Last week, Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp signed one of the most stringent anti-abortion bills into law. The so-called “heartbeat bill” bans all abortions after six weeks (when a fetal heartbeat can be detected), which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. The law also prevents women from crossing state lines to access an abortion and comes with stiff penalties for violations, including life in prison and the death penalty.
While the bill is facing legal challenges, many fear the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court will use it to finally achieve the conservative dream of overturning Roe v. Wade. Liberal activists are fighting back against the heartbeat law, encouraging boycotts of Georgia and organizing protests. Some high-profile activists, like Alyssa Milano, have the hearts in the right place, even if their tactics are lacking.
To protest Georgia’s drastic abortion ban, Alyssa Milano is calling for a sex strike and encouraging other women to join her.
Our reproductive rights are being erased.— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 11, 2019
Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy.
JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back.
I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on. pic.twitter.com/uOgN4FKwpg
“If our choices are denied so are yours,” reads the photo she shared on Twitter and Instagram. The thinking behind the sex strike (as far as I can tell) is that once men are denied sex they’ll come to their senses and join women in the fight for reproductive freedom. (After all, it worked in the Ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, where women deny men sex until they end the Peloponnesian War.)
Milano’s call for a sex strike landed with a dull thud on Twitter, where the tactic drew the ire of both seasoned liberal activists and feminists.
I hate this pic.twitter.com/jO6o0vvVAC— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) May 11, 2019
No. This is heteronormative slacktivist garbage borne of patriarchy and it literally does nothing to help pregnant people in Georgia.— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) May 11, 2019
You’re not helping.
Talk to reproductive justice organizers in Georgia if you want to help and *ask them what they need*. https://t.co/WotfrZ3vAp
Please stop feeding the narrative that women are providers and men are consumers of sex. Bribing men for equal rights with access to our bodies is not how feminism works.— feminist next door (@emrazz) May 11, 2019
Unless the pro-choice women were all having sex with the pro-life politicians I’m not sure how effective this is going to be https://t.co/GInAHvd23b— Ben Pobjie (@benpobjie) May 11, 2019
And they have good reason to be angry. For one, a stunt like a sex strike doesn’t seem likely to change minds or help in the legal or lobbying fights. For two, it reinforces sexist tropes that feminists have been chipping away at for decades. Women enjoy sex too, why should they deny themselves that pleasure because crusty old Republicans don’t view them as autonomous human beings?
There were some people who delighted at the idea of a liberal sex strike though—conservatives.
This is AMAZING.— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) May 11, 2019
Let’s hope they stop reproducing altogether https://t.co/YXz33NIskj
So basically men who agree with you won't get laid? https://t.co/EMJLzyxQ3S— Tim Pool (@Timcast) May 11, 2019
JOIN US in applauding @Alyssa_Milano. What do you think? Her #sexstrike actually treats preborn lives with respect. Sex does result in new human beings. Self respect & respect for the preborn people's lives probably includes abstinence in a world that exterminates the #UnPlanned. https://t.co/o0eBFZPQRh— UnplannedMovie (@UnplannedMovie) May 11, 2019
Activism is tough, and while attention-grabbing stunts have their place in the struggle for women’s rights, the real fight is on the ground organizing. Hopefully, Alyssa Milano will see the error of her ways and work more closely with the local groups on the front lines.