Actress-turned-activist Alyssa Milano has ignited an uproar on social media after calling on women to stop having sex in order to “protect their vaginas” and stop men “from trying to legislate them.”
Milano’s proposed “sex strike” was meant to unite women in protesting restrictive new abortion legislation, but instead united many of them in skewering the actress for what many saw as outdated ideas.
“Our reproductive rights are being erased. 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. I’m calling for a
#SexStrike. Pass it on,” Milano tweeted in first announcing her plan.
The tweet blew up, but so did the responses blasting the move.
One woman's response on Twitter, which quickly received over 2,000 likes, argued Milano's plan would only reinforce the notion that sex is merely a “bargaining chip” for women.
“Living under patriarchy has already robbed me of safety, autonomy, opportunities, and trust in our institutions,” author Kristi Coulter tweeted in response to Milano on Saturday. “Now I’m supposed to give up sex, too, and play into the fiction that it’s just a bargaining chip/transaction for women? Love you, but nope.”
Twitter was quickly flooded with activists railing against Milano’s initiative.
“A #SexStrike won’t bring back our rights—voting, supporting women candidates, running for office, and fighting like hell will,” wrote Shannon Watts, an author and the founder of Moms Demand Action.
“A #SexStrike also gives the impression that the primary function of a woman is as a body for heterosexual men to have sex with,” Watts wrote.
“The idea of a #SexStrike—where sex is something men seek and women withhold—is the same regressive model of sexuality that Republican men use to legislate! No thanks,” wrote journalist Jessica Valenti.
Milano did not back down in the face of criticism, linking to a Quartz article to claim Saturday that “history shows that a sex strike is surprisingly effective” and promising an upcoming op-ed on the subject.
The actress also fired back against critics: “Be extremely careful. If you get pregnant and miscarry, and they can’t prove you didn’t miscarry on purpose, you can get thrown in jail for a long time in Georgia.”
The new Georgia law, which is called the “heartbeat bill” and would take effect in 2020, stipulates that a doctor found to have performed an abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected—as early as five or six weeks into the pregnancy—can be prosecuted and put in jail. Reproductive rights groups have warned it also paves the way for women to face scrutiny if they suffer a miscarriage.
Tensions have been running high in the pro-choice community this week after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed that bill into law, while a bill on a near-total abortion ban in Alabama is expected to face a vote next week after a shouting match broke out on the Senate floor over it earlier this week.
While Milano was widely criticized for her form of protest against the legislation, she did also get some support.
“Our feminist foremothers fought for sexual liberation, which goes hand in hand with bodily autonomy. It’s up to us to protect it,” writer Maureen Shaw tweeted. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”