Laura Cannon’s stand-up act discusses Iraq, perfectionism, and sex
Photo credit: Paula Junn.
Growing up, Laura Cannon was a goody-two-shoes Christian with two preppy hobbies: golf and perfectionism. But now, the West Point grad and Iraq War veteran is a self-described bad girl—an image she’s cultivated for her stand-up show, War Virgin, about her sexual liberation during a five-month tour of duty in Iraq.
“I was always supposed to keep the sparkle in my eye,” Cannon says of the religious obligation she felt to save sex for marriage. “There was no other choice.”
This mindset came from a strictly religious upbringing that—like so many young Christians–Cannon began to question after college. Her doubts about saving her virginity were amplified by the fact that she had always loved talking and joking about sex, despite never encountering it in real life.
So when she was deployed to Iraq for the 2003 invasion with a group of testosterone-driven men, Cannon tried to hide her celibacy with sass. She made up stories to keep up with her military cohorts, until a job-change to the battalion level: “I was working with a different group of people and
“I wanted to try this bad girl persona and see if I could get away with it,” Cannon says. “And I realized, this is me. This has been me all along.”
From then on, Cannon sought to catch up on her sexual education overseas. While she did not lose her virginity until after her return to the U.S.,
As new reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military are published, it’s difficult to take all of Cannon’s stories at face value. She has an account, for example, of learning about masturbation via step-by-step instructions from a male coworker 20 years her senior. But Cannon insists everything she learned from her male cohorts was consensual, and even integral to the person she is now.
“There were times I felt a little violated,” Cannon says of that coworker in particular. “But he taught me so much. And he would’ve taken a bullet for me. I vacillate between my emotions on it, but most of the time, I just laugh.”
Coming out of a war that’s claimed more victims through suicide than combat, Cannon says laughter is really the best option for her.
And survive she has: For over a year, Cannon has been performing pieces on religion and sex at Boston story slams with a local storytelling organization, MassMouth. Her stand-up show, War Virgin, is in part a development of the memoir she’s been working on for years. But while Cannon loves to write, she says her stories have always been better told out loud.
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