Earlier this month, Alabama and Georgia both passed controversial anti-abortion legislation. The “heartbeat laws”, which outlaw abortion once the fetus has a heartbeat. In the wake of such, pro-choice women have been lighting up social media. Notably, false reports that the Alabama heartbeat law would prosecute women for miscarriages made the rounds on the news cycle. The bill would only pull a woman into an investigation if there was suspicion someone else had performed an abortion on her. This bit of misinformation contributes to media fear mongering, and somewhat humorously, some Twitter users calling for a “Sex Strike.”
Alyssa Milano’s Sex Strike
Actress Alyssa Milano said on Twitter “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.” This Tweet received a variety of reactions, from intense agreement, to accusations of sexism, to lighthearted jabs. Milano said also, that people should not take this tweet seriously. Her intentions were instead to “raise awareness” about abortion rights. Besides the fact that this is one of the lamest cop-outs of the year, it doesn’t really matter if Milano was joking or not. As it stands, a fair amount of people are taking this sex strike seriously.
Looking at the situation now, “queer sex” seems to be on the table– evidently, the real danger lies in cis men. Conservatives and traditionalists on the subject, however, a joke is all the sex strike amounts to. It seems that those in the pop-left and pop-feminist spheres have arrived at traditional values all on their own. Abstinence happens to be exactly what those on the religious right want.
Prohibition and Sex Strikes
Aside from the mainstream critique or agreement with the sex strike, there are a few interesting parallels in history that demonstrate women’s practical political power. Indeed, it demonstrates that even before we accrued the ability to vote, we had sway in one important area. We had sway in the home. It wasn’t simply mad raving women scorning men, which no men took seriously, but it was a real societal role that had real political impacts. Suffragettes united under the banner “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine” to help the prohibition gain traction.
On a lighter note, a girl wrote to Abraham Lincoln urging him to grow out his bear. She said, “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” Reportedly, this is the reason why Lincoln grew his beard.
Sex, as been a political weapon used by and against women ever since the world of politics, came into existence. Simply put, sex and by extension reproduction, is a highly sought after resource. It seems wrong to view it that way, but it’s not unreasonable to analyze it as a resource or marketplace. This is part of the criticism that comes along with the sex strike. Implicitly, the sex strike insinuates the usage of the female body as a weapon. This is where the accusation of sexism comes in.
Women Are More Than Their Sexuality
It is a general belief in feminist thought, at least in the 1950s-1990s, that women are more than their sexuality. That, in fact, this sex strike plays into the hands of men, encouraging them to reduce women and the laws that surround us to how our bodies will benefit them. This critique is not necessarily accurate in all ways, and it isn’t universally agreed upon. The bigger problem with the sex strike is what it says about political action. It says, in essence, that political differences that may or may not exist between individuals warrant any type of social shunning. The men who will be supposedly affected by the sex strike aren’t politicians or against abortion in the first place. According to Milano herself, this isn’t a strike on sex with conservative men, it’s to convince liberal men to take action.
But what this suggests is that politics comes before personal relationships. The sex strike is a symptom of our cultures willingness to bend to the political system, and it’s a symptom of the grip political polarization has on the lives of Americans. It isn’t even real political polarization, it’s just the appearance of it. The truth is, most people fall somewhere in the center, politically speaking. Sex, traditionally speaking, is the most intimate way to know someone. If you rule someone out sexually, they are suddenly ruled out in friendships, and eventually conversation. Relatively small political differences become exacerbated.
Sex Strikes Lead to Unhealthy Political Relationships
Withholding sex over the simple political circumstance of your nation is nothing but a symptom of an unhealthy relationship. Politics, a lot of the time, is treated as a difference in values or principles, which are fundamentally separate. Values, like whether or not you believe all people are equal, whether someone values pieces, whether somebody’s selfless or selfish, how they choose to treat the people around them, are not on the same level as policy. With the way our society conflates the two, the sex strike shouldn’t be surprising. In reality, values and morality are actually a valid reason to not sleep with, or even associate with another person.
At the end of the day, the sex strike will be a dead meme in a month at most. But what it puts on stage for us all to see is the interpersonal ugliness of the current state of affairs in the media. It follows a long tradition of political manipulation by way of social shunning. It creates differences where they really are none and makes it more acceptable to pass off perfectly people as unknowable.
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