Women Around the World Are Using Sex Strikes to Create Social Change

Women Around the World Are Using Sex Strikes to Create Social Change

Earlier this month, a group of Tokyo women dropped the mic by threatening to hold a sex boycott against any man who voted for leading governor candidate Yoichi Masuzoe.

Their motive? In 1989, Masuzoe told a men's magazine this idiocy: "You can't possibly let [women] make critical decisions about the country [during their menstrual cycles] such as whether or not to go to war." When these misogynistic views resurfaced recently, women rocked the vote by launching an anti-Masuzoe Twitter campaign, a petition and oh of course— withholding sex.  

Though the campaign did not meet its intended goal — Masuzoe won the race — it speaks to a growing international trend where women are using abstinence as a means of nonviolent protesting.  

Sex strikes are forms of resistance often used to meet political, social or economic goals. Though its effectiveness is contended, abstinence strikes offer those who use them — in a majority of cases, women — an alternative platform to advocate for social justice.

Here are five other kickass sex strikes that catapulted for change in recent years:



1. Liberia, 2003

Talk about handling business: The women of Liberia helped end a 14-year civil war that killed over 250,000 by staging a sex strike in 2002. Leymah Gbowee, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for leading the efforts, helped band Christian and Muslim women together to refuse sex with their husbands until the violence and civil unrest subsided. Calling for an immediate ceasefire, the group persuaded the president of Liberia to engage in peace talks with Ghana, eventually leading to the end of the civil war in 2003. The group's revolutionary efforts are featured in the award-winning documentary Pray The Devil Back To Hell.


2. Colombia, 2006

In September 2006, wives and girlfriends of gang members from the Colombian city of Pereira launched "La huelga de las piernas cruzadas" (or cross-legged strike), a 10-day movement intended to curb gang violence.  As many as 488 murders were reported in the city during 2005, with 90% of the dead gang members aged 14 to 25.  According to surveys, gang members' favorite activity was having sex, with gang association being more about power and sexual seduction than money. Women incentivized their men to hand in their guns with the motto, "violence is not sexy."  Though hard to determine, their efforts may have had lasting impacts: Pereira had a 26.5% murder drop by 2010.

3. Kenya, 2009

On April 29, 2009, ten Kenyan women's associations invited women to abstain from sex in order to end disputes between the president and prime minister. Thousands of women took part (one being pictured here) in a week-long strike to push for long-lasting reforms, including efforts to relieve droughts and food shortages. The protest was successful in starting a dialogue between the two officials.

4. Philippines, 2011

When your town is plagued with decades worth of violence and rebellion, you take matters into your own hands. In 2011, a group of Filipina women from Mindanao Island withheld sex from their partners to curb fighting between two villages. The move was strategic: The local road between the villages was closed, preventing women from traveling and transporting goods and thus earning a sustainable income. When the keys to the bedroom were locked, the men shaped up fairly quickly. Within a few weeks, the road was safe for travel.


5. United States, 2012

We all remember the conservative party's attack on the contraception mandate in 2012, right? Well that year, a group called Liberal Ladies Who Lunch organized a sex strike from April 28 to May 5 to get people to understand the benefits of contraception for both women and men. On their website, they said: "Once Congress and insurance agencies agree to cover contraception, we will then resume having sex. Until then men will have to be content with their left hand." The strike probably had little to do with the mandate eventually passing, but it wasn't the only one of its kind. That same year, the wife of Republican Virginia lawmaker David Albo refused him sex due to his support of the state's transvaginal ultrasound bill.


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Maureen Ahmed

Maureen focuses on uplifting the voices of global women through her work and writings. A born and bred NYawker and feminist, she can't swim, drive or bike. It happens.

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