Ditching the stuffy hang-ups and benighted sexual traditionalism of the past is an unambiguously positive thing. The sexual revolution has liberated us to enjoy a heady mixture of erotic freedom and personal autonomy. Right?
Wrong, argues Louise Perry in her provocative new book. Although it would be neither possible nor desirable to turn the clock back to a world of pre-60s sexual mores, she argues that the amoral libertinism and callous disenchantment of liberal feminism and our contemporary hypersexualised culture represent more loss than gain. The main winners from a world of rough sex, hook-up culture and ubiquitous porn – where anything goes and only consent matters – are a tiny minority of high-status men, not the women forced to accommodate the excesses of male lust. While dispensing sage advice to the generations paying the price for these excesses, she makes a passionate case for a new sexual culture built around dignity, virtue and restraint.
This counter-cultural polemic from one of the most exciting young voices in contemporary feminism should be read by all men and women uneasy about the mindless orthodoxies of our ultra-liberal era.