Flat White

“What if women went on a sex strike before the midterms?”

6 November 2018

12:01 PM

6 November 2018

12:01 PM

…and no one noticed?

After the “Grab them by the ballot” nude photo shoot by “a diverse group of 10 Vermont women”, with only a few hours to go before the most important mid-term election since the previous mid-term election, here’s another useful suggestion courtesy of Wednesday Martin, a “writer and cultural critic” editorialising at CNN:

It’s time for a revolution. At the polls, and in the bedroom. And in our understanding of who women are, sexually and otherwise. Given the tight interweaving of economic and political power with sexual entitlement, female sexual autonomy has never been more urgent, and women’s sexual pleasure has never been more political. Let’s consider what it might mean to go on a sex strike of sorts — to get what we want, rather than give what we think we owe others…

A women’s sex strike against service sex, a refusal to do it out of a sense of obligation, would force us to confront these basic inequalities. Our current administration has amped up the notion that women are mere extensions of male will and pleasure, there to serve at every turn. What is the rollback of reproductive rights but an assertion that not only female reproduction but female sexuality itself belong to what science writer Natalie Angier calls the “Greater Male Coalition”? What are the President’s insults to Stormy Daniels other than assertions that the woman who enjoys sex or profits from it in any way — emotionally, financially, or physically — is unnatural, immoral, and unattractive? In this world order, female sexual autonomy is not only dangerous and destabilizing; it is increasingly hard to imagine. And female pleasure is irrelevant, even pathological, if it exists at all.

Some women under the current administration may be fine with this paradigm, but they are fundamentally yoked to male desires and agendas, never to exist outside or without them. This basic and deeply personal form of degradation, in which even women’s desires aren’t our own, both reinforces and reflects a hierarchy where men matter more.

I’m all for women’s pleasure, but there seem to be some gross oversimplifications here, no the least the politicisation of sexual desire and performance. I can understand how the left sees the right as conservative, patriarchal and man-centric, which in turn translates to everything from the under-representation of women in the ranks of the CEOs to the disregard for women’s sexual enjoyment – with the left providing an alternative, more equal and inclusive vision – but it’s far too simplistic both on the macro and the micro levels.

Right wing = bad sex, left-wing = good sex (at least for women) is a silly old trope that is now centuries old. Apart from being very undergraduate, it’s also not true – research shows that conservatives and religious people (who also tend to be more conservative) actually report better sex lives than those on the left.

But putting all that aside, the practicalities of a sex strike to achieve progressive social, economic and political objectives are also quite questionable.

Left-wing women with left-wing partners going on strike would not achieve anything since these men are already “on side”. Right-wing women with right-wing partners won’t go on strike since they are “fundamentally yoked to male desires and agendas, never to exist outside or without them”, or as Marxist-feminists would say, these women exhibit false consciousness.

Only the left-wing women with right-wing partners combo provides an opportunity to “swing votes”, but only on the assumption that right-wing men are susceptible to that sort of pressure.

In any case, good luck to Ms Martin and any female strikers out there. I’ll be following it with interest, looking out for any strikebreakers and scabs.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

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