Sex and diplomacy
Love and sex have always been potent components of international table and bedside manners. At a time when Hollywood actresses are emphasising ‘conscious uncoupling’, falling back on decorum and civilised restraint as they call off their umpteenth marriage, angry and patriotic Ukrainian women are taking the opposite route. They are experiencing what can be termed a collective ‘Lysistrata moment’, declaring ‘no sex with Russians.’ This is indeed a unique way of registering protest, with a pack of Ukrainian ‘activists’ on Facebook having kickstarted a campaign called ‘Don’t Give It To a Russian.’ Seeing Crimea secede, which has a chunk of ethnic Russians, many of whom have picked fleeing to Moscow over staying back amid growing strains, Ukrainian women have evoked the primal response to counter what they think is Russian ‘aggression.’ It’s a fascinating study in warfare tactics, sexual politics on/of the battleground, or the use and abuse of sex, sexuality and gender relations in a crisis situation. The present campaign borrows heavily from past examples of stereotypes and censures erected around ethnic and linguistic fault lines, particularly from Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s 1838 verse ‘Keteryna’. ‘Fall in love, O dark-browed maidens, but not with Moskaly [the Russians, denizens of Moscow] – asked the poet, obviously giving voice to sentiments seething under the sociocultural grid of Tsarist Russia, its imperial swathes. But channelising a 19th century poetic licence hasn’t gone down very well with fellow Muscovites, especially its womenfolk. The counterattack has come with the following proclamation: ‘Our men are still at home, but yours appear to be going to war.’ Given that miscegenation has been both a cause and effect of war, sex and diplomacy have been welded together since the dawn of civilisation. If an ancient Greek play by the arch-ribald Aristophanes can still have a hold on our sexual imagination, have we changed much?