John is joined by journalist and author, Louise Perry, for a conversation that unpacks the aftermath of the sexual revolution. In their discussion, Louise outlines both the technological and ideological foundations of the sexual revolution, showing its seismic, often overlooked impact over the last 70 years.
John Anderson: Louise Perry is a journalist and author based in London. She’s a columnist for Unheard. She hosts Maiden Mother Matriarch podcast series, and she’s the author of the Landmark book, the Case Against The Sexual Revolution, A New Guide to Sex. The 21st century. Louise, [00:01:00] thank you very much for your time today.
If we could kick off, you’ve written at length about the sexual revolution. What was it and how is it still with us today? Because it’s not new.
Louise Perry: So I think the sexual revolution was two things, that happened at the same time. So one was the enormous material changes of the second half of the 20th century.
The most important one being the pill, which obviously is transformative. And I don’t think that we, I don’t think we recognize typically quite how transformative it was, quite how important it was because for the first time in our species history, it suddenly becomes possible for women to control their fertility themselves invisibly, and I think that actually the woman who I.
Appears to be fertile, but has in fact suspended her, fertile, her fertility is in a funny kinda way, almost a different biological creature entirely. And she, she enters the world in the late 1960s. So the pillar is the important [00:02:00] one, as well as things like washing machines, enormous changes to the economy.
So we move from being an industrial economy to being a service and knowledge-based economy, which is advantageous for women because women can more easily participate in those kind of sectors, et cetera. There are lots of changes that come about all at the same time, which have had enormous impact on relationships to men and women, and have allowed women to participate more in public life.
For good and ill that’s a narrative and historical narrative, which is normally interpreted as being straightforwardly. A good thing. I wanna say, look, there are some trade-offs here, which we need to talk about. The thing that happens at the same time is the material revolution is also the ideological one.
So it’s the. The revolutionary ideas coming outta academia, in particular in the 1960s, places like France in particular where all of a sudden kind of everything is up for subversion and where reaction, the reaction against traditionalism is this new crusade adopted by intellectuals [00:03:00] across the west and ties in perfectly with the new opportunities presented by the pill and so forth.
So I think it’s worth remembering that the reason that the, it is not unique historically, that kind of intellectual mo moment of that, that feeling of revolution, that’s by no means confined only to the 1960s. It does tend to be, as you look historically, a sort of rollercoaster between periods of sexual S periods of prudishness and periods of licentiousness.
Do you tend to come in waves? You have the Randy Georgians followed by the prudish Victorians followed by, and there have always been examples of aristocrats in particular being behaving in very modern ways, sexually there have always been those examples of this.
But what’s really unique about the sexual revolution of the sixties is that it stuck. It wasn’t just confined to a few eccentric elite people. It wasn’t just confined to intellectual circles.[00:04:00] It became hegemonic. Now questioning the sexual revolution is considered to be a like, crazy thing to do.
And I think that’s because it was backed up by the pill. It’s because it became possible to basically sever sex from reproduction for the first time ever. And Yes. And now it’s, to even recall the fact that actually in most times and places, sex is probably the most consequential thing a woman can do in terms of the likely that the chance of pregnancy and the effect on her life, that’s to, for many young women now is unimaginable.
But for 99% plus of our species history, that was, that would’ve been common sense.Sex can be a force for good and evil
John Anderson: It, I’d be interested in hearing your views as I’ve watched the debate in Australia over recent years, particularly in the context of me Too in the context of inappropriate behavior in the public space in Australia and the uproar, including [00:05:00] legal over some things that happened in the Australian Parliament amongst staffers and the public for raw.
That’s followed. It struck me that it’s hard to think of anything that can be so powerfully force for good in terms of deep human engagement with others, expression of love of commitment of joy at the other end that can be so utterly destructive, so demeaning, so degrading and so cruel. The way in which we conduct our sexuality in an age when people demand complete freedom has often been carried forth without anybody thinking about the potential for good, the potential for bad.
Louise Perry: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s true. I don’t think there’s, there may be no [00:06:00] other fast of life, which the extremes are so extreme. Yeah. One of the One of the mistakes, I think of the the ideology of the 1960s, which we are all now, the descendants, is that because it was rooted so much in a reaction against traditionalism of all kinds and in particular reaction against Christianity, and of course Christianity and indeed all other religious traditions hold sex to have a very important status, to have a sacred status within marriage and so on.
When you have a, an intellectual movement, which is all about reaction against Christianity, Jan, and a rejection of everything that’s come before, which to some extent is, is maybe not, it’s maybe not a surprise that would’ve come out of the second World war, that kind of enormous reaction against everything that had come before as complete loss of faith in tradition and culture to date.
That does include a reaction against the idea of sex, having a sacred status or sex, even [00:07:00] having a special status, a unique status of any kind. So I describe this in my book as sexual disenchantment. So feeding off of max Weber’s idea of dis of disenchantment as a process of as a component of the enlightenment, where previously people felt that natural world had a kind of special sacred almost conscious status.
And that’s all stripped away as part of the scientific revolution. And people come to believe that it’s inert and just subject to, to rational forces and so on. I think sexual disenchantment is the same sort of process that people used to believe that sex was sacred, was special. And what the new ideology post sexual revolution tells us is, oh no, it’s just a social interaction.
You can buy it, you can sell it. You can treat it as meaningless, if you want to attach special status to it, then fine, whatever. People can still get married, people can still choose to behave in traditional ways. But the fundamental idea is that actually sex is not really any different from [00:08:00] shaking someone’s hand, playing tennis, making a coffee for someone.
That it has a completely neutral status. People of course, don’t actually act as if that’s true. I was gonna say, yeah. No one actually behaves. That’s true. That’s not special. That’s true. And
John Anderson: yet, yeah, we’re a sex obsessed society in some ways.
Louise Perry: Yeah. Yeah. So the theory is from the sort of hyper progressive position is that sex can be commodified.
Porn is just another kind of entertainment, all this kind of stuff. But then no one actually behaves as if that’s true. People care if their spouse cheats on them. People care if their boss is sexually inappropriate to them. It’s this funny component of me too, where on the one hand you have enormous distress at sexual inappropriateness in, in, in various circumstances, including, particularly in the workplace.
I, as a journalist, this is obviously something that’s been a big deal in journalism. I know a lot of female journalists who, on the one hand will be enormously [00:09:00] upset at, say, inappropriate touching or being asked out on a date by a senior colleague, all this kind of stuff, which is felt to be completely inappropriate because sex should be outside of the professional realm, but then on the one hand, support the decriminalization of the sex industry and would say that sex work, so called, I don’t use that phrase, but would say that sex work is just the same as any other kind of work, and that we shouldn’t be stigmatizing.
Pornography or whatever, and I’m like, come on. So sexual touching in your workplace that’s beyond the pale. But actually having a whole industry, which is entirely based on sex, which is, whether buying and selling sex is the point of the industry. I think what does, what an earth does sexual harassment look like in a brothel?
How can you have these? And I think what’s going on there is people are trying to hold to the idea of sexual disenchantment in an intellectual way, but actually it’s not true.[00:10:00] People feel very strongly instinctively that sex does have a special status, even if they try and deny it to themselves.
And I think that whole, this whole effort to try and pretend otherwise has been an enormous mistake.
John Anderson: So this comes to this sort of issue I was trying to raise before, that in reality, it can be a force for enormously satisfying bonding at one extreme. And the reality is it can be unbelievably cruel and destructive and degrading at the other. How you use it does matter.How has feminism evolved over time?
John Anderson: What does it say about feminism, in your view, that they have, in many ways, po feminism has adopted some fairly extraordinary positions as you’ve just outlined. What are, what’s been your own journey in terms of feminism and the way it’s evolved over the last few decades?
Louise Perry: So I insist on defining myself as a feminist, partly because I think that the way that feminism has largely been captured [00:11:00] by, a particular ideology which we’ve been talking about Is pernicious. And I think that actually the best way of defining feminism is just, a political movement that thinks that women are disadvantaged in certain ways and wants to remedy that, that doesn’t have to come along with any of this nonsense that I’m really critical of.
I think that what we are seeing in terms of say the feminists who embrace sexual disenchantment, the feminists who who seek essentially in every way to permit women to live like men as much as possible, who try and raise the differences between men and women across the board. I think that this is just a sort of feminist instantiation of hyper liberalism.
So an ideology that prioritizes freedom above absolutely everything else and doesn’t see any other, doesn’t see freedom as something to be balanced with other virtues, but sees it as a, as the sole goal.[00:12:00] I think that we are seeing that ideology just brought to its logical conclusions with something like sex, the idea of sexual disenchantment.
Because if you want people to be completely, utterly free, then you do have to take aim at the idea of sacredness, at the idea that we should be confined by any kind of traditional ideas, even that we should have obligations to each other. One of the things that I think is really disastrous about this what I call liberal feminism in the book, is that it cannot accommodate motherhood because the nature of.
Being a mother is that you have enormous obligations to your baby. You have an incredibly strong link initially physical and then increasingly just emotional. Very strong link with your baby to the extent that you can’t really understand a mother or a baby is being individuals.
They’re a dyad, and if your goal is to promote women’s [00:13:00] freedom, you can’t reconcile that with the existence of the dyad and with the fact that, that a comment that a friend of mine made which I repeat all the time because it’s, ’cause it’s funny, ’cause it’s true, is that the only thing that will restrict your freedom more than having a baby is going to prison.
Which is completely true. I say we both had our first babies about the same time. How do you accommodate that within. An ideology that sees the freedom of the individual is the most important thing. You can’t, so basically you end up just rejecting motherhood is basically what’s happened.
And we’re even getting to the point now where liberal feminism is rejecting the female body. Full stop. We now have the medical technology that will allow women to use a surrogate if you don’t wanna be pregnant yourself, allow you to transition to being a man if that’s what you want.
We if freedom is your goal, then the human body is very much an impediment. And this is produced a kind of politics, we’re actually the use of other people’s bodies. [00:14:00] Often the bodies of poorer people is seen as a completely reasonable sort of self-actualization project. And the idea of having any social guardrails, any tradition, any, anything sacred is also fair game.
And I’m not convinced at all that ideology is in the best interest of women, even if it may be in the best interest of a few women who are unusually powerful, et cetera. I think that, that the argument that I make in, in, in my, my book and in my writing in general is I think the biggest loses of Percept revolution have been poor women specifically.Freedom at the expense of children
John Anderson: You are painting a picture that some people are buying what you called freedom. I’m tempted to call it license. I think the two are very different. Yeah. But they’re purchasing it at the expense of other people’s freedoms. You’ve mentioned poorer women, but I’m also [00:15:00] thinking of children themselves who really seem to be increasingly the victims of the indulgent fantasies of adults.
Louise Perry: Yeah, the way that they were on the poorer women subject, the way that liberal feminists and others would justify this would be saying they consent. A woman consents to be a surrogate, a woman consents to cell sex or to appear in pornography or whatever. These things are meaningless and profane, so you can buy and sell them who caress.
If people are consenting, there’s no problem. I don’t agree with that. I think that consent is a bare minimum legal requirement. It is not. It, there’s a very large gray area between something being consensual and something being good. And I think that just having, if your only moral framework is this consent framework, you end up excusing all sorts of terrible things that’s caused people terrible harm.
Including, as you say to [00:16:00] children. Thinking about something like surrogacy. Which I’ve written about elsewhere. The interests of the children are basically out of the picture when it comes to most discussions around surrogacy. We’re talking about this currently in the UK because the law Commission has just brought out a set of recommendations and is now parliamentarians in our task with deliberating on them, which would basically liberalize the the law around surrogacy in this country and give more.
The crucial bit of the recommendations, which I think is most concerning is that at the moment when a child is born, the woman who gave birth to that child is considered to be the legal mother. And if she has a spouse, then that person is considered to be the legal father. And at the moment, if parents have the people who’ve commissioned the surrogacy arrangement, the intended parents They had to apply for a parental order.
And so there’s a slight time lag until they become the legal parents of the child. If the surrogate consents to them becoming the legal parents. What the law commission wanna [00:17:00] do is say that the surrogate mother is not the legal mother at birth, so she signs away her rights to be the legal mother before the child is even born.
And it becomes more difficult in practice for her to change her minds and to keep the baby. This is essentially it it lubricates the process for the intended parents. It doesn’t commercialize surrogacy. There’s still resistance to commercializing it in this country, although in practice there are instances of people passing money under the table and it in practice being commercialized.
But that’s still a hard limit. But we’re definitely moving in a direction. We are moving in a more American direction. We’re already an outlier in Europe. We’re already more permissive in Europe compared to other European states and what is being proposed would take us closer to an American situation, which is in some states, very heavily commercialized.The debate around surrogacy
The debate, as far as I can tell, is just all around the rights and desires of adults. The fact that what surrogacy privileged [00:18:00] adults? Yes. It seems to me yes. And not coincidentally, I would say yes.
John Anderson: Going to your issue of consent, presumably many surrogate mothers are doing it because they’re in very necessitous and difficult circumstances, and they do it for financial reasons.
Bearing someone else’s child with the difficulties of pregnancy, the challenges of childbirth, the emotional pain. There must be emotional pain. Of having grown another human being in your own body and then parting with it. That doesn’t sound very much like a commitment to freedom to me.
Louise Perry: Yeah, so a lot of, the radical feminist objection to surrogacy is that it involves the instrumentalization of women’s bodies, that it involves exploitation.
There clearly are lots of examples of terrible exploitation, particularly if you’re talking about, Indian baby farms or the sort of horrors that we’ve seen happening in parts of the global south. That’s true. I agree with all of that. I would add though, I think there is an additional objection [00:19:00] to even altruistic, surrogacy arrangements where there’s no money involved in that.
It necessarily involves separating mothers and newborns. That’s the point. And yes, we do this. When it comes to say, adoption, we recognize that there are instances where babies have to be removed from the, their mothers, and that is a tragedy. And that it’s done only in the interest of the child and is closely supervised by social services and so on.
We recognize that’s a position of last resort. And actually in recent years, social services have been moving away from adoption as much as possible and try and use it only in the very most extreme cases. What surrogacy does is it sets out to engineer that outcome deliberately and not for the sake of the child.
It’s not done in the child’s best interest. It’s done because the commissioning parents who, as you say, are often very privileged, want to have a child that’s gen, like a bespoke genetic child, all of their own, essentially. That’s the goal. And I think if we know that there’s, we know that newborns suffer stress when they’re [00:20:00] taken away from the women who’ve given birth to them.
Newborns come into the world knowing nothing except the smell of their mother’s, the sound of their mother’s voices. That their instincts when they’re born are entirely orientated towards the woman who’s just given birth to them. A newborn doesn’t know that this woman doesn’t have a genetic connection or whatever.
And similarly, the instinctive responses of women my friend Mary Harrington, who also writes Unheard the phrase that she uses, which I think is so good, is pregnancy doesn’t just create a child, it creates a mother. All of those sort of hormonal experiences of pregnancy are geared towards making a woman entirely devoted to her baby and orientated towards the enormous amount of care that a baby needs.
I calculated when my son was born, that I was spending 40 hours a week in the first months of his life, just breastfeeding. I was doing a full-time job, just breastfeeding and let alone all the other stuff. Like it, it’s an incredibly demanding role and. [00:21:00] Natural selection has blessed us with the ability to perform that role because we are primed to do it by the experience of pregnancy and birth.
And what surrogacy does is it deliberately severs the connection between newborn and mother and interrupts that natural process of love and bonding again. For what purpose? For the purpose of providing people who want a particular kind of child with that child, and I think that any kind of, it makes complete sense if you are subscribed to this kind of hyper liberalism, which sees the self-determination of the individual as the most important goal.
But if you hold anything else to be sacred, not just thinking that sex is sacred, thinking that the maternal baby bond is sacred, thinking that the families thinking that any of these things have a, have a value beyond the instrumental. Then I think you have to be distressed by surrogacy and by the sex industry and all, all of the other things that I’m so [00:22:00] critical of.Children & the future
John Anderson: To get right above this for a moment and just look down from a sort of bird’s eye view of a culture. There’s an old saying that children are the future. And we know from the research there’s been a dramatic drop. Dramatic, staggering drop and the number of people in western cultures who will say children are important to me.
And it seems to me that it’s a culture that’s no longer particularly committed to its own future to say that children are not important to me and that will so likely take this sort of approach to children’s wellbeing, to baby’s wellbeing as to say we’re just going to place all of the emphasis on the license ’cause that’s the word I’d rather use.
You’ve used the word hyper freedom, the same thing. Just giving free play to that without [00:23:00] considering the future, which I still believe is our children. Yeah. How did it get to this?
Louise Perry: It is a logical outcome of this kind of politics that we’ve been speaking about. If you think that your own short term pleasure is the most important thing, then yeah.
Children are not, what’s that saying? Parenthood is all joy and no fun. It’s hard to think of anything that is more counter to a sort of hedonistic, consumerist culture than parenting, because hedonism is all about front loading. The short-term pleasure, even though, we know that it that pleasure fades quite quickly.
Whereas parenting is all about frontloading efforts and particularly in the case of the mother pain and discomfort and everything for the sake of a very long-term sort of meaning and satisfaction. So it, [00:24:00] it makes sense that parenthood is not really considered to be an essential part of the good life.
John Anderson: The irony of that, of course, is in terms of demographics. Most Western cultures are gonna face a situation where people who have lived this lifestyle will get to old age and find there isn’t a tax base, there aren’t the workers, there isn’t the infrastructure to keep them in the very comfort to which they’ve been so addicted.
Yeah. This is, it’s a strange irony that people don’t think these things through.
Louise Perry: This is a subject of my next book, actually. I’m writing a book called The Case for Having Kids, which is about the flip side of this, right? So the first book was about the effects on sexual culture of the pill, severing sex from reproduction.
And this is the other side of it, the fact that we now that it is so much easier to not have children because you can have sex without getting pregnant. So many people are choosing to do that. The cause of plummeting birth rates is a source of great debate because it’s easy to it’s quite easy to be parochial about it and [00:25:00] say, like a common thing that I’ll hear among my friends in London for instance is, oh, it’s ’cause house prices is too high, so people can’t afford to have children.
It’s yes, house prices are very high and it probably is a disincentive for some people. But this is happening everywhere. So only about 3% of the world’s population live in a country. Where the birth rate is not falling. Some countries have much lower birth rates even than us. So South Korea is currently the out, out in front by some distance.
John Anderson: And the Japanese, the Chinese, and Northern Italians. Yes. It’s extraordinary. Even Bangladesh has a falling population.
Louise Perry: It’s amazing. Yeah. There seems to be something about modernity that causes this as soon as countries. And the sort of income threshold is not even necessarily that high.
It’s not even that you have to be really affluent in order to start on this declining birth rates trajectory. And as you say, Bangladesh, places like that, people aren’t very rich, but they’ve already, they’re already on in this second [00:26:00] demographic transition. It seems to be something to do with people becoming modern, particularly becoming urbanized and spending less time.
One definition of modernity, which I find very interesting and attractive, is it’s essentially defined as spending more time with strangers than with people you’re related to. Because in traditional cultures, you spend basically all the, all your time. A hunter gatherer kind of tribes.
You’re basically constantly surrounded by your extended kin network. And then as people migrate away from rural areas, live increasingly atomized lives many people will hardly ever see their families. They’ll spend almost all of their time with people they’re not related to. And that seems to be very strongly linked with falling birth rates.
For, we can speculate on the connection there, but it does seem to very strong one. And yes, as you say the current the affluence currently available to modern westerners. I. It’s the welfare state pensions socialized healthcare, all of [00:27:00] this. I would be enormously surprised if I ever received a state pension because I think by the time we, probably in the uk, I would guess probably about the 2040s is when we’re likely to see really significant collapsing of these kind of public services.
’cause that’s when the baby boomers are gonna pass away and they were the last above replacement generation. But the whole system is a Ponzi scheme.
John Anderson: People haven’t realized it. It’s extraordinary. Yeah. Mind you, they have in Beijing, they’re desperately trying everything they can to get the birth rate up and it’s not happening.
Louise Perry: Yeah. ’cause that’s what we’ve, that’s what the Chinese are discovering to their cost, that it’s quite what? Irony? It’s quite easy to lower birth rates. Yeah. The one child policy was pretty successful. Obviously incredibly coercive, but it worked. Whereas trying to move them in the other direction doesn’t seem to be possible.
John Anderson: It seems fascinating to me that I can’t see any great concern on the part of feminists that the other part of the equation there is the massive disappearance of vast numbers of [00:28:00] female babies.
Louise Perry: Some feminist do talk about it, but it’s a tricky one because if you’re going to, if you’re gonna be radically pro-choice, there are lots of arguments that you could make in defense of having some forms of legalized abortion.
But if you’re going to have a complete if you are gonna argue for it from a position of radical autonomy, the fetus has no personhood, et cetera, it’s quite hard to square that with them thinking that female fetus is being aborted or having some kind of harm done to them, which is I think why that, that, that source of dissonance to people tend not to look at.
John Anderson: Quite telling though. It’s almost opening up a whole new sort of range of issues. But what’s happening in the, sort of the psychology of the west, prosperous, you’ve mentioned house pricing, but basically western societies that enjoy the high living standards even today. What’s happening in the minds of people? That they’re not attracted to having children [00:29:00] and they’re not, and nowhere near as concerned as I believe they ought to be, and ensuring that the child is nurtured appropriately.
It’s funny, isn’t it, that we letting them be victims of the culture battles that are going on.
Louise Perry: We’ve never been safer, we’ve never been more comfortable. And yet it is not uncommon to hear young people saying something like, oh, how could I bring a child into this world and subject them to the horrors of the world, particularly when it comes to, for instance, climate change.
And I think our ancestors brought children into the world with the expectation that half of them would die before they turned five. With constant threat of famine, of war, of all of these things, which we fortunately just essentially don’t really think about. I’m sure that part of what is going on with people who say they don’t wanna have children because of climate change is it is sometimes more palatable to to tell oneself that story or to tell other people that story, [00:30:00] that you’re doing this for virtuous reasons rather than to say I don’t wanna take the hit to my lifestyle, which is often.
A big part of what’s going on. It is true that you will, it will take a hit to your lifestyle having a child. It will, because a lot of this is to do with the fact that we are now all of society set up on the expectation of two incomes. And a big part of the reason why house, house houses are incredibly unaffordable.
If you have children, if you have just, either you’re paying childcare costs or ’cause you have a stay at home parent and another breadwinner is because you’re competing against people who have two incomes and no children, right? It is true that it’ll take a hit to your lifestyle. That obviously doesn’t sound as nice as saying I’m doing it in this sort of valiant effort to, to protect the planet.
But I think it is also combined with a very sincere sort of loss of confidence among Westerners. We see this elsewhere in all the cultural war battles. A feeling that there’s something Something sick, something [00:31:00] bad about the west. A com, a real lack of a real loss of faith in everything really in the whole civilization.
And particularly of course, when it comes to loss of religious faith. It was funny watching the the coronation to see this very rare example of of the old establishment almost. It felt almost a little bit like a last hurrah. Like the, obviously it is the coronation is an explicitly Christian ceremony.
It feels deeply medieval in, in large parts of it. Despite the efforts to inject some modern elements into it. It still felt deeply Christian to, but it felt almost like the ghost of the past. Watching it because this is now so much less prized than it once was.
And maybe it’s just very difficult for people who basically don’t have any, who basically despise their ancestors to, to want to invest in the future, to want to, make the enormous personal sacrifices that you do have to make in order to have [00:32:00] children. Yeah, it’s amazing.
It’s like a, it’s like collective suicide. It is. Wow. Yeah. At our most affluent, our most comfortable safest period in history and everyone decides all of a sudden to commit collective suicide. It’s very strange human behavior, isn’t it?How we’ve strayed from the normal human lifecycle
John Anderson: I have a very good friend who is one of the world actually is leading heart lung specialists, and he writes extensively about, The importance actually of fathers being involved with their children’s lives, but that’s incidental.
I asked him why he’s doing that and he said at the time that I asked him, he said, I’ve had to tell about 300 men. There’s nothing more we can do. You are going to die. And he said, all 300 have had as their first response, something along the lines of, I wish I’d spent more time with my family and children.
What does it say about our psychology that when we get to old age, [00:33:00] those relationships are ’cause by definition most of ’em are older. They see the value and they regret. They haven’t put more into it not had less of it. That somehow we can’t think we’ve got a pandemic of loneliness emerging.
We’re rapidly getting to the point where a lot of children will come into the world and won’t know what it is to have a sibling. They won’t have aunts and uncles. And they’re going into such a fractured world that it’ll be harder than ever to join up relationally. What on earth has happened to us that we can’t think
Louise Perry: clearly?
So I suppose the normal human life cycle you, there’s rarely a point where you are not in some way dependent on your family or they are dependent on you. So little babies are completely dependent on normally their mothers and o other family members. And then you reach this brief period [00:34:00] of relative independence as a young adult where you are old enough to take care of yourself, but you’re not, you don’t yet have children or elderly parents to look after, but then in a kind of normal human life cycle without the pill, that’s very brief.
And then you have your own children. And then event, and then you help get to care for grandchildren. Eventually you are care for in turn, and there’s this constant kind of process of reciprocity. But to some extent what modern life allows us to do is to artificially extend that period of independence and actually to present that period of independence as being as being the default.
But actually independence is not the default in the human life cycle or in, and also of course, many people, disabled people for instance, will never have that period of complete independence. It’s an illusion that’s propped up by technology. But it’s very fragile and I think a lot of people don’t think about that because if we’ve also abandoned the kind of traditions or religious beliefs and so forth, which basically act as social guardrails and encourage people to behave in [00:35:00] ways that are more conducive to long-term flourishing.
A lot of people will think right now I love being an independent person. I love not having obligations to other people without thinking about the fact that’s not gonna last because it can’t, unless you don’t, rolling stones, unless you die before you get old, that’s not gonna last.
And yeah. But then how do you, per, this is this problem of having a culture of short-termism. How do you persuade people to make decisions that are gonna benefit them when they’re in their eighties, because that doesn’t seem real.
John Anderson: That seem pretty switched on to their superannuation and making sure that nest egg’s safe.
Wow. Yes. But they’re not investing in the same opportunities to ensure that they have meaningful relationships. And personally rewarding lives. Yeah. Interesting contrast.How has the Sexual Revolution affected women?
John Anderson: Can I drill into, the promise of the sexual revolution was that sex could be fun. And enjoyable. And I suppose the argument would’ve been that will make life richer and more [00:36:00] pleasurable without stopping to think that short term pleasure often compromises long-term happiness.
But to drill into what does it mean for men, women first, and then for men today, what does the sexual revolution, as it’s unfolded mean for the happiness of particularly young women today, as they start to become, as they leave school and start to go out into the big wide world, for many of them, long before they leave school, how’s it playing out in their lives?
The, yeah. The pro, I think this way to live is normal actually. It’s an aberration. It’s really only 50 years old. Yeah. How’s it working really for them?
Louise Perry: The promise of course, was that this was in women’s interests. Yeah. This was all about allowing women to flourish and removing the old restrictions on female sexuality.
It has done that, but there’s lots of polling to suggest that women have actually become increasingly [00:37:00] unhappy over time. Which there are a lot of different possible explanations for that one. It’s certainly the case. I think that a lot of young women are deeply unhappy with the current sexual culture.
’cause a lot of them write to me and tell me that they are deeply unhappy with it because our current sexual culture that prioritizes casualness is much better suited to typical male sexuality than typical female sexuality. But of course, given that liberal feminism is so strongly orientated towards denying the difference that the existence of innate differences between men and women, particularly psychological differences between men and women a lot of young women don’t realize perhaps until it’s too late that those differences exist and that the idea of having sex like a man is not actually going to serve them long term.
There are, the physical [00:38:00] differences. I just that to my mind, it just seems so obvious that a culture of casual sex puts women at a disadvantage because women suffer all of the physical risks associated with a casual encounter. The risk of physical violence, given that women are so much smaller and weaker than men, the risk of an unwanted pregnancy the various burdens that come with using hormonal birth control.
A lot of women find hormonal birth control gives them terrible side effects and makes them Crazy and miserable, but also the psychological effects in that women tend to, in general, there are outliers, but in general, women tend to be just less interested in hopping into bed with near a stranger than men are.
So women basically aren’t really getting anything out of this. And I think a lot of women are starting to realize that, but there is that feeling that it’s compulsory, that it’s normal, that this is what you do if you’re a young, liberated woman, et cetera, et cetera. Like the, that narrative is very seductive.
And, I’ve spoken to a lot of women who have [00:39:00] gone through the experience of thinking as a young woman, that having sex with a man was aspirational. And that, that, I’m doing this for myself. I’m a young header nurse all that kind of. That kind of sex in the city lifestyle, et cetera.
And then some years later come to the realization that actually it was, it actually caused ’em a lot of suffering. I’ve never met anyone who’s done the opposite, who’s trodden the opposite path, which is, I think, revealing I, I think there is, we talked about Me too. I think Me Too was a really good indication of the fact that women aren’t happy.
That this whole, this sexual culture isn’t really working for women. A lot of what, a lot of the stories that came out of me too were not really about criminality. Some were, Harvey Weinstein was a criminal and was convicted and so on, but a lot of what was being talked about wasn’t really criminal.
It was actually to do with, it was this gray space between consensual and good and about which liberal feminism has very little to say. [00:40:00] And women were finding that they were having sexual encounters, which left them feeling wretched. Even if no crime had occurred and that they were being asked to treat as meaningless, something that they felt to be meaningful.
But because there were feminism remains the dominant the dominant feminist iteration, a lot of these women didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what was going on. They couldn’t reassert the special sacred nature of sex. They couldn’t talk about innate differences between men and women because these are all things that you’re forbidden from talking about.
And so they had to come back to talking about consent, which is such a feeble kind of framework for understanding something as important and complex as a sexual relationship. So I think that there, there’s a very clear indication that women are not happy with the status quo, but it’s almost impossible to address the real source of their unhappiness. Through a liberal feminist [00:41:00] framework.
John Anderson: Which is why your work so valuable.
Louise Perry: That’s what I’m trying to do.How has the Sexual Revolution affected men?
John Anderson: To come to men how’s the sexual revolution worked out for men? So I
Louise Perry: think the only beneficiaries of our current casual sexual culture and minority of men, so I write about the Hugh Hefner’s of the world.
I start the book by talking about Hugh Hefner and Marilyn Monroe as the two icons of the sexual revolution, who had completely different experiences of it. Marilyn Monroe was basically destroyed by the sexual revolution, whereas Hugh Hefner had a ball, he did eventually end up being fairly lonely, empathetic and he ended his life no longer being the glamorous playboy.
But he had a lot of fun along the way. Yeah, I think he’s one of these rare people who has been able to enjoy the fruits of the sexual revolution. Without really suffering any costs. For most men, that’s not true. And for most men they don’t have access to a hareem of 20 something blondes as [00:42:00] HNA did.
And actually the, this is peculiar a thing that on the one hand, we’ve never had a more hypersexual public life and had fewer inhibitions about sex, but people are also actually having less sex. There’s this, the sex recession, the sex depression, where young people in particular having much less sex actually than their supposedly inhibited prudish grandparents.
Which is a funny, a funny sort of contradiction, but I think it’s probably because people aren’t forming relationships. So they’re having more casual sexual relationships. Are they having
John Anderson: more? Or is in fact, is it true that for many young people they’re delaying or not having sexual relationships in quite high numbers?
Louise Perry: it depends on which group you’re talking about. So very attractive men are able to have lots of casual relationships with lots of women. And most women [00:43:00] will have no difficulty getting casual sex at all. Whether or not they really want it, they have, they will have no difficulty accessing it.
But what women often struggle to get is a committed relationship. And actually people are commit. We’re all the good men. They’re enjoying being Hugh Hefner. It depends on who, it depends on who you’re talking about. Not one, isn’t it? But there are, it’s this short termism thing. If you are a young, attractive man who can attract lots of matches on Tinder, it may be more tempting to enjoy the Hugh Hefner lifestyle.
Rather than to commit to one woman, even though that would be more meaningful and more satisfying long term. But if you can enjoy the kind of the hareem experience, what
John Anderson: if you’re a thoroughly decent, very capable, protective provider type male that would be on paper very attractive, but not through social media, what happens to you then?
Louise Perry: It’s often really [00:44:00] hard. I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna be all doom and gloom because people clearly are, they are still forming relationships. They are still getting married, having children. It’s not a complete disaster by any means, but it does seem as if it’s more difficult because that’s not the template now, that’s not the default setting.
And I think people are being channeled into more dysfunctional relationship norms.Polygamy & Consent
Louise Perry: One of the things it’s worth remembering is that, Our species norm is polygyny where you have Yeah. 80% of cultures on the anthropological record have been polygynous where you have high status men have multiple wives and low status men have no wives.
And Christianity is unusual in insisting on monogamy, is we inherited it from Rome. But yeah, it was, a very important component of 2000 years of Christian civilization, which now of course, we’re mostly, we’ve mostly rejected. And even though legally you’re still [00:45:00] only allowed to marry one person, you having sex outside of marriage is now completely socially permissible.
And so people are in practice seem to be being drawn back towards our species Norm. Having lifted the monogamous restriction, but I argue in the book, and I think really strongly that that monogamous restriction produces much better outcomes, particularly for women and for low status men.
But, there are all sorts of there are all sorts of ways in which monogamous cultures do better than polygynous cultures, lower crime rates, lower domestic violence rates less economic inequality, all sorts of good outcomes that come with insisting on monogamy. And this is this is a beautiful example of what happens when you just press the freedom lever and allow people to to rid themselves of all restrictions.
People will often, when you do that, tend to unconsciously rush [00:46:00] towards. Okay. Actually less just ways of doing things, that we will revert to our species norm, supposedly as an expression of our freedom, but in fact producing much worse outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable people, particularly for women and children.
The phrase I use a lot borrowed from the historian RH tawney is freedom for the pike is death of the minnow. When you have a social environment which is not equal, where people are different from each other in all sorts of important ways, physical, psychological, related to age, related to vulnerabilities of youth or disability or whatever, just allowing everyone to be free, very often results in the outcome where actually it is the most powerful members of society who, through their freedom, are able to exploit the least powerful.
John Anderson: On that that vein of thought, I think you’ve indicated that you don’t believe that it’s necessarily right to say that because it was consensual, it was moral [00:47:00] or good. That’s an interesting line of thinking because our culture would say, and this is where we’re tying ourselves up in knots, was it consensual, was it not?
He said, she said, but you have a slightly different take.
Louise Perry: I think it is completely plausible and in fact very common for a man usually to behave in a way that meets the legal threshold for consensual, but is not gentlemanly or not chivalrous or whatever kind of old fashioned vocabulary you wanna use.
We don’t have modern words to describe this because we find it very hard to talk about such things in a modern context. But I really do think, and I think this is a fundamentally feminist idea that men have. Men have various innate advantages over women in being bigger and being stronger in not being vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy, all of these things.
And I think that actually with that strength comes additional responsibility, I think that this idea of chivalry, yes, it can sometimes translate into slightly [00:48:00] annoying, patronizing behavior that women find irritating. But the, it is absolutely essential. I think the idea of just abandoning these old ideas of male restraint, particularly male sexual restraints in the name of emancipation is madness because we’re still talking about sexual asymmetries, which are ancient and which are not going away.
And so very many of the examples of Me Too, you hear, it’s not. It is not necessarily criminal, it doesn’t necessarily involve violence, but it involves men not behaving like gentlemen essentially, and not being told that they have to behave like gentlemen. But it’s actually the kind of ambient culture says that’s fine.Regression masked as progression
John Anderson: It’s interesting you painted the contrast a moment ago, with what you’re effectively saying is that progressivism isn’t actually progressing us to a better future so much as taking us back to the default position of [00:49:00] the past that in escaping the moss, if you like, of Christianity, we think we’re freeing ourselves up, but actually we’re locking up.
So a lot of people into prisons and then forms of enslavement that were there before the influence of religion in our culture.
Louise Perry: Yeah. And I think that history is shaped like this. That’s the fundamental progressive claim, right? That history is shaped like this. Yeah. That things just get better over time and that, that’s the natural course of things in a weird kind of way.
It’s a very Christian idea, but it’s a sort of mangled version of Christian idea. I think that there are probably only so many ways of structuring a very large, complex civilization like ours. And Christianity was a very long standing and with many trade offs, a successful one. And as we moved beyond the Christian period, I’m not the first to say that this 1960s are probably going to be remembered as [00:50:00] something like a second reformation, except that instead of rejecting Catholicism, it was a rejection of Christianity per se.
And we are moving into the post-Christian era now, and I think what’s happening is we’re not as the new atheist promised, as the 1960s revolutionaries promised, we’re not moving into some. Enlightened, utopian, rationalist, new way of being. We’re actually reverting to other forms of civilization.
Whether that be, say, the ancient polygynous structures or something more pagan. I, it seems very unlikely to me that we’re going to just by throwing off Christianity, going to come up with something brilliantly new. I think the history is much more likely to be cyclical than it is to be linear like this.
John Anderson: That’s an important and worth considering reflection, I think.Marriage & Romance
John Anderson: Can you elaborate a little? The last chapter of your book is called Marriage is [00:51:00] Good, and You’re, you essentially seek to sell the institution of marriage to feminists amongst others. Why would a feminist buy that argument? A feminist, assuming. That a feminist is somebody who really cares about good outcomes for women?
Louise Perry: Some of them haven’t. Quite a common experience of reviewers and readers of the book who are coming from a feminist perspective, as they say. I really like chapters one through seven, and I really don’t like chapter eight.
I think there’s a very strong feminist argument for marriage. It’s just not one that’s gonna be very appealing if you think that the utopian model is achievable. We’ve talked already about the mono, the ways in which monogamy produces good outcomes for women. It’s really bad for women to be in a polygynous society where they end up living as co wives in often very fractious households with a lot of domestic violence, a lot of child abuse at the same time.
Look for people who don’t have children. I don’t think marriage serves much of a purpose, really. It might be. It might be a way [00:52:00] of expressing your love for one another. It might be a sort of cherry on life’s cake, but it probably doesn’t really serve that much of a purpose. I think that the purpose of marriage makes sense when you think about the vulnerability of the mother and baby because the nature of pregnancy and having a small baby is that you are really vulnerable.
You can’t care for your you cannot participate in the labor market as you otherwise could. You need the care of at least one other adult in order to survive the pair of you. And particularly thinking about really cultures of much greater privation than ours to some extent. What feminists what many feminists have tried to do is to try and replace the husband with the state to say that the state provides universal daycare if the state provides money for mothers.
All the various things that states can potentially do, then you don’t need a husband anymore because the state’s, your backup husband, and so we can do away with marriage and there’s no need for it. [00:53:00] The problem is, I think the state is very good at doing that, and what most women actually want is not to have state actors stepping in and doing the husband’s role or doing the mother’s role.
But it’s, it is what the what women want because of this intense biological connection that women have with their children is to be with their children, but to also be supported by other adults. And look, there are countless examples of men performing that role terribly and being abusive and being exploitative and all, and in all the various ways in which human beings can be terrible to one another.
Having said that, I don’t think we’ve yet come up with a better system. Than the marriage system for particularly the monogamous marriage system for supporting mothers and children. All of the various experiments with communal living or with fully socializing the family or whatever that have been attempted, all of them have ultimately failed, [00:54:00] resulted in worse outcomes.
And so if we are choosing, if we’re not trying to cook up some utopian alternative that’s never been tried and likely never will be. If we are looking at the options available to us, that history actually presents to us. The one that seems to have the fewest costs is the monogamous marriage system, which I know doesn’t sound very romantic, but it just on a purely kind of data-driven basis, I think there’s a really strong argument for it.
John Anderson: I’d have to push back a little bit gently there and say, actually, I’m not sure what’s unromantic about the idea of deep lifelong commitment to another human being. But that’s not what our culture does anymore, and romance seems to have largely disappeared out the door. Where is romance today? Does anyone defend romance?
Louise Perry: No, probably not. It’s this really funny thing that
I was having this conversation with a friend recently who’s much more progressive than I am about whether or not grandparents have [00:55:00] obligations to their grandchildren and whether or not it ought to be expected that grandparents will help with childcare, will help with financial support, will do, will have some obligation to their grandchildren as they do to their children.
And obviously vice versa, that everyone has obligations within the family. And she was saying basically that it’s outrageous to expect that people would limit their freedom in any way in order to, to. To care for their grandchildren or other family members. What we should do is we should have the state do it.
So we should have a universal daycare. We should have, whoever you want, whichever typically poor migrant women. You have paid by the state to perform these functions that were once performed by the family. And it should be paid for through taxation which is of course coercive.
John Anderson: There’s an old bit of wisdom: there’s more joy in giving than receiving. We seem to have lost that idea of being other person centered and finding ourselves in being generous spirited.The impact of the internet age
John Anderson: Anyway can I ask you about the impact of we living the internet age, firstly of social media[00:56:00] on relationships and how they’re formed and what have you.
’cause most people now meet, it seems in ways other than socializing physically. And secondly, the impact via modern technologies of instantly available pornography in every shape, size and imagination possible in vast quantities. The impact of modern technology on relationships might be the answer the way I’m seeking some views.
Louise Perry: I think that now meeting through dating apps is the most common way in which people meet. And so I don’t wanna rubbish them entirely because they clearly are people who have found their lifelong spouse through dating apps, but it’s very hard to find anyone who who likes them.
Very easy to find people who are depressed and appalled by them. Dating apps really encourage a kind of shopping mentality to, it is almost like using a shopping app. [00:57:00] You swipe through people. Who, real living, breathing human people and you just swipe them away and no place for chemistry.
It. It does encourage a very a very superficial assessment, but also it encourages people to focus in on certain things. For instance, a lot of women will say that they want to have a partner who’s taller than them. And one of the things that you can ask for in a dating app is to filter for, say, men over six foot, which isn’t very many men, right?
So you’re basically excluding the majority of men. Whereas most women actually, whereas many women actually would find themselves attracted to a man shorter than six foot in person, if there were other, if there were other ways in which they were attracted to him, so it encourages people to, you might have a sense of humor.
John Anderson: It might be chivalrous. Might be unfailingly courteous.
Louise Perry: Yes. All of these things, which you basically don’t see at all in a dating app. So it encourages people to be To be data-driven in a way that is probably not actually reflective of what they really desire in a partner. Because I think most [00:58:00] people actually, they try to write down exactly what they desire in a partner.
Probably wouldn’t actually do a very good job of describing what they really want. ’cause it’s actually quite mysterious. In terms of porn, I think that we have done a terrible thing to young people who, the Guinea pig generation essentially, who have been permitted access to millions of images of adults having sex with one another in every, in the most degrading forms you can imagine.
Before they’ve even had the first kiss with a real person. And it sometimes when you talk about the idea of Regulating porn industry restricting access to the porn industry, particularly for children. Libertarians will talk as if you’re trying to ban eating and drinking as if this is like a fundamental human right.
And I say we’ve not had a, this is so novel online porn is maybe 20 years old. [00:59:00] Less than that in its current manifestation. We manage just fine as a species. Up until five minutes ago, without access to this, if anything, I would say, the burden I take Chester Chesterson Spence very seriously.
You know this thought experiment ches, that you come to a fence in the middle of a field and you don’t know what it’s for. And the reformer the sort of thoughtless, progressive reformer says we don’t dunno what it’s supposed to get rid of. It’s useless. Whereas the. The conservative in Justin’s mind says, no, find out what it’s for and then only then you might consider removing it.
I think Justin’s defense principle is extraordinarily important, and particularly when it comes to something as important and complex and difficult as human sexual relationships. And by just allowing the porn industry to basically have unfettered access to the minds of the world young in their by being in their pockets is just an astonishingly reckless experiment, I think.[01:00:00]
And as, as far as we can tell the early results coming in are absolutely not promising in terms of the effect that it has on these young people. And it’s very widespread. Yes. When it’s now typical for boys in particular to be seeing this stuff in the age of 11.
John Anderson: I had the experience after a podcast I did with a lady in Australia about the early sexualization of children.
Of having two or three young men explain to me what had happened to them and how they’d actually become physically unable to operate, so to speak. Yeah, just dysfunctional. Yeah. And they described their journey back from that place as being very hard.Responses to Louise's work
John Anderson: So can I ask you, as we think about drawing your extraordinary insights to some sort of close, what has been the reaction from feminists?
You’ve put a very brave set of propositions out there, very well argued, very well researched, [01:01:00] but people tend to react these days so emotively that they can shut your work down without anybody stopping to think, is there something important here? What’s been the reaction? How have you found it?
Louise Perry: It’s not been as bad as I thought it would be.
I did have a moment before the book was published and it was out there, it was gonna be hitting bookshelves within weeks. And I thought, have I ruined my life by writing this book? But actually, no. I would say about 90% of responses have been really positive, and I think that’s revealing.
I think that what’s, I think actually an enormous number of people have been thinking this, but perhaps not felt confident to say it. And I get so many emails and messages from particularly from young women or from their parents saying, thank you so much for saying this thing that I’ve been thinking and that I didn’t feel like I could say.
It didn’t feel, it didn’t feel permissible, in fact, that there was a, I got this fabulous email of a while ago from [01:02:00] the mother of a young woman who described how her daughter had. Her being on a podcast or something, and her, and bought the book, and her mom had bought the book and they’d read it together before she went off to university.
And then she went to university. And she didn’t wanna participate in hookup culture and had been interested in a young man who she’d hoped to develop a relationship with. But instead, he’d shown up at her, he’d expected casual sex that he’d got drunk. And he’d shown up at her room late at night, basically expecting no string sex.
And she turned him away and said, no, with the knowledge that probably meant that they would not be having a relationship. That she was rejecting his advances. And she said that she would, in another circumstance have said yes, possibly in the hope that it would turn into a relationship, which I, as I write in the book, is, normally doesn’t happen.
But she said that she said no to him because she felt armed with permission. That was the phrase she used armed with permission. And I thought having read me and I thought, Why would she need to feel permission to defend [01:03:00] her sexual boundaries? But this is the problem that young women are facing now.
They don’t feel like they have permission to do that. And my hope is that some of them it could be as, it could be as easy as that. It could be just to know that actually this is, it is okay to feel this way. It is okay to not want to have casual sex, to, to recognize the ways in which female sexuality is different from male sexuality in all of this. That for some women, maybe a lot, just feeling just having the confidence in their own instincts and their own intuitions.
John Anderson: It seems there’s a sense in which people can feel armed with permission to say, no, I want to do this differently.
Louise Perry: I think so, because I think it’s that thing. It’s that thing we discussed earlier about sexual disenchantment when on the one hand you’ve got this ideological commitment to the idea that sex doesn’t mean anything or this, but you feel very strongly instinctively that it does.
And I think that a lot of what [01:04:00] progressive politics does is it discourages people from listening to their own moral intuitions on things. And what I hope that my book and many others, I’m, I think that there is a, there is a new kind of feminism brewing, which is much more attentive to these intuitions and is very critical of the liberal paradigm of which I’m a part. And I think that if people can feel. It might be as easy as people feeling as though they have permission to respond to their intuition rather than to try and suppress it. Particularly young women.Advice for parents
John Anderson: What advice would you give to parents who are really looking at their teenagers, kids in their early twenties walking out into this absolute minefield?
Some would say cesspit of a culture where [01:05:00] the taboos are gone, the guidelines are gone, respect seems diminished, and no one talks romance anymore. How can parents equip. Their children in your view?
Louise Perry: It’s very tricky. I’m not currently really having to deal with this ’cause my son’s only two. I’m hoping in 10 years time maybe things will have improved and it will, but the task for parents will be easier.
Because the task for parents is really hard. It’s true because, you might want to be reasserting some of these more traditional ideas, but if children are going to school or they’re being exposed to to online pornography and all this stuff, which is gonna be in potentially in conflict with your values, that’s really difficult.
I would say that often parents feel very scared of placing constraints on their children and they wanna be their children’s friend. It’s a completely understandable feeling, but children are not capable of making. Decisions in their best interest, this is [01:06:00] why they need parenting.
And things like I dont know, giving very young children smartphones, which seems to be increasingly ubiquitous. The Silicon Valley tech executives, they don’t give their kids internet enabled devices until they, bill Gates didn’t give his daughter a smartphone until she was 16. And they know actually the effect that that this stuff has on young minds.
And it is very difficult for parents when all of their children’s friends have smartphones. And when your child is telling you, this is social death, not having access to this stuff. But I hope very much that there will be increasingly better coordination efforts. Because actually I honestly think that if the government tomorrow banned under sixteens from having smartphones, I think parents would cheer.
I think parents will be relieved. ’cause at the moment that many parents I speak to are really worried about things like porn, about the effects of social media on their children, et cetera. But they say, I, what can I do? [01:07:00] Because they’ve all got it. How do I, there’s a prisoner’s dilemma.
I think that we should be treating the internet for children in the way that we treat, say, driving and cigarettes and saying, look, there, there can be pleasures, there can be extreme, there can be usefulness, that, that come from this new tech. But actually it’s it has fear dangers and children aren’t really capable of negotiating it.
So that would be on a long laundry list that would be up there to be much, much more skeptical about giving children access to the internet.
John Anderson: You’ve been very generous with your time and what you’ve had to say is of profound importance to anyone who’s concerned, I think, with human flourishing, which in the end is surely about committed and functioning relationships.
So I can only say thank you very much indeed.
Louise Perry: Thank you so much.[01:16:00]
When I stepped down from public leadership in 2005 I did so with a clear and optimistic vision of where this country was headed.By and large, politicians then were men and women of character and principle. READ MORE ABOUT JOHN