Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Sex Strike

The Sex Strike
September 20, 2006
Alvaro Vargas Llosa

WASHINGTON—A group of women have started a sex strike in Pereira, a city in western Colombia, to persuade their men to give up violence. They will make love again only when their husbands and boyfriends make peace. A catchy song put together by the women is blasting out of all the local radio stations to persuade other females to send their partners to the sofa.

The Greek playwright Aristophanes, who 2,500 years ago invented the concept of the sex strike to achieve peace, must be celebrating somewhere in the afterlife. In “Lysistrata,” a group of women who are sick of so much death and destruction, try to force their men to put an end to the Peloponnesian War by declaring their bodies off-limits.

It is not the first time real life has honored Aristophanes. The sex strike was tried in Colombia itself in the late 1990s at the behest of an army chief. And in a Turkish town, some women used the same tactics to force their lazy partners to restore the water supply. Success ultimately eluded the strikers both times, but some short-term results were achieved.

In the current case, the move was preceded by some interesting research. In a city that is considered the most violent in Colombia and where nine out of 10 victims are between the ages of 14 and 25, violent men apparently consider sex more enjoyable than snuffing their neighbors. Many of them partake in the gang culture because they think it makes them sexually attractive. More significantly, a number of women thought so too—until it dawned on them that they held to key to the peace.

Julio Cesar Gomez, the security official at Pereira's local government, says, “this is about changing the cultural parameters: Some women thought that men wearing fatigues and holding guns looked more attractive, and most men are members of gangs not because of financial necessity but because killing is associated with power and sexual seduction.''

Why is this story so seductive? Because it involves the greatest lesson in the time of terrorism: The ultimate hope for halting indiscriminate violence lies in civil society. Unless there is a grass-roots effort to uproot violence, terror cannot be stopped. It will merely be replaced by another type of terror.