Transcript: Louise Perry On The Sexual Revolution
The post-liberal feminist has a new polemic against casual sex, porn, BDSM, dating apps and prostitution.
Louise Perry is a writer and campaigner against sexual violence. This year she co-founded a non-partisan feminist think tank called The Other Half, where she serves as Research Director. Her debut book is The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century.
This episode aired on September 16, 2022. Here are some money quotes from Louise:
On sex drive: “The problem with our current straight culture is it encourages women to imitate male sexuality, and they don’t want to. I mean, men don’t want to imitate female sexuality either. But my feminist principle is that it’s better to be sexually frustrated than to have unwanted sex.”
On monogamy: “It’s an unusual model. It’s also a very, very successful one in the sense that cultures that have adopted it have come to dominate the world, which is the answer to what anthropologists have called the puzzle of monogamous marriage.”
On Tinder: “My argument is that the only people [on Tinder] who are really benefiting are the really high-status men, at least the ones who want to take advantage of all the pleasures offered by sexual liberation.”
On the biggest losers: “Is it men? Is it women? It’s actually children who are the main losers from the sexual revolution and the destruction of the institution of marriage.”
On BDSM: “I do wonder if part of the reason that BDSM has become common among straight people is because we live such gender neutral lives … It is interesting to me that what BDSM is most of the time is an exaggeration of masculinity and femininity.”
Andrew: Hey there. Yes, the voice is still not quite back. My lungs are doing their damnedest to keep me silent. Wisely, probably, but here I am managing to do another podcast this week, which I really wanted to do. Thanks for all the feedback about last week's discussion of what's going on on the far right. And what the thought is behind it.
This week, we’re also going to have a critique of liberal modernity in a different way. Louise Perry is a writer and longtime campaigner against sexual violence. This year she co-founded a nonpartisan feminist think tank called The Other Half, where she serves as research director. Her first book, just out, is called The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century. Louise, thank you so much for coming on the Dishcast.
Louise: Thank you. It's lovely to be here.
Andrew: And you're English, right? Obviously.
Louise: I'm English.
Andrew: Although the book is out here just as prominently as in the UK. Tell me, where did you grow up in England and what was your background like?
Louise: My parents were Australian, actually, so I'm sometimes told I have a very slight Australian accent. Though that's a controversial point among Australian relatives. But I was born here in London and have lived in London pretty much my whole life. I think of my background as being very boring, but I suppose everyone thinks that because it's normalized to them.
I come from a happy stable middle-class upbringing — my father's a lawyer, my mother's an academic. So the point of my biography that is probably most pertinent to the book is I did anthropology and women's studies at university. And then after I left, I worked at a rape crisis center as a support worker for teenage girls.
Andrew: Tell me, when you studied women's studies, what were you taught? Presumably this was the Bible that you were taught. I've never took women's studies. Tell me what, basically, is the gist of that curriculum?
Louise: Well, it does vary between universities. I did it at Oxford, which at the time was one of the few departments still calling itself a women's studies department. Basically all of them have transitioned to be gender studies or gender and sexuality studies. I think Oxford has since changed its name, which is sad. It was kind of evident in the core curriculum though, in that there was really surprising little second wave [feminism]. We sort of skipped from Simone de Beauvoir to Judith Butler and then more Judith Butler and then more Judith Butler.
Andrew: Judith Butler, an extraordinarily influential person.
Andrew: Whom I have diligently attempted to read and understand on many different occasions.
Louise: Haven't we all. [Laughs]
Andrew: What is it about the work of Judith Butler? What do you think is its most potent appeal?