On May 15, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed “the most aggressively anti-abortion law in recent American history.” The law would permit abortions only if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus cannot survive. Abortion would not be permitted in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.
So we’re clear, Alabama is not alone in its endeavors. A growing number of states have moved to drastically restrict access to abortion. Several states, including Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia, have pursued “heartbeat bills” in recent months – or, legislation that would ban abortion as soon as a physician is able to detect a fetus’ heartbeat.
Though shocking, it’s important to remember that, regardless of these current bills, it’s already hard for many people to get abortions in the US — and it’s been like that for a long time.
Take Alabama again, for example. According to Amnesty International, though that law was signed in May, in practice, abortion is already inaccessible for many people in the state. A report cited from the Guttmatcher Institute found that, in 2014, 93 percent of Alabama counties had no clinics that provided abortions. This means many people in Alabama have to travel to other states to access abortions, which is obviously an extra cost added on top of the procedure itself’s associated costs.
So, suffice it to say that these are restrictive times that are getting even more restricted… which obviously (hopefully) would encourage people to speak up, speak out and take action — including celebrities.
The frightening environment surrounding these abortion laws prompted some celebrities — namely, Alyssa Milano — to call for a sex boycott. A sex boycott is exactly what it sounds like — the act of withholding sex, usually from heterosexual men, in order to create change or start a dialogue — and Milano’s call came a few days after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a “heartbeat bill.”
“Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy,” Milano wrote on Twitter on May 10. “JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.”
At its most basic level, maybe this sounds like a good idea? Take away what the men in power want in order to effect change — maybe? Critics from both sides of the political aisle were quick to bat down the idea though.
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.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 11, 2019
#SexStrike: A Misplaced Idea
Almost immediately after Milano tweeted her idea, critics poked holes in it. They called out the idea that this strike assumes sex is enjoyed only by men and that women’s bodies are commodities that can be denied to men as punishment or a bargaining chip. Others pointed out that the sex strike ignored LGBTQ people and didn’t consider the possibility of sexual violence — as in, how does one just decide to withhold sex in a sexually coercive “relationship” or what if withholding sex leads to sexual violence?
Clearly, there are many problems with this #SexStrike idea, but worry not. From what my ten minute Google search indicated, there were no reports of anyone actually putting Milano’s boycott idea to the test.
While some advocates of reproductive rights supported the idea, many were concerned about how non-inclusive the boycott was. For instance, although members of the LGBTQ+ community are affected by the restriction of abortion rights, they are excluded from this form of protest, which critics say centers “cis/heterosexual” sex.
1. Erasing LGBTQIA folks from the discussion of abortion and centering solutions (if you can call this a solution) around cis/heterosexual sex is counterproductive. https://t.co/yxWkWXHA2M
— Lara Witt (@Femmefeministe) May 11, 2019
On the more conservative side, the #SexStrike idea was met with sarcastic applause. See for instance the BlazeTV video below. Abstinence does seem to be their preferred solution to not get pregnant, and a this strike would encourage a form of abstinence… A conservative news outlet even joked about how this call to action “solved” the abortion crisis. Although abstinence is theoretically bulletproof, experts state that “sexual risk avoidance” and abstinence-only education programs do not prepare young people for life — and they do a poor job of preparing them to avoid sex.
But let’s not pretend this was the first and only time a #SexStrike was called for. In the past, sex strikes that have concrete goals have been effective. Countries like Liberia, Kenya and the Philippines initiated successful strikes, which ended violence.
These examples go to show how powerful sex can be, but why didn’t Milano’s sex strike work now?
First and foremost, because that’s not how US laws work. Striking does not change law, so though a demonstration might be powerful, it’s also *just* a demonstration. Further, think about it in terms of sustainability. A large group of ordinarily sexually active people practicing abstinence to make a point is going to last exactly how long? Probably not long enough to change laws via US procedure.
Bottom line, an overwhelming amount of people in the world, as well as in the adult community love sex — and not a lot of us are willing to give it up. As radical as the idea of a sex strike may have seemed, in this day and age, it’s merely performative and probably not very effective.
The best way to combat state abortion bans is to stay informed, especially if your state is pushing legislation to restrict reproductive rights. And though the idea of horny clients with “on strike” partners flooding into your room may sound appealing on a bank account level, bigger picture awareness is what will help keep lawmakers in check once elections come back around.
Also, frankly, you probably shouldn’t be sleeping with people who don’t already support your rights in the first place.