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On another thread the subject of Rand's depiction of sex came up in reference to the so-called 'rape scene' near the beginning of The Fountainhead. Michael made an interesting comment that I think Ayn Rand herself would have agreed with regarding that controversial passage. "In Rand's story, Roark was not a sexist pig and Dominique was not a defenseless woman being terrorized as a sex object and nothing more. They were both individuals for whom the rules of others did not apply. They made their own realities and they did not bow to society. They were the same kind of people. From that lens, the rape scene was their highest tribute to each other." I'm sure in Rand's view that depiction was meant as a "tribute." But Rand had a very peculiar view of love and sex. What was meant to be a tribute was a depiction of crude, adolescent sex, without any finesse or tenderness, just animal passion. It was an example of the dominate view of the current age that confuses sex with love. A couple of years ago I published an article, "Ayn Rand, Beauty, Love, and Tenderness," in which I described what was wrong with Rand's view of love and sex. In both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, her hero's love making was always rough, and that roughness was always "excused" as an expression of strength, passion, and "a right to what was being enjoyed." But that excuse neglects the very nature of romantic love. Ayn Rand did not understand tenderness, gentleness, grace, and adoration. Not only are these expressions of romantic love, they are particularly masculine in nature. One cannot contemplate the most valuable object this world holds for them, the most precious and important thing in one's life without a profound sense and desire to preserve, adore, and protect that one whose very existence has become, for him, the very meaning of life. This is the very important point Ayn Rand missed—while the male is the stronger of the two sexes, and that strength ought to be manifest in how that love is expressed—the greatest manifestation of strength and power in the world is when that strength is used with the greatest control. Roughness is not an expression of strength, only crudity. The most delicate and precise movements require enormous strength. The greatest illustration is the grace of the ballet dancer; tenderness and gentleness require the greatest combination of strengths, physical, emotional, and intellectual. She misunderstood the kind of triumphant strength, the Herculean effort required to express one's love with controlled passion, with the loving attention and excruciatingly delicate power of a sculptor, required to achieve the most sublime beauty of ecstasy. Any strong man can treat a woman roughly. Only a hero of enormous strength of character can express his greatest passion with that enormous self-control that turns every touch into a caress and every movement into an expression of an all-consuming love. Ayn Rand's heroes exhibited enormous strength in other areas of their lives, but in her depiction of their "love making" they are presented more as out-of-control adolescents than heroic lovers. The roughness Ayn Rand describes in her love scenes is actually a depiction of crudeness and weakness on the part of her romantic heroes, who are both unimaginative and shallow in their love making. If they were truly strong and truly loved the one they, "possessed," that passion would have been expressed with the greatest finesse they were capable of and with the utmost tenderness. Love And Values In her prose descriptions of romantic love, Rand expressed some very important insights, but also expressed some things which are very ambiguous. "Romantic love, in the full sense of the term, is an emotion possible only to the man (or woman) of unbreached self-esteem: it is his response to his own highest values in the person of another—an integrated response of mind and body, of love and sexual desire. Such a man (or woman) is incapable of experiencing a sexual desire divorced from spiritual values." [The Voice of Reason, "Of Living Death."] I agree that romantic love is that love one has for another that is the embodiment of one's own highest values. Her mention of sexual desire and "spiritual" values is a bit odd, however. "Love is a response to values. It is with a person's sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person's character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness." [The Romantic Manifesto, "Philosophy and Sense of Life."] The most ambiguous of her statements about sex, I think, is contained in her Playboy interview: "Sex is one of the most important aspects of man's life and, therefore, must never be approached lightly or casually. A sexual relationship is proper only on the ground of the highest values one can find in a human being. Sex must not be anything other than a response to values. And that is why I consider promiscuity immoral. ".... "[Sex should] involve ... a very serious relationship. Whether that relationship should or should not become a marriage is a question which depends on the circumstances and the context of the two persons' lives. I consider marriage a very important institution, but it is important when and if two people have found the person with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives—a question of which no man or woman can be automatically certain. When one is certain that one's choice is final, then marriage is, of course, a desirable state. But this does not mean that any relationship based on less than total certainty is improper. I think the question of an affair or a marriage depends on the knowledge and the position of the two persons involved and should be left up to them. Either is moral, provided only that both parties take the relationship seriously and that it is based on values." [Playboy Interview, Playboy, March 1964.] Rand considers, "promiscuity immoral," but it's not promiscuity so long as both parties take the relationship, "seriously," and it is, "based on values." Well maybe they take the relationship seriously based on their values tonight, but will they still love each other in the morning? Only in Rand's peculiar view of love could Dagny Taggert's bed hopping from Francisco d'Anconia to Hank Reardon to John Galt be considered anything other than promiscuity. Rand was wrong. There is only one relationship between a man and woman in which sex is appropriate, the relationship between two totally committed in romantic love for their lifetime. That kind of love does not require a ceremony (marriage or any other) because nothing in this world can separate two people who have found and chosen each other as their greatest reward and purpose in life. They are, as well, the only individuals for whom sex can be completely satisfying and fulfilling, because sex is, for them, an affirmation and fulfillment of their love. Of course the question of whether to engage in a sexual relationship is entirely up to the individuals involved. Since most such relationships today are not in the context of romantic love, they are always harmful to those in such relationships and are usually disastrous, no matter how much the popular world of literature and entertainment glorifies them. Nevertheless, it is nobody else's business what any individuals choose do with their own lives, sexually or any other way. I want to emphasize that because I do not like how Rand has been criticized for how she lived her own life. I think her views about love and sex were wrong, but how she lived her own life is nobody else's business. Rand, Sex, and Sado-masochism In preparing for writing the infamous sex scene between Roak and Dominique in The Fountainhead, Rand wrote: "Like most women, and to a greater degree than most, she [Dominique] is a masochist and she wishes for the happiness of suffering at Roark's hands. Sexually, Roark has a great deal of the sadist, and he finds pleasure in breaking her will and her defiance." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "7 - Notes While Writing, Theme of Second-Hand Lives."] Rand despised subjectivism and in her explicit philosophical view of sex she could write: "The men who think that wealth comes from material resources and has no intellectual root or meaning, are the men who think—for the same reason—that sex is a physical capacity which functions independently of one's mind, choice or code of values. They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you ... Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions." [For the New Intellectual, "The Meaning of Sex."] "I believe that our mind controls everything—yes, even our sex emotions. Perhaps the sex emotions more than anything else. Although that's the opposite of what most people believe. Everything we do and are proceeds from our mind. Our mind can be made to control everything. The trouble is only that most of us don't want our minds to control us—because it is not an easy job." [The Letter of Ayn Rand, "Return To Hollywood (1944)". To Gerald Loab, August 5, 1944.] "... sex is the one field that unites the needs of mind and body, with the mind determining the desire and the body providing the means of expressing it. But the sex act itself is only that—an expression. The essence is mental, or spiritual." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13-Notes While Writing: 1947-1952."] But her view of the sexual relationship between men and women as sado-masochistic is pure subjecitivism. She never provides an objective reason why a woman's sexual desire should be mixed with a desire for suffering, or an objective reason for a man's sexual desire to be mixed with a desire to break a women's will. It is contrary to the very nature of love. A woman's desire, springing from her love for a man, certainly will include a desire to be fully possessed by the man for his own pleasure because it affirms her own sense of being worthy of that desire. A man's desire for the woman he loves will certainly include the desire to possess her for his own pleasure which he can only fully realize in pleasing her. The very idea of suffering or the coercive control of another would make the whole experience of sex impossible to a moral individual. Both are the antithesis of love. Giving Others What They Want The masochistic desire to, "suffer," is a psychological aberration as is the sadistic "desire to hurt or physically control" another. The excuse that Rand makes is that Roak was only giving Dominique what she wanted. That excuse is used for almost every kind of evil act. Providing another with what harms them cannot be excused on the basis that it's what they wanted. I have no idea what pathology makes some people want to be hurt, but their desire does not justify someone taking advantage of their twisted desire to satisfy their own desire. Only moral individuals are capable or worthy of romantic love. A moral individual does not cheat, threaten others, rape, or "take advantage," of anyone's weaknesses or foibles, (he won't be a drug dealer, a pornographer, a pimp, a prostitute, a professional gambler, or a panderer to any other human irrational desire or obsession.) He will not take advantage of anyone for his own gratification. He will not use women (and she will not use men) for his own pleasure and attempt to justify it on the grounds that it was, "consensual." What an evil lie one must tell oneself to use another person as though it was OK because that person agreed to being used, or perhaps even enjoyed it. The sadist is not justified in harming another just because the other is a masochist. Every child molester, producer of pornographic, salacious, and degrading form of entertainment, every con artist and every drug dealer uses the excuse, "I'm only giving them what they want." The fact that most peoples' desires are not determined by objective values but driven by subjective feelings and irrational beliefs does not justify taking advantage of those irrational desires. If you need an explanation of the morally corrupt society of the age it is the dominant belief that so long as no one is being forced to do something, anything anyone desires to do, or do with others, is good. It used to be called, "free love," but is in fact the end of love.
Hello, This is my first post to this forum. I attempting to define love in one sentence and would appreciate any feedback. Love is an emotional response to the rational scrutiny of a person who epitomizes one’s most sacred values. Thanks in advance, Chris
According to Objectivism, romantic valuation is unaffected by social status. This flies in the face of countless scientific studies (one good overview here) done on the subject, which show humans (particularly women) do take socio-economic factors into account, and at every stage of the courtship process (from dating to sex to marriage). This effect is most visible on "celebrity" blogs and gossip sites observing who dates who. Notice the higher the status of the man, the more beautiful (and more numerous) his sexual and romantic partners tend to be. Nevermind the other health and social benefits indirectly related social status not related to romance, that people of high status enjoy in human societies. Objectivism ignores this altoghether as well. Ayn Rand herself seems to contradict herself at various times, at one point saying romance is a "response to (character) values" and at another point saying women desire to "look up to" a man (which could be an indirect reference to social status). In any case, it is unclear what she actually means by her words. In her novels, the most accomplished, socially desirable men (Wynand, Galt, Rearden etc) are often the sole romantic focus of the female protogonists. Lesser men (i.e. less money and status), such as Eddie Willers, are not even a consideration. This is one of the most intriguing features of her fiction. So my question is, is Objectivism simply wrong or just unclear about the nature of social status and romantic connection?