Ukrainian Women Have Launched a Sex Strike Against Russian Men

"Don't give it to a Russian" uses the oldest protest trick in the book.
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Lysistrata (Aubrey Beardsley/Wikimedia Commons)

In the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, some Ukrainians have been boycotting Russian goods. And some Ukrainian women are boycotting the most basic "good" of them all.

The "Don't give it to a Russian" poster, with hands in the shape of a vagina. (Facebook)

The campaign, "Don't Give It to a Russian" encourages women to "fight the enemy by whatever means," on its Facebook page

The initiative borrows its slogan from the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s 1838 poem, Kateryna: “Fall in love, O dark-browed maidens, but not with the Moskaly [the Russians]," according to the news site Global Voices.

Like any respectable guerrilla group, the campaign has created a line of merch:

Facebook

And just a few days after launching the effort, organizers have succeeded in causing a stir on the Russian Internet. Much of that stir has, sadly, involved Russian bloggers calling them prostitutes.

The campaign's Facebook page is written partly in Russian, which has raised questions about its authenticity. But one of the women who set up the page is Katerina Venzhik, an editor at the Ukrainian news site Delo.UA who lives in Kiev. And the use of Russian could also be a sign that opposition to Moscow's actions has spread beyond Ukrainian-language speakers in the country. About two out of six Ukrainians speak primarily Russian.

Of course, the women of "Don't Give It to a Russian" are hardly the first to have this idea. Just last month, a group of women in Tokyo threatened not to sleep with any man who voted for a gubernatorial candidate who was seen to have outdated views on gender. In 2003, a group called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace led a sex strike for an end to the Liberian civil war. And just a few years ago in Ukraine, the feminist group Femen called on the wives and girlfriends of the members of the prime minister's cabinet to boycott sex in opposition to what they called the prime minister's "caddish and humiliating attitude towards Ukrainian women."

It is, in fact, a strategy as old as time. In the Greek comedy Lysistrata, the eponymous character rallies her fellow women to withhold sex from their husbands until they agree to end the Peloponnesian War. For what it's worth, it worked for the women in the play.

"Russian women, care to join us?" the "Don't give it" group wrote in one recent Facebook post. "Our men are all still at home, but yours appear to be going to war."

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Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

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