Political Impasse? No Sex For You, Says Belgian Senator

So aside from blogging about special educationWikileaks, 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.

The Guardian considers the effectiveness of sex strikes (real ones, not Aristophanes’ fictional one in Lysistrata—which, by the way, is successful at ending the war):

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.


Gary S.
Gary S7 years ago

The reactions are far funnier then the article. Some of you are giving us WAY TO MUCH information.
To the ones way pro or way con to this idea. I suggest you seek some counciling, you are taking this far too seriously.

Sandra F.
Sandra F7 years ago

Well, I have known about Lysistrata all mmy life and the idea is laudable. But since men have been raping women since the beginning of the human life line it would not work! One woman is raped every minute in some part of the world..including the supposedly civilized West. Abuse of women is rampant everywhere and has been for the past million odd years. Probably only during the matriarchies, 15,000-40,000 years ago, were women allowed to think their bodies and their lives were their own.

There are great men in the world, and I love them dearly for their very existence...but women´s lives have been and continue to be nightmarish. Women´s suffrage only began in Great Britain ca. 1918 and the US followed suit. Tiil then women had NO rights. They couldn´t vote, couldn´t have bank accounts or even leave town without a male relative´s or spouse´s permission. They were in the same position as children. Women were not allowed to go to university til the 1920´s. Swiss women didn´t get the vote til the 1970´s...if you can believe it! And even in the US, spousal abuse was ignored by police as a ¨domestic affair¨ until the 1980´s. In Spain, Portugal and Latin America, even later. Women have been and are being massacred by men in Africa and worldwide, even in the so-called civilized countries.
BRING BACK THE MATRIARCHIES and we´ll have a civilized world once again. Women don´t rape...women don´t mak

Ann G.
Ann G7 years ago

I know that some will read into this stuff about women's rights and all that, but I think that we need to take a step back and laugh, while admitting that this actually a pretty good idea. Anything that works, works, and I for one would be happy to include men, but since there aren't that many women in Congress I'm guessing there aren't that many men who could participate in such a thing.

PJ Granieri
.7 years ago

Yeah congress goes after kids, didn't you know. They all know how to get away with it. The sex trade of children is in Congress's hands an they take advantage of it all the time...no mistresses for some...It's porn for others an hand jobs...but children for most sicko's up on the hill

Heidi M.
Heidi M7 years ago

It wouldn't work in the US - they all have mistresses anyway, right?

Justin Kidd
Justin Kidd7 years ago

Dr. Chew is of course correct to bring up the locus classicus of
the suggestion; it is a part of our culture that we should all know about. The use of "Lysistrata" as anti-war propaganda around the country a few years back should have penetrated the awareness of even the most hawkish of lawn-tractor dealers. Nice to have Prof. Chew's specialty come up these days.

annelies j.
annelies j7 years ago

Zoltajn B.
I don't think the German population needs representation. They have Germany after all, right?

Lynn C.
Lynn C7 years ago

"Don't play games with my rights, honey, or you won't be getting any! And I mean NONE" Poetic justice. I love it....

Peter V.'s post is interesting! Mmmmm soft anarchy, with good Belgian beer...sounds pretty darn good to me!

Zoltán B.
Zoltán B.7 years ago

Well roared Temmerman-Lysistrata! Forward for more humor in politics -- and for the division of Belgium in a Flemish and a Walloon country! (What about the Germans in the vicinity of Eupen?)

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago