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Alyssa Milano Defends Her Controversial Idea

Actress taking flak for her 'sex strike' proposal in response to Georgia abortion law
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2019 9:34 AM CDT
Alyssa Milano Defends Her Controversial Idea
In this Jan. 6, 2019, file photo, Alyssa Milano arrives at the InStyle and Warner Bros. Golden Globes after-party at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

(Newser) – Georgia's new "heartbeat bill," as well as other laws around the country targeting abortion rights, has created a whole new maelstrom swirling around a very vocal TV star. Last week, Charmed actress Alyssa Milano went online to propose women go on a "sex strike" to protest the Georgia law, which prohibits abortion after a womb heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks. There was immediate pushback, from both the left and the right, but Milano doubled down in a CNN op-ed Monday. Details and developments:

  • In defense: Milano acknowledges the "mixed reaction" to her proposal, but insists that "time for national engagement on this issue is long overdue." Milano notes the historical effectiveness of such a "Lysistratic protest," adding that such a strike is "a way to target straight, cisgender men so they may feel the physical consequences of our reproductive rights being systematically eliminated." She adds: "A #SexStrike is another way for people who have the potential to get pregnant to call attention to this systematic onslaught and assert the power to change our own destinies."
  • Fellow celebs balk. At least two big names are shaking their heads at Milano's brainchild. Per Yahoo, Meghan McCain reminded the audience on The View Monday that "it doesn't even occur to her that there are women, like me, who don't have a problem with the bill." Meanwhile, Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood has her own issues with the initiative. "I worry this feeds into the religious belief that sex is for procreation and never for pleasure," she notes, per Stuff. "This is in the minds of a lot of people supporting [abortion] bans. No sex until marriage and babies."
  • A 'patriarchal' plan. Katherine Timpf sees an "irony" in what Milano is proposing, which Timpf calls "the opposite of feminist" in the National Review. "Calling for women to go on a 'sex strike' isn't 'woke' or cool, it is sexist and harmful," she writes. "Why? Because it promotes the antiquated narrative that women have sex only as a concession or gift to men, not because they enjoy sex for its own sake." Timpf adds no woman should be telling any other woman what to do with her own body.

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  • A boost for outdated views. Alex Dalbey agrees that Milano's plan is bad, writing in the Daily Dot that a sex strike makes "zero sense." Dalbey uses the words "ineffective," "privileged," and "exclusionary" (after all, where does such a strike leave queer women?), and also says it's "utterly useless" at dealing with the abortion law itself. "In the end, the question we should be asking is, why can't these women just talk to the men who purportedly love them about their reproductive rights?" Dalbey writes.
  • A pro-life promotion? Milano's polarizing push has had an "accidental" outcome: a "case for abstinence," writes Catherine Hadro for the National Catholic Register. "This unintentional pro-life protest inadvertently revealed a truth pro-lifers already know well: True 'choice' does not lie in whether or not to have an abortion, but when and with whom to have sex," Hadro writes. "Milano's 'sex strike' acknowledges the scientific reality that sex creates babies and that we can choose to be participants."
  • The wrong kind of strike. It's not sex that women should be withholding, which is "the very least of our concerns"—it's all of the "unpaid labor" that women do, writes Suzanne Moore in the Guardian: "If we women want to assert our right to bodily autonomy and our economic worth, let's stop. Just stop. Do not pick up the kids from school. Do not [do the wash]. Do not smile at that man because he is making you nervous. Do not buy the birthday presents. Stop caring, in other words."
  • It all started with a kiss. The Washington Post looks at how Milano, who popularized the phrase "#MeToo" when the Harvey Weinstein scandal first broke, became an activist in the first place. It all started on The Phil Donahue Show when she was 15, when she planted a kiss on the cheek of Ryan White, a fellow teen who'd contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. The point of the kiss: to show the masses that HIV couldn't be spread through casual contact. "Everything after meeting Ryan made more sense and was put in the right place. It had greater purpose," Milano says of White, who died at age 18.
(Read more Alyssa Milano stories.)

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