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Sex-Deprived Kenyan v. Lysistrata’s Daughters, NGO

May 9th, 2009 1 comment

I find myself unduly interested in the sex life of a Kenyan man.

A while ago, I compared the political courage of Liberian women to the moxie shown by Lysistrata and company. Lysistrata, a creation of the comic playwright Aristophanes, was an Athenian woman who led her Greek sisters in a sex boycott until the men stopped their childish and destructive Peloponnesian War. The brave women of Liberia didn’t withhold sex (any more than usual, I guess) but put themselves in harm’s way to make their point.

But the comparison I drew pales beside the real thing: Since I posted that story, Kenyan women were urged to follow Lysistrata more literally — by withholding sex. The difference is that the scales are now balanced by a different concern on the other side; the increasingly fractured coalition government in Kenya. How riveting! If women are going to withhold sex because political parties can’t get along, expect an immediate and permanent decline in the U.S. population.

Perhaps in recognition of the stakes’ being less dramatic than those raised by the Peloponnesian War, the women’s groups organizing this “boy”cott called only for a one-week moratorium on the conjugal act. As far as I know, the groups issued no detailed regulations as to what counted as forbidden sex for purposes of satisfying the moratorium. Former President Clinton could have driven a truck, inter alia, through that lack of precision.

Apparently, though, even that ill-defined, short-duration prohibition was enough to drive one James Kimondo into a litigious frenzy (and perhaps other frenzies). According to this story, he has now filed what would once have been called, at least in the U.S., an “alienation of affections” claim against an entity called the G-10, a sort of collective that houses a group of women’s activist groups. His lawyer said that the suit alleges that the ban “resulted in stress, mental anguish, backaches and lack of sleep.” (Backaches?)

The tort of alienation of affections is mostly a relic today. Its gist is that a third party’s meddling caused a husband (always a husband, of course) to lose the “affection” (sex, mostly) of his wife. It didn’t require adultery, because the idea, to quote Norma Rae, was that the intruder was “in [her] ha-id “(“head,” in Standard English). The tort has little traction in our age and culture, where women are believed to be “people” —  capable of deciding for themselves, thank you, whether to alienate themselves from their husbands. Along the same lines, sort of, men are no longer allowed to rape their wives, either. Male privilege has waned as female autonomy has waxed.

Speaking of waxing (or its absence), Kimondo’s lawyer must believe that his client’s inability to obtain such waxing for his naughty bits still has some legal merit in Kenya. Maybe it does, which would thereby suggest that women have yet to gain the same status there as here — the activists overcame his wife’s fragile will, poor thing. They are to blame, not her. This position is inherently unstable, though, because it changes the alienation of affections narrative to render it self-contradictory. The tort only works if men are the ones o’erbearing frail female will, not if it’s a sister-to-sister thing. Then, who’s empowered as between this woman and these activists? Who can say?

Naturally, I’d like the case to proceed so we can learn about the couple’s sex life, which Kimondo has decided he’s willing to put on display for a possible payday. And how big a bonanza is possible, really, from a week’s worth of missed sex? Admit it — by now you want the details, too.

Lysistrata’s Daughters

March 27th, 2009 4 comments

In Aristophanes’ funny-through-the-ages play, “Lysistrata,” the title character (from Athens) leads a pack of determined Greek women in withholding sex from their husbands until these war-mongering hubbies cease the endless Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta.

Although the play is often (justifiably) remembered for its ribald descriptions of the sex that’s withheld  (my favorite is a position referred to as “The Lioness and the Cheese Grater”) 1 and the windy oath by which sex is renounced, the play also contains a serious message about the toll war takes on the women and children left behind, who are at the mercy of the idiotic and childish decisions the men are making. Using what power they have, these powerful women put a stop to it.

The women featured in the following trailer are Lysistrata’s spiritual daughters:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uon9CcoHgwA

No, these women are not withholding sex (as far as I know). But they — Christian and Muslim together — have taken a courageous and dangerous stand against the violence that long wracked Liberia, destroying their families, children, and husbands. Indeed, the training of children soldiers was one of the most egregious of former President Charles Taylor’s many human rights violations.

Liberia now has its first female President, the Harvard-educated Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Following the model of South Africa, she has established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to try and heal the wounds wrought by decades of brutal civil war. Her leadership is helping to inspire her countrywomen to seize control of their nation’s destiny, pulling it from the whirlpool of civil war onto the solid ground of a functioning democracy.

The empowerment of women is often cited as one of the most potentially powerful tools in achieving global public health; most notably, in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has especially devastated sub-Saharan Africa. As the Liberian women are demonstrating, the prevention of disease can be but one part of a larger moral, social, and political agenda.

Long live Lysistrata!

  1. Aristophanes was apparently unaware that lions are carnivores, who would have little use for a cheese grater.