Sabrina Reyes-Peters

Kyriarchy and #SexStrike

Last week, there was a to-do because Georgia is trying to pass heavy restrictions on abortion. The restrictions mean that even those who miscarry due to drug complications could be punished by law. That’s bad.

This week, Alabama is trying to pass a complete ban, with no provisions or exceptions made for rape or incest. Ohio is also pushing for similar restrictions, and it seems Missouri is encouraged by this and following down a similar path.

I am pro-choice to some, and pro-life to others. If you came to me for advice, and presented any other viable options besides termination, I would explore those with you. If, by the end of that, you still decided on termination, I would support you. I support the freedom of choice. The context many people find themselves in don’t allow options, and so I support people doing what they think is best. The context of the USA doesn’t allow for many other options due to income inequality, the misogyny of the medical industry, the medical industry itself, lack of parental care and support, systemic racism, lack of education, restricted access to various forms of birth control, lack of support for the disabled, and various kinds of abuse. All of those systemic problems can yield death. Until those things are fixed, one cannot claim to be pro-life and also be happy about these abortion bans, because those abortion bans bring more death.

Even with abortions becoming illegal across the board, abortions won’t stop being performed, and the lives in danger (e.g., mother AND fetus) will definitely double. You know those difficult scenarios of who gets to live, and who gets to die? Well, if abortions are not being regulated (because they are illegal), that choice will be gone. Either adult human and fetus die due to complications and/or disabilities, or fetus dies and the adult human goes to prison for life or faces the death penalty.

Guess who is missing from the picture? How many people does it usually take make someone pregnant? Right, two. For example, where are the penalties for the man who rapes a woman and impregnated her? Where are the penalties for the man who simply didn’t bother use a condom? Some women have decided to protest this by going on a strike: a sex strike (#SexStrike).

I have slightly mixed thoughts and feelings about #SexStrike, and now is as good a time as any to see if I can work them out. I am all for withholding from cis-het men if necessary, please don’t get me wrong. First of all, one criticism I’ve heard is that the sex strike turns sex a commodity, and further objectifies women into pleasure containers, but, the #SexStrike does not do that by itself. Men have done that already, they just think that they have a right to steal and not pay the consequences. The #SexStrike only amplifies that.

Second, this doesn’t take queer people into account. Cis-het men and women aren’t the only ones who are engaging in sexual pleasure. Sex isn’t just for procreation. #SexStrike just keeps the focus on cis-het men and women (especially white men and women), who are more privileged than queer folks and thus get automatic visibility. This doesn’t help power dynamics, it only reinforces them.

Third, if you have to go on a sex strike, as a woman, what kind of men have you been choosing to partner with? Fourth, #SexStrike reveals how little some people know about their bodies. Most people with a healthy female reproductive system (I say most, because there are definitely exceptions, and if you are one of them, I’m very sorry) are only able to conceive for a few days every month. Healthy, functioning male reproductive systems can impregnate any day of the year. Fifth, #SexStrike is not going to help tear down the structures that allow men to leverage control over women’s bodies, if that’s what is being protested, here. It’s kind of like boycotting Walmart.

How can we tear down the kyriarchy, here? We can only scream SEX HAS NOT BEEN TRADEMARKED BY THE CISHETEROPATRIARCHY so much. The only true solution is to redistribute the power, so that the needs and rights of lesser privileged folks are spoken for. White men and women are the most visible, so the power dynamics need to be turned upside down by electing people who are less privileged, and those include people of color, queer people, and disabled people. One cannot speak for those one does not represent.

I’m no political scientist, so I am not as informed as I could be, but if votes can get so many women, especially women of color, into the federal government (see the House Democrats), then perhaps we should fight with votes. More people should vote, and if you’ve voted and think you need to do more, how about donate to a campaign you believe in? If you want to work, grassroots campaigns need all hands on deck.

Apart from politics, another way to redistribute the power is to simply listen. Listen to POC, queer folks, and disabled folks when they are talking, and don’t interrupt.

Related to listening is passing the microphone. You can make people more visible by giving them the platform, and lifting the platform. It’s simple.

I’m not an activist, so I cannot give advice on activism. But the things I have enumerated are things almost anyone can do, even some disabled folks, especially if they are given accommodation (how little accomodation is made available is another issue entirely).

Criminalizing abortion, and #SexStrike, have one thing in common: ineffectiveness. Let’s put our energy into fixing the actual problems.