So aside from blogging about special education, Wikileaks, and various other topics, and calling the neurologist and the DDD and the autism center my son attends, and chauffeuring him around, and doing laundry, keeping the refrigerator stocked, crafting social stories about transitions, deciphering the larger meanings of his few words, and all else that is involved in taking care of a teenage son who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum—-I am a Classics professor. That is, I teach and study ancient Greek, Latin, and Greek and Roman history, literature, art, archaeology, and religion. Quite often, I teach a play by the ancient Athenian comic writer Aristophanes, the Lysistrata, that always leads to one of my college students saying:
‘I can’t believe an ANCIENT writer came up with this.’
In Lysistrata, the women of ancient Athens go on a sex strike until the men agree to end the Peloponnesian War, in which Athens fought against Sparta from 431-404 BCE. The sex strike is quite clearly depicted in Lysistrata. Actors in ancient Greece wore a leather phallus strapped to the front of their costumes. Accordingly, the male characters in Lysistrata are in a quite ‘compromised’ physiological state as the women are withholding sex strike. The mens’ discomfort is portrayed by their phalloi being in a position indicating their, ah, ‘need’ for, well, sex. (This image will give you an idea.)
After I teach about these details, I get something more of a ‘response’ from my students, often with the words ‘oh…..my…..God, does she really mean that…..’ interspersed.
I rather suspect that some politicians in Belgium might have had a similar response after hearing Socialist senator Marleen Temmerman’s proposal for how to bring the country’s 243 days-plus of negotiations to form a new government to a close. Temmerman, who is also a gynecologist, has called on the spouses of the coalition negotiators to go on a sex strike until a new government is formed, the BBC reports. Belgium is now approaching an unofficial world-record for ‘country without a government.’ With the exception of Somalia, only Iran (topping out at 249 days) has taken longer to form a government. From the BBC:
Ms Temmerman said she has not had a direct response to her suggestion from other politicians or their partners, but about 80% of members of the public who had contacted her office have been very positive.
“Ten to 20% who don’t have a sense of humour were upset, saying ‘This is really a disgrace, how can someone who is such a serious lady launch such a stupid idea?’ It’s hilarious that people take it so seriously,” said Ms Temmerman.
Belgium’s political crisis, the BBC notes, arises from divisions between the Flemish, Dutch-speaking population and French-speaking Walloons.’ In the elections way (way, way) back in June, the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) emerged as the largest force in parliament but, as it won only 27 of 150 seats, it needed to form a coalition with other parties to govern.
In Pereira, Colombia, in 2006, the girlfriends of gang members held a widely publicised “strike of crossed legs” vowing to give up sex until their partners gave up violence. Last year, the city’s murder rate saw the steepest decline in Colombia, down by 26.5%. Then in Naples, Italy, in 2008, women formed a similar strike against the notoriously dangerous New Year fireworks displays; in 2011, yet another man died and 70 people were injured at the event. Was one strike a long-term success, one not? It’s impossible to say. These aren’t, thankfully, the only measures to have been taken against these issues.
One sex strike lauded as a straightforward triumph was held in Kenya in 2009, when women’s organisations protested against political infighting. “After just one week there was a stable government,” Temmerman says.
While it is ‘understandable that women might assert political power this way,’ the Guardian says that the notion of a sex strike ‘clearly problematic, reasserting old ideas of men as sexually predatory and essentially entitled to sex, while women must protect their honour at all costs, and can only effect change through their bodies.’
Though, if any of the negotiators in Belgium are women, I would think their husbands should also be asked to participate in the sex strike? All’s fair in love and war and all that, you know.
As the BBC says:
It is not clear whether response to the call for a sex strike will also fall along regional and linguistic lines.
But Catherine Fonck, a francophone Christian Democrat senator, was quoted in Britain’s Daily Telegraph as saying: “I do not want to take part in a sex strike. Politicians are not there to strike. On the contrary, politicians are there to arouse the country.”
Um, ‘arouse’? Double-entendre or Freudian slip?
As for Temmerman, she is quoted in Agence France Press as saying a sex strike would be ‘easy’ for her: Her husband is currently in Kenya.
Photo by djwingsia.