Dress Blues, Discipline, and Demerits

Have you ever fantasized about being shouted at and humiliated by your commanding officer? I'd always found that exciting until, on the Discovery Channel, I saw Marine Corps Boot Camp, a brutal documentary that made the role-playing too real. Rules, self-sacrifice, discipline, power dynamics, and testing the limits of the body and mind—it was all so clear to me: The military is the ultimate sadomasochistic scene! While such a scenario scares wimps like me, it leads other girls to soak the crotches of their BDUs (battle dress uniforms). A few of the proud militaryphiles have used that frothy fuel to create the Dyke Uniform Corps.

Comprising four founding generals, three privates, and five recruits, this dirty dozen says it's the only group of its kind for women. DUC is united by a love for dress blues, discipline, and demerits. "What I like most," says General Butch, "is the camaraderie, the integrity of our members, the encouragement to lead my own disciplined lifestyle. What I like about uniforms is the sense of belonging in the military that I never got to experience. I like creating and wearing a proper uniform, feeling the preciseness and power."

I met generals Butch and Blade when I trained as a recruit at the New York battalion (a ranch house in a Long Island development) for an article I was writing for On Our Backs. At the official Web site (members.aol.com/ducny), I did my best to memorize the mission statement: "The Dyke Uniform Corps is a private association of women of honor, integrity, and discipline whose mission is to share a common interest in the wearing of military and law enforcement uniforms in the leather, S/M, and fetish communities." I intended to load up my brain to offset my lack of brawn. You see, I can't even do a pull-up, and I knew that was not gonna help me out with DUC. I immediately had flashbacks of high school gym class and the ex-drill sergeant who led us through a dreaded regimen of exercises.

In the tradition of true brotherhood and teamwork, DUC recruit M.J. had traveled from Rhode Island to attend my training and assist me. A cute boydyke with a bleached blond flattop and impeccable manners, she was in charge of teaching me to salute and about-face. For about-face, she told me I pointed my toe too much ("like a dancer or something"), and my salute wasn't sharp enough. When she tried to show me what I was doing wrong, she gave up: "See, it should be like this, but you're doing . . . well, I don't even think I can do what you're doing." When I first saluted General Butch, who never cracks a smile, she burst out hysterically laughing. I salute like a girl, they said. Like a dyke Private Benjamin, you see, I was on foreign gender soil: the turf of butches who play with other butches, drop-and-give-me-20-you-sissy territory. A place no femme had gone before.

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But unlike Goldie Hawn, I couldn't remember my lines. Everything I'd read went out the window as soon as General Butch began barking orders at me. Try saying a simple sentence over and over while being scrutinized and intimidated, doing sit-ups, push-ups, and running up and down stairs. Try reciting it correctly and perfectly without fucking up.

And fucking it up—well, screwing anything up, or just looking at the steely-eyed General—was cause for a boot in the back during push-ups (which then made them impossible to do). I was down on the floor with my face smashed into the carpet so much I got rug burn on my forehead. On top of all the physical demands, there was nonstop quizzing on DUC knowledge. Imagine if Regis Philbin ordered you to do wind sprints, then asked the million-dollar question. After my pathetic showing on some piece of gym apparatus I couldn't even identify, let alone conquer, I found myself once again on the floor, this time face up, with the General pouring Powerade down my throat.

OK, so I liked that part. I can get off by uttering the word sir, and women in uniform make me melt, but I was beginning to realize that my little turn-ons are like drooling over a UPS uniform for a Ken doll compared to the turn-ons of the women in the Dyke Uniform Corps. This recruit was definitely rethinking no pain, no gain.

In the DUC, military rules and regulations are a big part of the allure; plus, hierarchy and power structures are eroticized to the full extent of the law. Perfect for perverts into orders, authority, and of course, a woman in (a man's) uniform. And they do not fuck around when it comes to uniforms. As part of becoming a private, recruits have to assemble an ensemble of their choice, and learn each detail about it, including the branch of service, the type of uniform, and the meaning of all the stripes and badges and buttons. Recruit M.J. taught me about her uniform, as well as several brought out by General Butch—Air Force ceremonial blues, Army mess whites, Navy dress whites, Marine mess dress. It was a collection so impressive it made this femme's vintage-gown fetish look novice. The women of the DUC take their fetishes very seriously, and when they don the uniform, they become true-blue members of the Corps.

It does not escape my feminist eyes that the institutions the DUC emulates and fetishizes are patriarchal, homophobic, and antipeace. Is it subversive for these women to re-envision the military on their own terms? By exploring the subtext of dominance and submission and eroticizing the power dynamics of the military, they create their ideal fantasized world. It is an elaborate one, and it is their own. They are unabashed fans, not critics, of the armed forces.

General Butch: "There are some current military and ex-military who might have feelings about a bunch of s/m dykes who are not military wearing a uniform. Our response to them is that we endeavor to wear and instruct people on the wearing of a correct military or law enforcement uniform and hold it in the highest respect. We honor those who wear them to defend our country and our safety." I could almost see the stars and stripes billowing in the wind behind her, but who cares? She sure does look hot in that uniform.

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