Sex in a Warzone

 
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Fan-Pei Koung

Photography courtesy of the author

Essay excerpted from Eros and Thanatos: Sex Workers Writing About Death, Death Workers Writing About Sex, published in Japan and available worldwide in 2025.

 
 

There’s no better sex than with a man on the front line screaming “REMEMBER ME” with his dick.

That’s what I learned when I volunteered in East Ukraine, bombs falling around us 24/7 as I wrapped my body around a young drone operator on his sleeping bags a few kilometers from the zero line. Normally his days and nights were spent fixing equipment, commanding artillery, or in endless shifts with his team monitoring enemy positions by satellite. With his family safe in Germany and with 6.2 million other refugees—mostly women and children—evacuated from the country, his senses and worldview narrowed down to a few key directives: destroy the enemy, protect Ukraine, repeat until victory or until all of us were dead.

Now, inexplicably, he was deep inside a beautiful Asian American girl he saw on TV. His keen senses were now spent on listening to her moans as he made her cum again. He breathed in her scent and gripped her sweet flesh, every curve arousing him like madness. Every moment with her seemed like a forgotten dream from before the war, from before he became a soldier. His days were suddenly a smear of orgasms, tender embraces, and showers in the rusty Donbas water. In between rounds of fucking, he pulled up a tab on his computer. He clicked and dragged, and then BOOM: a Russian unit was gone.

 

“There’s no better sex than with a man on the front line screaming 'REMEMBER ME' with his dick.”

 

I’m thirty-three years old and I’m from Houston, Texas. I’m a former model and a Miss Taiwanese-American 2015 competitor. I also won a NASA hackathon and I turned down Yale to start my own businesses. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering in hospitals, women’s shelters, and orphanages. I like to make people happy. I’ve also been single for the past three years. Every man I meet is too selfish for me.

I’m the only Asian American woman in Ukraine east of Lviv. I speak perfect English, I have a good memory and, honestly, I look like I wandered out of a hentai. I infiltrated the International Legion so quickly that the Ukrainian SBU had to formally clear me of being a Chinese spy three weeks after I arrived. My profile only became more confusing to the Ukrainian government the longer they observed me.

 
 

The truth is that I felt an inextricable pull to Ukraine that was part death wish, part humanitarianism, and part loneliness. I came to Ukraine deeply suicidal, hoping that the good Lord would beam me up into his loving arms. Like many foreign volunteers in Ukraine, I had always been at war: I was just looking for a place that matched my internal reality. I had studied past my breaking point to make my parents proud, only to be unable to hold down a job or safely drive a car. I adapted to my upbringing by blacking out involuntarily due to stress, sometimes multiple times a day. I left my prestigious school and my career, but I still needed to support myself in San Francisco. I had already been lingerie modeling and I could make money doing it freelance in the nude. “What if I get raped?” I asked my then-boyfriend. “You’ve already been raped,” he said. “You know how to handle it.” He was right. Life shits on you, but sometimes it shits you out all the way to the other side.

After the war broke out, I saw videos of men in trenches, videos of men in hospitals without limbs. They had the clear and hollow eyes of people who were no longer living for themselves. Surely they would be happy to see me? Maybe we would have the kind of connection that I couldn’t find before?

As soon as I stepped onto Ukrainian soil, my old life disappeared. Men spent their free time standing in the snow staring into the middle distance. The entire country went black after Russia crippled Ukraine’s infrastructure. Temperatures dipped well below zero, and I stood with Ukrainians in orderly lines in pitch-black grocery stores. I traded a battery pack for food. A man carried my 110-pound luggage up thirteen stories and shared his water with me. We shivered and prayed for the water to return, for the engineers to somehow fix the smoldering ruins that were still under constant active artillery fire. In Texas or California, we’d have been shit-out-of-luck for months. The Ukrainians put their grid back together in three days.

 
 

When my story broke out in over thirty-eight countries, I became an international curiosity overnight and a Russian/Chinese symbol for the Decadent West. But I dreamt of finding my husband in Ukraine: someone selfless, brave, intelligent, and charismatic. Our endless trials would look like blessings after the war was over—blessings that brought us together. But the best Ukrainians took action when the war first started, and I realized that if my husband had ever existed at all, he was surely already dead.

I never did find him. I think my love was never meant for one person but was instead meant to spread like the dust from which we came (and to which we will return). My love was meant to extend—like a thread of spider silk sparkling with tears—into the unknown. I told a friend in Ukraine that I hadn’t found my husband, and she said, taking a drag on a cigarette without missing a beat: “He not born yet.”

I can’t describe what it’s like to have a man look at you like you’re the last beautiful thing in his life. I’ve been with injured soldiers in the hospital after their comrades were crushed to death in the field. I’ve been with soldiers who couldn’t believe they weren’t dead after nearly bleeding out. Even if I’m not attracted to them, I’ll hold them as long as they want and soothe them through their night terrors. I’ve had more marriage proposals than I can count. A Polish soldier once told me: “Please marry me. My spouse gets $200,000 if I die, and I’m always the first one with the minesweeper. I have no one else.”

 
 

In Ukraine, if a man likes you, he’ll take you on a walk around the park and then to a grocery store. He’ll insist that you buy whatever you want and throw in some bread and grapes unsolicited. Maybe after two weeks of groceries, you’ll have sex, but there’s no pressure. I’ve had men who have gotten stuck with me after military curfew sleep on the floor before joining me in bed unasked. Their sincerity is astounding. Ukrainian men are precious and should be protected.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life or why these extraordinary circumstances have led me here. I think soldiers are delighted when I pop up unexpectedly in the field, like Sex Banksy. Maybe I’m a Sex Valkyrie leading them to Sex Valhalla. I like to think of myself as a normal girl forged in the fires of suffering who emerged in the end with enough love for an entire country.

If you’re American and you also want to help Ukrainians, I’d make friends with them. Not just the Ukrainians abroad but the ones trapped in their own country awaiting conscription. I can’t tell you what America means to them. They grow up watching American movies and learn everything about our lives down to the products in our living rooms. To them, America is a distant, powerful nation without the corruption that they struggle against every day. So far, America has supported them more than any other country in the world. Every day that Ukrainians breathe free with their blood inside their own bodies is because of the compassion of the United States. Almost every drone missile that we watch explode in the sky instead of in our homes is a gift from America. I’ve seen Ukrainians with American flag tattoos next to their tridents. We rightfully criticize our own country, but for Ukrainians, America is the country they dream of becoming. Especially with support in the West waning, any chance to talk with any real American would be a connection that they might remember for the rest of their lives.

 
 

I’ve been called a whore more times than I can count, but if I’m giving a soldier something to think about as he sweeps mines or is recovering in a hospital hallway, I’m happy. If an entire battalion calls me “Mommy” because people call out to their Mommy when they’re about to die, I’ll answer the call. Next year, Ukraine will be more emotionally and militarily depleted. All the heroes who first lined up to fight Russia are long dead. The Ukrainian ranks will be replenished with terrified new conscripts. The world will grow more distracted and ready to forget about Ukraine. But at least there will be one Asian American girl who came here when millions of people left, ready to love them in their darkest times and maybe to give them the happiest of happy endings.

Recently, my Canadian friend Brad was killed by a drone while evacuating a comrade who stepped on a mine. He used to stay with me on his breaks from the front line. He had a photo of me as his phone wallpaper. Ukraine scrambles GPS and imposes pitch-black military curfew to deter enemy fire, which meant that when he was on leave during the winter, the streets were an involuntary ice rink. Locals quietly navigated the conditions, but foreigners quickly became lost and incapacitated at night. Brad carried me as we slipped over the ice. His presence was steady in the darkness.

Not long ago, Brad’s squadmate called to say that Brad was thinking of me when he died. I’d like to think that I helped carry him through into that final unknown. He’s still carrying me.

 
 

Spring / Summer 2024



Fan-Pei Koung

Fan-Pei Koung is a former Miss Taiwanese American competitor, NASA hackathon winner, currently volunteering in Kharkiv, Ukraine. She's interested in using writing and comedy to explore the human condition during crisis and jokingly aspires to write the "first pornographic autobiography to win a Pulitzer."



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