A Belgian senator is calling on the partners of government officials to quit having sex with them until they can compromise on a governing coalition. Another extremely serious protest idea: all Belgian men should grow beards.
Belgium held elections in June 2010, but after 241 days, the country still hasn't been able to form a government (that's its sad, lonely parliament chamber with nobody inside it, above) — only Iraq and Somalia have taken longer. According to the BBC, a desperate country is now resorting to desperate measures — the beard protest was proposed in January, when actor Benoit Poelvoorde (who played the libertine Étienne Balsan in Coco Avant Chanel) issued the following rallying cry: "We have decided to stop shaving for as long as Belgium has no government. Let's keep our beards until Belgium rises again." It's not clear why Poelvoorde et al thought this would work (are Belgian elected officials afraid of facial hair?), but obviously it hasn't, because senator Marleen Temmerman has a new idea: "I call on the spouses of all negotiators to withold sex until a deal is reached. Have no more sex until the new administration is posing on the steps of the Palace."
Sex strikes are an ancient idea — as the BBC points out, one is depicted in Lysistrata, a play from the fifth century BC which also taught me the ancient Greek word for "eight-sided dildo." The play is a comedy, and Temmerman says her suggestion is also a joke. Of Belgians' reaction to her recommendation, she says, "Ten to 20% who don't have a sense of humour were upset, saying 'This is really a disgrace, how can someone who is such a serious lady launch such a stupid idea?' It's hilarious that people take it so seriously." Okay, but female activists apparently staged a real sex ban in Kenya in 2009, and it had some effect — though maybe more as a PR move than an actual boycott. We could debate whether the idea of a sex strike is inherently sexist (painting men as sex-crazed and reducing women's political activism to their bedroom activities) or sort of proto-feminist (the women in Lysistrata actually hate going without sex just as much as the men do), but instead we'll leave you with the reaction of Belgian senator Catherine Fonck: "I do not want to take part in a sex strike. Politicians are not there to strike. On the contrary, politicians are there to arouse the country." Heh, she said arouse.