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At the weekend, two articles promoting marriage appeared in the papers.

N.B.: Adult content follows.

Separately, two Britons — feminist Louise Perry and conservative columnist Peter Hitchens — say it is time to dump the sexual revolution from the 1960s and return to traditional marriage.

Louise Perry’s book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, is published this Friday, June 3, 2022.

The Sunday Times reported that it is a call to return to the centuries-old tradition of getting married (emphases mine):

She has a piece of simple advice for the young women reading her book: “Get married. And do your best to stay married.”

Perry, who read women’s studies at the left-wing School of Oriental and African Studies in London, was brought up to embrace sexual freedom and personal choice.

Then she began volunteering for the National Rape Crisis Helpline and was appalled by what she discovered, Times journalist Laura Hackett says:

“That was a turning point,” she tells me. All the feminist theory she was studying had “no relevancethere was nothing in there about sexual violence, it didn’t map on to reality.”

It turns out that society’s obsession with pornography has a lot to do with damaging and fractured relationships between men and women:

We are being exposed to more and more explicit content in our everyday lives — everything from lingerie and perfume adverts to Fifty Shades of Grey — and this deadens our responses to actual sex, she argues, destroying our romantic relationships.

Should we ban it, then? She pauses. “I’m not sure if I want to bring back the old classification board . . . but either you have centralised censorship or you have a free market, and the free market is producing this horror show.”

Perry is dismayed that the #MeToo movement has not put people off watching sex scenes. “I really feel for actors. Who would have thought 20 years ago that signing up to be an actor would mean basically signing up to be a porn star?” The difference, of course, is that the sex isn’t real, but Perry doesn’t back down. “From what I’ve heard it’s not far off. And it clearly is sometimes a source of distress for actors and an opportunity for sex pests.”

Rightly, Perry thinks that rough sex, which is prevalent in today’s pornography, is a form of domestic abuse:

The erotic bestsellers women are reading today — Fifty Shades of Grey for mums, and Sarah J Maas’s sexy fantasy fiction for their daughters — are heavily focused on BDSM, which Perry believes is little more than abuse. She helped to found the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This, which aims to eradicate the use of “rough sex” defences to the killing or harming of women.

She also points out that one-night stands give little pleasure to the women pursuing them:

Perry is eloquent, empathetic — and very persuasive. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with her on most things: porn is clearly a dangerous, exploitative industry; prostitution isn’t just a normal job (or else why would we be so outraged by landlords asking for sex as payment?); and hook-up culture has practically no benefits for women (only 10 per cent of women orgasm during a one-night stand; no prizes for guessing that figure is much higher among men).

What is the solution, other than marriage?

“This idea that marriage is inherently oppressive to women I don’t think is true,” Perry says.

In her book she races through statistics highlighting the benefits of marriage: almost half of divorced people in the UK regret it, fatherless boys are more likely to go to prison, and fatherless girls are more likely to become pregnant in their teens. She even lauds the hidden benefits of shotgun marriages and the stigma around single motherhood. “In an era without contraception,” Perry writes, “a prohibition on sex before marriage served female, not male, interests.” I’m not sure how Ireland’s mother and baby homes, for example, which locked up unmarried mothers and removed their children, served female interests. Perry nods. “What haunts me is: do we have to choose between Magdalene laundries and PornHub?”

Perry also laments the ease of getting a divorce, made even simpler now because of a new law that Parliament passed earlier this year:

Perry argues that while it is important to have divorce as an option for people in terrible, abusive marriages, the easy availability of divorce under any circumstances has killed off the institution of marriage — and that’s bad news for women.

Interestingly, given her upbringing and university studies, Perry married a police officer.

She is adamant about tough sentencing for convicted rape:

prison — for life, if needs be.

She says that the male urge to dominate women is atavistic:

She links the crime back to biology, rejecting the prevailing view that our sexist culture encourages men to rape. Evolutionary theory, she explains, shows that rape confers a selection advantage on men, giving them more opportunities to pass on their genes. In other words sexual violence is rational. It’s no coincidence, she says, that women are most likely to be raped between the ages of 12 and 30 — their fertile years.

She believes that the education policy instructing students about mutual consent is wrong because it does not work:

When it comes to prevention, Perry thinks consent workshops, which teach young people how to check that their partner really wants to have sex, are useless. “If we think that the problem is young men being really horny and larger and more aggressive than young women, then things like gender-neutral bathrooms in school are the stupidest things ever.”

Her book also has a chapter on rules for young women, which sound very last century:

“In the earlier stages of writing I had that feeling of walking on eggshells and being worried I’d piss off everyone … But in the end I just wrote what I thought was true.”

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is explicitly directed towards young women who have grown up in a world of PornHub, OnlyFans and Tinder; 21st-century sexual freedom has not been liberating for them at all, but instead benefited men, Perry believes. She provides a list of 11 rules for young women in the epilogue, including: “Get drunk or high in private and with female friends rather than in public or in mixed company”; “Avoid being alone with men [you] don’t know”; “Hold off on having sex with a new boyfriend for at least a few months”; “Don’t use dating apps”; and “Only have sex with a man if you think he would make a good father to your children”.

It surprised me to read over the past two years — and this was true before lockdown — that young people are having fewer sexual encounters at a time when their hormones and fertility are in their prime. Is it because of pornography? I don’t know.

However, the Times journalist says that Perry could be tapping into something with her book:

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is unapologetically focused on improving women’s health and happiness. Will it work? The tide does seem to be turning in our attitudes. Young people are having less sex; they’re worried about age gaps and power imbalances in their relationships; and a recent BBC documentary on Mary Whitehouse [censorious campaigner of the late 20th century] even asked if she was ahead of her time. Perry may have predicted a new age of sexual puritanism, and perhaps it will make us happier.

Incidentally, Perry had her first child, a boy, while writing her book. She says that men are also harmed by our anything-goes lifestyle:

Has that altered her perspective? “Yes, to the extent that I had a baby boy. It made me think a bit more about the way that men are harmed by this culture.”

Speaking of children, Mail columnist Peter Hitchens says that broken homes harm their prospects as adults.

We always say that, in case of a relationship breakup, children are resilient, but is that actually true in the long term?

Hitchens says that it isn’t.

He points to the recent release of a report on children’s social care:

Last week great publicity was rightly given to a report on children’s social care. It predicted that the number of children in care, now 80,000, would rise to 100,000 by 2032, costing taxpayers a colossal £15 billion a year.

Of course many terrible things happen to children in so-called ‘care’ apart from actual violence and death. The general outcomes for children deprived of what we would once have called stable family life, and deprived of fathers, are just not very good

No doubt plenty of social workers, foster parents and others do all they can, and I am not trying to criticise these individuals but they just cannot do what a loving, stable home can do.

He, too, points indirectly to the sexual revolution which has seen a continuing decline in marriage and an increase in divorce:

The tragedy of care is a direct consequence of 50 years in which the law, and our culture, have encouraged the idea that lifelong marriage is dispensable – a cruel prison from which adults should be free to escape. The latest loosening of the marriage laws, effectively allowing divorce on demand, follows the same failed view.

I agree. I was appalled to see a Conservative government push that law through the statute books.

Hitchens also says that today’s marriage vows outside of church do not pledge fidelity over the years:

Should we not connect the number of children in care to the fact that, in England and Wales, the numbers getting married fell in 2019 to the lowest rate since records began? Less than 20 per cent of these weddings were in a religious building, where the idea that marriage is for life is still pretty much insisted upon.

Many modern weddings are lavish affairs in beautiful places, but they simply do not demand the commitment that couples used to make. And many modern couples, seeing which way the wind is blowing, never bother to marry at all. Such commitment is generally discouraged, even viewed as foolish.

He says there is a class divide when it comes to divorce and children:

the children are the ones who suffer, and whose freedom from worry and insecurity has been sacrificed to allow for grown-up freedoms to do as we will.

Among the well-off, the damage is generally not so bad, though there is damage. But among the poor, and in the parts of the country where the schools are bad and the streets are grim, it is another story. And that story often ends in care, with all its miseries, loneliness, insecurity and disappointment.

It is not the same sort of hell as the workhouses and the orphanages of the past were, but it can be hell even so. We need a modern Charles Dickens to depict it. If more people realised how bad it was, we might start to wonder if the gradual dismantling of stable marriage was such a good idea after all.

I am delighted to read about two Britons championing traditional marriage. I hope the case they make for lifelong marital vows is heard far and wide. Marriage was instituted for our benefit. We can see that doing away with it has done us precious little good as a society.

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