Taking Sex Seriously08-21-2022
When students at Bard first hatched the idea to bring unpopular speakers to campus under the auspices of the Arendt Center, one of the first speakers they chose was Suzanne Venker. Venker’s talk caused quite a stir. What I remember most from her talk was the argument that feminism and specifically the sexual revolution had been bad for women. She argued that the unintended consequences of sexual liberation were that men got what they wanted (easy and cheap sex) while women didn’t get what they wanted, longer-term, caring, and committed relationships.
I was reminded of Venker’s arguments this week amid the hoopla around Louise Perry’s new book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution. Women can and should enjoy sex, Perry writes; but she claims that in general men and women want different things from sex and that treating them equally more often than not harms women. Perry argues that sex must be taken seriously, and that may mean having less of it.
I’m not a religious conservative. I’m a feminist, and I’ve spent my entire professional life working on the issue of male violence against women—first in a rape crisis center, and later as a journalist and a media relations director for a legal campaign against sexual violence.
It’s precisely because I’m a feminist that I’ve changed my mind on sexual liberalism. It’s 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.…
The last 60 years have proved that assumption to be wrong. We need to re-erect the social guard rails that have been torn down. To do that, we have to start by stating the obvious: Sex must be taken seriously. Men and women are different. Some desires are bad. Consent is not enough. Violence is not love. Loveless sex is not empowering. People are not products. Marriage is good.