Will a Sex Strike Give a Bunch of Liberal Guys Blue Balls?

photo via flickr

Where reason fails, satire sometimes works — hence the sudden trend of tongue-in-cheek proposed sex laws, like the “personhood of semen” bill. And where satire fails — will a sex strike work? That’s the hope of a group called Liberal Ladies Who Lunch (love it!). They are proposing a national sex strike from April 28 until May 5 — tagline, “If our reproductive choices are denied, so are yours.”

Now, clearly this is a symbolic gesture more than anything else — after all, a week without sex sounds more like a long-term relationship than a sex strike to us. As compared to, say, the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, wherein the women of Greece go on an actual sex strike to end the decades-long Peloponnesian War. Meaning, they wouldn’t have sex until the war was over, whether that took a week or another decade. Or take Colombia, where in 2006 the girlfriends of gang members in one of the country’s most violent cities, Pereira (it had a murder rate at the time of 97 per 100,000 people), went on strike until their men gave up their weapons. As a result, in 2010, Pereira’s murder rate dropped by 26.5 percent, the steepest decline in the country.

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  1. @Dannie: I’m so happy to hear you make the point about that huge morality/immorality gender switch about 250 years ago. It’s huge deal. (As far as I’m concerned it’s Exhibit A in discussions about whether gender is constructed or innate.)

    I saw a production of the play a few years ago and then read the script. For what it’s worth in the play both women and men suffer — Lysistrata is perpetually trying to keep her women companions from slipping back to their husbands. It all no-doubt seemed hilarious at the time, but for different reasons than we assume today.


  2. Actually, we have no idea if women went to the plays or not; since there were reports of women going into labor from fright at seeing the Furies in Sophocles tragedy, it’s more likely they went, but sat far in the back. Still, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was supposed to be humorous because the Greeks believed that women were immoderate drunken harlots who simply could not give up sex ever, therefore, the entire plot of the play was virtually impossible. Which sorta drives home a completely different point about our modern stereotypes on gender and libido. Contrary to our portraying women as non-sexual and men as being hypersexual, women were seen as hypersexual and men as moderate. Which actually lines up with portrayals of women up until about the later Victorian era…so…how right is society’s understanding of how our libidos work, after all?

  3. “As compared to, say, the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, wherein the women of Greece go on an actual sex strike to end the decades-long Peloponnesian War.”

    My take on Lysistrata is always that Sophocles was a man writing a play that could be seen only by men. (I think there were actual death penalties for women who saw a play in ancient Greece because it was supposed to offend the gods or something.)

    Anyway, in terms of gender “optics” sex strikes are a horrendous idea. There are actually some very sophisticated and nuanced academic-feminist interpretation of “sex strike” that avoid the less sophisticated interpretations that, basically, all heterosexual sex is transactional exchanges of sex for “favors” of one sort (security, support, flowers, dinner, money, etc.) or another (stop having wars, stop leaving towels on the bathroom floor, etc.)

    That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t work. Just that the cost is a little high.

    One last thing? Is there anything on the face of the earth that would make conservatives happier than women not having sex in exchange for getting men to do something men (allegedly) don’t want to do? Um. No. That’s what they want women to do all the time! A sex strike to a conservative, even if it’s for “liberal” gain, is like throwing them in the briar patch where they were born and bred.

    Come to think of it, I’m surprised PETA hasn’t tried sex strikes yet. It would be right up their tin-eared alley along with “demonstrations” featuring young, very conventionally attractive naked women in cages.



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