There’s nothing sexier than politics, and this year’s Republican candidates intend to keep it that way. From Rick Santorum’s call for a “war on hard-core pornography” to Trump’s offer to show American citizens his junk, the GOP has been paying particular attention to the adage “sex sells.”
America is taking note. In response to some of Santorum’s vicious—and now infamous—comments on homosexuality, the gay writer and activist Dan Savage held a contest among his readership to redefine the word “santorum.” The winning result, “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex,” has become a popular subject of conversation and often appears in search results before the candidate himself.
Recently, and perhaps most notably, the group Liberal Ladies Who Lunch has called for a “sex strike” to combat rampant attempts by the Republican Party to limit birth control and abortion access. With the tagline, “If my reproductive rights are denied, so are yours,” the campaign is designed to raise awareness about the impact that limits on birth control will have on male partners—specifically, they won’t be getting any.
As the event’s website explains, “If we lose our hard won rights to medical care, birth control and pregnancy choice, it won’t only affect women. Men will have to go back to the days when they waited for or paid for sex.” Men will get a taste of that April 28 to May 5, when the No Access Sex Strike is scheduled to occur.
While the concept of a sex strike is intriguing and in some ways, hilarious, I can’t help but wonder about the gender roles implied and reinforced by targeting this at women. If women withholding sex is supposed to make an impact on the decisions of policymakers, two things follow: that men hold all the political power and that women are less reliant on sex.
The first seems undeniable. Women make up a smaller ratio in Congress than the in the legislatures of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uganda. Male policymakers overwhelmingly make decisions about women’s health care and reproductive issues. However, this logic is only solid if the sole participants of the sex strike are the wives, girlfriends, and escorts of our Senators and Congressmen.
Since the majority of the targets of this strike are men with the political power of a ballot and a phone call, there seems to be some confusion over how this will influence male legislators. While I am in total support of consciousness-raising activities, the reality of the sex strike is that it intends to build support through what seems little better than manipulation. Refusing sex is the prerogative of any individual, but let’s be real—it’s not going to inspire passionate support for the cause.
I love sex, and I love strikes, but there are more effective ways to raise awareness of the attack on women’s health in our country. For over a hundred years, American women have been fighting to be recognized as legitimate political entities. Women can be brilliant political strategists, lobbyists, politicians and activists. I have faith in our ability to win this war with our brains and not our vaginas.