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rameshkaimal

Gender Roles In Sex: A Fresh Perspective

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"so at minimum sex is:
That sounds right. An example is the bare minimum to impregnate a woman. But I say genital contact because it makes for a unique experience unlike most others, psychologically and physically. Lesbian sex is still sexual in the same way as heterosexual sex, so that's why I don't use a different concepts.

"ideally:"
Potential for both.

"and what's not necessary that's noteworthy is:"
Right.

For the psychological aspects of sex, I agree with Rand:

"Sex is a physical capacity, but its exercise is determined by man’s mind—by his choice of values, held consciously or subconsciously. To a rational man, sex is an expression of self-esteem—a celebration of himself and of existence. To the man who lacks self-esteem, sex is an attempt to fake it, to acquire its momentary illusion."
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/sex.html

My thinking isn't that Rand is wrong about sex in general, only that she's wrong about gender roles in sex.

Edited by Eiuol

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Yes, although I don't know for sure. It may requirie a certain level of intelligence and imagination, depending on the people involved. For example, a friend of mine claims she can have orgasms just thinking dirty thoughts. In such cases it's damn easy.

 

. . .

 

It's possible not everyone has the capacity for it. One thing is for sure though, the mental aspect of sex is by far the most important. Unfortunately it's also the most overlooked.

So then if orgasms were truly not tied to physical stimulation anyway, why worry about vaginal intercourse when procreation isn't the goal? Below you seem to consider it rather unnecessary too.

 

3. Psychologically the pleasure derived from it comes from the man being his most masculine and the woman her most feminine. It's not about achievieng pleasure from penetration. The example with penetration is to highlight the metaphysical differences between men and women - it's not an how-to for sex.

 

Let me be very blunt. Slap her in the face and tell her to come. Does that sound submissive or teamworkish, or whatever? Yet, you don't even need an erection to do that. Get the point? There's nothing with being dominant/submissive that implies that one has to climax from penetration alone. If you don't want to play rough you could always be a gentleman and go down on her, but I really don't want to explain how to eat her out and still be in charge.

The bolded really doesn't sound sexy at all.

Edited by bluecherry

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no, but sexier than teamwork!

In the example, a woman is literally putting herself in an inferior position for both pleasure and potential pleasure since she has no autonomy to do anything on her terms. Not even sure why "teamwork" is used to sound like a naive way to think of sex, why would it be unappealing anyway?

Edited by Eiuol

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Eioul, not sure what mean by "putting herself in an inferior position for both pleasure and potential pleasure".

I would not say "teamwork" is "a naive way to think of sex", but unappealing yes ("teamwork" being "partnership", "working together for mutual pleasure", or "synergistically", and as compared to traditional gender roles). Personally, sex in which "M/F isn't integral" is completely unappealing. Take M/F out entirely and I wouldn't see the point, I would not have any interest in sex.

I am trying to understand what appeal is left though. I'm sure that people who are against M/F do get something out of their sexual experiences and that it can still be meaningful in some ways. The basic pleasurable sensation is obviously pretty much the same, there's still some amount of exclusivity (you probably don't remove all standards and become sexual with just anyone by eliminating M/F) and therefore there's still some level of intimacy. But I would think this would put sex pretty much on par with many other shared activities you could engage in, nothing special about it really.

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What point does the whole gender norm add anyway, in psychological terms? That's the thing, I don't see what it offers in terms of self-esteem, pride, or admiration that doesn't put yourself as an inferior. If something is lost by dropping a gender norm focus, what exactly is lost?

The remaining appeal is literally everything about sex, I'm not sure how to answer that any better. If I'm right that my view is better, then the appeal is greater pleasure than the alternative. On some level, all you can do is try it. The thing about sex is that it's so sensation related that you have to experience all sorts of aspects first hand.

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Eioul, not sure what mean by "putting herself in an inferior position for both pleasure and potential pleasure".

I would not say "teamwork" is "a naive way to think of sex", but unappealing yes ("teamwork" being "partnership", "working together for mutual pleasure", or "synergistically", and as compared to traditional gender roles). Personally, sex in which "M/F isn't integral" is completely unappealing. Take M/F out entirely and I wouldn't see the point, I would not have any interest in sex.

I am trying to understand what appeal is left though. I'm sure that people who are against M/F do get something out of their sexual experiences and that it can still be meaningful in some ways. The basic pleasurable sensation is obviously pretty much the same, there's still some amount of exclusivity (you probably don't remove all standards and become sexual with just anyone by eliminating M/F) and therefore there's still some level of intimacy. But I would think this would put sex pretty much on par with many other shared activities you could engage in, nothing special about it really.

Why would you think that last line? What sets sex apart from bowling, biking, and gardening isn't a dominant/submissive heavily gender influenced dynamic. That kind of dynamic can be applied to bowling etc. too.

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Eioul:
“that doesn’t put yourself as an inferior” - do you mean gender norms put females as inferior, or anyone, something like gender norms being collectivistic?

sN:
“Do you mean heterosexual couples who are "against M/F" ?” - Not specifically, but I guess it’s a good point that if you were completely against masculinity/femininity you would likely be attracted to the same sex. Like there are radical feminists who are so against male-dominance that they are against traditional sex entirely (https://witchwind.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/piv-is-always-rape-ok/), and I think that is consistent.

bluecherry:
That’s true, that dynamic should influence everything. What sets sex apart from bowling is that it is most clearly expressed in the act of sex, and that’s where that dynamic comes from in the first place. But if you couldn't have sex for whatever reason but only ever went bowling with your significant other, I'm sure bowling would become very romantic..

Edited by splitprimary

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...But if you couldn't have sex for whatever reason but only ever went bowling with your significant other, I'm sure bowling would become very romantic..

And, many countries would have banned bowling on TV so as not to corrupt their youth.

There's always two implicit threads in these discussions: one is "this is how most people are" or even "this is how I feel"; and, the second is, "this is how things ought to be". So, for instance, one person can talk about what men and women want (meaning the majority of them) and be right, while it is unconvincing to the opponent who argues that that is not how things ought to be... and perhaps is not how things are for him or her.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Collectivistic doesn't apply here nor do I see how it could. I'm saying that type of gender norms we're talking about require a degree of male superiority, meaning a degree of female inferiority. It may certainly feel nice or make you feel good, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything about the impact on self-esteem, self-worth, pride, etc as positive. All I'm getting seems to be "being controlled is better than equal sexual autonomy".

If you think the sort of appeal of M/F is related to gender norms, I agree. But remember, up until probably the last half of the 1800s or that era, no one really spoke of same-sex attraction since there wasn't really a special term for it. Nothing like a term we have today, even if it was frowned upon. The norms go further back though, so by now it's a messy thing to see how accepting norms alters sexuality. But it's not true that people who don't accept the norms are more likely to be attracted to the same sex, at least not in terms like that. It would indicate sexual creativity, and more openness to the range of sexuality that exists, thus open to a greater variety of possible sexual encounters.

Those type of radical feminists are a totally different phenomena, though. I'm arguing from an "it's arbitrary" angle, they're more of "sex hate" as I'd call it.

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I'm agreeing with the radfems on their characterization of sex, though not their evaluation. I think that sex is inherently male-dominant no matter how you do it, so if I was against male-dominance, I would avoid it for that reason. (Therefore, I also see it as contradictory and necessarily just muddled, to be engaging in traditional sex while trying to make it as equalist as possible.) If a feeling of autonomy was what I was after, heterosexual sex would not be an effective way to obtain that.

I actually don't think "autonomy" is a very appropriate description for anyone's experience in sex, whether they are male or female, or even whether they are traditional or progressive about sex- it's always still more about connection with another person. I think Peikoff has described masturbation as a "means of self-sufficiency", on the other hand, but that doesn't fall under even your definition of "sex".

"I'm arguing from an "it's arbitrary" angle" - What's arbitrary?

I also don't see how either view of sex affects "self-esteem, self-worth, pride". You wouldn't say that having a boss at work, in other words someone else being in charge or having more control in a specific context or a specific relationship, lowers your self-esteem, for instance.

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I also don't see how either view of sex affects "self-esteem, self-worth, pride". You wouldn't say that having a boss at work, in other words someone else being in charge or having more control in a specific context or a specific relationship, lowers your self-esteem, for instance.

If you don't see how sex affects self-esteem and all that, you're already disagreeing with a large part of the Objectivist view of sex anyway. I'm not talking about superiority as in a higher position at work, as the thing with work is you aren't by nature in an inferior position, as opposed to the idea that being female puts you by nature as someone's inferior. It would be negative to your self-esteem especially if the apparently most important person in your life is by nature sexually superior. We're not talking about someone who does BDSM sometimes, we're talking about a view that it's improper and harmful to a woman's life to be in a superior standing sexually. By Rand's reasoning, it is an important feature for a woman's self-esteem to look up to a man - and part of why she thinks a woman should not be president. 

 

You're right, autonomy isn't the best word. I was trying to convey that there needs to be self-ability to know what you want and seeking it for your own good, and being able to make sure you can get it. This can be attained mutually, and to a higher degree of pleasure when it is a mutual pursuit. And that means not being the man's role to provide to both. I don't mean just feeling good in a self-sufficient way, it's a deep psychological thing. It still falls under what I mean by sex, that is, it's a deeper explanation of the psychological component. All I'm looking for is why your view is better, what it produces.

 

You're also saying sex is male-dominant no matter how it is done. That makes more sense as a viewpoint to me now, but I'm not sure -why- you say that. Makes it sound like it's not even possible for a woman to be in a superior or even equal standing.

 

It's arbitrary = gender norms are arbitrary.

Edited by Eiuol

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That’s true, that dynamic should influence everything. What sets sex apart from bowling is that it is most clearly expressed in the act of sex, and that’s where that dynamic comes from in the first place. But if you couldn't have sex for whatever reason but only ever went bowling with your significant other, I'm sure bowling would become very romantic..

See, what I contend sets sex apart from bowling is that it is the strongest potential source of physical good feelings. That's what makes it the ideal activity to link your highest mental good feelings onto - put together you can experience the most possible good feelings as a whole person.

 

What do you think makes sex, or even just intercourse, inherently male-dominating? If it's just who moves more, well, woman-on-top is a thing.

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I didn’t say self-esteem had nothing to do with sex.

Rand was making a claim about women- that it is naturally a feature of femininity to want to look up to a man. You obviously disagree with this. My point is that if she were correct, and it was by nature, there could be no self-esteem issue concerning "inferiority". It would just be a fact. "That which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality", and could have no bearing on self-esteem.

Also the traditional view would necessarily be better if gender norms were not arbitrary, and it was the one that recognized reality and the identities involved correctly.

———

According to Objectivism, it’s not about “who moves more” or who is “on top”.

Someone already quoted Nathaniel Branden from The Objectivist:
The difference in the male and female sexual roles proceeds from differences in man's and woman's respective anatomy and physiology. Physically, man is the bigger and stronger of the two sexes; his system produces and uses more energy; and he tends (for physiological reasons) to be physically more active. Sexually, his is the more active and dominant role; he has the greater measure of control over his own pleasure and that of his partner; it is he who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated (with everything this entails, physically and psychologically). ... Man experiences the essence of his masculinity in the act of romantic dominance; woman experiences the essence of her femininity in the act of romantic surrender.”

Peikoff also explains in his Love, Sex, and Romance podcast:
“The distinction is entirely in sex, because of the distinction in anatomy, which she attached great importance to, -since it was there, since this is a fact of reality. And to her the male was the initiator because his function was penetration. The woman was the one being penetrated and therefore she was inherently in a passive position. …She attached metaphysical importance to sex, in other words it was more than important to life, it was one of the most vital fundamentals making up a life. Therefore if in the climactic moment of an experience of that kind, one function was to do and the other was to be done to, that to her made an enormous metaphysical difference in the relationship. …it’s from that point of view only that she made that distinction between masculinity and femininity.”

———

And no, we’re not talking BDSM. For the same reason you find that more acceptable, I consider BDSM a pitiful and dysfunctional substitute. It’s “play”, it's based on the idea of peers agreeing to enter into some specific context that has clearly defined limits and “safe words” and such. The real, global context there is equalist, which is why dominance ends up having to be so extreme and explicit. If it wasn’t compartmentalized and concentrated, it wouldn’t become pathological.

This was stated well in a couple of Sunshine Mary comments:
“However we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians… But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual bondage and submission games, along with very common rape fantasies.”

“BDSM seems to be… primarily a creation of the West. Women do not need a BDSM style subculture when they are already placed in an inferior station by the mainstream culture. Only when unbound in the overall culture do they begin to express their submissive tendencies in a deviant manner. Once a cultural pathologization of submission occurs, it is expressed in a warped, twisted fashion. …Women being satisfied by their men are not likely to have this issue.”

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See, what I contend sets sex apart from bowling is that it is the strongest potential source of physical good feelings. That's what makes it the ideal activity to link your highest mental good feelings onto - put together you can experience the most possible good feelings as a whole person.

 

I see. I hadn't expected any resistance to the idea that sex and bowling were not fundamentally different. Back when we were discussing polyamory, someone here (Eioul?) linked to a blog called “the thinking asexual” which basically followed the idea of taking romance (there including both dominance and exclusivity) out of sexual relationships, to say this:

“People who have sexual friendships… have a friendship exactly like any other, where they hang out for fun, trust each other, like each other as people, make each other happy, etc and the sex is just one more thing they do together, no different than playing video games or shopping or watching movies.

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I didn’t say self-esteem had nothing to do with sex.

Oh, yeah, I know what you meant with self-esteem, thanks for the clarification either way. I just think if it's true, it implies that women need to fit a whole different standard of virtue than men. What does it say for pride if, by nature as a woman, you need your romantic partner to be better than you? Pride would only get in the way. Not men being better at some things, but better at being virtuous even!

That whole Branden quote doesn't make any effort at a normative theory of sex at all. Yes, you can derive an ought from an is, but it looks like he stated what a man looks like physiologically and SOMEHOW concluded that a man has greater control over pleasure (he doesn't), as well as said "penetration" as though we should already know why it is essential. We already know Rand speaks of the psychological importance of sex, but I need a reasoned out explanation as to why penetration is more important and is so important.

Peikoff does similar. He points out a physiological distinction, then out of no where he talks about penetration as though it is obvious that what makes it sex. I explained why it doesn't make sense. How does "being penetrated" make anyone passive anyway? I could imagine many ways with penetration that a woman is able to be as active as a man. I'd say even Rand's fiction contradicts her own position, especially in scenes like Dagny and Rearden on the train. As a bare-bones description of Rand's view, Peikoff is fine, but I'm not aware of any more explanation as to the justification to a normative theory between males and females in sex.

Actually, I lean towards saying BDSM is not acceptable. I only wanted to leave it aside as a possible borderline case, get us to stay away from -specific- acts and look at the big picture. I say "lean towards" because I haven't learned enough about it to know if I should reject it wholesale. I agree with your evaluation of it, though.

"someone here (Eioul?) linked to a blog called “the thinking asexual”"

It was either me or Eponine. It was about relationship anarchy. What it said about sex was my main disagreement about it.

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According to Objectivism, it’s not about “who moves more” or who is “on top”.

Someone already quoted Nathaniel Branden from The Objectivist:

The difference in the male and female sexual roles proceeds from differences in man's and woman's respective anatomy and physiology. Physically, man is the bigger and stronger of the two sexes; his system produces and uses more energy; and he tends (for physiological reasons) to be physically more active. Sexually, his is the more active and dominant role; he has the greater measure of control over his own pleasure and that of his partner; it is he who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated (with everything this entails, physically and psychologically). ... Man experiences the essence of his masculinity in the act of romantic dominance; woman experiences the essence of her femininity in the act of romantic surrender.”

Peikoff also explains in his Love, Sex, and Romance podcast:

“The distinction is entirely in sex, because of the distinction in anatomy, which she attached great importance to, -since it was there, since this is a fact of reality. And to her the male was the initiator because his function was penetration. The woman was the one being penetrated and therefore she was inherently in a passive position. …She attached metaphysical importance to sex, in other words it was more than important to life, it was one of the most vital fundamentals making up a life. Therefore if in the climactic moment of an experience of that kind, one function was to do and the other was to be done to, that to her made an enormous metaphysical difference in the relationship. …it’s from that point of view only that she made that distinction between masculinity and femininity.”

The quotes are rather useless. They boil down to "who moves more" or is "on top", (which you already said this isn't about and would be thwarted anyway by the woman taking the more active role, which I already mentioned) + maybe evolutionary psychology as far as body size mentioning goes (since I know you aren't advocating actual force now and we have weapons to equalize the danger/power playing field for a very long time now anyway and women can be the larger party in sex.) Women can lower themselves onto a stationary man's penis when sex involving orifices around penises is being done. Not an uncommon thing. So, could you please provide me what else it is that makes sex inherently male-dominating?

 

I see. I hadn't expected any resistance to the idea that sex and bowling were not fundamentally different. Back when we were discussing polyamory, someone here (Eioul?) linked to a blog called “the thinking asexual” which basically followed the idea of taking romance (there including both dominance and exclusivity) out of sexual relationships, to say this:

“People who have sexual friendships… have a friendship exactly like any other, where they hang out for fun, trust each other, like each other as people, make each other happy, etc and the sex is just one more thing they do together, no different than playing video games or shopping or watching movies.

I consider that highest source of physical pleasure thing to be of *huge* importance. It's a matter of it being self-sacrificial to use sex for other purposes. I actually don't think bowling, shopping, and such are really primarily a form of physical pleasure either. Massages, roller coasters, these are more of what I had in mind as other physical pleasure sources. You could try to put limits on who you would bowl, shop and such with, but it still wouldn't be an especially integrated mind and body, whole-person pleasure experience.

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If it's true, it implies that women need to fit a whole different standard of virtue than men. ... Not men being better at some things, but better at being virtuous even!

 

I don’t think it would mean there's a different standard of virtue, and neither did Rand. In fact she specifically said otherwise. Where are you getting that men are “more virtuous” and “better at being virtuous” from?

From About A Woman President:

“Admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value judgments… Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack. ...Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such."

Your position is making more sense to me now too, that you agree “you can derive an ought from an is”, and aren’t against the idea that there could be “a normative theory”, but you don’t think anyone has made a case well. It’s definitely a valid criticism that Branden/Peikoff’s statements make big jumps and take for granted agreement on things that are disputed now (such as: “he talks about penetration as though it is obvious that’s what makes it sex” and “as though we should already know why it is essential”). I wouldn’t say they’re “useless”, but these descriptions definitely are bare bones, only enough to get the general idea. I wonder if anyone else has developed the theory. I haven’t run across much, and I’m not sure yet how I’d make a more complete argument.

Also I do agree it’s legitimate to be able to disagree with: “sex is just one more thing they do together” on the basis bluecherry gave: that “it is the strongest source of physical pleasure”, which makes it “the ideal activity to link your highest feelings to”. That works.

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The basic problem with the dominant-submissive view is that it is not a generalization which can be properly induced from reality, i.e., by integrating all relevant particulars which one knows, including the context of real women who cannot achieve orgasms through penetration alone.

At the time that this view was presented by Nathaniel Branden in the February 1969 issue of The Objectivist in the article Self-Esteem & Romantic Love:
1. The topic of sex was not as openly discussed in the culture, particularly by women, as it is today.
2. No anonymous surveys were being taken among women enabling them to freely disclose their experience with sex: did they enjoy it, and if not, why?
3. Not many professionals in clinical psychology were encouraging their female patients to be uninhibited about sex: did they enjoy it, and if not, why?
4. And given 3, there was little to no exposure in the media for research, if any, carried out in clinical psychology on how women generally felt about sex.

Given all of the above, it was not well-known at that time that most women had a problem achieving an orgasm through penetration alone.

Instead, it was naturally assumed that penetrative sex usually led to the man giving himself and the woman an orgasm.

But now that we know most women do have a problem, it becomes difficult to base this view on an inductive process, which requires considering all possible cases (and not just the unusual ones), known to the inducer, before forming a generalization.

In other words, if Branden had known in 1969 that most women had a problem, I doubt this view would have been written as-is in The Objectivist.

Edited by rameshkaimal

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I've never understood Rand/Branden's argument for masculinity/femininity.  Men penetrate and women are penetrated during sex (sometimes), therefore what?  How is this supposed to translate into personality traits exactly -- by what actual, earthly mechanism?

 

My young daughter does not yet understand that her role -- if she chooses this role for herself, or however else it is we suppose that sexual orientation develops -- is "to be penetrated."  So as her personality develops through childhood, how is she supposed to learn to be properly submissive and hero-worshiping, with no particular knowledge of this sexual mechanism?  How will she know that she is to reject the Presidency, on account of her gender?  Will these kinds of insights suddenly crash in on her, once she understands the potential sexual function of her vagina?  Or is it more of a slow realization sort of thing, as "men" like Alfa slap her around in the bedroom and expect her to enjoy it?

 

But suppose that's not her takeaway at all?  Suppose she comes to understand how a penis and vagina operate together during certain forms of sex, but finds this unconvincing as a reason why she should be/behave/feel in any particular way, re: the Presidency, or relationships, or being slapped, or however else people here believe this gender dichotomy ought to apply to personality or behavior?  And if she does feel differently than some commentators here believe that she "should" -- what then?  How exactly does her life suffer, for failing to conform to what her vagina should supposedly imply about her career interests, her relationships, and so forth?

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In fact she specifically said otherwise. Where are you getting that men are “more virtuous” and “better at being virtuous” from?

That's the contradiction. It's Rand's inconsistency. If a woman is an intellectual and moral equal of a man, she has no greater need to seek an object of worship than a man. In an abstract sense, worship is fine if we mean admiration of virtue, which is something all people ought to do. I understand that Rand is referring to a psychological dynamic, so she is probably thinking of masculinity as a subset of what can be worshipped while also only something women should worship. That wouldn't diminish a woman's virtue, as she still is only choosing to admire something that uniquely contributes to a woman's sexual experience.

But what is it about masculinity? It is control and ability to achieve what you want. That itself is good, that sense of dominance is fantastic. But it's also what virtue consists of. An independent, rational, prideful person is exactly that without regard for gender. To be sure, that should be worshipped. Yet Rand concludes in that essay that a woman can't be properly president because there is no one to worship - she'd lack a superior to look up to. So, somehow, a woman must always be less independent and virtous than at least one person. She'd have independence, yes, but it's still less than her love interest's independence. To be a good leader demands impeccable virtue without a need to bow down to anyone. In the end, Rand seems to say all people should strive for that unconquerable moral standing, and then that a woman shouldn't be at such moral standing.

Imagine an unconquerable woman. Rand would say no such woman is going to be happy. Part of Rand's M/F dynamic is an unconquerable man who conquers a woman so strong that she seems unconquerable. That assumes a man is able to be truly unconquerable, a moral hero, while a woman is not able to be unconquerable and happy - her sexual pleasure as a consequence is also reduced.

Would two unconquerable people have a great sexual relationship? Yes! I claim that it's in fact superior to one where the "balance of power" is asymmetrical. Part of my reasoning goes to the start of the thread: by looking at how sex works, the nature of sex, an M/F dynamic doesn't fit. Post #72 is actually a good explanation of why it doesn't fit in my view.

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In other words, if Branden had known in 1969 that most women had a problem [achieving an orgasm through penetration alone], I doubt this view would have been written as-is in The Objectivist.

Did Rand or Branden mention orgasms as part of the basis for their view, or are you assuming they mean orgasms? [sorry if you've already quoted something relevant, but I haven't read all the posts in this thread.]

Edited by softwareNerd

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