Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote the play Lysistrata, first performed in the year 411 BC. A comic account of Greek women forcing men to end the Peloponnesian War between Greek states by denying sex to men across the land until they did so. The women accurately pointed out that they too are affected by the war, sacrificing husbands and sons to the conflict between people who seemingly had a lot in common and little reason to fight. 2,430 years later, Lysistrata is trending on Twitter. A suggested strategy to keep men from exerting control over women’s bodies. Most recently highlighted by a Georgia law making abortion illegal after 6-weeks, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant.
The current spotlight on Lysistrata, suggests women engage in a #SexStrike to force men to comply with the demand that men stop using women’s bodies as a means to accomplish a political end. Spike Lee suggested something similar in his 2015 film “Chi-Raq” where women were encouraged to withhold sex to stop the violence in Chicago.
The response on Twitter is illuminating, not always in ways originally intended. Many women support the cause including prominent activist and actress Alyssa Milano.
“Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.”
Another woman sympathized with the cause but suggested another path.
“ Rape has nothing to do with sex — it’s about hatred and power, the same causes of women being stripped of their rights. A #SexStrike won’t bring back our rights — voting, supporting women candidates, running for office, and fighting like hell will.”
Imani Gandi, a legal analyst for Rewire News wrote:
“Alyssa Milano is back being ridiculous again I see. What is a sex strike going to do besides reinforce patriarchal notions that women have sex only to please men? Lysistrata is not an effective organizing tool. Instead, fuck whomever and support abortion funds. #SexStrike”
What the women in the Lysistrata were able to accomplish was 100% buy-in. That could be accomplished in a fictional play, but not in real world 2019. The play included a chorus of old women who took out the chorus of old men that wanted the war to continue. In modern times, old men hold all the strings of power; the media, the courts, Congress, State Legislatures, and the Presidency. They have created a chorus of their own, media sources that tell them they’re right to control women and their bodies because they don’t deserve to make choices for themselves.
Twitter had supportive males:
“I’m all for this #SexStrike that’s being called for as women fight to prevent men from controlling their bodies, but most of these controlling, ignorant, old men are already likely on their own unintended “sex strike” How about ONLY Women make laws controlling women’s bodies?”
“I fully support the fight for women to have autonomy over their own bodies — including the #SexStrike. (Though I also suspect that those men hateful enough to legislatively subjugate women — aren’t having much sex to begin with, nor do they yield to consent).”
“The problem with the #SexStrike is that the old conservative racist white men who are more concerned with building walls and controlling women’s bodies are likely only getting it at brothels, Florida massage parlors, and when they pay porn stars six figures.”
But then there were the others:
“Literally, Christians have been saying to stop having sex outside of marriage if you don’t want a baby. The response from liberals? “Yeah? We’ll show you! We’re going to stop having sex w/ you!” Our response: that’s all we’ve been asking you to do.”
“It appears liberal women are going on a #SexStrike… Yeah, we good.”
“I’m sorry but I’m not sure how consequential women who don’t shave their underarms and wear vaginas on their head participating in a #SexStrike will be. Not sure these types of women are in any type of particular demand.”
An organized #SexStrike is mainly providing an opportunity to reinforce already existing ideas on every side of the spectrum and without significant participation has little chance to have a significant impact. I submit that in order to work, a group effort won’t work it has to be one-on-one.
Not getting laid by someone you never stood a chance to have sex with will have little to no impact. If the person you actually are sleeping with cuts you off, that’s another matter. If the wives, significant others, and even hook-ups with the men who see no wrong in using their power to control women’s bodies, minds, and actions. These men have always been dependent on an enabling society (men and women). Backed by political parties, television pundits, and organized religion, men of power have been free to exercise it over women without penalty. Their stances even allow them to win elections. What if those same stances meant they lost elections, standing, and sex-life?
In the year 411 BC, men walking around with unattended erections soon ended the war. In real life 2019, a general #SexStrike may have little effect. But a highly localized #SexStrike just might. One man at a time.