The Crossed-Legs Tactic: When Does It Make Sense to Go on a Political Sex Strike?

The sex strike is an age-old form of protest, stretching back to the Ancient Greeks. But should sex ever be used as political barter?

The women of Barbacoas, Colombia are taking matters into their own, er, vaginas. The Guardian published a piece yesterday about a sex strike on the tiny port village, where women are protesting its egregiously inadequate roads. These prehistoric streets make it so difficult to access the rest of the province that they have caused food costs to soar, and in cases where ambulances get stuck in the mud, many deaths. After tireless political protest and hunger strikes throughout the years, local women are now "crossing their legs" in protest. Their slogan since June? "No more sex. We want our road."

The writer credits modern feminism for helping these women find "the courage to remain strong in their demands." The political tactic of refusing men sex goes all the way back to ancient Greece; Aristophanes' comic play Lysistrata features women withholding sex from their husbands as a way to end the Peloponnesian War. But does abstinence ever make sense as a protest? And are the women who adopt this strategy ultimately undercutting their own political power?

At face value, this political tactic is as old-fashioned as it gets. It paints men as horny brutes and women as sacrificial gatekeepers. Sure, boycotts always involve self-denial, but the tone of a sex strike is never mutual sacrifice. It's women fighting against a male-dominated group that they feel they can't control except with their bodies. The basic assumption is that men are so dependent on boning that they'll crack at the slightest deprivation of sexual activity.

But context is everything. The women in Colombia aren't simply playing the sex card; they're connecting their life-or-death struggle to their future children. "We are being deprived of our most human rights and as women we can't allow that to happen," Ruby Quinones, one of the organizers, told a local newspaper. "Why bring children into this world when they can just die without medical attention and we can't even offer them the most basic rights?" Of course, in a country where birth control is accessible (and now free!) and abortion is legal, this defense rings hollow. But in a place like Barbacoas, where access to even basic medical care is strained and ending a pregnancy could get you three years in prison, a strike like this suddenly becomes meaningful.

This tactic has cropped up in the United States, too. Consider Second City's call earlier this year to stop fucking men who support defunding Planned Parenthood. Their logic was simple: men who don't think women's access to health care is important didn't deserve to have sex with women. This wasn't a call for women to abstain from sex in general—just to deny it to men who didn't care about their rights.

But usually, sex (or lack thereof) is disconnected from the ultimate political goal. In Belgium, Senator Marleen Timmerman called for a sex strike during the country's government impasse in February. In an earlier sex strike in Colombia, women demanded that gangsters disarm or face a life of celibacy. A feminist writer described a 2009 Kenyan sex strike as "demonstrating [women's] sexual agency," and indeed, in a nation where rape is so common that it's been called the country's "biggest human rights issue," there's something powerful about using sex as a weapon. But that strike wasn't to combat widespread rape; it was to protest political infighting that is only marginally connected to sexual assault.

Sex has the power to grab headlines, and any press for a protest will only help the cause. A grassroots movement of "Slutwalks," led by young feminists to protest rape and victim-blaming, has the word "slut" in its name for a reason. As feminist activist Jessica Valenti asked while discussing the movement on a national news show, "Do you think I'd be here if they were called 'empowerment walks'?" But Slutwalks celebrate sexuality rather than requiring women to suppress it. And they're not using sex to pressure a group of men about an unrelated issue.

When used indiscriminately, all a sex strike does is pit men against women and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes. For the crossed-legs tactic to be effective, the punishment should fit the crime.

photo (cc) by Flickr user bondonialberto

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet