Arts & Culture

Five Famous Sex Strikes, from Lysistrata to the Current Israeli Mikvah Workers’ Boycott

Israeli mikvah attendants—the women who supervise dunks into the ritual baths to make sure they’re kosher—haven’t been paid in five months, so Kolech, an Orthodox feminist organization, is working to organize a mikvah boycott until ladies of the bath get … Read More

By / April 11, 2008

Israeli mikvah attendants—the women who supervise dunks into the ritual baths to make sure they’re kosher—haven’t been paid in five months, so Kolech, an Orthodox feminist organization, is working to organize a mikvah boycott until ladies of the bath get paid. Without dunking in the mikvah after her period, a woman isn’t supposed to have sexual relations with her husband, so the boycott would effectively deprive Orthodox couples of intimacy until the issue is worked out.

On the Kolech website (Hebrew) Batia Kahana-Dror writes: "Let's drive them crazy, all those who wait restlessly for the night that their woman goes to the mikvah. All those who make up the majority in the religious councils, the Treasury, the Religious Services Ministry and the Knesset, the rabbis and the leaders. Stop. No more sex."

Kahana-Dror is echoing an ancient theme of women withholding sex for the good of their communities. Here are some examples:

  • Lysistrata: First and foremost, we have Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens decide to withhold sex from their husbands until peace is declared—a strategy that proves entirely effective. In that vein, The Lysistrata Project began staging readings of the play in 2002. They sponsor events and encourage activism to seek inventive solutions to violence and economic crises, specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The Strike of Crossed Legs: In 2006 in Pereira, Colombia, dozens of women took part in the "Strike of Crossed Legs." When gang members weren't handing in their guns, their wives and girlfriends organized and decided to stage a sex strike. They came up with a strike anthem rap song that included the lyrics: "As women we are worth a lot. We don't want to fall for violent men because with them we lose too much."
  • Water for Sex: In Sirt, Turkey, women staged a month long sex strike, protesting the lack of accessible running water in their village. After the existing water supply system broke and the women were forced to walk miles and wait in lines for hours to get water for their homes, they came up with the idea of withholding sex from their husbands until the water supply problem was fixed. After what CNN called "frantic lobbying on the part of Sirt's male population" a governmental official was convinced to pipe water into the town.
  • Lysistrata with a Twist: Bolivian prostitutes went on a hunger strike when the bars and strip joints where they worked were shut down in 2007. In addition to taking over the local AIDS clinic and refusing to eat, the sex workers threatened to parade around naked. A spokesperson said that if the town of El Alto wanted to do away with prostitution, "then the government should give us a hand and take care of our children, and afterward provide us with jobs."

Related: Does a Mikvah Dunk Make Pre-Marital Sex Kosher?

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