While researching for my book Smart Teenage Muslimah, I read The Case Against the Sexual Revolution by Louise Perry. Perry describes herself as a feminist who is critical of the mainstream feminist movement, and she is often associated with the “conservative feminist” or “anti-feminist feminist” movement, which challenges some of the assumptions and priorities of mainstream feminism.
As she states in an interview published in The Critic, “I see myself as a feminist who is critical of the mainstream feminist movement. I believe in gender equality and women’s rights, but I also believe in critical thinking and challenging conventional wisdom. I want to promote a more inclusive and nuanced discussion of gender and sexuality, one that takes into account the diverse experiences and perspectives of women.”
Perry’s book is a powerful critique of the sexual revolution, charting its negative impact on Western society. Throughout my reading, I could not help being struck by the raw honesty and piercing insight of her words. In her analysis, Perry exposes the damage inflicted upon the traditional family structure and the values that underpin it, arguing that contrary to popular perception, the sexual revolution was not a liberating force and had many negative consequences, particularly for women.
The book’s first section outlines the sexual revolution and its impact on society. Perry contends that the sexual revolution was not a spontaneous movement but rather a careful orchestration spearheaded by intellectuals and activists. She identifies several vital figures instrumental in promoting the sexual revolution, including Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and Betty Friedan. Perry claims these figures profoundly influenced society and their ideas continue to shape our culture today.
One of the most compelling characteristics of The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is Perry’s willingness to confront the uncomfortable truths of our time. She writes, “We are living in a society that has embraced a new moral code, which prizes sexual pleasure above all else.” This new moral code has led to the proliferation of pornography, casual sex, and other forms of sexual indulgence, eroding the social fabric of our communities. Here, I was genuinely taken aback to find a feminist author echoing sentiments that Muslims have held for a long time.
Perry’s critique of the sexual revolution continues unapologetically, as she notes how the movement has undermined women’s dignity and autonomy. She notes, “The sexual revolution has not been good for women. It has turned women into objects of desire rather than autonomous individuals with their own desires and aspirations.” Her examination of how the sexual revolution has perpetuated gender inequality is indeed fascinating.
A unique aspect of the book is Perry’s ability to connect the dots between seemingly disparate social phenomena. For example, she notes that the rise of hook-up culture and the decline of the traditional family structure are not separate issues but intimately connected. She writes, “The sexual revolution has contributed to the breakdown of the traditional family structure by promoting a culture of casual sex and temporary relationships.” This kind of analysis is crucial for understanding the complex ways social phenomena intersect and interact with one another. Most books addressing relationships claim hook-up culture and dating apps are a true boon for single women; but they fail to address the toll they take on mental health and self-esteem.
Perry is most articulate when she details the emotional damage suffered by women who feel they must accept this male-centred model of sexual relationships. “Hook-up culture is more common in environments in which men are dominant, and, in a sexual marketplace in which such a culture prevails, a woman who refuses to participate puts herself at a disadvantage,” she writes. Who wants to be the uncool girl who admits that she values intimacy and emotional connection more than casual sex?
Among the strengths of this book is the depth of research that the author has conducted. She provides numerous examples to support her arguments and draws on various sources, including academic studies, historical documents and contemporary news articles. Thorough attention to sourcing her claims lends a great deal of credibility to her views, rendering the book a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the impact of the sexual revolution on society.
Given that Perry’s views are grounded in her personal experiences, observations and a wide range of research and data, she can present a convincing case that the sexual revolution has had far-reaching and damaging consequences for our society. However, her assertions have not gone unchallenged.
Detractors of the book argue that Perry’s analysis is overly simplistic and fails to take into account the many benefits that the Sexual Revolution has brought about. For example, a review in The Critic states, “As much as Perry decries the crumbling of suitable concepts regarding sex, however, she also seems hesitant to dig deeper underneath the veneer of numerous assertions. The ‘guidance’ she aims to provide sometimes consists in a list of virtues. At some points those accumulations become superficial to the point that they force the reader to beg the following question: why is Perry not probing further?”
Other critics argue that Perry’s analysis is rooted in a conservative worldview that does not represent all members of society. In her review for The Guardian, Rachel Cooke states, “I wish she hadn’t detoured into marriage. As a feminist who decries the matricidal impulses of her generation, I hope she won’t mind me saying that life is long, that people fall in and out of love in spite of their best efforts, and that all the statistics in the world cannot make me believe that a child with really miserable parents would not, ultimately, be better off if they could only separate amicably.”
But, despite these critiques, I believe The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is an essential book. Finally, white feminists are speaking out against shamelessness and promiscuity and arguing in favor of chivalry, avoiding states of intoxication, avoiding dating apps and claiming that marriage is the best basis for child-rearing. While it is true that for sexually promiscuous liberals, the sexual revolution has brought about positive changes, it is also true that negative consequences must be addressed for women and families. Perry’s willingness to confront these issues head-on is a welcome and refreshing change from the often superficial and politically correct discussions that dominate current public discourse.
However, despite the power and insight of Perry’s analysis, her argument has some weaknesses. For example, she tends to oversimplify the causes of certain social phenomena. For instance, she argues that the sexual revolution is solely responsible for the decline in birth rates in Western countries. While the sexual revolution has undoubtedly played a role in this decline, other factors, such as economic changes and changing social norms, also contribute to this trend. Another factor that cannot be overlooked is the rise of second-wave feminism, which encouraged women to go to work rather than stay at home and raise a family.
And although I did find myself agreeing with numerous points Perry wrote, ultimately, I could only agree with some of her solutions and foundational principles. As a Muslim, I believe in submission and obedience to Allah, not my desires; my choice is that which Allah has chosen. This is in direct opposition to Perry’s statement, “I am a feminist…My feminist credentials are golden… I think women are capable of making their own choices and decisions, and we need to trust and respect that. It’s not our place to tell women what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies or their lives.”
Overall, for the purpose of research, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution was a must-read to understand the profound changes that have taken place in Western society over the past several decades. Perry’s fearless analysis of the movement and its impact is a wake-up call for liberals to re-examine their values and priorities. As she writes, “We need to reclaim the values of love, commitment, and sacrifice that have been eroded by the Sexual Revolution.” The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is a powerful and timely reminder of the urgent need to do just that, albeit from the basis of our own tradition.
Photo by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash
Disclaimer: Material published by Traversing Tradition is meant to foster scholarly inquiry and rich discussion. The views, opinions, beliefs, or strategies represented in published articles and subsequent comments do not necessarily represent the views of Traversing Tradition or any employee thereof.
Farhat Amin is an author and podcaster. She creates online courses and books for Muslimah’s promoting Islamic family values and illustrates the alternative to liberalism. Visit her website, smartmuslima.com, to learn more about her work.