Do sex strikes really work?

Non-fictional examples have been less successful. Apart from the first “crossed-leg movement” of the women of Barbacaos, which lasted three months and 19 days in total, sex strikes have been relatively common in Colombia. In 1997, the country’s military chief called for the wives of paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug lords to stop having sex in a bid for peace. In 2006, wives and girlfriends of gang members in the town of Pereira reportedly withheld sex from gangsters. Violence has not notably reduced in either instance.

Probably the best known example of a sex strike in recent years – the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace – has been more or less publicly disowned by its leader, and subsequent Nobel Peace prize-winner, Leymah Gbowee. Or rather, as pointed out in Slate last year, Gbowee questioned the efficacy of the sex strike compared with other direct action such as mass demonstrations and sit-ins.

In her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, the laureate writes: “The strike lasted, on and off, for a few months. It had little or no practical effect, but it was extremely valuable in getting us media attention. Until today, nearly 10 years later, whenever I talk about the Mass Action, ‘What about the sex strike?’ is the first question everyone asks.”

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