Conference Report

Sex-Military Report coverFriday, February 13, 2015 | Los Angeles, California

“Sex & The Military: The Other Invisible Wounds” was a one-day conference held in Los Angeles aimed at raising awareness of the sexual and intimacy issues experienced by military populations. Experts from a range of fields — physical and psychological — presented on diverse areas, including the sexual side effects of mental health medication, military sexual trauma among men, emotional resiliency,  modern urotrauma, and more. Participants were also provided with a toolkit to help providers address these issues with their military clients.

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Soundcloud: Sex & the Military

Study Publications

Sex-Military Toolkit coverBehavioral health providers receive limited or no training on sexual functioning and intimacy as it relates to military populations. Because more instruction and tools are needed, the USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) developed a first known toolkit and realistic education videos specifically for providers to use when working with military personnel.

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Two recently published policy briefs aim to provide overviews of understudied issues facing our military service members — sexual functioning and genitourinary (GU) trauma. Approximately 12 percent of recent war injuries involve some kind of GU trauma. Despite the increasing presence of GU trauma over the last decade, its impact on sexual, reproductive, psychological, and relationship functioning remains understudied.

  1. Sexual Functioning in Military Personnel: Preliminary Estimates and Predictors | July 2014 – The Journal of Sexual Medicine
    The first article based on this project and using data from 367 male respondents, age 21-40, finds that the rate of erectile dysfunction (ED) among the sample is three times that of similarly aged civilians. It also found that only 12 percent of those who reported ED and other issues actually sought treatment, which could further exacerbate issues and lead to poor quality of life and impede happiness. Researchers also found a strong correlation between mental and physical health and sexual functioning problems.
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  2. Genital Image, Sexual Anxiety, and Erectile Dysfunction Among Young Male Military Personnel | April 2015 – The Journal of Sexual Medicine
    In this second article based on CIR’s sexual functioning study, researchers focus on the connection between sexual anxiety, genital self-image and the high rates of sexual functioning problems among  young military populations. The article suggests this link can guide treatment options; some sexual dysfunction causes may benefit from psychological intervention.
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The study and its publications have been covered by media outlets. Below is a snapshot of some of those pieces. For a more complete listing of media coverage, visit In the Media page.


Project Overview

Funded by Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund of the California Community Foundation, 2013–2014

Principal Investigator: Sherrie Wilcox

Co-principal Investigators: Anthony Hassan, Kathleen Ell and Doni Whitsett

The USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) is conducting an 18-month project that focuses on male and female sexual dysfunction that occurs as a result of physical and psychological combat-related injuries from military service. This project will result in:

• the nation’s first training module for social workers and behavioral health professionals who treat sexual dysfunction as a result of combat related injuries in military populations;

• increased national awareness about what has typically been a silent but critical issue for veterans and their spouses/ partners;

• the publication of scientific research and policy reports that will be disseminated to the research community, behavioral health professions, veteran service organizations and a wide range of policymakers working with military populations.

This project is unique in that it emphasizes both psychological and physical injuries as contributors to sexual dysfunction. The educational benefits that students and behavioral health providers will gain through specialized training and education will help them to more comfortably and knowledgably assess for sexual dysfunction in military populations. By embedding this training into graduate and post-graduate training, CIR will permanently enhance skills of those who serve our veterans and military families, transforming this issue from one of silence and shame, and offering proactive and effective treatment that leads to restored wellness and improved quality of life.


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