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Understanding Francisco's sex speech

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The meaning of Sex – Francisco’s speech in Atlas shrugged


I’m REALLY interested in the details of everything Rand writes. I know she’s making a far reaching integration that I don’t yet see. The reason I know this is because having studied a lot of epistemology lately I’m starting to connect topics and ideas which before I saw as having no connection.  So here is my dissection of Francisco’s speech and all the questions that follow.



“Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself. No matter what corruption he’s taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which he cannot perform for any motive but his own enjoyment—just try to think of performing it in a spirit of selfless charity!—an act which is not possible in self-abasement, only in self-exaltation, only in the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces him to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and to accept his real ego as his standard of value. He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience—or to fake—a sense of self-esteem.”



I’m wondering what one’s “real ego” is and to what purpose is it a standard of value?


Ego in Rand’s lexicon is defined as:


“The self you have betrayed is your mind; self-esteem is reliance on one’s power to think. The ego you seek, that essential “you” which you cannot express or define, is not your emotions or inarticulate dreams, but your intellect, that judge of your supreme tribunal whom you’ve impeached in order to drift at the mercy of any stray shyster you describe as your “feeling.” “





My emotions and my inarticulate dreams are my subconscious. They are a residual of my past choices and environment. Then all that is left for my ego is the aspect of me which chooses to think or not. But how does one make that a standard of measurement if your choice to think is always there, in every moment?

Shouldn't our ego be the “emotions”, the psycho-epistemology, the sense of life – i.e. the sum of our past choices?


If it is the sum of our past choices I don’t understand what kind of standard it is. I also don’t understand why having sex “forces” me to accept my “real ego” as my standard of value.


Why will I be attracted to the women who reflect the deepest vision of myself?

And why does her “surrender” permit me to “experience – or to fake – a sense of self-esteem”?



“The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer—because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut. . . . He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it.



I like sex but I don’t know why it helps me to express my value. Is this related to art? I.e. theater is a form of expression, painting is a form of expression and then this unique act performed only for its own sake, sex, is also an expression.Did I understand it?

Emotionally, I find myself agreeing with much of this, as if words are shoved into my mouth, but I need to understand why.



“But the man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to a woman he despises—because she will reflect his own secret self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value and a momentary escape from the moral code that damns him.”



Like attracts like, i.e. sense of life attracts similar sense of life. This is a metaphysical observation and there is no why to ask; just as I do not ask “why does existence exist”. Right ?


Why then does having sex with someone you despise release you “from that objective reality in which you are a fraud” or give you a “momentary illusion of your own value”?

What is meant by “fraud”?


I’m very conflicted here. I know someone in particular in my life that would fit into this category but has an amazing sense of life and some very good values. Only she is split on this, on sex; she is attracted to those she despises.


If you are sexually abused as a child and you are now attracted to those you despise. Is that still your own choice? Or was a physical trauma potentially the cause of your now terrible sex-life? It seems to me that some of this can be “forced” upon someone and it’s not through their own choice – NOT their own metaphysical-value judgement, but ones forced on to them.

But that would contradict everything I've read and understood. Thinking is done by choice. No one forces you to value one thing over another. No one forces you to love those you despise.


Love is our response to our highest values—and can be nothing else. Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws—and he will have cut himself in two. His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure. Then he will scream that his body has vicious desires of its own which his mind cannot conquer, that sex is sin, that true love is a pure emotion of the spirit.



If you “corrupt your values” then shouldn't your body AND mind both be drawn to the lowest type of person you find?

How can you love someone and not be sexually attracted to them?

If, subconsciously, I hold a decent life philosophy but consciously I keep corrupting my values through religion does that mean that I will fall in love with the lowest person I can find but want to sleep with the highest?

If consciously I hold a good life philosophy but subconsciously I don’t then would that mean I want to sleep with the lowest but will fall in love with the highest?


“Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire, is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love.”


Why? How do we know?



One kind of half is the man who despises money, factories, skyscrapers and his own body. He holds undefined emotions about non-conceivable subjects as the meaning of life and as his claim to virtue. And he cries with despair, because he can feel nothing for the women he respects, but finds himself in bondage to an irresistible passion for a slut from the gutter. He is the man whom people call an idealist.



Is he an “intrinsicist” or “subjectivist”? a “rationalist” or “empiricist”? What kind of women does he respect and why does he feel nothing for her? If he feels an “irresistible passion for a slut from the gutter” how is that reflecting his secret self?


I know someone who EXACTLY fits this and what I am really confused about is how she can have a good sense of life, strong values AND actually fall in love with people of similar values. In her own words she literally said she has a “mind-body” split – where the men she ends up loving do not sexually turn her on at all. The men who do are one’s she despises. Shouldn't she also fall in love with the lowest type of men? Since I can’t literally introspect into her own mind I don’t know if I’m off here in some way – but I find it interesting.



The other kind of half is the man whom people call practical, the man who despises principles, abstractions, art, philosophy and his own mind. He regards the acquisition of material objects as the only goal of existence—and he laughs at the need to consider their purpose or their source. He expects them to give him pleasure—and he wonders why the more he gets, the less he feels. He is the man who spends his time chasing women. Observe the triple fraud which he perpetrates upon himself. He will not acknowledge his need of self-esteem, since he scoffs at such a concept as moral values; yet he feels the profound self-contempt which comes from believing that he is a piece of meat. He will not acknowledge, but he knows that sex is the physical expression of a tribute to personal values. So he tries, by going through the motions of the effect, to acquire that which should have been the cause. He tries to gain a sense of his own value from the women who surrender to him—and he forgets that the women he picks have neither character nor judgment nor standard of value. He tells himself that all he’s after is physical pleasure—but observe that he tires of his women in a week or a night, that he despises professional whores and that he loves to imagine he is seducing virtuous girls who make a great exception for his sake. It is the feeling of achievement that he seeks and never finds.



What is the triple fraud? Not acknowledging the need for self-esteem, that's one – what are the other two?


How does he know that sex is the physical expression of a tribute to values? Is he evading it?

How does Rand know?

How does she know he loves to imagine that he is “seducing virtuous girls who make a great exception for his sake”?

Does she mean that he likes to imagine that they like his mind and share his values?


Here know someone who EXACTLY fits this as well. Only, he has also slept with a lot of girls I would also consider virtuous. I'm trying to fit people I know into these descriptions, and then relate it to their ideas/philosophy, but I can't. 

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"It is an act that forces him to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and to accept his real ego as his standard of value."

In this case, I believe this is referring to how it is nigh on impossible for one to force oneself to be attracted to somebody. Your real self, as opposed to whoever you may try to pretend to be, and thus your real values is what will determine who you will be attracted to. If you aren't attracted, it will be a hell of a lot harder to have sex with somebody even if you try. Your body will be resistant to responding with the physical changes that generally come with arousal. Maybe if enough manual stimulation is applied something will happen, but not like how it can happen without manual stimulation if one is attracted, random coincidences aside. Physically, one's real self's real values are just what one will automatically respond to. It isn't a case of consciously adopting a standard for some purpose.


"He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it."

This has to do with the necessity of feeling good about oneself, of feeling like you've earned it, like you deserve it. If one doesn't feel like he or she is worthy, then one just really isn't going to feel up to having sex. Just can't get in the mood, can't really enjoy it much. A sense of guilt will detract from the experience, if one gets as far as doing it at all.


"Like attracts like, i.e. sense of life attracts similar sense of life."

You prefer being around things and people you think are proper (not as in up tight) and correct as opposed to the opposite, yes? Being constantly subjected to things one holds to be incorrect and just not how things should be is just downright irritating at the least.


"What is meant by 'fraud'?"

In this case, it's pretending to be something you aren't, to others and/or yourself.


Ooooh, yeah, child abuse victims. That's a bit of a different case than usual. Being abused as a kid can do a major number on one's psyche. These things are happening and having a huge impact on somebody while their brain is still developing. It can be pretty darn difficult to get recovered from the damage done to a person's psyche when they went through major trauma as a kid even once somebody is an adult. Heck, it may be harder to make progress on recovering from these things when one is an adult due to the brain having largely stabilized by that time, making it harder to make changes for the better. When a child abuse victim winds up attracted to people they hate, it isn't a choice like how one chooses something off a restaurant menu or chooses what shoes to put on before leaving the house. Attraction is a feeling that works like all other emotions. They are controlled only indirectly by working on one's conscious thoughts and then getting them integrated into one's subconscious where they make automatic evaluations of things as positive or negative. Though, really that's true of how attraction works for anybody, not just child abuse victims. Anyway, somebody hurt this person, it wasn't consensual, so lingering effects that somebody is having a hard time repairing I would not say are something they should be judged badly morally for. I blame the abuser(s) for that and just hope the victim will eventually heal more. This is just speculation since I don't know the girl you spoke of of course, but from what little you've said it sounds like maybe she has some lingering self-esteem problems still in there somewhere. People who think they are crap will seek out people who treat them thusly.


“Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire, is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love.”

Well, if love without desire is best then any desire for anybody one may love would be tainting and degrading it. Sexual feelings and desires are a pretty natural part of being a human though, they don't just go right away if one puts a blockade in front of the normal route trying to protect what is at the end of that road. So, desire, looking for another outlet, latches onto those one doesn't love. As for the "only" part, I'm assuming that for somebody who does not regard sexual desire as bad for love then anybody one doesn't love would always seem like an inferior option sexually, just not interesting, like "Why bother when there's better available?"


" . . . women does he respect and why does he feel nothing for her?"

Mystic of the mind type. The "body is bad" or "body isn't real, doesn't count" type. Why attraction to a type he regards as lowly, but not to those he regards as virtuous? See paragraph above. The body responding to those this person regards as lowly then is taken as further evidence of why the body is bad and thus further feeds into causing the attraction to those he regards as bad and not those he regards as good.


"What is the triple fraud?"

". . . He will not acknowledge his need of self-esteem, since he scoffs at such a concept as moral values; . . .  He tries to gain a sense of his own value from the women who surrender to him. . . . He tells himself that all he’s after is physical pleasure . . ."


"Does she mean that he likes to imagine that they like his mind and share his values?"

Hmm? No, I think it's more like they want to imagine it going something along the lines of, "I don't approve of these kinds of things, but . . . but . . . you're just so AWESOME, I'mma make an exception for you. Yep, you are that awesome." Why the person is "awesome" may be unspecified, probably something along the lines of being seen as cool and good looking though. Not really getting into much of anything intellectual.


I obviously haven't addressed everything in your post here, but it's 3:30 AM. Somebody else can do the rest when the sun is out.

Edited by bluecherry

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Lots of questions, which is great. Many of them have been talked about extensively in many threads about sex on this forum, if you have the time and patience to search for them sometime.

You say you "know" that Rand has intuited something about sex here that isn't clear to you at this moment, but that you suspect must be true given her other very good observations and conclusions on other topics which you have read so far. But, at this moment her ideas on sex haven't been proven to you, so you have questions. In reality, then, her ideas are really just a hypothesis which you will need to prove or disprove for yourself -- you don't know for sure yet.

Personally, I think she was off somewhat on sexuality. While it is true that causality is also applicable to sex, which is the core of her arguments, what isn't so clear is whether her expressed causal links are true or not. The issue seems to be the complicated nature of the workings of the human mind, which are still largely a mystery, unfortunately -- as you've observed in your friends and may even observe in yourself.

Based on the previous threads this forum has collected over the years on the subjects of sex and sexuality, I don't think you're going to get precise answers to many of your questions. The important thing is to keep them as questions until you can know the truth for yourself one way or the other, independent of what Rand thought about it. And if the truth just isn't clear and you can't make a solid call, that's ok, too. Fallibility is the basic human conflict.

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I think there is a lot of opportunity to integrate here.  You may need to conceptualize or label "parts" of the psyche and how they interact or are related.


There is a lot of self-image, self-esteem, other-image, estimates of others, and reflections of each of these concepts with the others of them, which combined with evasion, make integration of these passages difficult but I think it is possible. 


Keep in mind also, when Rand refers to a moral man, the function and "structure" of that psyche is different from that of a non-moral man and hence attempts to analyse all the passages in a "symmetrical" way may not be appropriate.  Certainly, a moral man lacks "evasion" or some other inverting or distorting psychological mechanism which could be invoked by the non-moral man many times in, in different senses, and at many levels... which can complicate things in passages describing the psyche of the non-moral man.


I think you are on to something, I think there is an integrated whole which can explain it all... I hope someone spends the time to illustrate it.



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