The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: Part 23, "Votes for Women, Chastity for Men"

We continue to reflect upon marriage in Chapter 8 of Louise Perry's The Case Against the Sexual Revolution.

If you've followed this series you know that the primary analytical tool Perry uses in criticizing the sexual revolution are the adaptive asymmetries men and women faced throughout our evolutionary history. These particular reproductive pressures produced distinctive sexual psychologies between the sexes. Given the risks and costs of pregnancy and child-rearing in primitive ecosystems, women evolved sexual preferences for a "high investment mate," privileging emotional intimacy and relational fidelity. Males, by contrast, facing little adaptive cost for sex, evolved a sexual psychology which privileged sexual access and opportunity, an openness to casual sex with multiple partners across the lifespan. 

Given these differences, Perry's argument has been that the sexual revolution has been good for only one of the sexes. The sexual revolution demands that women "have sex like men," asking them to mortify their evolved cravings for emotional intimacy and relational fidelity. This leads Perry to make the claim that the sexual revolution, and the feminism which supports it, deeply patriarchal. Women are being asked to stuff their desires in order to satisfy the insatiable sexual demands of men: Lots and lots of females readily available to have casual, meaningless sex.

If this is so, what would the alternative be? 

Well, the alternative would be for men to center and privilege the sexual desires of women. This would mean turning away from casual, meaningless sex toward sex that is connected to emotional intimacy and relational fidelity. In short, sex that is re-connected to marriage. 

If sex were re-connected to marriage, or at least emotional intimacy and long-term caring and faithful commitments, it would be males who would have to mortify their sexual desires. This reversal is at the heart of Perry's argument. Hook up culture is good for men and bad for women. So what would our sexual culture look like if the needs and desires of women were centered, elevated, and privileged? It would look like a world where sex was emotionally meaningful and reliably connected to long-term commitment, care, and faithfulness. Women, Perry argues, would much prefer to live in that world than the world created by the sexual revolution. It would be a world where men started mortifying their desires to put the desires of women first. 

Such a world, however, demands male continence. Perhaps ironically, given their support of the sexual revolution, feminists have long recognized that male continence is good for women. As Perry recounts, a woman suffragist slogan was "Votes for Women! Chastity for Men!" And two of the chapters of Mary Wollstonecraft's feminist manifesto A Vindication of the Rights of Women were devoted to the chronic promiscuity and infidelities of men. 

All of which raises the question: Where in the modern world are young men learning the virtues of continence? Where in the modern world are young men being called toward relational fidelity and marriage?

The answer: Nowhere. 

So here's a provocative take: Purity culture in the church might bear better fruit if it was directed at men. Not that I want young men feeling guilty about sex, just that male continence is going to play a critical role in creating a sexual culture that is actually good for women. And I think Christian men should care about things that are good for women.

A related issue here, since we're talking about male continence and putting the needs of women first, is Gabrielle Blair asking men to ejaculate responsibly

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