In the ancient Greek play ‘Lysistrata,’ women stop having sex with men to end a bloody war
he most potent political action for women is sometimes inaction. It’s an idea that has been around for millennia. One particularly enduring version of this idea is found in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, a play written in the year 411 B.C.E., in which women stage a sex strike to force men to stop the Peloponnesian War.
The play has inspired everything from novels to musicals to an episode of M*A*S*H*. Most recently, it was retold by filmmaker Spike Lee in the 2015 film Chi-Raq. In his version, black women in Chicago withhold sex in order to pressure their men to put down their guns.
The play is often summoned as an example of a political tract. But while the suggestion it proffers is certainly serious, Lysistrata itself is a bawdy comedy — one that feels shockingly contemporary, and proves that some themes really are timeless.