Sex Strike: Abstemious, Yes. Auspicious, No.
Alyssa Milano, an actress of middling theatrical renown but of increasing political relevance, has called upon her sisters-at-arms to initiate what she’s calling a “sex-strike”. Though not a particularly novel idea (the Greek comedian Aristophanes inaugurated it on the Athenian stage), the declaration of so abstemious a decree was bound to arouse the attention of every self-respecting man toward whom it was intended. It certainly has caused quite a stir amongst men and women alike. The feminine response has been tepid; that of the male, expected. It’s struck not only fear but flaccidity into the masculine heart and head (and exactly which “head” is the one of which I speak, I’ll leave to you, indecent reader, to decide) and Milano’s call has been taken under the strongest advisement.
The purpose of her recently announced coital embargo, her ambitious penile prohibition of an impracticable sort, is apparently to stir into action those ladies who stand athwart the idea that abortions need be constrained. Lately, and quite distressingly if you ask Ms. Milano and those for whom she’s come to be considered an intellectual leader on the Democratic side, a succession of conservative state legislatures have been passing increasingly stringent abortion bills. The name most commonly applied to said bills is that of a “Heartbeat”—a reference to the time at which the unborn child’s ventricle contracts and produces its incipient beat.
This type of bill, anathema to everything for which the political left has stood over the course of past fifty-odd years, would enjoin a pregnant woman from receiving an abortion at any point following the detection of a fetal heartbeat. In accordance with the normal process of gestational development, this usually tends to occur at around the sixth week—the point at which the first trimester, comprising twelve weeks in all, might easily be split into two. You might think of it as the entr’acte of the woman enceinte—the cut-off point after which the child can’t be cut out.
Presently, in most states, the allotment of time during which an abortion can be performed without any legal ramification is about twenty-two weeks, quite deep into the second of the harrowing three trimesters. At that point, a woman’s belly is quite demonstrably plump and no amount of long-flowing maternal trousseau will succeed in concealing this often-cumbersome fact.
Important to note here is that the Heartbeat bill, restrictive though it may be, places no interdiction on the woman’s ability to have an abortion prior to her sixth week. It simply, and perhaps onerously means that a woman must act to accomplish that end rather fast. If caught by surprise by so unlikely an event as a false-negative pregnancy test, she’ll be made to respond to a literal life-or-death situation with unexpected haste. Unfortunate but true, fertility meets alacrity in this way. The result is an acute diminution on the availability of one’s time to decide. A woman so unenviably burdened would be made to assess herself, her future, and her morals at this very early stage and seek—depending on the conclusion at which she arrived to those difficult above investigations—the care of the requisite health care provider in a much smaller window of time. Yet she still retains the right to secure a medical intervention to abort that which slowly matures from within under circumstances that quickly impress upon her from without. She does so in a manner commensurate with that which would be expected of any other woman living in the most progressive of abortion-promulgating states.
After that time, however, the opportunity to receive an abortion effectively and now legally will have come to its end. Its expiry will have been reached and the baby, notwithstanding some sanguinary voluntary act, will be brought into the world. To Milano and the bien pensant of the left, this is no good; the time restriction is too soon. And it’s this restriction on the allotment of time during which a woman can legally access an abortion that’s inspired Ms. Milano’s sans-sex decree. With an eye toward its amendment, if not its outright revocation, she’s staked her enthusiastically missionary position to effectuate its end.
Abstemious but inauspicious, Ms. Milano’s sex-strike is very likely to fail. The reasons for this are many and perhaps needn’t my explanation here. But, the moment compels me and the time is free.
For one, her treatment of sex is as though it were an entirely commercial act—not at all consistent with the way in which any actual romantic worth his or her salt imagines it. In her estimation, sex has been transformed from a demonstration of love and commitment into one of callous enticement and exchange. Used as both carrot and stick, sex as she sees it is nothing more than a means by which a man is to be manipulated. He’s to be drawn in, tantalized, and finally beaten back. It’s the high and the low of a tireless tumescence thwarted by a continual cooling-off, and that’s no salutary approach to love nor life. In her understanding, it’s a process at whose conclusion a useful expedient is gained and a new power found. It’s a struggle for dominance by that historically and biologically indomitable sex—the female of our species. But intercourse can never be so coarse, and Ms. Milano really ought not to add to the debasement that the act has suffered already.
Secondly, the women—and by extension, the men—for whom this decree will have any resonance whatsoever are already on the political left. Comfortably and dare I say obdurately, they all agree with her as she expresses them and as things stand. Unless she’s attempting to tap into that small, if not completely illusory segment of the population of liberal women who are enjoying relationships with conservative men, her strike will have no effect. Thus, her sex-strike is essentially stuck within an echo-chamber from which it can’t hope to escape. The only women likely to heed her message are those who already are in agreement with her and the other positions on which she stands—as probably their spouses do as well. These aren’t the people whose minds need to change, nor those whose guiltless mates deserve to suffer.
Finally, Ms. Milano neglects to consider the fact that many women might actually be of the pro-life position. Indeed, they may vehemently be so nobly-inclined. Though the temerity of such crazed women, I should hope, will in time prove forgivable, the current statistics are worthy of note. Just about fifty-percent of women consider themselves pro-life. On this schismatic issue, the country’s ladies are nearly at an even split. Naturally though somewhat despairingly, this percentage drops as one’s education gains. It’s a consequence of that odd inverse relationship by which the accumulation of one’s years spent in school tends to diminish the sympathy with which one examines the pro-life point. The more learned, the more lenient you’ll be to the woman. The more urbane, the more unamiable toward the child. Milano misses this point, and by so doing, fails to consider half of the women in the U.S. and their deeply-felt sentiments.
In contrasting the ambitious Ms. Milano with the scurrilous Aristophanes (any critic of Euripides and killer of Socrates—of whom both were contemporaries and superiors, mind you—is no friend of mine), we see the divergence of the actor from the author. The former is playing a part and her fantasy will soon end. Her ill-conceived sex-strike will breathe its last before it has a chance to begin. Aristophanes, on the other hand, wrote and created the world in his Lysistrata as he wanted it to be—a world where sex was the ultimate tool, a veritable weapon of mass fornication—an armory of amorousness. Only on the stage could so potent a weapon be wielded with success by the “gentler” sex.