Alyssa Milano is urging women to abstain from sex to protest new state restrictions on abortion. Regardless of our views on this hot-button policy issue, women ought to agree that a “sex strike” is stupid, ineffective, and unnecessary.
First, and most problematically, this type of protest elevates the political above the personal. Who does Milano think we are having sex with? Most sex takes place between committed partners, and partners are likely to have somewhat similar views, if not on all political issues, at least on sex, contraception, and abortion.
Even if partners disagree, women don’t want to abstain from sex from their husbands, nor should we, over some political issue. A “sex strike” depicts sex as some chore women do for their partners rather than what it really is (or should be): an act of intimacy and love that that bonds us together. It’s 2019, a time when it’s supposedly widely accepted that women enjoy sex and shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
Second, because of the nature of sexual relationships, this protest is not likely to be effective at changing hearts and minds, much less public policy. Few women will participate at all. Maybe a marginal few random hook-ups will not take place because of this strike. (“Great!” say the social conservatives, by the way.)
But one foregone tryst is not likely to change a young man’s mind. Can you imagine the awkwardness of the conversation? “It was so nice to meet you at the bar, and I really want to have sex with you, but I can’t because I’m in abstaining in solidarity with a celebrity-turned-political-activist to oppose new anti-abortion laws!”
What kind of response can anyone expect to that?
Third, this strike is unnecessary. Women in other cultures and throughout history have withheld sex for political reasons at various times. But in the United States today, there’s simply no need for this type of protest. Women have incredible political power and numerous avenues to have their voices heard, avenues that don’t involve denying oneself or one’s spouse the basic marital act.
Perhaps Milano would rather pretend that these avenues (marching, writing a letter, voting, running for office) don’t exist because she and others on the Left want to paint women as desperate victims of a patriarchal society, a depiction that won’t ring true with most American women today.
It used to be that women on the Left were champions of women’s sexual liberation. But today, ironically, a sex strike is only suitable for the far left. For one thing, it fits the victim narrative. For another, speaking generally, research shows that conservatives have sex more often and enjoy sex more than liberals, meaning we’d have more to lose if we wanted to put our sex lives on hold to strike (and we don’t).
It’s fair enough for women to speak up when they disagree with new or proposed laws. In fact, it’s admirable. We should all contribute to the direction of public policy in a country as free and democratic as ours.
However, this sex strike won’t be an effective way to do that. The only effect it will have is to make Milano and other participants look silly.