Natalie Haynes: The sex strike: under-used in negotiations

The thing is...

The thing is that the US debt negotiations would almost certainly have been resolved weeks ago if only the spouses of the negotiating parties had done the decent thing: crossed their legs and refused to think of England (or anywhere else, for that matter). In Aristophanes' comic play, Lysistrata, the women of Greece realise that their menfolk will never stop the damaging and seemingly unending Peloponnesian War, which dragged on from 431 to 404 BCE.

The women see there is no reasoning with the Athenian or Spartan men, who are intent on fighting each other to the bitter end. So the women go on a sex strike, and refuse to go any further than teasing their husbands and boyfriends till the chaps all agree to make love, not war. Since it's Aristophanes, the women are all raging nymphos, and it virtually kills them to keep to their promise, but they do, and peace breaks out all over Greece.

Considering this comic fantasy is 2,500 years old, it turns out to be surprisingly topical. In Colombia, the women of Barbacoas have foresworn all smooching till they get a new road. They spent years asking the government to build one, because their town is unreachable by car. Guerrilla attacks in the area are common, and travelling on foot isn't safe. After asking nicely, they tried hunger strikes. When that didn't work, they went on a sex strike on 22 June, to see if that will get them what they need.

They are not unique. Earlier this year, Belgium broke a record – previously held by Iraq – when it became the country which has spent the longest time without a government. To try and break the deadlock, a Belgian senator, Marleen Temmerman, suggested that the partners of those negotiating a coalition should also withhold sex until a deal was reached. Sadly, the relevant parties failed to do their duty: Belgium still lacks a proper government.

Temmerman, in turn, cited the example of Kenya in 2009, where disagreements between the President and Prime Minister looked set to derail the country. A sex strike was, apparently, called and stable government was reformed in less than a week.

So next time the US budget comes up for renewal, why don't we save time and get Michelle Obama, Paul Pelosi, and Debbie Boehner to do the decent thing? The man's name is Boehner, after all (don't even try and pretend it's pronounced "Bayner"): how could it fail?