Does Aristophanes reinforce the Greek stereotype (women were often thought of being constantly preoccupied with sex) or does he challenge it in Lysistrata?
This hilarious and often quite challenging play definitely seeks to debunk this cultural stereotype about Greek women. Clearly, if Lysistrata is proposing that women bring about peace in the Pelopennesian War by deliberately refusing their men sex until they achieve peace between Greece and Sparta, this indicates that they are not so constantly obsessed by sex as the cultural stereotype would suggest. On the contrary, the women show that they are able to put aside their own sexual urges to achieve their purpose of forcing their menfolk to do what they want. The play presents women as being a force to be reckoned with, and this is reinforced through the sense in which the women reinforce their image as being rather underhand and deceitful in their methods of getting what they want. Note for example how this is underlined in the following conversation between Lysistrata and Calonice:
Lysistrata: Calonice, it's more than I can bear,
I am hot all over with blushes for our sex.
Men say we're slippery rogues--
Calonice: And aren't they right?
Women therefore are definitely presented as being forceful and manipulative, using whatever power they have over men to get what they want, but Aristophanes definitely challenges the stereotype that women are constantly obsessed with sex. With men walking around with erections because they have been refused sex, it is the men who are shown as sex-crazed, not the women.