Discover more from Just Emil Kirkegaard Things
What has feminism done for women?
Review of Louise Perry's The Case Against the Sexual Revolution
Self-proclaimed feminists like to describe their movement as being very diverse. This is not generally true, most of them hold more or less the same views. There are a few exceptions to this. The most salient is the current pro- and anti-trans split, with the majority of writers on one side (I'd guess 95%), and the majority of women on the other side, along with the so-called TERFS, the trans-exclusive radical feminists. The TERFs may be as deluded about everything else as the first, but at least they figured out that putting men that pretend to be women or who are deluded into thinking they are women into women's prisons, bathrooms, and dressing rooms is a recipe for disaster. Aside from the TERFs, there are some women who basically want to reclaim, or keep claim to, the word feminist, so they call themselves feminists despite basically not being part of the movement as it is. There are the libertarian feminists and Christian feminists and what not. And then there is a very minor group of people who are the evolutionary psychology feminists. As evolutionary psychology is the main hate object of feminism, it is not difficult to see how this union may be difficult to achieve. But there are some who try. Louise Perry is one of them. This book is her attempt at telling feminists and women that feminism is bad for them, while also using feminist language. Hard sell? Yes, but it's an excellent attempt at this. As usual, I will be highlighting passages for criticism, but overall I think this was an excellent short book and recommend it. So let's dive into it!
First, the book contents at a glance:
1. Sex Must Be Taken Seriously
Sexual liberalism and its discontents
2. Men and Women Are Different
Differences above the neck
Rape as adaptation
How to bear it
3. Some Desires Are Bad
The sexual free market
The wrong side of history
The virtue of repression
4. Loveless Sex Is Not Empowering
The sociosexuality gap
A hand held in daylight
Cads and dads
5. Consent Is Not Enough
The ‘Queen of Porn’
The crimes of MindGeek
6. Violence Is Not Love
The idea of possessiveness
The Sutcliffean woman
We Can’t Consent to This
7. People Are Not Products
An ancient solution
$20 and $200
The redistribution of sex
Cultural death grip syndrome
‘Thanks to OnlyFans’
8. Marriage Is Good
My money, my choice
A baby and someone
The protection of an ordinary marriage
The faithless soldier
The reinvention of marriage
Conclusion: Listen to Your Mother
In the second chapter, she summarizes what some feminists have been saying before about sex differences. Not wanting to appear extreme, she accepts some of their claims at face value, but then endorse evolutionary psychology views on other matters. But Perry lacks the statistical training so she ends up accepting some bad studies. Here's a random example I checked:
Socialisation theory insists that there are no innate psychological differences between men and women, and that any differences we observe must be the product of nurture, not nature. There is some evidence in support of this theory. In her bestselling book Delusions of Gender, the Australian academic and author Cordelia Fine outlines the long history of researchers’ attempts to find definitive proof for innate differences, concluding that the case for socialisation theory is ultimately much stronger. She makes clear that there is plenty of evidence that males and females experience very different treatment throughout their lifetimes. For instance, in one typical study described by Fine:
Mothers were shown an adjustable sloping walkway, and asked to estimate the steepness of slope their crawling eleven-month-old child could manage and would attempt. Girls and boys differed in neither crawling ability nor risk taking when it came to testing them on the walkway. But mothers underestimated girls and over-estimated boys – both in crawling ability and crawling attempts – meaning that in the real world they might often wrongly think their daughters incapable of performing or attempting some motor feats, and equally erroneously think their sons capable of others.7
The study: Mondschein, E. R., Adolph, K. E., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. (2000). Gender bias in mothers' expectations about infant crawling. Journal of experimental child psychology, 77(4), 304-316.
Study turns out to be observations of n=25 college educated mothers, and here's the relevant part:
There are 3 p-values, and these are: 0.045, 0.045, and 0.034. This is exactly the level of scholarship I would expect from Cordelia Fine, Richard Nisbett etc. Cordelia's book is from 2010, and since then we've had 12 years of replication crisis, so Perry should have checked such claims. They will be mostly statistical flukes. She could -- should -- have asked some nerd to mansplain it to her.
Creativity and innovation
Whenever you are trying to stake up some new position, it is important to punch to both sides. After defending James Damore, she needs someone who is going too far and she picks Will Knowland. I've never heard of him, but he was fired in 2021 from some elite college in the UK where he had been working for about 10 years. Here's is what she says about him:
Or, worse, they fall prey to the naturalistic fallacy. In 2020, Will Knowland, an English teacher at Eton College – the oldest and poshest school in the UK – attracted a great deal of media attention when he was dismissed for producing a video titled ‘The Patriarchy Paradox’ as part of a course on critical thinking intended for older students.27 Knowland later alleged that he was disciplined because ‘the Head Master felt that some of the ideas put forward in my lecture – such as the view that men and women differ psychologically and not all of those differences are socially constructed – were too dangerous for the boys to be exposed to.’28 I’ve no doubt this was indeed why Knowland fell foul of the authorities at Eton, at least in part, but while I am sympathetic to James Damore, given his treatment by Google, I am not sympathetic to Knowland. Some of his claims are straightforwardly false, and he betrays a poor understanding of feminism, for instance using the term ‘radical feminism’ to mean ‘extreme feminism’ (always a giveaway). And while his video covers some of the same ground that I have covered in this chapter, for instance strength and aggression differences between men and women, Knowland uses evolutionary biology to argue both that women are inherently inferior to men (not only smaller and weaker but also less creative and innovative), and that men have been uniquely victimised throughout human history, while women have been coddled.
But women are less creative and innovative! Good musicians are overwhelmingly male, comedians are largely male (especially before the recent trend of unfunny 'comedians'), memes and jokes are overwhelmingly produced by men, eminent creative achievement is overwhelmingly male, inventors are overwhelmingly male. All of these things require creativity. But one might ask about a more solid case for these claims. Creative ability itself is hard to measure. Here's a 30 page review discussing sex differences in creativity:
Baer, J., & Kaufman, J. C. (2008). Gender differences in creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 42(2), 75-105.
Research on gender differences in creativity, including creativity test scores, creative achievements, and self-reported creativity is reviewed, as are theories that have been offered to explain such differences and available evidence that supports or refutes such theories. This is a difficult arena in which to conduct research, but there is a consistent lack of gender differences both in creativity test scores and in the creative accomplishments of boys and girls (which if anything tend to favor girls). As a result, it is difficult to show how innate gender differences in creativity could possibly explain later differences in creative accomplishment. At the same time, the large difference in the creative achievement of men and women in many fields make blanket environmental explanations inadequate, and the explanations that have been proposed thus far are at best incomplete. A new theoretical framework (the APT model of creativity) is proposed to allow better understanding of what is known about gender differences in creativity.
About the same huh? Let's look into it. There are a few different ways you could try to measure creativity aside from counting people in creative roles (as I did above):
Self-report directly (are you a creative person?)
Self-report of creative behaviors, then score this
Other-report of creative (ask a teacher to rate all their students for creativity, OR ask students to rate each other)
Objectively scored tests (mainly divergent thinking tests: how many uses of a brick can you think of?)
Disregarding the small or unrepresentative studies, here's the best study for self-rated creative abilities:
Kaufman (in press) asked 3,553 individuals (mostly high school and college students) to rate themselves in 56 different domains of creativity. Of the five factors derived from the 56 domains, males rated them- selves higher than females on the science-analytic and sports factors, females rated themselves higher on social-communication and visual-artistic. There were no differences on the verbal-artistic factor. At the domain level, there were significant gender differences in 43 of 56 domains. Males self-reported creativity higher than females in 28 areas and overall; females self-reported higher creativity in 15 areas. In most cases, self-assessments were consistent with gender stereotypes. It is important to clarify, however, that the discrepancies may easily be a result of internalized gender stereotypes, as opposed to actual differences in creativity.
I read the study, but the scoring is bad (varimax, the curse of social science!) so it is hard to interpret their results into an overall effect size. The actual survey is helpfully given in the appendix, and you can see why this kind of study might produce nothing too interesting:
African Americans rated themselves the most creative on every aspect, which is not surprising given their general trend of ethno-narcissism.
For other-reported creativity, the best is this study:
Another method of creativity assessment is to ask teachers or peers to rate a person’s creativity. Lau and Li (1996) asked 633 Hong Kong fifth-grade students and their teachers to evaluate the creativity of the students in their class. Boys were regarded as more creative by their classmates, but there was no gender difference in teachers’ ratings. It should be noted that although used routinely in screening for gifted/talented programs, Howieson (1980) and Wallach (1970) have warned that teacher ratings of students’ creativity may be poor predictors of creative performance.
Teachers are pretty accurate when it comes to rating students' intelligence, r = .44 in the first study I found. This used to be used to validate intelligence tests with, though the Pygmalion study later falsely smeared teachers' abilities in this area. In any case, here the ratings come from the students' themselves, so criticizing teachers would if anything, suggest they might have missed the male advantage. The study doesn't report any effect sizes, or mean scores, so I can't say how large this gap was, but the p values were small enough that it wasn't just a fluke. Aside from the lack of effect sizes, the other problem is that by Lynn's developmental theory (generalized), we expect most sex differences to show up or become larger after puberty and these were fifth graders, so they were about 11 years old. Differences seen among 11 year olds may thus not be so informative about adult differences in creative ability.
What about using personality tests?:
Costa, Terracciano, and McCrae (2001) analyzed gender differences in Openness to Experience based on a secondary analysis of 23,031 people from 26 cultures. They analyzed different components of Openness to Experience, and found that women scored higher than men on Openness to Aesthetics, Feelings, and Actions. Men scored higher than women on Openness to Ideas. There were no differences on Openness to Fantasy or Values.
Women enjoy artsy stuff more, but that doesn't mean they are more creative in general. Women obviously do more creative things in some domains, such as working with clothing. Men's creativity will be in other domains. This kind of self-rated data is not very useful I think.
You could also tell kids in a school setting to write creative stuff, and then have some 'experts' rate it:
Kaufman, Baer, and Gentile (2004) studied 102 poems, 103 fictional stories, and 103 personal narratives taken from the 1998 NAEP Classroom Writing Study. In the NAEP study, eighth graders from 32 states were asked to choose their two best pieces of writing that they had completed for their regular classroom assignments. Three groups of experts read all 308 pieces of writing. The experts included teachers of 8th grade creative writing, psychologists who studied creativity, and published creative writers who had extensive experience working with middle school students. Across all groups of experts, no gender differences were found for the poems, stories, or narratives.
These are 8th graders, so they should be early puberty. Still, we can ask ourselves whether boys are really motivated on this kind of test. Certainly, the boys I went to school with would not bother with some lame writing exercise that some teachers made up. The anti-teacher/anti-school opinions are much stronger among boys than girls I would guess.
What about people who write articles about creativity?
In a study of trends in the creativity literature, Feist and Runco (1993) counted the numbers of male and female contributors to the Journal of Creative Behavior from 1967 until 1989. Over this 22-year period, there were approximately three times as many male authors as female authors (mean number of male authors/ article = .93; mean number of female authors/article = .33). The number of female authors increased, however, from a per-issue mean of little more than 0 in 1967 to a per-issue mean of just under 3 for the years 1980-1989. The mean number of male authors per issue dropped during the same period, although only slightly, from about 6 in the late 60s to about 5 in the 80s. The number of women authors reached a plateau in the 1980s. Feist and Runco noted that this follows the trend in other journals, specifically the Australian Journal of Psychology, where the number of women authors increased into the 1970s and then reached a plateau.
Men again, but it doesn't mean so much because it's men also in areas that are less directly about creativity.
What about the divergent thinking tests? The authors say there are tons of studies with mixed results and no overall pattern. I looked at their tables, and it's easy to see why. Here's their females-better table:
We can immediately ignore the 3 small or unrepresentative studies, 2 with gifted students. The others have unreported sample sizes and I was too lazy to look them all up. Here's the males-better table:
Assessed the development of sex differences in the creative potential of 188 preschool and early elementary school children (aged 46–216 mo). Ss received the Multidimensional Stimulus Fluency Measure developed by J. D. Moran et al (see record 1984-01004-001) to assess creative potential in terms of popular and original responses (ideational fluency). Comparisons of the preschoolers, 1st graders, and 3rd graders indicated that sex differences emerged throughout early elementary school. No sex differences were found within the preschool sample, but by 3rd grade, boys scored significantly higher than girls on popular and original responses. Findings are discussed with regard to evaluation, conformity, assimilative strategies, and environmental factors.
The sex differences in original responses was p < .001. The numbers shown are means/SDs, so the male SD was 3x the female SD! The difference is about 30 points, and the mean SD is 40, so this is 0.75 standard deviation. That's a very large difference.
OK, so that ends this excursion into creativity, but basically I think the evidence in this review mostly shows males do better overall. Perry should not have been so quick to dismiss Knowland's claim. He presumably just relied on his stereotypes, and it was right because stereotypes usually are.
Oh yeah, speaking of Perry's comment on what radical feminism means. Knowland is correct. That's what radical means, she can consult any dictionary that hasn't been tampered with. This is some dumb attempt at feminist semantics game. Knowland was using the standard meaning of radical, as in radical socialists, radical solutions, and plain old radicals. It means extremist.
What is feminism about again?
I wrote in chapter 1 that the central feminist question ought not to be ‘How can we all be free?’ but, rather, ‘How can we best promote the wellbeing of both men and women, given that these two groups have different sets of interests, which are sometimes in tension?’ Evolutionary psychology draws attention to the ways in which men and women’s interests are in tension, which makes the discipline difficult to reconcile with a liberal feminist emphasis on freedom or a radical feminist emphasis on utopianism. But if we stop aiming for either absolute freedom or utopia, and start thinking more pragmatically about how best to protect women’s interests in the here and now, then we can start to reconceptualise evolutionary psychology as a useful tool.
Another semantics game attempt. Feminism has never been about the promotion of men's well-being. It's the women's self-interest movement. It's fine for women to have a movement, but I hate to read this pretension games where they pretend to really be about men's issues equally. When feminists start writing about the gaps that favor women, they can call me. Last I checked, there was some 20,000 times more interest in the gender wage gap than the gender lifespan gap.
Curiously, I am not aware of any word in the English language for a particular emotion that every woman to whom I’ve spoken has experienced at least once, but that the men to whom I’ve spoken don’t seem to recognise at all. It is a combination of both sexual disgust and fear – the bone-deep, nauseating feeling of being trapped in proximity to a horny man who repulses you. Being groped in a crowd, or leered at while travelling alone, or propositioned a little too forcefully in a bar – all of these situations can provoke this horrible emotion. It is an emotion that women in the sex industry are forced to repress. In fact, as the prostitution survivor Rachel Moran has written, the ability not to cry or vomit in response to sexual fear and disgust is one of the essential ‘skills’ demanded by the industry.17
Prostitution survivor? Let's look at the top 25 dangerous jobs by actual mortality rate:
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Derrick operators in oil, gas, and mining
Highway maintenance workers
Small engine mechanics
Supervisors of mechanics
Heavy vehicle mechanics
Grounds maintenance workers
Mining machine operators
There are zero female majority jobs on this list. True, it doesn't include prostitution because it's illegal and these are based on US government databases. To make a comparison to sex workers one needs to calculate a mortality rate on the job, or from job acquired injuries. The question is how to count suicides and murders, as these could be caused by negative psychological effects of the job, or could be due to self-selection of problem people into the profession. This worry aside, there is one study that tried to compute the homicide rate for prostitutes in Colorado. The homicide rate for sex workers is about 2x the accident mortality rate of loggers, but I don't know what the homicide rate is for loggers, which we would have to add here. Still, talking about survivors is overly dramatic as most prostitutes do not die on the job, and neither is this a common occurrence. We talk about crash survivors because people routinely die in car crashes, plane crashes, and train crashes. We don't talk about police officer survivors, or cement mason survivors, or even logger survivors -- because these people do not usually die, even if their jobs are on the dangerous side.
Sex buyers, by definition, are people who seek out sex outside of a committed relationship, usually with a person they have never met before, and this kind of sexual encounter is far, far more likely to appeal to people high in sociosexuality. People low in this trait are just not interested in having sex with a stranger, and are certainly not willing to pay money to do so or to risk punishment in countries where prostitution is fully or partially illegal. Male and female sociosexuality can be drawn (roughly) as two bell curves with a substantial overlap. But, as with any normally distributed trait, any average group difference will be most glaring at the tails. The people exceptionally high in sociosexuality are overwhelmingly men, and the people exceptionally low in it are overwhelmingly women. This means that, as a rule, any sexual culture that encourages women to ‘fuck back’ will, more often than not, just encourage women to fuck themselves over.
Convincing feminists to talk about normal distributions is certainly a feat. She should look into the normal distributions of intelligence and tell us what he learns, and what relevance this has to the male-female balance of top occupations.
Feminist leaders are not normal women
A more depressing pop-feminist genre comes at the sociosexuality gap from a different angle, advising women to work on overcoming their perfectly normal and healthy preference for intimacy and commitment in sexual relationships. Guides with titles such as ‘Here’s what to do if you start “catching feelings”’, ‘How to bio-hack your brain to have sex without getting emotionally attached’ and ‘How to have casual sex without getting emotionally attached’ advise readers to, for instance, avoid making eye contact with their partners during sex, in an effort to avoid ‘making an intimate connection’.20 Readers are also advised to take cocaine or methamphetamines before sex to dull the dopamine response, but to avoid alcohol, since for women (but, tellingly, not men) this seems to increase ‘the likelihood they will bond prematurely’. All sorts of innovative methods of dissociation are advised, for example: ‘Another way to prevent the intimate association between your fuck buddy and the heightened activity in your brain’s reward center is to consciously focus your thoughts on another person during sex.’ These guides are all carefully phrased to present the problem as gender-neutral, but research on male and female attitudes towards casual sex, combined with what we know about the sociosexuality gap, makes clear that what is really happening here is that it is overwhelmingly women who are being advised to emotionally cripple themselves in order to gratify men.
This sexuality gap produces a mismatch between male and female desire at the population level. There are a lot more straight men than there are straight women looking for casual sex, meaning that many of these men are left frustrated by the lack of willing casual partners. As we have seen, in the post-sexual revolution era, the solution to this mismatch has often been to encourage women (ideally young, attractive ones) to overcome their reticence and have sex ‘like a man’, imitating male sexuality en masse. The thesis of this book is that this solution has been falsely presented as a form of sexual liberation for women, when in fact it is nothing of the sort, since it serves male, not female, interests. But one of the points I have been keen to stress throughout is that, although our current sexual culture has significant problems, this does not mean that the sexual cultures of the past were idyllic. All societies must find some kind of solution to the sexuality gap, and those solutions can be anti-woman in many diverse ways.
Some people consider the death of marriage to be a good thing, and many of those people are feminists. Opposition to marriage was a common theme in much of the writing of the second wave, with feminists including Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer and Kate Millett all arguing for its abolition. ‘The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women,’ insisted the American sociologist Marlene Dixon in 1969, summarising the dominant feminist critique of the time. ‘It is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained.’33
But it’s no coincidence that most of the feminists who opposed marriage never had children. I’ve written earlier in this book about the conflict between liberal feminists and radical feminists on issues such as prostitution and porn, issues on which there are clear and important differences between these two feminist traditions. On motherhood, however, the differences have always been paper thin. Both groups have no answer to the question of how women are supposed to reconcile their search for freedom with a condition that necessarily curtails it.
If you value freedom above all else, then you must reject motherhood, since this is a state of being that limits a woman’s freedom in almost every possible way – not only during pregnancy but also for the rest of her life, since she will always have obligations to her children, and they will always have obligations to her. It’s a connection that is only ever severed in the most dire circumstances.
Perry talks about a number of feminist leaders giving women all sorts of bad advice based on freedom and independence maximizing ideas. But women are not very interesting in freedom or maximizing independence, so why are feminists giving them advice in order to meet this goal that women don't have? It's the central problem of feminism. She additionally notes that their advice is bad for most women, and that quite a few of these feminist leaders were themselves mentally ill, and some died by suicide. General principle of life: take advice from people who are successful through their own efforts (and not just lucky).
Speaking of first problem. Guy Madison over in Sweden noticed this issue with feminists and especially their leaders a long time ago, so he did this article:
Madison, G., Aasa, U., Wallert, J., & Woodley, M. A. (2014). Feminist activist women are masculinized in terms of digit-ratio and social dominance: a possible explanation for the feminist paradox. Frontiers in psychology, 1011.
The feminist movement purports to improve conditions for women, and yet only a minority of women in modern societies self-identify as feminists. This is known as the feminist paradox. It has been suggested that feminists exhibit both physiological and psychological characteristics associated with heightened masculinization, which may predispose women for heightened competitiveness, sex-atypical behaviors, and belief in the interchangeability of sex roles. If feminist activists, i.e., those that manufacture the public image of feminism, are indeed masculinized relative to women in general, this might explain why the views and preferences of these two groups are at variance with each other. We measured the 2D:4D digit ratios (collected from both hands) and a personality trait known as dominance (measured with the Directiveness scale) in a sample of women attending a feminist conference. The sample exhibited significantly more masculine 2D:4D and higher dominance ratings than comparison samples representative of women in general, and these variables were furthermore positively correlated for both hands. The feminist paradox might thus to some extent be explained by biological differences between women in general and the activist women who formulate the feminist agenda.
Now the finger digit stuff I don't trust much, but the conclusion must be true: feminists lead women astray because feminists are very high in sociosexuality and are generally masculinized. Hence why they are usually trying to get ordinary women to compete with men in men's roles (work, science, sexual life), making everybody worse off as a consequence.
Being alone with an unknown, horny man will always be somewhat dangerous for any woman, given the differences in size and strength. And although it’s of course true that husbands and long-term boyfriends also commit domestic violence, that’s no reason to do away with the vetting process altogether. It’s better to date men that are already part of one’s social network because, if they’ve developed a reputation for treating their girlfriends badly, you are likely to hear about this through mutual friends. When you date a stranger from the internet, the only person who can give you information about his sexual history is the man himself, and his account is unreliable. What’s more, there is nothing stopping him from treating his date badly and then melting back into the night, having suffered no social consequences whatsoever. Mutual friends and acquaintances can punish bad behaviour. Dating apps can’t.
Unfortunately, the dating market reality looks like this:
Some researchers believe that the grooming response is adaptive: a perfectly rational response to the threat of violence. The anthropologist Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, for instance, suggests that the capture of women during warfare was such a common event in human evolutionary history that it had important effects on our psychology.3 The women who were able to integrate into their new communities were best placed to survive, meaning that those who were able to emotionally attach to their captors had a selection advantage over those who resisted.
Very bold of her to mention this. The corollary of this that she doesn't mention, is that by the same token, women evolved to be traitors to their group. Insofar as men were aware of this, they would be reluctant to put women in any position to cause problems due to this behavior. Certainly, in wartime, there are a lot of women who mingled with the enemy, including being spies. Here's what happened to women who slept with the enemy, at the end of World War 2 in Denmark [feltmadras, tyskertøs]:
This aspect of female mentality is regrettable, but from an evolutionary perspective, understandable. In the Americas, we see this pattern too with mixed race people (Hispanics). The genetic origin of mixed Amerindians shows a marked sex bias, so that their maternal ancestry is mainly from Amerindian women, and their paternal ancestry is mainly from European men. Aside from cases of rape, it is obvious that their women ancestors had a hot thing for José, Mario and Manuel. This pattern is also true in African Americans, where it is often attributed to slavers raping their slaves. No doubt this happened, but which fraction was females desiring the higher status outsider over their follow slave men? Must be common.
Due to this tendency of women, men universally try to guard their women against foreign men's influence, especially if the foreign men are or appear socially successful.
Going after Big Porn
The Internet Watch Foundation has so far confirmed 118 cases of children being sexually abused on Pornhub.15 One fifteen-year-old girl who had been missing for a year was found after her mother was tipped off that her daughter was being featured in videos on Pornhub – fifty-eight such videos of her rape and abuse were discovered. Another girl, fourteen-year-old Rose Kalemba, was gang raped at knifepoint. Footage of the attack was posted on Pornhub and viewed more than 400,000 times. Kalemba contacted the site repeatedly over a period of six months, asking for the video to be removed, but with no success. Meanwhile, Pornhub continued to profit from the footage of her assault. You don’t need to go to the ‘dark web’ in order to access this material – it’s available on the biggest, most mainstream porn site in the world.
In December 2020, an article in the New York Times delivered a painful blow to MindGeek. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof conducted an investigation into the failure of Pornhub to remove sexual images of children and non-consenting adults from its platform. The New York Times is not only one of the most prestigious news outlets in the world, it is also a liberal publication that rarely publishes articles critical of the sex industry. Thus Kristof’s piece could not easily be dismissed by Pornhub’s defenders as yet another example of conservative prudishness, and his damning verdict was all the more persuasive: ‘[The Pornhub] site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos.’17
I very much enjoyed her attacks on porn. Some of the points, however, were silly, and reveals that Perry is not familiar with porn. It's not so surprising as women don't generally watch porn, and since Perry really hates it, she probably doesn't spend a lot of time browsing pornhub.com. There are no doubt bad cases like the ones she mention, but anyone who thinks this is common on Pornhub is delusional. It's almost entirely dominated by 'amateur' couples, semi-professionals and professionals. Trying to find violent or rape porn is very difficult on these big sites, their searches will simply return nothing. The websites obviously have scrubbed them of this kind of material despite a large demand from users in an attempt to avoid legal issues.
In a 2020 survey of men across a range of Western European countries, respondents reported watching an average of 70 minutes of online porn a week, with 2 per cent watching more than 7 hours.25 The average man, it seems, spends more time watching porn than he does showering.26
Made me laugh out loud because it is probably true. Equally, the average woman no doubt spend more time showering than doing a whole host of other useful behaviors, but few people complain about women's big time wasters.
When faced with such temptations, we human beings are not all that much more sophisticated than the Australian jewel beetle (Julodimorpha bakewelli), a glossy, golden-coloured beetle around 4 cm long. In 1981, a pair of insect specialists observed a male jewel beetle attempting to mate with a discarded beer bottle (known in Australian slang as a ‘stubbie’). Upon further investigation, they found that male jewel beetles were not only frequently mistaking stubbies for females of their species, they actually preferred the stubbies, ignoring potential mates in order to hump the glass bottles because these bits of litter were more glossy and more golden than the female jewel beetles, and thus more sexually exciting to the males.32
Truly a sad tale. Humanity has done its own version with porn, sex bots, but few people complain about vibrators, dildos, female erotic novels, romantic comedies, and Friends-like TV series, which replace men and family making in a similar way. The other sexual double standard lives on.
The 2 per cent of Western European men who report watching more than 7 hours of porn a week are not a healthy and happy group, and nor are the men whose porn use may be less time-consuming but is nevertheless personally destructive. The continuing influence of the NoFap movement is a testament to the sexual dissatisfaction that often comes with porn use. Founded in 2011 by the American web developer Alexander Rhodes, NoFap encourages followers to give up both porn and masturbation (‘fap’ being slang derived from the sound of a man pleasuring himself). Followers – overwhelmingly male – are offered freedom from the addictive power of porn and the consequent sexual impairment that has skyrocketed within the last twenty years, with erectile dysfunction now affecting between 14 and 35 per cent of young men, in contrast to perhaps 2 or 3 per cent at the beginning of this century.34
Sexual dysfunction probably has more to do with the decline of testosterone, obesity etc. than with porn usage. Porn use skyrocketed after the internet became fast enough to deliver photos and then videos, but the testosterone decline began earlier, so must be due at last in part to something else.
This marketing wheeze was entirely in keeping with the spirit of the Fifty Shades franchise, which eroticises wealth just as much as it eroticises sexual dominance. Christian Grey, the troubled romantic hero, is charming, handsome, and knows his way around a fluffy butt plug. He is also a billionaire, and the victim of his affections, Anastasia, is wooed just as much by his Airbus EC130 helicopter as she is by the sex dungeon that he calls his ‘Red Room’. Of course, take away all of these distractions, and what Christian Grey really undertakes is just common-or-garden domestic abuse. He becomes obsessed with a much younger, virginal woman. He wins her over by bombarding her with attention. He controls her every move, from what she wears to who she spends time with. He even dictates what she’s allowed to eat.
In July 2020, for instance, Men’s Health magazine ran a feature titled ‘Breath play is a popular form of BDSM. Here’s how to do it safely’,19 and when Member of Parliament Laura Farris criticised the article for being anti-feminist, she was met with a huge backlash on Twitter, largely from young women who insisted that consensual strangulation can be a harmless form of kink. Gigi Engle, a sex writer for Men’s Health, joined Farris’s critics in tweeting ‘Nope. Laura, sweetie, choking can be a very fun Sex act when done safely and consenually [sic].’20
One convicted domestic abuser interviewed by Dr Scott Hampton gives the game away when he confesses that ‘I never would have thought of [strangulation] until I saw it in a porno,’ and the huge age skew in the survey data on sexual strangulation lends weight to his claim. Is it really plausible that all of these young people spontaneously decided that strangulation was, as Gigi Engle describes it, ‘a very fun Sex act’? Or could the fact that this generation is the first to have been raised on online porn also be playing a role?
This is hard to prove for certain either way. There is no randomised double blind trial proving the link between porn use and sexual behaviour, and there never will be, says Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University. But McGlynn draws a comparison with advertising: ‘It’s not that I watch adverts and then go out and buy a particular washing powder. But on some level it is having some influence on me, and companies spend billions on advertising.’39 The comparison is a good one, but it also returns us to the troubling issue that I raised in the last chapter, because companies selling washing powder are responding to demand, and so, I’m sorry to say, are porn producers. Strangulation is a fashion spread by porn, but it is an elaboration on a theme that the porn industry did not create. That theme centres around violent men who are aroused by domination and insecure women who seek it out. It is the same theme we see in Fifty Shades, and sometimes in Mills & Boon novels. It isn’t new, but it has been horribly exaggerated in the modern world.
A lot of her discussion of women's liking of BDSM is basically just projecting her own puritanism for such acts. Perry may be surprised to learn how often such acts are initiated by women. Perry can only get out of this one by removing women's agency in the matter, or blaming it on them learning it from porn (women don't watch porn, so no). She seems unable to come to terms with the fact that most women enjoy this kind of light power play in bed. While one can of course get killed by extreme versions of these behaviors, and Perry mentions a few such cases, these are very uncommon. I would guess typical sexual asphyxiation lasts for like 10 seconds and no one passes out, and neither is airflow completely restricted. Some women want it to be restricted, and in that case, one can simply block airflow while counting in your head to say 30. Hardly dangerous.
But this is not, I regret to say, the dominant feminist view in the twenty-first century. It was not even the unanimous view in the 1970s, when radical feminism was riding high. In the influential text The Sadeian Woman, for instance, published in 1978, Angela Carter attempted a literary deconstruction of the writings of the grandfather of BDSM: the Marquis de Sade, the French aristocrat for whom ‘sadism’ is named. Immersed in the psychoanalytic style that was fashionable at the time, Carter identified in Sade’s work a kind of protofeminism, referring to ‘the pornographer’ – of which Sade is the pre-eminent example – as an ‘unconscious ally’ to women, ‘because he begins to approach some kind of emblematic truth.’5 The Sadeian Woman is part of a long, sorry history of feminists prioritising their own intellectual masturbation over their obligation to defend the interests of women and girls.
Never heard of this example, but it is hilarious. Maybe it should be viewed more as an example of women's hybristophilia (Bonnie and Clyde-ism), that is, liking of the extremely bad or dubious. Every famous serial killer gets tons of female fan letters, and indeed, often gets married in jail when this is allowed. I've never seen any feminist try to come to terms with this fact. Here's Danish killer Peter Lundin love career:
After the airing of The American Dream on TV 2 in 1994, many Danish women contacted Peter Lundin and in 1996 he married one of them, a woman named Tina.
On September 28, 2008, he was married to Mariann Poulsen in Statsfængslet Østjylland, but after 11 days filed for divorce when she claimed that he had lied to her about another woman whom he was lovers with while they were married. She told this on October 9, 2008, when she appeared on GO 'Aften Danmark.
What did this guy do to deserve this? Well, first he killed his mother. He got a 20 year sentence, but it was reduced to 15, and then he served barely half of it, and was then expulsed to Denmark, as the crime was done in the USA. Already while in prison in the USA, he married a woman. After getting to Denmark in 1999, he was thrown out of the house by his wife for physically attacking her and her daughter (of another man). So he started dating a prostitute who had 2 sons from a prior marriage. Already a year later, they all went missing. Lundin had killed them all. Then imagine knowing all that and then still marrying this guy in jail in order to have his kids. If this was a fringe occurrence, it would be merely amusing, but this kind of thing happens for every famous male extreme killer.
But it is important to pay attention to the class backgrounds of activist sex workers, not as a ‘gotcha’ to shut down discussion, but because one’s economic interests have a profound effect on one’s personal preferences. Once you start paying attention, you notice how many of these activists have had an unusual experience of the sex industry. Julie Bindel, the investigative journalist and campaigner against sexual violence, writes of some of the most prominent voices in media discussions of the sex industry:
Many of those high-profile pro-prostitution lobbyists who speak as ‘sex workers’ are what I would call ‘tourists’. Melissa Gira-Grant for example, who is highly educated and earning her living as a journalist; Brooke Magnanti, who holds a PhD, has written several books, and works as a scientist; and Douglas Fox, whose partner owns one of the largest escort agencies in Britain, are not representative of the sex trade.14
This sleight of hand is partly enabled by the fact that the term ‘sex worker’ has such a loose meaning. Sometimes it might refer – as in Magnanti’s case – to what is sometimes called ‘full contact’ sex work. Others – such as Gira-Grant – may have only ever done cam work. Most egregiously, a man such as Douglas Fox is also able to describe himself as an ‘independent male sex worker’ and can even retain a prominent position in the International Union of Sex Workers, despite the fact that he is actually a pimp.15
Perry is equally selective. Of course the elites that speak for sex workers will be from higher class, and some of them would be fakers like these. That's because the average sex worker cannot speak eloquently for themselves. Not to blame hookers, the average dock worker can't speak eloquently for dock worker rights either. It is safe to say that sex workers themselves favor legalization because they are tired of police harassment. It's not difficult to find their marches and protests to this end. So I find Perry's criticism of some pretender leaders to be irrelevant as ordinary sex workers have the same ideas.
This is a longstanding issue in the sex workers’ rights movement. One of the first and most influential organisations advocating for the full decriminalisation of prostitution was COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), founded in San Francisco in 1973 and often described in the media as ‘the first prostitutes’ union’.16 But when the sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein conducted eighteen months of fieldwork among prostitutes in San Francisco, she found the COYOTE membership to be highly unrepresentative:
The vast majority of COYOTE’s members are white, middle-class and well-educated, just as their political opponents claim. They are predominantly call-girls, escorts, exotic dancers and masseuses; a few are fetish specialists, such as dominatrixes or ‘switches’ (who alternate between domination and submission). Many work out of expensively-furnished homes or rented ‘work spaces’ by placing advertisements in newspapers, earning enough money not only to cover expenses, but also to help finance alternative artistic and intellectual careers … The average hourly fee, whether or not one is ‘in business for herself,’ is $200.
Same kind of argument. Who joins organizations advocating for anything? Not low class, non-Europeans. This doesn't mean they don't agree.
Decriminalisation or legalisation of the sex industry increases the demand for commercial sex. In countries that have adopted these legal models, the proportion of the male population who have ever bought sex is higher, and the sex tourism industry is larger. Given that the number of women who will willingly enter the sex trade is very small, when demand grows, unwilling women must be sought out in order to meet it.
Perry reverses the actors again. Brothels don't have to seek out women from far away lands to come work for them. Women from far away lands are happy to move to a rich country to work as sex workers because it is better than life at home. Female agency, not male.
And the incentives are attractive. Every now and again, a tweet by a previously unknown OnlyFans creator will go viral, as she (always she) shares photos of the house she has been able to buy ‘thanks to OnlyFans’. But, as the blogger Thomas Hollands has found in his detailed analysis of the OnlyFans model, such rags-to-riches cases are very unusual.48 The distribution of income on OnlyFans is highly unequal, with the top 1 per cent of creators making 33 per cent of all the money. Using the Gini index – a standard measure of economic inequality – Hollands finds OnlyFans to be significantly more unequal than South Africa, the most unequal country in the world. The tiny minority of creators who do well on the site are mostly existing celebrities, meaning that the women who post ‘thanks to OnlyFans’ success stories on social media are not at all representative of ordinary creators but, rather, more like those rare customers who walk out of a casino millionaires, having put it all on red.
In fact, most of the women on OnlyFans probably make a loss, given the amount of time they must spend creating content and engaging with users. The median creator attracts only thirty subscribers, but she carries just as much risk of public exposure and harassment as her more successful counterparts. OnlyFans is not anything like as dangerous as street- or brothel-based prostitution – it’s definitely more like $200 than $20 prostitution – but it does come with perils, primarily to a woman’s long-term relationship prospects, which are key to her long-term happiness.
Most men who work as Youtubers also make a loss. This stuff is not special to OnlyFans, but is the norm for all creative work. Society should be more hostile to recommending this kind of work to people, but instead we glamorize it. Compare with the way we tell people not to try trading stocks. Most people who try trading stocks will lose money. The same is true of people who try making a living from music and OnlyFans.
I don’t need to tell readers that street- and brothel-based prostitution is dangerous and traumatic. If you’re reading this book, it’s unlikely that you need to be persuaded on that point. But I think I do need to warn against the consequences of sexual disenchantment that go beyond the obvious. This means that, on a personal level, we can’t just refuse to participate in the sex industry and then pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. I’ve made it clear already that I don’t think it’s possible to use porn ethically, and of course I’d apply that same rule to prostitution. But refusing to view people as products goes further than that: it demands that we challenge the disenchanted idea of what sex ought to be.
Her anti-porn views really go far. Cannot use porn ethically? Her criticism of porn was all about some tiny minority of underage girls, and some rape cases. But a large fraction of porn these days are 'amateur' couples who upload their stuff online for fun and some side income. Who exactly is harmed by this? The girls are only having sex with their own boyfriends and husbands, and often they don't reveal their faces to avoid stigma, hence names of their accounts like "nofacegirl". This is basically a weird/exciting side-gig type of job. In fact, due to the availability of cheaper recording equipment, and free editing software, we can expect a continued democratization of porn production. Eventually, though, all porn will be AI made because it's free and infinitely varied.
We must resist that logic at all costs. If we try and pretend that sex has no special value that makes it different from other acts, then we end up in some very dark places. If sex isn’t worthy of its own moral category, then nor is sexual harassment or rape. If we accept that sex is merely a service that can be freely bought and sold, then we have no arguments left to make against the incels who want to ‘redistribute’ it or the army officials who want to offer their troops ‘convenient arrangements’. If we voice no objection to the principle of ‘sex sells’, then we can hardly complain when our public spaces are saturated with hyper-sexuality and we find ourselves scrolling through would-be sexual partners on a dating app in the same way we scroll through any other kind of consumable. Once you permit the idea that people can be products, everything is corroded.
I never liked this line of Kantian reasoning where people cannot be means to an end. If prostitution means women are commodities (it doesn't) because they work with their bodies, then surely masseuses are also commodified. Often these are the same people! The entire service industry involves around being a means to an end, whether this is a massage, foot therapy, physical retraining after an accident, or making you laugh, it doesn't matter. I don't think people ever think these Kantian arguments through.
And, in a culture of high divorce rates, even those marriages that last risk being undermined. When marriage vows are no longer truly binding, couples seem to become less confident in their relationships. One study by the American economist Betsey Stevenson, for instance, found that marital investment declined in the wake of no-fault divorce laws, with newly-wed couples in states that passed no-fault divorce about 10 per cent less likely to support a spouse through college or graduate school and 6 per cent less likely to have a child together.15
When marriage became impermanent, the institution as a whole was changed, and with it much else. I doubt very much that any of the well-meaning reformers of the 1960s ever envisioned such an outcome. Their intention had been a noble one: to offer a way out for people stuck in wretched marriages and to lift the stigma from the then tiny minority unfortunate enough to have been through divorce. But the problem of normal distribution interceded. There was always a threshold of dysfunction above which a marriage was considered beyond saving, and reformers intended to nudge it only a little. But as the marginal divorce made the next one more likely, and the one after that more likely still, that threshold went hurtling downwards at great speed.
It seems that at the society level, women don't know what they want or what is good for them. This is not a surprise to any man who has spent time dating women. Indeed, this behavior is part of the appeal! To be fair, this is probably more due to them being mislead by the feminist leaders, who are atypical women.
A monogamous marriage system is successful in part because it pushes men away from cad mode, particularly when pre-marital sex is also prohibited. Under these circumstances, if a man wants to have sex in a way that’s socially acceptable, he has to make himself marriageable, which means holding down a good job and setting up a household suitable for the raising of children. He has to tame himself, in other words. Fatherhood then has a further taming effect, even at the biochemical level: when men are involved in the care of their young children, their testosterone levels drop, alongside their aggression and sex drive.48 A society composed of tamed men is a better society to live in, for men, for women and for children.
Which is of course what the conservatives have been saying all along. Who was listening? Not the feminists.
Listen to your mothers, listen to me
So what is Perry's advice to young women?
So while there is advice within these pages that could be helpful to any reader, it is worth repeating here the points that are most relevant to these particular young women. This is the same advice I would offer my own daughter:
Distrust any person or ideology that puts pressure on you to ignore your moral intuition.
Chivalry is actually a good thing. We all have to control our sexual desires, and men particularly so, given their greater physical strength and average higher sex drives.
Sometimes (though not always) you can readily spot sexually aggressive men. There are a handful of personality traits that are common to them: impulsivity, promiscuity, hyper-masculinity and disagreeableness. These traits in combination should put you on your guard.
A man who is aroused by violence is a man to steer well clear of, whether or not he uses the vocabulary of BDSM to excuse his behaviour. If he can maintain an erection while beating a woman, he isn’t safe to be alone with.
Consent workshops are mostly useless. The best way of reducing the incidence of rape is by reducing the opportunities for would-be rapists to offend. This can be done either by keeping convicted rapists in prison or by limiting their access to potential victims.
The category of people most likely to become victims of these men are young women aged about thirteen to twenty-five. All girls and women, but particularly those in this age category, should avoid being alone with men they don’t know or men who give them the creeps. Gut instinct is not to be ignored: it’s usually triggered by a red flag that’s well worth noticing.
Get drunk or high in private and with female friends rather than in public or in mixed company.
Don’t use dating apps. Mutual friends can vet histories and punish bad behaviour. Dating apps can’t.
Holding off on having sex with a new boyfriend for at least a few months is a good way of discovering whether or not he’s serious about you or just looking for a hook-up.
Only have sex with a man if you think he would make a good father to your children – not because you necessarily intend to have children with him, but because this is a good rule of thumb in deciding whether or not he’s worthy of your trust.
Monogamous marriage is by far the most stable and reliable foundation on which to build a family.
She was only 1 rule away from joining the Jordan Peterson 12'er club! It's hard to disagree in general with the advice, but holding off sex for several months reveals how far Perry is away from the average woman. By her own reasoning about normal distributions, Perry should realize that she is on the far left out of the sociosexuality curves, so this advice is rather extreme and won't be doing women any favors. Holding off until the third date might be a reasonable length for modern women, while still enough to keep the impatient cads away.
And, above all, listen to your mother. In 2021, a TikTok video by a young American woman called Abby went viral online. In the video, Abby tells the camera:
I, like many other college students, am someone who is entangled in hook-up culture, and often hook-up culture makes it difficult for me to determine whether or not what I’m doing is good for me and kind to myself. Very often as women we are led astray from what we actually deserve. So here’s what I’ve been doing lately …
She pulls up on screen a series of childhood photos of herself and explains that the men she’s hooked up with in the past have often made her feel as though she’s undeserving, not only of love but also of basic respect. So she’s trying to remind herself of her worth as a person by playing the role of mother to her inner child. ‘Am I OK with that for her?’, she asks tearfully, gesturing at her younger self in the photo. ‘Would I let her be a late-night, drunk second option? Would I let this happen to her?’ She shakes her head, weeping: ‘From a third person, caretaker point of view, I would never let any of this stuff happen to her.’2
Abby is trying to mother herself, though she isn’t quite sure how to do it. And the thousands of young women in her replies are trying to do the same (‘I’m sobbing’; ‘i rlly needed this, thank you’; ‘this just changed my life’). They’ve been denied the guidance of mothers, not because their actual mothers are unwilling to offer it but because of a matricidal impulse in liberal feminism that cuts young women off from the ‘problematic’ older generation. This means not only that they are cut off from the voices of experience, but – more importantly – they are also cut off from the person who loves them most in the world. Feminism needs to rediscover the mother, in every sense.
Until we do, each individual woman will have to learn on her own the lie of the promise of sexual liberation – the lie that tells us, as Andrea Dworkin phrased it, that ‘fucking per se is freedom per se.’ It was a lie all along. It’s time, at last, to say so.
Final words of the book.