impact a person’s prayer life. Accountability programs for online usage generally do not work for pornography addictions, because addicts will still find a way of accessing sexual materials. There are apps and services that are useful for blocking questionable content to avoid accidentally seeing it on otherwise normal websites, such as OpenDNS, but to rely on such to overcome the addiction just leads the addict to depend on the app instead of on God, which is sure to fail.)

Also, there is a degree of walking and talking pornography in partial nakedness just about everywhere, including where Christians and Adventists assemble for worship, but some places are worse than others. Meeting houses should always have a strict dress code for all who attend, and public beaches or entertainment events should be generally avoided, even in evangelistic outreach. Where partial nakedness cannot be avoided, we need to look away and pray, for nakedness is a shame.

In fact, even when dressed modestly, women should never give a friendly smile or laugh to men she meets or does business with. By dictionary definition, friendliness entails affections, which are only to be to her husband. The Bible is clear that a woman in public is to be shamefast, looking down in shame of Eve’s sin.

… in like manner, also the women, in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety—
to adorn themselves not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,”
but which becometh women professing piety, through good works.
Let a woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve;
and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

— 1 Timothy 2:9-14

Men should not give friendly smiles to women either. A true Christian will have a pleasant countenance already, and a mild smile can be used to communicate. This will take practice, but it is part of learning biblical chastity. In fact, gravity and sobriety should be replacing frivolity and giddiness in Christian demeanor based on the writings of Paul, especially since we are living at the end of time.

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

— Titus 2:1-6

Chastity in social behavior, and seriousness (unlike the excessive smiling and laughing we have today) was more common before World War I. Human behavior definitely changed after the war. Yet even today, chastity is practiced among certain classes of Jews and Muslims. The fact that Hasidic Jews and conservative Muslims are still modest, and have resultingly very low rates of divorce, but not professed Christians, shows how far Christendom has departed from biblical culture due to the influence of Western culture that had developed even before the war, but especially thereafter.

It may seem so very normal for a woman to wear a skirt somewhat below the knees, or even up to and above the knees, but it must be remembered what the origin of this practice is: satanically-inspired war propaganda leading to female rebellion against men. Therefore, it should be considered totally unacceptable for any Christian, let alone Seventh-day Adventist, to wear such revealing clothing. Comparisons should never be drawn to determine what is modest, for it was comparison of rape versus adultery that led to adultery being accepted as a favorable, civilized thing for society.

Sexual sin is a serious issue. According to a survey, 77 percent of “Christian” men regularly view pornography, and including around a third of pastors! 35 percent of “Christian” married men have extramarital affairs, and pastors close to that percentage as well! This is so alarmingly tragic, but it is why drastic measures must be taken to return to biblical culture.

Infidelity is often inspired by pornography, but it is also brought about by men meeting alone with women; and it is not rare for this to lead to an affair even in the ministry. This is why a man and a woman who are not married should never meet alone, which became a much more common practice after World War I. Door-to-door ministry should be done in pairs to avoid this issue. And a man should never touch a woman except in an emergency, even if they are courting. Premarital touching was not common before World War I.

Essentially, anything that changed as a result of the war, which truly ended up becoming a propaganda war between men and women, should be discarded and seen for what it truly is. Any public nakedness, of even the ankles, should be viewed as a symbol of adultery, for that is the origin, and our Saviour taught that to even look at a woman to lust after her is adultery in the heart (Matt. 5:28). Well, adultery takes two partners; the woman often first dresses in a way that would inspire a man to lust.

The rest of the reformation study will go into more details as to what constitutes biblical nakedness and unwholesome entertainment. But just know that there is a reason why the last living messenger of the Spirit of Prophecy died right when this new culture came into the world and the Assembly, which is also right when the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement arose. All three events are related. Seventh-day Adventism as a whole is in a deplorable condition, far from God. He intended the Reform Movement to truly reform in the area of modesty and finish the gospel work. But instead, mainstream Adventism fell completely from the Law in allowing its members to corrupt themselves in the evils of military, and the Reform Movement, though preserved from direct involvement in the military, did not heed Sister White’s final warning to discern the devices of Satan. God cannot prosper this movement intended to reform until the reform becomes a reality.

In conclusion, World War I was a war fueled by propaganda, and this propaganda involved pitting fornication and adultery against raping, and this turned into a war of women versus men in role and behavior and portrayed in the dress; do not let anyone teach you that what is on the outside does not matter, for history shows that it has a very influential role in changing behavior in society. These things resulted in a very demoralized society and Assembly. It also ended the Ottoman Empire, for Islamic Jihad is what will lead into Armageddon, and it had to be delayed since the Assembly was not ready yet.

However, now, after a century of immorality in the Assembly, a revival has begun—a revival of primitive piety, to restore the biblical practices of not only pre-WWI but from the days of Pentecost that disappeared when the original apostasy came about when the mainstream departed from the Torah Law and its holy days. The seventh month revival began the biblical seventh month that commenced fall-to-fall 2024 CE—the very month that the Israel-Hamas War began, which will likely lead to regional and then world war and ultimately Armageddon.

True repentance will come as the horrors of war return, made even worse by terrorism, as is described in the Book of Joel, which also describes the reviving of the gifts of the Spirit. Now is a time for reflection of our history and a returning to God, a time for the fulfillment of Malachi 4 and Revelation 18. Primitive piety is returning and is in extreme contrast to the world. Yet trends show that many in the world are hungering and thirsting for this revival, and many will join it who would never join Adventism in the dead and worldly form it has been in for so long. Many desire genuine religion, for this last century has proven a disaster and with the mental depression that is gripping much of society, many will welcome the cheerful change back to primitive piety.

Ricky

My name is Ricky Bokovoy, but this website isn't about me. Please enjoy this article and I pray that it is a blessing to you. May you be strengthened in the faith once delivered to the saints!

3 thoughts on “World War I—The Propaganda-Based Battle of the Sexes

  • 2023-11-15 at 9:48 pm
    Permalink

    Never knew of this history. Amen.

    Reply
  • 2023-11-24 at 1:36 pm
    Permalink

    Awesome and trembling when gone through this. Nigerians look unto America in all forms of life but I have come to know that all started much pronounced after war 1. Primitive Godliness will surely revive us in preparatory to Jehoshua’s coming.

    Reply
  • 2023-11-27 at 9:24 am
    Permalink

    This is very revealing. That all the changes that we now see as normal in dressing and women usurpation of men’s duties and headship all began in the propaganda of the military bagged media during the First World War.
    This is shocking how homosexuality, prostitution, rape ect was used by the military as a way to relief the war stress. Even more shocking to discover how the women at home responded in protest to their general assumption that all the soldiers were unfaithful which include their husbands; this resulted in women starting to expose their ankles in public which was rarely seen prior WW1.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We'd appreciate it if you would take the time to go over our comment guidelines, especially if you are new here.