Reading Louise Perry’s scathing judgement on the bitter fruit of the sexual revolution, you would think she is a conservative Christian with a long history in the culture war. But you would be wrong.
Perry is a British 30-year-old woman, a self-described “proud feminist,” who has spent her entire working life helping women of sexual abuse and exploitation. She is any second-wave feminist mother’s dream of a daughter. But she is speaking some very heterodox truths, straying from her pedigree, and doing so with a resolute moral boldness that few men possess. And Perry is writing such things as a feminist because many things are changing in our current cultural debate over sexuality and new voices are feeling emboldened to speak out.
That is a very good thing.
Perry explains, “It’s precisely because I’m a feminist that I’ve changed my mind on sexual liberalism.” From the experience of her work with victimized women, she has come to the conclusion that the sexual revolution was “an ideology premised on the false belief that the physical and psychological differences between men and women are trivial, and that any restrictions placed on sexual behavior must therefore have been motivated by malice, stupidity or ignorance.” Perry adds, “The problem is the differences aren’t trivial. Sexual asymmetry is profoundly important.”
And the assumption that the differences don’t matter is what has caused the sexual revolution to be so harmful to women. A reviewer for the liberal British newspaper, The Guardian, captured the unapologetic boldness of Perry’s book,
In this cultural moment, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution could hardly be more radical. It is an act of insurrection, its seditiousness born not only of the pieties it is determined to explode, but of the fact that it is also diligently researched and written in plain English.
This reviewer is exactly right, referring to Perry’s as “a provocative book. More than once, its author says the unsayable.” The unsayable needs saying and Perry is unapologetic in her advocacy of the essential virtues of sexual restraint and marriage.
Perry recently wrote in the British Daily Mail that is not wise for women to have babies outside of marriage, “As a young married mother — and a feminist — I think marriage … serve[s] to better protect both women and children, providing the best possible foundation for building a family.” She sounds like a preacher when she proposes to her millennial female peers, “If a man isn’t willing to stand up in front of everyone you and he knows and promise to cherish you forever, then how can you be sure he’s really committed to your shared life and to that child?”
And Perry has very traditional views about marriage, explaining, “Personally, I don’t like the new vogue for couples to write their own vows, and not only because the results are often toe-curlingly mawkish.” Its because marriage vows that are tailored by individual whims and sentimentalities are not rugged enough to honor what marriage itself is and is supposed to do. She explains, “Every time my husband and I go to a traditional [high church] wedding, we hear again the words we spoke at our own wedding, and are reminded that we’ve opted into an institution that every other married couple is part of.”
Perry is of the strong conclusion that women lost a great deal in the seeming “advances” of the sexual revolution. Freedom is one of her hobby horses, and she is not a fan. She believes that one-word mantra did many things, but setting women really free was not one of them. It ended up enslaving nearly everyone, women especially. Perry explains,
Remove the progressive goggles, and the history of the last 60 years looks different. … The new sexual culture isn’t so much about the liberation of women, as so many feminists would have us believe, but the adaptation of women to the expectations of a familiar character: Don Juan, Casanova, or, more recently, Hugh Hefner.
She is precisely right.
Perry holds the radical ideal that women are uniquely special in their femininity and that female sexuality is of a higher order because it is fundamentally more civilized and can produce new life. Therefore, it requires more protection, being respected and honored by all. She prefers the ideal of restraint by both men and women over freedom.
As such, Perry wholly rejects the feminist ideal that women are most free when they try to replicate male sexuality. This has severely harmed women on every level, and she offers no apologies for saying so. She intends her writing to spark a new, but very different, feminist movement than the one launched by second wave feminists like Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex and Betty Friedan in The Feminist Mystique.
Curiously, the new revolution Perry is launching is very similar to what Focus on the Family and other conservative groups have been teaching and preaching for decades. She wants women today to know that what they have long been told is bad for them by the feminist mothers is actually quite good, “I think young women have been utterly failed by liberal feminism and have the most to gain from a swing back against its excesses.”
She hopes to accelerate that swing.
What she believes about sexual politics through long observation and the experience of her work as a woman’s advocate, she holds so dearly she offers it as advice to her own daughters yet to be born. We quote this advice at length here. [And of course, this is not all advice that Focus on the Family would give, but the fact that leading young feminists are talking positively about sexual restraint, fatherhood, and marriage is no small development.]
This is the advice I would offer my own daughter:
- Distrust any person or ideology that pressures you to ignore your moral intuition.
- Chivalry is actually a good thing. We all have to control our sexual desires, and men particularly so, given their greater physical strength and average higher sex drives.
- Sometimes (though not always) you can readily spot sexually aggressive men. There are a handful of personality traits that are common to them: impulsivity, promiscuity, hyper-masculinity and disagreeableness. These traits in combination should put you on your guard.
- A man who is aroused by violence is a man to steer well clear of…
- [Sexual] Consent workshops are mostly useless [because they don’t empower women.]
- Don’t use dating apps. They offer a large pool of options, but at a severe cost. It is far better to meet a partner through mutual friends, since they can vet histories and punish bad behavior. Dating apps can’t.
- Monogamous marriage is by far the most stable and reliable foundation on which to build a family.
None of this advice is groundbreaking. It’s all informed by peer-reviewed research, but it shouldn’t have to be, since this is what pretty much most mothers would tell their daughters, if only they were willing to listen.
On this note, The Guardian reviewer noted of Perry’s book, “It comes as something of a shock to see a feminist writer with any new ideas at all.”
Maybe that is because Louise Perry is not proposing new ideas, but instead, rediscovering some very old and wise ones. And it is very good that she is gaining such a wide hearing in articulating these views to a new generation of women and the rest of us can hope that they discover the Source of this wisdom.