The Case Against the Sexual Revolution

The thesis of this book is that the sexual revolution “The sexual revolution has not freed all of us, but it has some of us, an selectively, and at a price”(7)[1]. The author is a feminist, writing for young women, although women and men of all ages would have much to learn from this book.

A Feminist VS the Sexual Revolution

Perry was a liberal feminist who believed in the promises of the sexual revolution, but age, experience, and statistics have led her to radically change her stance. The problem with liberal feminism, she says, is that it elevates freedom, defined as the ability of women to do whatever they want, as the supreme value. This is without taking into account other values, and without critical reflection on the source and validity of certain desires (10). This is precisely the tragedy of the sexual revolution: it has led many women to adopt a “sexual freedom” that clearly serves masculine interests (10). This tragedy is founded on two lies embraced by liberal feminism. First, the belief that sexual relations are harmless. It’s a way of satisfying a need like eating a meal, or a pastime like going to the movies (“it’s ‘just’ sex”). This is what she calls the “sexual disenchantment” (11). The second is that there are fundamentally no differences between men and women. A lie made plausible by technological progress (notably contraceptives) and the tertiarization of Western society[2].

To introduce her thesis, Perry uses the example of two icons of the sexual revolution, Marilyn Monroe and Hugh Hefner. These two figures represent the tragedy of the sexual revolution in the way they lived and especially ended their lives. This revolution led our society to adopt sexual behaviours that favour men to the detriment of women. This is where the differences between men and women come into play, particularly when it comes to “sociosexuality”: the desire for a variety of sexual partners. Generally speaking, men have a higher rate of sociosexuality than women. On average, men prefer to have more sex with a larger number of partners, while the majority of women prefer to be in a stable, serious relationship (49). What does this look like in a sexually “liberated” society? Perry answers this question by addressing the following topics, each time focusing on the plight of women: anti-rape policies (ch. 2), paedophilia (ch. 3), hook-up culture (ch. 4), pornography (ch. 5), sadomasochism (ch. 6) and prostitution (ch. 7).

Perry’s case proves beyond doubt that today’s sexual culture is harmful to women. It pushes them to adopt “masculine” sexual behaviours to the detriment of their own pleasure, well-being, and safety. Worst of all, they are encouraged by society (and especially liberal feminists) to believe that these behaviours are good and liberating.

Thus, Perry concludes: “We have smoothly transitioned from one form of feminine subservience to another, but we pretend that this one is liberation”(20).

“Marriage is Good”

Louise Perry

Perry does not leave it to critique. Throughout her book, she offers advice to young women on how to avoid the pitfalls of modern sexual culture, which are summarized in her conclusion. The title of the final chapter gives a good indication of the alternative she advocates: “Marriage is good”. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a feminist defending the institution of marriage! She is convinced that, on the whole, marriage is better for women than the alternative presented by the sexual revolution and liberal feminism.

This book is unprecedented. Perry’s work is highly researched, both statistically and sociologically. Her argument is robust. Her staunching critique is only made stronger by the fact that she was a devoted believer in the ideology she critiques. However, the weakness of this book is that she has no solid moral basis to underpin her critique and the alternative she proposes. She repeatedly advises women to follow their moral intuition, while acknowledging that this compass is not always reliable (65ff.). We might reply that this moral intuition is the fruit of God’s law written in our hearts at creation. Its unreliability is the fruit of our sin. But it is also the fruit of a society that has been profoundly shaped by Christianity for almost 2000 years[3]. Interestingly, his advice comes very close to a Christian ethic of sexuality[4]. In a way, this book shows from a human point of view that the divine commandments concerning sexuality are not arbitrary, but genuinely good for us, both as men and women.

In short, this is a key book to understand and navigate the current sexual culture with all its evils.

Perry, Louise. The Case against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century. Cambridge Medford (Mass.): Polity Press, 2022.

[1] I understand the “us” to refer to both women and men, for the men do not all benefit either from the sexual revolution.

[2] The differences between genders are less obvious in an office than they are on a building site or a mine, for example.

[3] See Tom Holland, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind (London: ABACUS,Little, Brown, 2019).

[4] Although in the book she advises young women to wait for a few months before having sex with their boyfriend, in a podcast she recommended to wait until marriage. She didn’t put it in her book for fear of appearing unrealistic.

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