Ayn Rand and Homosexuality


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I honestly believe that if Ayn Rand were born today, and had a modern understanding of sex and gender etc, she'd likely have a huge fetish for dude on dude. This is only a speculation but I believe its psychologically plausible. Sciabarra's Ayn Rand, Homosexuality and Human Liberation includes a chapter on "Male Bonding in the Randian Novel." It certainly raises some not-necessarily-sexual speculation, but there's clearly a level of emotional intimacy involved between, say, Roark and Wynand (Wynand's feelings for Roark were actually described as "Romantic" in Rand's own journals) and Hank and Francisco ("Greatest conquest" indeed, and the scene with Hank ravishing Dagny after learning about Francisco does have a certain "sex by proxy" feel to it). At the very least, these relationships are "Romantic Friendships."

I agree with this. If Rand was a contemporary writer, she probably wouldn't bother with female "characters" at all.

Edited by Cariad
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Well presented, I think, but palpable nonsense.

Ayn Rand didn't get this one right - and nor do you.

This is conservative Objectivism that ignores a lot of recent brain research; it reintroduces the mind/body dichotomy, and, btw, would set O'ism back by decades.

Ayn Rand could not have known the evidence which came after her, while you don't have that excuse, Regi.

Tony

First let me thank you for your response. I know we are not going to agree. There is no reason we have to.

I'm not sure what it is you think Rand got wrong, and I do not know what you mean by "O'ism." I know you mean "Objectivism," but seem to have your own idea about what "Objectivism" is. What I mean by Objectivism is Rand's philosophy as she explicated it.<p>

"If you wonder why I am so particular about protecting the integrity of the term 'Objectivism,' my reason is that 'Objectivism' is the name I have given to my philosophy--therefore, anyone using that name for some philosophical hodgepodge of his own, without my knowledge or consent, is guilty of the fraudulent presumption ... of trying to pass his thinking off as mine.... What is the proper policy on this issue? If you agree with some tenets of Objectivism, but disagree with others, do not call yourself an Objectivist; give proper authorship credit for the parts you agree with--and then indulge in any flights of fancy you wish, on your own."

["To the Readers of The Objectivist Forum,--
The Objectivist Forum
, Vol. 1, No. 1, ARI FAQ]<p>

I am not an Objectivist, but do not use the word Objectivism for any philosophy that is not Rand's. My post was only about Rand's views within the scope of her own philosophy.<p>

I think you are mistaken about the "mind/body" dichotomy, an expression, by the way, Rand did not use. Her expression was soul-body dichotomy, and what she had to say about it is greatly misunderstood.

From my Desires article, "The Reason/Passion Dichotomy."

There is a mistaken philosophical view the denies what it calls a "reason/passion (or mind/body) dichotomy." The basis of this is a misinterpretation of the Objectivist rejection of the soul-body dichotomy, as described in For the New Intellectual and elsewhere. For example:

"The New Intellectual...will...discard the soul-body dichotomy. He will discard its irrational conflicts and contradictions, such as: mind versus heart, thought versus action, reality versus desire, the practical versus the moral. He will be an integrated man." [<i>For the New Intellectual</i>]

The Objectivist rejection of the dichotomy does not mean an obliteration of the differences. The Objectivist rejection of all such dichotomies is in opposition to those philosophies that make the differences between these things irreconcilable and contradictory. It is not a denial of the differences.

To simply reject any dichotomy between reason and passion is like denying any dichotomy between hands and eyes. The hands and eyes are different things but we can learn to coordinate their behavior. Reason and passion are different things, but we can learn to integrate their function. The proper coordination and integration between reason and passion cannot be achieved simply by denying there is any difference or "dichotomy" between them; it can only be achieved by identifying the differences and integrating their function objectively.

Ayn Rand describes the proper relationship between reason and passion (emotion) this way:

"An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man's value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man's reason and his emotions--provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows--or makes it a point to discover--the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand. In appraising a situation, he knows why he reacts as he does and whether he is right. He has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow--then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction--his own and that of others." ["
Playboy
's interview with Ayn Rand," pamphlet, page 6.]

I do not expect you to agree with Rand, I certainly do not on many things, but at least we ought to know what she really said.

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So, according to Ayn Rand, where do our desires come from?

"His [man's] first desires are given to him by nature; they are the ones that he needs directly for his body, such as food, warmth, etc. Only these desires are provided by nature and they teach him the concept of desire. Everything else from then on proceeds from his mind, from the standards and conclusions accepted by his mind and it goes to satisfy his mind—for example, his first toys. (Perhaps 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

Objectivism is a philosophy of individual liberty, but those who call themselves Objectivists today are propagators of a philosophy of enslavement, not of men enslaved by other men, but of individuals enslaved by their own irrational desires and mindless passions.

Regi,

Some good stuff I hadn't read previously, but not much changes for me.

If it makes me (as you are, you say) a non-Objectivist, then so be it.

I think that Rand's premises on homosexuality were faulty, partly because her facts were wrong (recent study of the brain), and partly because her views on sex generally were an 'over-reach'.

She is indicating above, I paraphrase, that a boy at puberty has already an established sexuality, AND, rationality; "everything proceeds from his mind..."

But, critically, he is not, cannot be, fully rational - yet.

What about his genetics, his "desires given to him by nature", his early upbringing, early experiences, and all his other tendencies and preferences?

As he becomes older and more rational, must he discount this first sexual awakening, and rationalize or wish it away?

If this isn't exactly a soul/body dichotomy, it is a psychological disaster in waiting if he attempts to repress it, don't you think?

Choice, nature, or nurture - what comes first and what is 'morally acceptable', are all immaterial in my opinion. Homosexuality just exists. Your view that these are "individuals enslaved by their own irrational desires" etc., is a gratuitously dramatic one, I think.

Tony

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Maybe we're all trying too hard. I think Rand (and Nathaniel Branden before he changed his tune) simply grew up with the heterosexual's natural, unreflective distaste for homosexual acts plus the traditional condemnation plus a personality that needed to rationalize everything and fit it into a theory. The particular shape the rationalization took isn't all that interesting.

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Maybe we're all trying too hard. I think Rand (and Nathaniel Branden before he changed his tune) simply grew up with the heterosexual's natural, unreflective distaste for homosexual acts plus the traditional condemnation plus a personality that needed to rationalize everything and fit it into a theory. The particular shape the rationalization took isn't all that interesting.

That takes "heterosexual" for granted as a category. Humans and bonobos are facultatively and situationally bisexual. An historical/biological survey of sexuality shows that a polarized notion of either homosexual or heterosexual is a modern and even anglophone construct. Rural Mexicans, for example, will have sex with animals and passive male partners and consider themselves normal men.

The facts are extremely complicated, and, in the end, rather esoteric, and of little consequence for technical ethics proper, unless one takes accusations of consensual sexual immorality seriously.

Who the hell does?

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That takes "heterosexual" for granted as a category... An historical/biological survey of sexuality shows that a polarized notion of either homosexual or heterosexual is a modern and even anglophone construct.

I again agree with Ted.

The notion of lifelong, exclusive sexual orientation towards only one sex is a relatively novel concept that formed within a discussion of human sexuality dominated by extremely irrational ideas. Freudianism, Christian sexual morality, the Pseudosciences of early psychology (things like Phrenology etc) and all of that. In many cases, all we got was psuedo-medical 'justifications' for previously existing socially-believed moral pronouncements (like "masturbation causes insanity" and "women are irrational so lets put them in the nuthouse").

I'm tempted to bring up Captain Jack Harkness' line about "quaint little categories" but the point is that human sexuality is a far more complicated phenomenon than "gay or straight" and even if we add the category of "bisexual" we still are omitting plenty of measurements and ignoring many dimensions of human sexual experience (certainly, there is more to human sexuality than "gender of partner/s").

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That takes "heterosexual" for granted as a category... An historical/biological survey of sexuality shows that a polarized notion of either homosexual or heterosexual is a modern and even anglophone construct.

I again agree with Ted.

The notion of lifelong, exclusive sexual orientation towards only one sex is a relatively novel concept that formed within a discussion of human sexuality dominated by extremely irrational ideas. Freudianism, Christian sexual morality, the Pseudosciences of early psychology (things like Phrenology etc) and all of that. In many cases, all we got was psuedo-medical 'justifications' for previously existing socially-believed moral pronouncements (like "masturbation causes insanity" and "women are irrational so lets put them in the nuthouse").

I'm tempted to bring up Captain Jack Harkness' line about "quaint little categories" but the point is that human sexuality is a far more complicated phenomenon than "gay or straight" and even if we add the category of "bisexual" we still are omitting plenty of measurements and ignoring many dimensions of human sexual experience (certainly, there is more to human sexuality than "gender of partner/s").

Yes, Andrew, I wholly endorse all your theoretical comments in the previous posts on this thread. I am no fan of Harkness though - something plastically creepy about him. I much prefer Baby Gat as a philosopher.

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I honestly believe that if Ayn Rand were born today, and had a modern understanding of sex and gender etc, she'd likely have a huge fetish for dude on dude. This is only a speculation but I believe its psychologically plausible. Sciabarra's Ayn Rand, Homosexuality and Human Liberation includes a chapter on "Male Bonding in the Randian Novel." It certainly raises some not-necessarily-sexual speculation, but there's clearly a level of emotional intimacy involved between, say, Roark and Wynand (Wynand's feelings for Roark were actually described as "Romantic" in Rand's own journals) and Hank and Francisco ("Greatest conquest" indeed, and the scene with Hank ravishing Dagny after learning about Francisco does have a certain "sex by proxy" feel to it). At the very least, these relationships are "Romantic Friendships."

No, she wouldn't. Not if she were a she; that would exclude her. Except for the lack of sex, however, Roark's friendship with Wynand was more intimate than with Dominique. Imagine Wynand as a female tycoon and . . .

--Brant

btw: if Ayn Rand were born today she wouldn't get that up to date info for 15-20 years--and what info would that be?

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I honestly believe that if Ayn Rand were born today, and had a modern understanding of sex and gender etc, she'd likely have a huge fetish for dude on dude.

No, she wouldn't. Not if she were a she; that would exclude her.

Many men have a thing for girl-on-girl. But that excludes them, too.

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This whole conversation screams Foucault.

True, but even if I am not a postmodernist, there's nothing necessarily anti-Objectivist about the proposition that socially-prevalent concepts and categories may be more likely to reflect popular prejudices/unexamined assumptions rather than objective reality.

Rand pointed out examples of this several times. For instance, the popular equation of the word "altruism" with "benevolence" and "selfishness" with "evil."

The proposition that some ideas, concepts and categories are manipulated by some for political/social purposes is hardly controversial.

This doesn't necessarily mean the hard Foucauldian position (that all knowledge is merely a product of power relations) is true; I reject hard Focauldianism. But instances of soft Focualdianism (that some alleged knowedge is in whole or part a product of power relations) are pretty common and easy to spot.

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I honestly believe that if Ayn Rand were born today, and had a modern understanding of sex and gender etc, she'd likely have a huge fetish for dude on dude. This is only a speculation but I believe its psychologically plausible. Sciabarra's Ayn Rand, Homosexuality and Human Liberation includes a chapter on "Male Bonding in the Randian Novel." It certainly raises some not-necessarily-sexual speculation, but there's clearly a level of emotional intimacy involved between, say, Roark and Wynand (Wynand's feelings for Roark were actually described as "Romantic" in Rand's own journals) and Hank and Francisco ("Greatest conquest" indeed, and the scene with Hank ravishing Dagny after learning about Francisco does have a certain "sex by proxy" feel to it). At the very least, these relationships are "Romantic Friendships."

No, she wouldn't. Not if she were a she; that would exclude her. Except for the lack of sex, however, Roark's friendship with Wynand was more intimate than with Dominique. Imagine Wynand as a female tycoon and . . .

--Brant

btw: if Ayn Rand were born today she wouldn't get that up to date info for 15-20 years--and what info would that be?

I disagree that it would exclude her. I believe that if she was a contemporary writer, she would feel more free to project herself into a male character. It is documented that she considered it a compliment when people referred to her as male. I think she'd be quite happy to create a male version of herself, and perhaps actually relieved not to have to create female characters that were anything but props.

Studiodekadent's point that many men have a thing for girl-on-girl is also spot-on. And indeed, many women have a thing for guy-on-guy. Ayn Rand as a contemporary writer would have fit right in with slash culture.

Edited by Cariad
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I disagree that it would exclude her. I believe that if she was a contemporary writer, she would feel more free to project herself into a male character. It is documented that she considered it a compliment when people referred to her as male. I think she'd be quite happy to create a male version of herself, and perhaps actually relieved not to have to create female characters that were anything but props.

Studiodekadent's point that many men have a thing for girl-on-girl is also spot-on. And indeed, many women have a thing for guy-on-guy. Ayn Rand as a contemporary writer would have fit right in with slash culture.

In some respects I do disagree a bit... Rand did obviously desire to claim femininity for herself (Ayn Rand: The Woman Who Would Not Be President), so I think she'd stick with her "female author-proxy" characters (Dominique, Dagny). So on that level I think she wouldn't want to project herself into a male character.

Irrespective, I think Cariad is right that Rand would fit into slash culture. I have a female friend that I convinced to read Atlas Shrugged. After reading it, she got rather enthusiastic about "slashing" Hank with Francisco (to my knowledge this isn't unheard of amongst people that strongly enjoyed Hank and Francisco's relationship in the book).

Edited by studiodekadent
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  • 6 years later...
On 2/7/2011 at 1:37 PM, regi said:
Every major so-called Objectivist site generally supports the normalization of homosexuality as benevolent and moral, and as far as I know there is not a single on-line site or blog that denies this view.

The following all call themselves "Objectivist" something-or-other, and most disagree that the other sites are truly Objectivist, whatever that is intended to mean. They certainly do not understand Rand's philosophy.

First, a couple of forums:

Objectivist Living "Human homosexuality is neither moral or immoral. It simply is. It's a form of human behavior. What people do when they face it (in themselves and in others) is moral or immoral." [This is from the founder of the sight.]

Rebirth of Reason—"Finding Happiness in Lesbos" [You do not need to read this. Why would you?]

From the, "OjectivismOnline Forum," is this: A person who is homosexual, just as with heterosexuals, presumably cannot choose whether or not upon seeing "suitable stimuli" they experience physical attraction. Thus, the attraction is not a choice, and thus, it cannot be considered an aspect of morality. [since when are moral principles based on "presumptions?"] This whole thread is more of the same.

And some "Objectivist" Writers:

First, Ari Armstrong, "I suspect that homosexuality usually results from a confluence of genetics, environmental factors, and conscious choice. Yet, regardless of which of these three factors is most at play in any given case, I hold that homosexuality can be a healthy, moral path that leads to quality romance."

There is Damien Moskovitz of The Atlas Society who writes: "While sexual orientations may not be chosen, in many cases, what behaviors people exhibit in response to their orientations are chosen, and such behaviors can be evaluated morally. A person who by nature, rather than by choice, is more attracted to members of the same sex than the opposite sex still has the choice to recognize and act in accordance with this fact or to repress or act against it. If a person wishes to achieve happiness and promote his life, then he must, in a realm as morally important as sex, act in accordance with his nature." [Err..., he's trying to say it would be morally wrong for someone with "homosexual desires" to not practice homosexuality. Really!]

Finally, we have Edwin Locke, senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) who wrote: "Objectivism holds that sexual orientation is not, properly, a moral issue.... Every adult has the right to seek romantic, including sexual, satisfaction with an adult partner of their choice, assuming mutual consent, and it is really no one else's business (including the government's) but their own."

Before I discuss what is so very wrong with the views of these so-called Objectivists let me say, I am in total agreement with Ayn Rand's view of homosexuality—it is an immoral practice, but so long as it is only adults who are freely engaging in those practices, what they do is nobody else's business and there must be no laws that govern what individual's choose to do privately among themselves.

 

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