Navy SEALs Have Turned into Celebrities, Sex Symbols

Virginia Beach, home to the SEALs, has become a stalking ground for admirers

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There are many drawbacks to being married to a military guy: you don't have much money, you have little control over where you live, you worry he could get killed in a war no one supports, etc etc etc. But one of the military spouse's simple pleasures, when her man is downrange, is being able to one-up the other wives with her husband's job. Oh, your husband is military police? Well mine is infantry. Mmhmm. Oh yes MPs are really badass. You keep telling yourself that, hon.

Now that all of America is suddenly aware of the super hero manliness of the Navy SEALs, everyone can join in with some military wives in basking in the reflected manliness. The Washington Post's Fredrick Kunkle reports that the entire town of Virginia Beach, home to the SEALs, is doing just that. Within military culture, the hierarchy of manliness goes something like: 1. special forces, 2. infantry, 3. other combat arms, 4. everyone else. SEALs are the specialest of special forces.

"Almost everyone has a military pedigree in this Navy town, so almost everyone claims to know a SEAL, a former SEAL or somebody else who does," Kunkle writes of Virginia Beach. "[A]ll those years of speculation about bin Laden's whereabouts have been replaced by a new post-Sept. 11 mystery: Where is the SEAL, or SEALs, who put the bullets in bin Laden? Someone has to know around here."

Kunkle spoke to several Virginia Beach locals who spoke reverentially of the SEALs (pictured above on a 2002 training mission in the Philippines). They're tattooed and ripped and "All they want to do is pick up babes," one bar owner said. Kunkle explains, "Even apparently well-grounded adults talk about the SEALs as the closest thing we know to comic book characters: They have superhuman powers to withstand cold, heights and fear! They have secret identities! They dive into the sea from submarines and leap from airplanes at 30,000 feet! ... And such good manners!"

It's an archetype the romance novel industry has latched onto, The Washington Post's Annys Shin reports. When it comes to SEALs, Shin writes, "There are some who want to know what it’s like to be one, and others who want to know what it takes to become one. Then, there are those who want to know what it might be like to, well, 'be' with one." SEALs are "superheroes without the spandex," one romance author explained. Romance publishers, which accept a huge number of unsolicited manuscripts, are bracing for an onslaught of SEAL-themed pitches in the coming weeks.

"There is so much you have to know. The way the teams work, the training the men have gone through. Where they do their missions," Marliss Melton, a successful SEAL romance author, told Shin. "They are trained from Day 1 to notice the tiniest detail. A man who can pick up on the smallest little nuance is bound to be able to please a woman, if you catch my drift." Oh those SEALs: They have total situational awareness--of your feelings!

What such a romance with a Navy SEAL might be like was parodied by Adrian Chen for The Awl:

Jinnie used her finger to trace the small skulls tattooed on Robert's corded forearm, one for each tango down. "You really killed this many people," she marveled.

"That's not even counting civilians," Robert said, lifting his t-shirt over his head to reveal washboard abs covered in skull tattoos. Jinnie's heart beat like a hummingbird in her chest.

He ripped off his tear-away training pants. Skull tattoos tracked up and down his bulging calves like pinstripes. ...

They had kissed many times before. But it was only when they kissed that night that Jinnie noticed the inside of Robert's nostrils were ringed with hundreds of nearly-microscopic skull tattoos.

Chen's piece gets at something that seems to be forgotten in all the completely-deserved accolades of the SEALs is that they're not Olympic athletes who just happen to find themselves in Taxi Driver-esque situations overseas. All that training is not to look good in tight t-shirts. It's to kill people.

At least California Rep. Duncan Hunter, who served as a Marine in Iraq, appears to have not forgotten that. His idea of a good story is a little different from the romance authors. Upon seeing photos of a dead Osama bin Laden's misshapen, bullet-ridden head, he said, "It was like a storybook," he told the Hill's Molly K. Hooper. "Put it this way: I am deeply and immensely satisfied at the way this guy exited the world."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.