Greek comic poet Aristophanes is probably most famous for his play Lysistrata, a story about war and the women who resisted it. How did they do it? By withholding sexual privileges from their husbands until reconciliation between Sparta and Athens was deeply desired and achieved.
Did you know that this technique of resistance and pressure has been tried, not only by individuals in personal relationships across the world, but also on a large scale basis, for example in Liberia, when Women for Peace used such an action to influence the men to stop the civil war in their midst? The pressure is not applied just to those who are directly involved in the conflict, but to anyone and everyone who can do something to end it. “Lysistrata actions” as they are called, can be a powerful tool in the resistance tool-kit, especially, I think, when it comes to male politicians making choices that control women’s bodies and diminish non-male rights in any way (Could this speak to any current issues, I wonder?). Gandhi felt strongly that sexual energy was just that–energy; a power that could be harnessed and transformed for nonviolent action or an energy that could drain the vitality of a person if not used with discernment, respect and reverence for life. The Sanskrit term for it is kundalini; and it can be made to rise from lower “centers of consciousness” where it energizes, for example, our reproductive organs, all the way up to our faculties for reason and intellect, and then if it gets past there, transmute itself into potent spiritual energy. Certainly a point of contention, but it’s worth thinking about. If we have control over nothing else in our life, can we not harness the one thing that does belong to us, our vital energy? It’s not an easy thing to do — far from it! — but that’s what makes nonviolence effective: taking a harder path for a greater payoff, forgoing personal pleasure in the short term for an even greater satisfaction. Keep in mind, the energy has to be not suppressed but harnessed–it has to have something else to do. This is where service and even hard physical work come in — or even, dare we say it, a boycott of violent or sexual imagery on media. Lysistrata actions won’t work if we weaken ourselves from within while trying to restrain ourselves from without. Truly, like everything else in the nonviolence tool-kit, it’s an art when it’s done well.
Ask yourself: If you could trade even some of your vital energy to end war, would you do it?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org