Recently, actress and white feminist extraordinaire Alyssa Milano made the mistake of taking to Twitter to put out a call to action. In response to the oppressive legislation in states like Georgia and Alabama, where (white, male) lawmakers were looking to completely ban abortion under any and all circumstances, she had a proposal. If women banded together in solidarity and went on a “sex strike,” they could show men that you can’t mess with women’s rights.
Naturally, as Twitter does, they ripped into her. And, in this case, rightfully so.
Some women believe that a sex strike will be this great unifying experience. Women will come together in true sisterhood and tell men that they won’t get any until they get their collective shit together. It’s idealistic at its best, and downright asinine at its worst.
Sex isn’t the problem here; it’s the belief that the deprivation of sex is actually a viable option.
Look folks, this isn’t Lysistrata, the classic Greek play where the women deny men sex. In the play, the men walk around with giant fake erections and bemoan their fate, while the women get down to business. The play is just that — a play. It is not a road map to modern day society.
Not only is it not a roadmap, it’s problematic AF. I can understand the logic behind it — many men seem to only want women as objects of sexual desire, so if we deprive them of what they want, they will listen to us. But if you really think about it, there are a lot of holes in that logic.
First, not having sex with men doesn’t stop the women who have also had a hand in creating these oppressive laws. In Alabama, the bill to ban abortion was sealed by a woman. Yes, those 20 plus men voted on it. But also, who signed it into being? The governor of Alabama, who is…a woman. If women have a hand in getting these laws passed, a sex strike isn’t going to fix them.
Second, calling for women to boycott sex actually proves the exact point we’re arguing against — that women’s bodies only exist to be of use to men. By going on a sex strike, women are not giving men the space to take them seriously in places outside of the bedroom. It’s bad enough that women in relationships with men already treat sex as a commodity. Like, “I’ll have sex with you if you wash the dishes.” Sure, it may work, but ultimately, using sex as currency in hetero relationships has reinforced a harmful idea about how women feel about sex and our value to society.
Contrary to the belief of some, sex is about more than just duty or obligation. Sex can be, and should be pleasurable for all parties involved. As many women have pointed out, a sex strike would be deny women of pleasure just as much as it would be denying men of pleasure.
Aside from the obvious points about sex, there is another huge issue with the proposal of a women’s sex strike. It’s exclusionary as fuck. Cisgender, heterosexual women aren’t the only people being affected by these “laws.” There is a whole spectrum of people who are not being considered in the idea of a sex strike.
I am a cisgender woman who identifies as queer and exclusively has sex with women. So I’m already not having sex with men. Also, it implies that “sex” consists only of intercourse, which it does not.
Also, transwomen can get someone pregnant, just the same as transmen can get pregnant. Non-binary folx can still get pregnant or get someone pregnant. Where exactly do they fit into the concept of a sex strike?
Then, there’s another very glaring problem with a sex strike. What about those who are victims of rape or abuse? Women in abusive relationships may not have a choice about sex. Sometimes their abusers are forcing them to have sex as a way to maintain power. A sex strike for them could be deadly. And if man is raping a woman, what is she going to do, say “Excuse me, but I’m currently on a sex strike, so you can’t rape me?” Get real.
And what about sex workers? Many women who are sex workers are doing so as their job. Or they are also victims of abuse/sex trafficking and don’t have a choice in whether or not they have sex. They are just as directly affected by this legislation, but they have to think about their survival.
Without a doubt, we are in dark times. But the concept of a sex strike comes from a place of internalized misogyny and extreme privilege. The line of thinking that this is even a plausible way to solve any of our problems is ridiculous. If we are looking to be seen as the human beings we are, reducing ourselves to our ability to have sex negates everything.
We can’t continue to feed into the misogynistic notion that women are nothing but vessels for sex. That is some incel level, toxic bullshit. A sex strike isn’t going to get us the end results we need. We need to hunker down, get our money together and support organizations that will fight for us on the ground.
That’s the only real solution.
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