Lysistrata in today’s world

28 Jun

The feminist cultural website Jezebel published an article detailing an organized group of rural Colombian women who decided that a sex strike would be the only effective way to get their men together and get some roads paved!:

Tired of the added remoteness that unpaved, muddy, avalanche-prone, dangerous roads provide to the reality of already living very far away from anywhere else, the women decided that the most fruitful form of getting their men inspired would be to withhold sex until change starts happening.

In April of 2009, another organized group of Kenyan women called on their female compatriots of all political stripes to join their week-long sex strike in an effort to draw attention to (and ideally help combat) infighting and corruption in the government.

Do such bans work? Are a few to several hundred women abstaining from sex working in concert to achieve productive outcomes? Arguably, the very fact that such efforts achieve international reportage implies that their goals are being met to some degree. If the women in a remote area of Colombia are tired of their lack of roads and accessibility, drumming up a strike and achieving publicity works: now it is inevitable that the Colombian government has been informed of the problem.

But will this information lead to a follow-through? Will funds, workers, equipment, machinery, and cohesive vision be provided because of a publicity stunt? Would the strike be more successful if the female villagers convinced the wives of Bogotan politicians to strike alongside them? After all, the structuring problem is most likely one of apathy and indifference to the lives of those who live so remotely and differently from those who live in gleaming houses and paved roads.

These recent strikes have been referred to in terms of the ancient play Lysistrata, written by Aristophanes in 411 B.C. The women of Greece, exhausted by the horrors and violence of the Peloponnesian War, join together in a concerted effort to convince their men to stop fighting and live in peace. Through a ban on sexual activities of any kind, the women-led by Lysistrata-hope to persuade the men that their need for peace will counteract the prevailing tendencies towards violence.

This is a curious maneuver indeed, for it implicitly suggests that a woman’s most powerful effort at achieving her needs and desires is accomplished through withholding her sex. Indeed, using her voice to argue, her brain to create new scenarios, and her physical strength to bend others to her will are all apparently of lesser importance than her mouth to suck and her vagina to fuck.

Is such a state of abstained affairs depressing or realistic? Perhaps to be depressed about the shrewdness of the tactics and the likelihood of their quick results is to be naive and adrift in the realm of feminist abstraction and philosophical questioning, whereas to be realistic is to literally have one’s feet on the ground (and off her back, so to speak).


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