Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Leonard Peikoff on sex:

No man desires everyone on earth. Each has some requirements in this regard, however contradictory or unidentified—and the rational man's requirements, here as elsewhere, are the opposite of contradictory. He desires only a woman he can admire, a woman who (to his knowledge) shares his moral standards, his self-esteem, and his view of life. Only with such a partner can he experience the reality of the values he is seeking to celebrate, including his own value. The same kind of sexual selectivity is exercised by a rational woman. This is why Roark is attracted only to a heroine like Dominique, and why Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged is desperate to sleep with John Galt, not with Wesley Mouch. Romantic love is the strongest positive emotion possible between two individuals. Its experience, therefore, so far from being an animal reaction, is a self-revelation: the values giving rise to this kind of response must be one's most intensely held and personal.

When a man and woman do fall in love—assuming that each is romantically free and the context otherwise appropriate—sex is a necessary and proper expression of their feeling for each other. "Platonic love" under such circumstances would be a vice, a breach of integrity. Sex is to love what action is to thought, possession to evaluation, body to soul. "We live in our minds," Roark observes, "and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form." Sex is the preeminent form of bringing love into physical reality.

The subject of sex is complex and belongs largely to the science of psychology. I asked Ayn Rand once what philosophy specifically has to say on the subject. She answered: "It says that sex is good."

Sex is moral, it is an exalted pleasure, it is a profound value. Like happiness, therefore, sex is an end in itself; it is not necessarily a means to any further end, such as procreation. This uplifted view of sex leads to an ethical corollary: a function so important must be granted the respect it deserves.

To respect sex means to approach it objectively. The guiding principle should be: select a partner whom you love on the basis of values you can identify and defend; then do whatever you wish together in bed, provided that it is mutually desired and that your pleasures are reality-oriented. This excludes indiscriminate sexual indulgence and any form of destructiveness or faking—such as, among other examples, the chaser's promiscuity, the rapist's coercion, the adulterer's pretense of fidelity, and the sadist's pretense that his power to cause suffering is a mark of efficacy. (Fantasy, in sex as in other departments of life, is a form of imagination and thus legitimate, as long as one does not drop the distinction between fantasy and reality.)

The guiding principle in sex should be: esteem sex as an expression of reason and of man's life in the full, moral sense of the term; then, keeping this context in mind, pursue the value greedily.

Such a viewpoint is the opposite of today's dominant philosophy on the subject.

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, p. 345-6

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