We love when men publicly recognize that rape is a problem. We hate when men publicly propose actions women can take to stop rape from being a problem. Exhibit 4,387: Spike Lee suggesting women take a cue from his latest film to halt the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.
The premise of Chi-raq is women, fed up with the gun violence overtaking Chicago, decide to withhold sex from men basically until they get their ish together. The idea has already caught on, with one woman, April Lawson, publicly pledging she won’t open her legs again until black men take back their communities. The difference here is that approach, even with the 36 women who’ve since followed in Lawson’s footsteps is based in satire as a means to convince black men to value their own lives and it’s not up to women to persuade men not to sexually violate them. That’s not a difference Spike sees, unfortunately.
Asked by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show whether a sex strike could actually work in Chicago, Spike replied with this:
“I think a sex strike could really work on college campuses where there’s an abundance of sexual harassment or date rapes. Second semester it’s going to happen. Once people come back from Christmas and some stuff jumps off, there’s going to be sex strikes in universities and college campuses across this country. I believe it.”
Sorry, we don’t.
The problem is a sex strike doesn’t address the real issue of why men (and women) rape, nor does it inflict proper consequence where it should. Women aren’t getting raped on campuses across the U.S. because men can’t find other women willing to give it up, sexual assault is about power, control, and impulses outside the norm of basic human sexuality and desire. Second, while it’s not a bad idea for female students to band together and demand their school administrators do something about this issue in the way Mizzou students did, as Spike pointed out, a sex strike doesn’t lead to that result — unless of course some students are sleeping with their school administrators, but that’s a whole different issue in and of itself.
The point is, it seems Spike Lee’s heart is in the right place but his head clearly isn’t fully wrapped around the realities of rape or rape culture, which extends far wider than any campus green, and, more importantly, whose responsibility it is to fix it.