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Sex strikes: A recent history
Women in Colombia are keeping their legs crossed until their town wins better roads — and they're hardly the first women to employ such a tactic
 
Some women in Columbia are crossing their legs and refusing to have sex until roads to and from their small town are improved.
Some women in Columbia are crossing their legs and refusing to have sex until roads to and from their small town are improved.
Image Source/Corbis

In the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, the women of Greece go on a sex strike to end the decades-long Peloponnesian War. Since then, many women around the world have gone on similar sex strikes to keep their men in line. Most recently, women in Barbacoas, Colombia, an isolated town in the middle of the country, have vowed to keep their legs crossed until the government improves the unpaved roads that make traveling in the the dangerous, politically volatile region even more perilous. The women have been on strike since late June, and it remains to be seen if their actions will be a success. Here, four other recent sex strikes, and their outcomes:

1. Colombia, 2006

The strike: The girlfriends of gang members in one of the country's most violent cities, Pereira — with a murder rate at the time of 97 per 100,000 people — held a "strike of crossed legs," giving their men the choice between giving up weapons or giving up sex. "We want them to know that violence is not sexy," said Jennifer Bayer, an 18-year-old girlfriend of a gang member. 

The outcome: In 2010, Pereira's murder rate dropped by 26.5 percent, the steepest decline in the country.

2. Italy, 2008

The strike: Hundreds of women in Naples pledged to withhold sex until their men promised not to set off dangerous fireworks to celebrate the New Year. The women were supported by local authorities who sent out text messages: "Make love, not explosions."

The outcome: In 2011, one man was killed and 70 were injured by New Year's fireworks, suggesting the strike didn't quite work in the longterm. 

3. Kenya, 2009

The strike: An activist group called on the country's women, including the wives of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and even commercial sex workers, to withhold sex for one week in order to urge men to end a months-long political impasse threatening the country. 

The outcome: Success. Kenya's government stabilized within just one week. Not everyone, however, was comfortable with the practice. "At first glance, the Kenyan women’s sex strike seems like a clever political ploy," says Lisa Crooms at The Root. But given the country's discrimination against women — and its rape and sexual trafficking problems — "a sex strike seems like a dangerously futile means of coercion."

4. Belgium, 2011

The strike: In February, as Belgium closed in on the Iraqi record of going 289 days between having an election and forming a government, Socialist Senator Marleen Temmerman called on political spouses to withhold sex until a deal was brokered: "Have no more sex until the new administration is posing on the steps of the palace," she said.

The outcome: Unsuccessful. As of late Monday, Belgium had gone 421 days, a new world record, without a full-time government, as Dutch-speaking northerners and French-speaking southerners have continually failed to form a coalition. No resolution is in sight, making Belgium the "least stable country in the EU," according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, Guardian (2), The Root

 

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