The idea of a “sex strike” is nothing new — Aristophanes first detailed women using their sexuality to end The Peloponnesian War in the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata.” And now in her new book, “The Uncoupling,” best-selling author Meg Wolitzer tells the fictionalized tale of the modern-day women of Stellar Plains, N.J., who, under a magical spell, begin to say “no” to sex en masse.
Is this your first foray into magical realism?
Absolutely. It was definitely new territory for me, but I like to entertain myself when I write. I thought it was really in service to the story that all the women in the suburban town fall under a spell. But we’ve all come under spells when you think about it. Falling in love requires being drawn to a person in a way you don’t understand. Literature puts you under a spell. And if J.K. Rowling can run with it, why can’t I?
There’s hardly a more nuanced topic than women’s sexuality.
I kept hearing middle-aged women say things like, “I am done with that.” Their relationship to love and sex has changed and I was struck by that. It was a topic worth exploring. For me, that is the center of “The Uncoupling.” There are a lot of different reasons women feel ambivalent toward sex — from middle-aged malaise to the hook-up culture. And I didn’t want to write a book about whiny woman complaining about their inadequate sex lives. That’s the last book I wanted to write.
How did you uncover “Lysistrata”?
I’ve always known about “the sex strike play.” But I started really thinking about it during the Bush administration and these wars that grind on and on.
Follow Dorothy Robinson on Twitter at @DorothyatMetro.