The sexual revolution of the 1960s liberated women to enjoy sexual freedom and personal autonomy. That’s the conventional view but is it right? In March 2023 writers Louise Perry and Mary Harrington came to Intelligence Squared to argue that the social changes generally seen as progressive over the last 50 years have largely benefited men and only a handful of elite women.
Perry, who has been described as the most influential young feminist in Britain, claims in her book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution that the contemporary world of rough sex, hook-up culture and ubiquitous porn is harming women and she calls for a radical challenge to what she sees as the failed liberal feminism of the 20th century. Harrington, in her new book Feminism Against Progress, argues that the belief in the progressive march of history is misguided and that new technology, far from liberating women, has trapped them into commodifying their bodies in the false belief that they are empowering themselves. And she warns of a dystopian future where poor women will become convenient sources of body parts to be harvested and wombs to be rented by the rich.
Perry and Harrington were in conversation with Times columnist Alice Thomson.
‘In this thoughtful, timely and witty book, Louise Perry exposes the travesty of ‘sex positive’ feminism as neither positive nor sexy and argues for new thinking which puts women’s true interests, desires and happiness at its heart.’ – Janice Turner, Times columnist and feature writer
‘It’s a combination of beliefs that will outrage almost everyone. Radical feminists, the old-guard 1960s firebrands, will agree with her on porn, but be aghast by the chapter on marriage; social conservatives will love the marriage chapter, but bristle at Perry’s approval of abortion; the new generation of liberal feminists, who have known nothing but sexual freedom, may well despise it all.’ – Laura Hackett, The Sunday Times
‘Brilliant, bold and beautifully written, Feminism Against Progress is sure to infuriate – and inspire.‘ – Erika Bachiochi, author of The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision
‘Essential reading for the left.‘ – Lord Maurice Glasman, author of Blue Labour: The Politics of the Common Good