Every five to 10 years, a great book arguing against the sexual revolution is published, apparently making no difference whatsoever.
In 2022, we have two: Louise Perry’s convincing argument against “free” sex and Gabrielle Blair’s provocative examination of why men’s bodies, not women’s, should be at the center of the abortion debate.
This time, there’s a good chance many people will listen. Why? Because the sexual terrain of heterosexuals in the 2020s is abysmal.
Just last week, the BBC published an article about the “sexless marriages of millennials.”
There is a deluge of online porn that has become more sick and twisted than anyone ever imagined it could be, with the vast majority of young men (and a sizable percentage of young women) marinating their brains in the choking, hitting and harming of women during sex.
Indeed, in a recent survey of U.S. college students, 40% said they had participated in the choking of a sex partner, despite the potential for permanent brain damage and even death from the practice.
When children are produced from these troubled liaisons, over 40% of babies are born to single mothers, most of whom are impoverished. Meanwhile, governments are wringing their hands over falling birthrates, apparently unwilling to connect the dots.
The Perry and Blair books are much-needed lifeboats floating near the sinking ships of world civilizations.
Perry’s contribution is to write clearly and without jargon in “The Case Against the Sexual Revolution,” which describes in 190 pages what today’s young women face in the sexual marketplace. Ironically, although relatively effective and accessible contraception for women has been widely available since the 1960s, it has proved a double-edged sword for women. Contraception definitely helped women to obtain a much higher level of agency in their lives, which is all to the good, but at the same time there was one area in which women lost agency: The social ability to refuse a man casual sex.
Now sex is on men’s terms, and what ugly terms those turned out to be. As Perry puts it, many women today must pretend to derive pleasure from things they don’t want to do, and say they don’t mind when “friends with benefits” arrangements actually cause pain. It is plain, she writes, that “the sexual playing field is not equal, but it suits the interests of the powerful to pretend that it is.” Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows — and the minnows are, in the first place, female, and increasingly, the victims of the sexual “revolution” are children being sexually abused.
Perry doesn’t sugarcoat the antidote: Some desires are wrong, and they should be — even must be — repressed and not acted upon. The concept of “consent” is simply too low a bar, given the stakes. She argues for a new standard of sexual integrity, “one that recognizes other human beings as real people, invested with real value and dignity ... even if that means curtailing our freedoms.”
Rather than exercising agency “by having loveless, brusque sex with men they don’t like who show no regard for (them) and discard them immediately afterward,” women would realize, as most eventually do after significant harm, that “unwanted sex is worse than sexual frustration.” That “a truly feminist project would demand that it should be men, not women, who adjust their sexual appetites.”
And that is exactly where Blair plants her standard.
A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a mother of six, Blair has noticed something that should be blindingly obvious: A man’s choice to deposit his DNA inside the body of a woman who does not wish to be pregnant is not only irresponsible but arguably criminal. Blair’s book is even easier to digest than Perry’s — large type, very short chapters and only 126 pages in length, with a title that I hope becomes a worldwide rallying cry.
This little book is a powerhouse, capable of waking readers from persistent brain fog into sharp mental clarity. Consider what we all know, but in a new light: “At eighty years of age, a woman who has menstruated for forty years will have experienced 480 days of fertility. At eighty years old, a man who hit puberty at age twelve will have experienced 24,208 days of fertility.”
Men have at least 50 times the fertility of women, and that does not even take into account the number of gametes produced, but merely how many days of fertility each one has. This continual male fertility “is the central, driving force behind all unwanted pregnancies.”
See anew, then: While men can control when and how often they ejaculate, “Women cannot choose when ovulation begins or ends. Women cannot control the movement of their egg. During sex, women cannot remove their egg from their body and place it in someone else’s body ... the egg stays where it is and waits. It does not leave the body in search of a substance that can impregnate it.”
There are no unwanted pregnancies without voluntary male choice to deposit his DNA inside the body of a woman. And all unwanted pregnancies occur in the absence of voluntary female choice to become pregnant.
Blair argues, “If your bodily fluids have the potential to harm your partner, it’s your responsibility to ensure they don’t.”
If what is wanted is fewer abortions, then the focus on women’s bodies is grossly mistaken. The focus should be on men, and they should be held strictly, even criminally, liable for unwanted pregnancies. Instead, our legal system offers such men almost complete impunity, and it’s relevant here to note that not only is child support rarely paid as mandated, but also that the No. 1 cause of death among pregnant women is homicide, primarily by the father of the child she carries.
The law must become a better schoolmaster to men in order to stanch the misery and woe created when men deposit their DNA where their DNA is not wanted. By exercising more control over their sexual urges, men could easily prevent all elective abortions, tomorrow if they so chose.
And this is where Perry’s book and Blair’s book flow together. A new ethic of sexual integrity, is needed. We need to be able to say that certain desires are wrong, and that there will be real accountability for the harm that pursuing them will cause. Consent is not enough and never can be when the playing field is so uneven. We need a better sexual revolution, one based on male sexual integrity, not male sexual license.
A poem by Hollie McNish, quoted by Perry, must be given the final word:
“he said they’d found a brothel
on the dig he did last night
I asked him how they know
a pit of babies’ bones
a pit of newborn babies’ bones was how to spot a brothel.”
Valerie M. Hudson is a university distinguished professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and a Deseret News contributor. Her views are her own.