We Do Need A Sex Strike
Leymah Gbowee was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for convincing warlords in Liberia to stop fighting, putting an end to the country’s brutal civil war.
How did she do it? By organising a sex strike.
Historically, mass movements of women refusing to have sex have had a lot of success in obtaining political gains. In 411 BC, the playwright Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata, a Greek comedy in which women boycotted sex to force the men to end the Peloponnesian war. Real-world women mimicked their fictional counterparts, and the “Lysistratic non-action protests” as they are now called brought an end to the war.
More recently, Polish women held a Sex-Strike when abortion was almost banned in 2016, and in 2006, female partners of gang members in the Colombian city of Pereira held back sex to demand a reduction in violence and civilian disarmament. According to the Global Nonviolent Action Database, the strike led to a drop of 26.5% of the murder rate in Pereira by 2010 — impressive in a city that had a homicide rate twice the national average when the sex strike began.
Their long history shows that sex strikes work, which may have been what actress and #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano was thinking when she called for a Sex Strike to protest Georgia’s new law which basically outlaws abortion. She tweeted:
“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.”
The thing is, just because sex strikes work doesn’t make them desirable. The idea that women should “withhold” sex from men in order to change their behaviour insinuates that sex is only for men in the first place, and that women would miss it less than men. It feeds into the unhealthy narrative of women as providers of sex, and men as consumers. It adds fuel to the fire of men who pretend that women use sex to get stuff — from free drinks to jobs. (The fact that men buying women drinks is part of a rape culture mentality that women have to be intoxicated and tricked into…