Monday, October 1, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
Do Sex Strikes Work?
Women in a civil rights group in Togo called a weeklong sex strike in August to try to force the president of the West African nation to resign. Members of "Let's Save Togo" planned to withhold sex from their husbands to pressure the men to take action against President Faure Gnassingbe.
The opposition says his family has ruled Togo for too long. He became president in 2005, shortly after the death of his father -- who had held power for 38 years. Withholding sex for political goals has a long history. The idea appears in the theater of ancient Greece.
In the play "Lysistrata," the women of Athens decide to deny their husbands sex until the men end the Peloponnesian War. But do sex strikes work? Pepper Schwartz is a sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. She says the idea is good for making news headlines, but it takes a lot of work. She says the sex strike is a good way to make a point for a few days. But she says that it probably will not work over a long period of time. She also notes that: "if you do stick to it too long, you might lose that other person's willingness to support your issue."But pro-democracy activists in Togo say a sex strike during the civil war in Liberia gave them cause for hope.
In 2003, Liberia had been through 14 years of war. Leaders of the group Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace organized a series of nonviolent actions. They included a sex strike. The actions earned the group's leader a share of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Leymah Gbowee shared the prize with two other women, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. She became Africa's first democratically-elected female president in 2006. The third winner was Tawakkul Karman, a women's rights activist in Yemen.
Yaliwe Clarke teaches gender studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She says that the women in Togo can inspire other women in Africa just like the Mass Action for Peace in Liberia did. But sociology professor Pepper Schwartz says women need to hold real power in order for something like a sex strike to work. "They only work in proportion to the amount of power women have in a society," she says. "In other words, you have to have a certain amount of power already to tell your husband no." She says this depends on having a society where men respect the opinions and wishes of women.
For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 05Sep2012)