explainer

Why actress Alyssa Milano is telling women not to have sex.

Alyssa Milano is calling for women to abstain from sex to protest abortion law in the United States.

The 46-year-old Charmed actress and activist has called for a sex strike to stand up for women’s reproductive rights after the state of Georgia passed one of the US’s most restrictive abortion laws, banning terminations as soon as a doctor can detect a foetal heartbeat. This can occur as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Other states including Mississippi and Ohio have passed similar “heartbeat” laws. Such a law that was planned to come into place immediately has been blocked in Kentucky as it could be unconstitutional.

“Our reproductive rights are being erased,” Milano wrote on Twitter. “Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back.”

“We can LOVE sex and fight for our bodily autonomy,” she said in a follow-up tweet. “There are lots of alternatives to cis men. Protect your vaginas, ladies. Men in positions of power are trying to legislate them.”

Her call has received both praise and criticism, with #SexStrike trending on Twitter over the weekend.

Supporters said that a sex strike reminded men that women have control over their bodies and how they use them.

#sexstrike
Image: Twitter.
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However, opponents argued that a sex strike only serves to perpetuate the stereotype that women 'provide' sex to men who 'need' sex, as opposed to both enjoying it equally with consent. Others also claimed that Milano's call presumes all women are straight and cisgendered.

In addition it should be said that women should not have to resort to sex in exchange for power and being heard.

Still, sex strikes have worked historically.

A sex strike is the basis of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, which portrays women joining together in a strike to end the Peloponnesian War.

In the 1600s women from Native American confederacy refused to have sex to stop unregulated warfare.

In 2003, Liberian woman Leymah Gbowee called for a sex strike to end the country's brutal civil war. It worked - warlords agreed to end the violence that same year and in 2011 Gbowee was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Gbowee said a sex strike worked because it highlighted the issue and got men thinking.

"The percentage of men who wage war is very small. Good men outnumber evil men, but why are they silent? Our strategy helps the good men because it gives them a reason to take action. They start talking to their colleagues and beer buddies, saying 'this war is wrong.'"

Sex strikes have also helped to lower homicide rates in Colombia and end political infighting in Kenya, according to a report from Quartz.

Milano told the Associated Press she is not worried about the criticism as her tweet was doing what she hoped it would - getting people to talk about the "war on women".

She said she feared one of the state laws could reach the US Supreme Court, which has a conservative-majority and could overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalising abortion.

The sex strike is not Milano's only protest against Georgia's restrictive abortion law.

Georgia makes close to US$3 billion from film and television each year. Movies including Black Panther and The Hunger Games and TV shows Ozark and The Walking Dead are filmed in the state.

Milano has stated she will fight to move her Netflix show Insatiable from filming in Georgia if it returns for a third season.

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In March 50 actors, including Milano, Amy Schumer, Christina Applegate, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Laverne Cox signed a letter proposing a boycott of film and television production in the state.

The Writers Guild of America strongly criticised the legislation before it passed and said it would make Georgia "an inhospitable place for those in the film and television industry to work, including our members" in a statement.

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