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Gender Roles In Sex: A Fresh Perspective

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I agree.

For instance, I have asked proponents of this Rand/Branden theory about how a young girl, who does not necessarily understand how a penis and vagina function together in sex, is to develop a properly submissive personality.

Under the terms of the typical hypothesis, that's an easy answer: it's biological, and she really does not have to make a decision. Also, organisms do not always stick to an inherited script. So, explaining away exceptions is also easy under the terms of the "nature hypothesis".

The part that is difficult is showing evidence for the hypothesis. And, I think the typical unspoken idea is that male/female role are so widespread, across cultures etc.; but that's confounded by the fact that male/female non-sexual roles have a similar pattern. I assume there must be some studies, which at least take a stab at the topic.

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Under the terms of the typical hypothesis, that's an easy answer: it's biological, and she really does not have to make a decision. Also, organisms do not always stick to an inherited script. So, explaining away exceptions is also easy under the terms of the "nature hypothesis".

 

That's certainly one possible answer, that it's simple biology and we don't need to decide anything, we just are (in terms of gender-specific characteristics/personality) as we were born to be... but then it becomes susceptible to my critique that this runs directly against Rand's essay on racism, and more generally against the idea of people being born "tabula rasa."

 

Furthermore, once we suppose that each gender has an "inherited script," in terms of character (i.e. dominant or submissive), then I see nothing to stop us from supposing that races may also have such a script, or even that any individual has a script which lays out his personality to whatever degree.  Further-furthermore, if we presume an "inherited script" explanation, where "exceptions" are equally natural deviations from that script, then there can be no question of the morality or rationality of such exceptions.  We are not ultimately accountable to the "nature" of man, as such, or our gender, or our race, or anything other than our individual selves.

 

But I was under the impression that some here like splitprimary were claiming that the Rand/Branden theory holds that this is not an "inherited script," per se, but a ("rational") psychological reaction to having different physical architecture, as here:

 

I think that the claim about gender and psychology here is not one of content, of there being innate or determined "convictions, values, and character" (all of which would Rand would say have to be formed, volitionally, and can be chosen correctly or incorrectly, in accordance with one's nature or in opposition to it). Rather, it is exactly the deeper kind of claim about the "cognitive apparatus" itself differing (in certain respects) between men and women.

Certainly this could still be wrong; you may violently disagree with such an idea, but it would put it in a different category than racism, according to her classification.

 

Meaning (insofar as I understand it, though I am open to correction) that men and women have different physical architecture (which is true) and therefore, in light of those differences, it is rational for them to develop distinct psychologies (by making choices "correctly or incorrectly, in accordance with one's [physical] nature or in opposition to it").

 

So the specific proposed application for this theory is that, because penises "penetrate" while vaginas "are penetrated," it (somehow) makes sense for men to be "dominant" and women to be "submissive," whatever concrete attributes or manifestations those labels are somehow held to include (like rejecting the Presidency).  I don't think this succeeds in being anything other than racism/sexism by other means, and I don't think it's a sensible theory on its own merits, but that's what I believe the claim to be.

 

Taking it on face value, for this not to be "an innate script," it would seem to me that this would rely on men having the knowledge that theirs is to penetrate, and on women having the knowledge that theirs is to be penetrated, that would lead to this variant in fundamental psychology.

 

But young boys and girls don't necessarily understand the "meaning" of their physical architecture.  For after all, the vagina of a young girl does not whisper to her in her sleep, telling her that she must one day "submit" -- does it?  So absent this knowledge, how is a young girl, as she grows through her formative years and into adolescence, to know that she must be fundamentally submissive?  When she's asked what she wants to be when she grows up, how is she to know that "President" is an irrational answer, not yet knowing that men will be (somehow) responsible for her sexual pleasure, whatever that means (or even, strictly speaking, all of what "sexual pleasure" entails)?

 

Or is it that when she's sixteen, or however old, and loses her virginity... is it at that point when insight suddenly floods her soul?  And now she knows that her ambition to one day be President is wrong of her, per her nature, because... because... the penis goes inside...?

 

But suppose, in youthful ignorance of the role that her gender has laid out for her, that she initiated her first sexual encounter, and sees herself as not so much "being penetrated," but "enveloping"?  Does that lead to the same place, qua psychology?  Or is she now and forevermore hopelessly perverted contra her nature "as a woman"?

 

Or suppose that she attributes no special meaning to the physical specifics of how penis and vagina cooperate during sex?  (Or is it irrational of her to view it as a "cooperation" at all?  Would it be better for her -- more instructive in terms of gender roles and subsequent psychology -- to be raped?)

 

Or suppose that she is a lesbian?  Are lesbians exempted from needing to feel submissive, in light of the fact that they are not (necessarily) penetrated by penises?  Or have we already given up on her, if she identifies as a lesbian, because her fundamental nature is somehow corrupt?  (If not, if it is possible to be a rational lesbian, can lesbians then rationally be President, as opposed to heterosexual women?  That would be an interesting development!)

 

I... I'm struggling to represent this fairly, because it seems so Byzantine and so contrived and so ridiculous to me.  Which is why I want a true believer to take up the argument, so that it can be fairly explored, without my needing to describe a position I know I can't help but strawman and even mock.  I would do as well trying to give a full and fair accounting of the Christian "Trinity."  It's just all so nonsensical, so far as I can tell... but I guess if we are to explore such a theory, if it is even worth discussing, then I suppose that someone has to be willing to take up the standard for it.  Or, like the Trinity, is believing in this gender role stuff just a matter of faith?

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Tabula rasa for Rand applies to knowledge, so it's not a violation to say that gender roles grow from biological needs for reproduction or anything else. It's a subtle thing, like how a bee is tabula rasa but we can still say its behavior originates somewhere besides (conceptual) cognition. Besides, Rand is making a claim that by nature a woman ought to make certain choices, and if that nature is a consequence of biology, it's no issue. All that needs to be said is that it's possible to know one's psychological nature by experience. To develop the right psychology takes awareness and experience. It's nothing different than knowing our nature as people. The only issue with Rand's M/F theory is that I can't see how any of it is validated with reality. Or how it has well-defined essentials.
 

Or is it that when she's sixteen, or however old, and loses her virginity... is it at that point when insight suddenly floods her soul?  And now she knows that her ambition to one day be President is wrong of her, per her nature, because... because... the penis goes inside...?

Rand made no claims that induction applies like that. It's not a claim about "immediate knowing", just that by applying reason with observations, we'd be able to know. So that teenager would have to have sex more, and in different ways, and look into how sex works physiologically, to validate for herself. It's the same way you personally can say you know anything about sex. But I don't know how in fact Rand's observations are any good. Part of the discussion here, earlier on especially, is that her and her supporters' observations used just don't hold up.

If you want to wrap your head around all this, it's a matter of following logic supposing that penetration is fundamental to sex. It's easy to develop a theory about a power dynamic from there. The reason it starts to look silly is because if you don't see penetration as an essential of sex, or don't see it as a basis for a metaphysical distinction between male and female which leads to distinct psychology, is because, well... nothing holds the view together.

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Tabula rasa for Rand applies to knowledge, so it's not a violation to say that gender roles grow from biological needs for reproduction or anything else. It's a subtle thing, like how a bee is tabula rasa but we can still say its behavior originates somewhere besides (conceptual) cognition.

 

I had asked those who subscribe to or advocate for Rand's theory how a young girl is to learn to be "submissive," or take on that psychology, and softwareNerd replied that it is easily answered per proponents of these gender theories -- that it is "biological," and that she has "an inherited script."

 

Here is Rand on "tabula rasa":

 

At birth, a child’s mind is tabula rasa; he has the potential of awareness—the mechanism of a human consciousness—but no content. Speaking metaphorically, he has a camera with an extremely sensitive, unexposed film (his conscious mind), and an extremely complex computer waiting to be programmed (his subconscious). Both are blank. He knows nothing of the external world. He faces an immense chaos which he must learn to perceive by means of the complex mechanism which he must learn to operate.

 

Also:

 

Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

 

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both.

 

Okay.  So if we take this all as true, then a girl is born with no knowledge about having a vagina, or what that supposedly portends for her, and thus she cannot yet properly value submissiveness, or reject the Presidency as a value, if those are held somehow to follow.  Indeed, she may go through childhood and early adolescence, developing values and character as people do, without taking on the least bit of "submissiveness," or having any reason to do so.  I would say that this rules out "an inherited script" as the proffered easy explanation for this imagined gender dichotomy.

 

That was my point.

 

Besides, Rand is making a claim that by nature a woman ought to make certain choices, and if that nature is a consequence of biology, it's no issue. All that needs to be said is that it's possible to know one's psychological nature by experience. To develop the right psychology takes awareness and experience. It's nothing different than knowing our nature as people. The only issue with Rand's M/F theory is that I can't see how any of it is validated with reality. Or how it has well-defined essentials.

 

I struggle to make sense of this paragraph, except "the only issue with Rand's M/F theory is that [you] can't see how any of it is validated with reality, or how it has well-defined essentials"?

 

To me that's like saying, "it was a fine meal, except that it was poorly cooked, made with the wrong ingredients, and gave me food sickness, and I died."  I don't think that's a fine meal.

 

This theory is wrong.  That may or may not be all that it is, with respect to consistency with other aspects of Objectivism or psychology, but it's enough.

 

Rand made no claims that induction applies like that. It's not a claim about "immediate knowing", just that by applying reason with observations, we'd be able to know. So that teenager would have to have sex more, and in different ways, and look into how sex works physiologically, to validate for herself. It's the same way you personally can say you know anything about sex. But I don't know how in fact Rand's observations are any good. Part of the discussion here, earlier on especially, is that her and her supporters' observations used just don't hold up.

If you want to wrap your head around all this, it's a matter of following logic supposing that penetration is fundamental to sex. It's easy to develop a theory about a power dynamic from there. The reason it starts to look silly is because if you don't see penetration as an essential of sex, or don't see it as a basis for a metaphysical distinction between male and female which leads to distinct psychology, is because, well... nothing holds the view together.

 

Again, it's just hard for me to follow you.  But as I think about this teenager having sex more, I still don't see how or why she's going to change the personality she's developed in the submissive manner suggested, or why she should (why it would be "rational" for her to do so), and especially leading to any final concrete outcome like, "I used to want to be President, when I was young, but now... I don't know... having sex has helped me to realize that I would be really uncomfortable being in charge like that.  I would have no one left to worship!"

 

I respect Rand generally as a thinker... I mean, I hold no one higher in my esteem in that capacity, but this -- I don't see it at all.  I don't understand where it comes from.  I don't think it holds up to scrutiny, or to experience, and I don't think it demonstrates the same respect for the careful work of philosophy that I find characterizes her other writing.  When I read her essay on a female President initially, years and years ago, I categorized it as, "not making sense to me yet, to be revisited later."  Now that it is much later, and having revisited it many times, and having dated much more, had much more sex, having married a wife and having had a (female) child, I'm just at the point of saying that it does not make sense.

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In Post #37, in paragraph #3, I had stated the following:

"It's disastrous to prescribe normative generalizations in sex because such universals ignore the specific contexts of individual couples. It's what leads to intrinsicism in sex. In this respect, sex is not like philosophy. In philosophy, a generalization such as reason is Man's basic means of survival can be induced from reality by first observing how actual men (and women) use reason to survive and then omitting the individual measurements (or contexts) altogether."

I have been thinking some more about the fundamental difference between philosophy and sex and wanted to write about it here.

Philosophy is defined as the study of the fundamental nature of reality, of Man, and of Man’s relationship to reality. So it’s the only science in human knowledge that deals with the broadest abstractions possible.

In contrast, psychology (regardless of how closely it is related to philosophy), is a special science, and special sciences, unlike philosophy, study only specific aspects of reality, or of Man. As examples, physics studies matter, which is a specific aspect of the universe, economics studies production and trade, which is a specific aspect of society (or Man in a social context), psychology studies consciousness, which is a specific aspect of Man, and sexual psychology studies sex in relation to consciousness, which are again, specific aspects of Man.

But consciousness as such is an attribute of the individual, and individuals are not interchangeable in reality. This means there will always be real differences between the minds of individuals. Differences not necessarily due to errors of knowledge or evasions of reality. But differences in content and/or method.

Furthermore, since sex is one of the most selfish acts a person can perform (selfless sex is a contradiction in terms), being selfish in sex invariably means being an individual with specific standards and preferences which will influence what one does in sex and how one does it.

Given the above, one cannot approach sexual psychology the way one approaches philosophy and attempt to discover fundamental truths in it which apply to all men and/or women.

As an example, in philosophy, the fundamental truth that reason is Man's basic means of survival is valid for both savages as well as civilized humans. In fact, if savages were not using reason at all, they would not have lived long enough to leave behind progeny whose descendants eventually became civilized enough to discover the role of reason in human life.

In contrast, in sexual psychology, a generalization (or truth) that sex makes possible psycho-sexual visibility would apply only in a certain context, i.e., where one knows one's values and experiences sex as an expression of those values. So such a truth would not apply to a savage who sees sex as a means to satisfy a physical need. Given his intellectual development, what he gets from sex is right for his context. Likewise, the same truth would not apply to a teenager who sees casual sex as a way to gain sexual experience. Given his sexual development, what he gets from sex is right for his context.

To see why an attempt to discover fundamental truths in sex is not such a good idea, consider how such an approach was used by Branden to present the dominant-submissive view (See Post #47):

In his article, Branden focuses on penetrative sex as a primary aspect of sexual intercourse and forms a heterosexual metaphysics (so to speak) made up of the following fundamentals:
1. it's the man who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated.
2. it's the man who has a greater measure of control over his own sexual pleasure and over the sexual pleasure of the woman.
3. it's the man who has an active and dominant role.

The problem with fundamentals # 1 & 2 of such a metaphysics is that it clashes with an empirical fact which was discovered much later, namely, most women are unable to get an orgasm through penetration alone. This means in such a context, though the man can still be said to have a greater measure of control over his own sexual pleasure it would be rather difficult to see him as having a greater measure of control over the sexual pleasure of the woman.

The problem with fundamental # 3 of such a metaphysics is that it clashes with an essential aspect of sex, namely, the sexual standards and preferences of its participants. This means even if the empirical fact mentioned above did not exist, i.e., most women were able to get an orgasm through penetration alone, if a given man chose not to see himself as a dominant partner but as a partner-in-sex, it is his choice, based on his own sexual standards and preferences, which would (and should) take precedence over any fundamental of such a metaphysics.

Meanwhile, there's a view that since evolution has naturally selected the male orgasm (but not the female orgasm) as it is associated with procreation and the eventual survival of the human species, one should accept such selection as a metaphysical given and see the man as sexually "superior" to the woman.

This is a fallacious view because it fails to recognize that Man is the highest living organism in the evolutionary chain, given that he has free will and a rational faculty.

In other words, Man, unlike the higher animals, does not adapt himself to nature. Instead he reshapes nature in the image of his own values.

So if evolution has not naturally selected the female orgasm, a couple can overcome nature by working together to achieve mutual sexual pleasure, i.e., by choosing to rationally pursue their own happiness in sex.

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a different cognitive apparatus available means different standards... Rand bases virtue on a cognitive apparatus that's core to all people. But then violates it when stating her M/F views, in a subtle way. She doesn't follow through with the ideas to note the division means differing virtue.

 

I agree. That has been my criticism too, she was not consistent.

She says in About A Woman President that femininity: “colors her attitude toward all men" and "means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs... a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother—or leader”, and that no rational woman would want to be president. But the Objectivist position everywhere else seems to be that gender roles don't affect anything but sex.

Peikoff said: “The distinction is entirely in sex… it’s from that point of view only that she made that distinction”.

In the Playboy interview Rand stated: "What is proper for a man is proper for a woman", "There is no particular work which is specifically feminine. Women can choose their work... in the same manner as men do."

And her female protagonists exhibited femininity only in relation to the heroes, in the context of their romantic relationships. Otherwise, they were no different than the men.

Descriptions of Dagny say she was:

-“unfeminine, as if she were unconscious of her own body and that it was a woman’s body.”

-“it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful”

-“She was astonished again, when she saw Dagny dressed for the party… Mrs. Taggart had expected her to look like a preposterous contrast.”

And Gail describes love as “exception-making” in The Fountainhead, saying of Dominique that the idea of her being dominated was:

“the impossible, the inconceivable for [her] in [her] relations with people… the one great exception”

So clearly this was not something that was carried through in the style of Rand’s ideal women more generally; they did not project femininity normally, for them it was an *exception*. It was compartmentalized and didn't affect their value systems or decisions.

To me this seems tragic. If Objectivism stresses the importance of sex+romance in that it is the activity/context in which men and women most strongly experience the essence of their identity, it does not seem consistent with a benevolent sense of life to treat this as “the abnormal exception in human life”, rather than as “the constant and normal”.

And if it would be "an excruciating psychological torture" requiring "a total depersonalization, an utter selflessness", and "suppress[ion] (or repress[ion])" of "every personal aspect of her own character and attitude", for a woman to have "to act as the superior, the leader, virtually the ruler of all the man she deals with", I see no reason to think this would not apply to a lesser degree to roles in which a woman had to act as a leader in relation to -most- of the men she deals with. I am with most Objectivists who say they see nothing particularly special about the presidency that makes it so different from other positions in government, or from leadership roles in a private company. I just go for consistency in the other direction.

“It implies that women need to fit a whole different standard of virtue than men.”

-There is a lot that's universal to all humans. The differences between men and women I think count, and do affect things, but they are minor. Recognizing differences would still leave a lot of values/virtues unaffected. It's not like all of Objectivist ethics would be out the window or anything.

 

That's Rand's own weakness of her personal psychology if it's true.

 

Good, yes I think it is either the case that she was right about femininity as such and then "an interest like this in a woman is itself evidence of psychological dysfunction", -or- that she had some kind of defect she was projecting onto others.

I can verify her claims about the nature of women introspectively, but it's plausible that I simply have the same pathology. If I do, this would be an important thing to determine and address, as it concerns my own happiness; it wouldn't necessarily have anything to do with other people or a desire to feel superior.

If the "standard view is bad for any person's life... it makes sex worse, compared to the alternative view presented", sticking with that would mean missing out on a more optimal sex life and making the wrong career decisions, for example- by accepting some "arbitrary" and "prefabricated viewpoint... from the culture or society". That would certainly not be "a very rational or self-serving thing to do”

.

On the other hand, if Rand was right and this actually is how women are by nature, in terms of biology and psychology, then it ultimately can't be changed, and taking advice to "experiment" and going off to run a railroad or a country, could only be destructive.

 

Her personality isn't even the sort described by her theory. Nor did she live submissive to any extent. In bed maybe, but I doubt even that.

 

To some extent I think she was feminine by her own standard. There is some evidence that suggests her gender theory was in effect in her personal life, but it’s hard to tell for sure.

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I just go for consistency in the other direction.

Well then you've made my point about the view you're supporting: it requires separate virtues for men and women. A different apparatus means different standards. But that contradicts the whole foundation Rand has to conclude there are ways all people need to act in order to be moral! She didn't posit just some set of overlapping virtues, but identical sets of virtue due to the same apparatus. The ethics would be out the window if you accept any differences of virtue because they're inter-dependent virtues. Separate "spheres" of morality that may overlap take over.

So I have to ask: which virtues are different? If there are no virtue differences, you've already contradicted yourself that there are any relevant differences to virtue. The whole M/F thing depends on seeing virtue in others, so if virtues are the same, then there is no relevant difference for sex in terms of virtue. Now, the whole penetration thing alters -how- virtue is made visible, probably, but it seems to me that since it's not even the best way for women especially, there's nothing left for the M/F view.

 

If Objectivism stresses the importance of sex+romance in that it is the activity/context in which men and women most strongly experience the essence of their identity, it does not seem consistent with a benevolent sense of life to treat this as “the abnormal exception in human life”, rather than as “the constant and normal”

It means that the so-called essence really isn't actually essential. ;) Besides, it's not an exception to be one way during sex and another outside of sex. Different contexts make your character traits play out differently despite identical standards of action in all contexts. This part isn't a problem to me for even the opposing view.

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Good, yes I think it is either the case that she was right about femininity as such and then "an interest like this in a woman is itself evidence of psychological dysfunction", -or- that she had some kind of defect she was projecting onto others.

 

Or that Rand was wrong for generalizing her own psychology to all women (whether descriptive or prescriptive), but possibly not wrong to recognize that she herself was this way and to act accordingly.  I don't know that her experience of "femininity" must necessarily be viewed as a "defect" in any event.  (Or if it is a defect, that it ceases to be one if many women share it.)

Edited by DonAthos

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that contradicts the whole foundation Rand has to conclude there are ways all people need to act in order to be moral! She didn't posit just some set of overlapping virtues, but identical sets

 

I don't think this is any bigger of a problem for me than it is for any of the subjectivists here. There would still be universal principles having to do with human beings as rational animals, but they would apply differently. It would be part of having "different context". I think everyone would agree there are a lot of ways we legitimately take our own biology/psychology into account when making decisions. Only while they're saying everything is different for -individuals- ("there will always be real differences between the minds of individuals… one cannot…attempt to discover fundamental truths which apply to all men and/or women"); I'm saying there are at least trends.

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What is this whole shebang based on anyway?

 

We've got introspection from a few people that amounts to "sounds like what I like" which is countered by introspection from others that amounts to "doesn't sound like what I like." Not unanimous even in this small a sample pool means it would be absurdly hasty to use that alone as an argument for how pretty much all of humanity is/should be. Next argument, this one's dead.

 

Now we have statistical claims. The statistics are not well controlled and documented and subject to all kinds of bias in sampling and recollection. However, even aside from such problems, the statistics being strongly in favor of people being some way could prove nada anyway as far as actual nature and shoulds. If most humans believed in an "afterlife", really felt like they had an immortal something in them, that doesn't make them correct or the belief good or part of human nature. If even every single last male in the world loved football but one, that in and of itself proves nothing detrimental to the life of that one guy paying no attention to football because he doesn't find it so enthralling. Next argument, this one's dead too.

 

Now there's a little evolution maybe, but we all know evolutionary psychology is junk and it still doesn't address what would be so bad for somebody who doesn't follow its alleged conclusions. Moving on.

 

Now there's some penis in vagina mumbo jumbo alleging aaaaaaaaall kinds of things. I've seen better bullshitting in last minute freshman English papers. This one claims to be about logic, about the law of identity. We all know why those actually matter. But the specifics of this alleged law of identity argument? Who is in control during sex, capable of influencing generation of pleasure more? Males or females, both are equally capable of this. That depends on who moves more and one can or the other can or they both can equally. Who physically moves first? Either males or females. A male can lower himself down into a female or a female can lower herself down around the male. No mention why only vaginal intercourse is discussed anyway. We know this isn't about making babies, the one unique capacity of vaginal intercourse among all sexual acts. Further, it is asserted that who is moving how, when, and how much has not only implications for that couple outside of sex, but in damn near everything a person does, especially if it involves any random members of the opposite sex and specific implications at that. "A woman can't lead men in sex (yes, she can) therefore she shouldn't lead men in other ways, at least not leading all of them as president or being leading or even on an equal footing with a male romantic partner." Why? Because sex is super important relating to our identities or something like that you say? That's nonsequitur. At best, that's point B you're giving me and we are trying to get all the way to point Z. I'm going to try to make a guess at point C from the presidency comments. Point C is there's interference with sexual functioning/psychology if a female isn't submissive to the male sexual partner. How? Sex doesn't inherently involve the male in control, but even if it did, what then? I have full confidence that if it's necessary for somebody to take charge in a particular situation where otherwise two people are on an even footing, the two can work it out fine. If there were two friends and one was a dentist and the other needed a tooth pulled, the dentist could do what he had to do and the other would let him. People are very good at recognizing and heeding different necessities of different contexts. So what then? Is the next argument, "but sex is different!"? If so, how? In what relevant way? What makes sex require leadership at all times to accept leadership during it when other stuff doesn't work like that? What's the rest of the points to get to Z? The trail runs cold.

 

Furthermore, as a point on the weakness of the reasoning of the "intercourse implying male dominance" argument, I present the equally well supported following alternative line of reasoning: Females have more sexually sensitive areas on their body and thus are inherently more sexual by nature. Their more sexual nature makes them the proper leaders in sex. Et cetera, presidency, et cetera, et cetera. (Poor argument? Highly flawed? Yup, it is. So is the male dominance argument here, but people still keep trying to champion that one anyway, unlike this one.)

Edited by bluecherry

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I don't think this is any bigger of a problem for me than it is for any of the subjectivists here.

 

Oh goodness.

 

"Vanilla is the superior flavor of ice-cream!  All who prefer chocolate are irrational!"

 

"Uhm... I think that individual people have different tastes in ice-cream, and that this is okay..."

 

"Subjectivist!!!!!"

 

Alleging that different individuals have differing tastes, not alone in food but also in terms of "sense-of-life," including art, job preferences, and (yes) romantic partners, is not subjectivism.  It is a recognition of the fact of difference among individuals.  Pretending that these differences do not exist in reality would be dropping relevant context and ignoring important information.

 

Given these differences in terms of "psychology" or "sense of life," we can still ask where they come from (though we know we're not "born with them," strictly speaking; "tabula rasa"), and we can still ask what we should do with them (should homosexuals attend camps to try to become heterosexual?), but we must first recognize that these differences exist.

 

Thereafter, if someone wants to allege that "women being on top during intercourse is irrational," because "submissive," because "vagina" -- somehow -- then fine.  But the argument must actually then be made and withstand scrutiny and so forth.  Disagreeing with your conclusion, however you believe you've come to that conclusion, and observing that you've made no argument (or no good argument), and saying in contrast that rational people can have sex in different ways according to their personal preferences is not subjectivism.

 

Only while they're saying everything is different for -individuals- ("there will always be real differences between the minds of individuals… one cannot…attempt to discover fundamental truths which apply to all men and/or women"); I'm saying there are at least trends.

 

One of the things I respect about you, splitprimary, is how you identified (with great justice, I believe), that the Rand/Branden argument, consistently applied, implicates not only the US Presidency as being inappropriate for a rational woman, but all forms of "leadership," to some greater or lesser extent.

 

And so I wonder, given the intellectual honesty and fearlessness that demonstrates to me (for I believe it does)...  I've brought it up a few times, and not alone in this thread, but it almost always goes unaddressed....

 

Given that the above suggests that you believe it proper to "attempt to discover fundamental truths which apply to all men and/or women," would you think it likewise proper in this same fashion to attempt to discover fundamental truths which apply to all members of various races?  If so, how should one go about it?  If not, why not?  What's the difference?

 

As for recognizing "trends," we might find more common ground there, but then we are still faced with the questions I'd identified before -- where do they come from?  what do we do with it?  If, for instance, I were to say that "many women prefer the color pink," and if we were to agree that this is the case, I would yet think it arguable that there are various possible reasons to explain this phenomenon outside of biology or some kind of "natural psychology," and that the next step is not to pronounce women who do not necessarily like pink "irrational."  Someone might try to say, "it is natural for women to prefer pink, because that's the color of their vagina!"  But I don't know how far such an argument would get, or how much scrutiny it would withstand, among rational people.

Edited by DonAthos

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I don't think this is any bigger of a problem for me than it is for any of the subjectivists here.

Not sure where you're getting a vibe of subjectivism, the dispute is over what standards should be used regarding judging sex or discussing its purpose. Of course there are other and numerous facts about our biology or psychology to consider, but that doesn't mean there are different virtues. If their virtues are the same, then sex shares the same standards for either gender. If being male or female is a metaphysical difference of fundamental psychological consequences, then there are different virtues. That means sex would serve different ends, but then so would everything worth moral evaluation anyway.

As I was saying way earlier, gender seems to matter as much as height in sex: it alters your technique, not the purpose of sex or what sex provides ideally. Different body parts = different possible techniques and positions. The whole M/F thing suggests it alters how sexual pleasure works, not just technique. It makes it so a man provides the pleasure, that the pleasure derives from his actions alone. M/F says the difference is even more fundamental than altering technique. I'd say the big paragraph in Bluecherry's post addresses this from a similar angle as me.

 

I'm saying there are at least trends.

Yes, trends exist, but that was never in dispute.

 

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In "The Objectivist Ethics" Rand describes the fundamental principle of morality as life as the standard of value, and this principle is based on the nature of man - specifically his fundamental nature as a living organism. Rand then goes beyond this most fundamental aspect of man's nature - she specifically says it's not strictly man's physical survival as a biological organism, but rather the standard of life *qua man*:
 
"Such is the meaning of the definition: that which is required for man’s survival qua man. It does not mean a momentary or a merely physical survival."
 
If you take a simple, essential definition of man as a rational animal, it's his rational species that she emphasizes the most - the standard of life *qua man* means the proper terms, methods, conditions and goals of a rational being
 
"“Man’s survival qua man” means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice."
 
Rand is stating that the most fundamental moral principle is based on the most fundamental nature of man as a living organism - and more generally about "qua man", she's identifying another defining aspect of his nature, this one the most differentiating, his rationality, as also being essential to the standard of morality. There are further aspects of man's nature which I think she would agree are also essential to the standard of life qua man. In particular, his immediate genus, in this definition, his animality. In other words, man is not a floating mind, he actually has a body, and that nature of that body is relevant to his standard of morality. So for example, I think we can speak objectively about the values of food, water, shelter, etc. If certain animal needs aren't satisfied, man is not going to be happy or healthy, he's not going to exercising the proper goals, tasks, behavior, etc, that are relevant to the standard of life qua man. The principles of the function follow the principles of the form. Specifically I'm stating that the principles of morality - the normative function which is the standard to which our volition is measured - follows from the form of man - the nature of his identity.
 
I'm reminded of Roark's quote in regard to the principles of building a building: "The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose."
 
Here's another Fountainhead quote along that same line: "The relation of masses was determined by the distribution of space within. The ornament was determined by the method of construction, an emphasis of the principle that makes it stand. You can see each stress, each support that meets it."
 
The principles of morality - the standard of life *qua man* - are the same in this sense. Ethical principles follow from, and emphasize, man's form, identity, and metaphysical given nature. In this way, we maximize our life, our happiness - "to realize our nature perfectly". The principles of ethics are meant to guide and define the emphasis and optimization of our volitional choices. The virtue of pride is best described as "moral ambitiousness" for this reason.
 
Specifically, my thesis here is about the basis of moral principles in one's nature - *all* the characteristics of man's nature - not just his survival as a living organism or his rational faculty. And really what I'm trying to cash in on here, is that there are aspects of human nature from which moral principles do follow, and should define the emphasis and optimization of our volitional choices as I've described. Specifically I'm referring to one's sex. I believe that ethical principles, guidelines for emphasis, optimization, beauty, etc, do follow from this important aspect of human nature and identity. These would be like any other aspects of morality, they are not optional, or dependent upon someone's subjective whim. This is an important part of the standard of life *qua man*. They follow my thesis here, that ethical principles do follow from one's nature and identity - so what i'm saying is that the emphasis, the ornament, the shape, the "distribution of masses" and so on, should follow as well. They should be consistently applied principles, including with respect to one's sex - which means the emphasis of masculinity and femininity in this case. Masculinity and femininity should be ethical principles which guide one's volitional choices - and going against those would be immoral.

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so what i'm saying is that the emphasis, the ornament, the shape, the "distribution of masses" and so on, should follow as well. They should be consistently applied principles, including with respect to one's sex - which means the emphasis of masculinity and femininity in this case. Masculinity and femininity should be ethical principles which guide one's volitional choices - and going against those would be immoral.

That's true, but you'd have to first establish that the physical aspects translate to a fundamental psychological difference.

 

For instance, being allergic apples would impact what choice is rational, i.e. eating apples is irrational. Or to use a sex example, if a person is paralyzed, that impacts the ways to have sex, i.e. the way to get pleasure shifts, so it can't be accomplished as usual. The problem is that neither has a psychological consequence to human nature. M/F is specifically psychological, caused by how, supposedly, women can only get sexual pleasure from men being in charge during sex. That'd certainly lead to a major shift between males and females in sex. But that link isn't real.

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That's true, but you'd have to first establish that the physical aspects translate to a fundamental psychological difference.

 

For instance, being allergic apples would impact what choice is rational, i.e. eating apples is irrational. Or to use a sex example, if a person is paralyzed, that impacts the ways to have sex, i.e. the way to get pleasure shifts, so it can't be accomplished as usual. The problem is that neither has a psychological consequence to human nature. M/F is specifically psychological, caused by how, supposedly, women can only get sexual pleasure from men being in charge during sex. That'd certainly lead to a major shift between males and females in sex. But that link isn't real.

 

The sense of pleasure, beauty, pride, self-esteem, and happiness that proceed from the achievement of one's moral values culminates nowhere greater than in the act of sex itself. In the highest, non-contradictory culmination, the principles of masculinity and femininity, based on one's innate sex, are expressed and emphasized in the act of sex. And in general, these principles should be expressed and emphasized consistently throughout every aspect of one's life - including one's choice of career - and should not be compartmentalized only to sex or romantic relationships, or as an abnormal exception in human life. To the degree one surrenders, renounces, or betrays these principles one is committing an immoral sacrifice.
Edited by epistemologue

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The sense of pleasure, beauty, pride, self-esteem, and happiness that proceed from the achievement of one's moral values culminates nowhere greater than in the act of sex itself. In the highest, non-contradictory culmination, the principles of masculinity and femininity, based on one's innate sex, are expressed and emphasized in the act of sex.

But that's the thing, the whole problem is how you get from a physical difference to a fundamental psychological difference.

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Epist, after talking to you in chat yesterday, I think you're missing why, even if there is a major psychological difference, there needs to be is any alteration to one's focus in sex. All that you said so far before mentioning the M/F stuff is true, but it doesn't show that there are different principles for males and females.

Edited by Eiuol

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Is implies ought. Indeed. Why and how does the is of one's particular sexual organs imply the specific oughts you are in favor of though, epistemologue? All I see for that in your text is "sex is important". All that means though is the oughts involved are important, nothing about what exactly those important oughts are.

Edited by bluecherry

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Is implies ought. Indeed. Why and how does the is of one's particular sexual organs imply the specific oughts you are in favor of though, epistemologue? All I see for that in your text is "sex is important". All that means though is the oughts involved are important, nothing about what exactly those important oughts are.

I think the first step is just to acknowledge that these principles exist. It seems like that's just been missing from the view of the issue, for example:

 

"Partners-in-sex" ... eliminates specific roles based on being male or female. The OP's line about "view himself as a man" doesn't make sense really, it just goes back to the traditional way. Why not "view himself as an individual"? It still captures psycho-sexual visibility rather than shoving in gender identity without any reason to.

Maleness or femaleness ... doesn't prescribe ways a man or woman ought to be during sex ... Gender roles are a myth as far as I'm seeing.

In my post, I explained that "the standard of life qua man", and subsequently the ethical principles guiding our behavior, should include masculinity and femininity. So (1) a view that "eliminates specific roles based on being male or female", or views these roles as a "myth" or as "baseless social norms", would be a bad thing in principle - the principles of masculinity and femininity are prescriptive about the way one ought to be - in sex and in everything else in life; and (2) to "view himself as an individual" instead of to "view himself as man" is missing something important about his nature that should be part of his view of himself - for the same reason that to view one's self purely as a biological organism, or purely as a rational mind is missing important things about one's nature. Gender identity should be an important part of one's "psycho-sexual visibility".

I think it's important to establish this basic idea - that masculinity and femininity are important and necessary aspects that one should see in themselves and their identity, and that one should develop their character to reflect this identity. I think given that we've established that, inquiring further into what is characteristic of masculinity or femininity, in sex or in general in life, is a good next question. For example dominance and submissiveness, as the most essential characteristics of masculinity and femininity respectively, should be developed in one's character and expressed both in sex and in life in general. This is certainly not to say that they should be fetishized into a contradiction of moral or rational virtues, but rather that they should be an integral part of one's character in one who seeks the highest, non-contradictory achievement of their moral perfection, and the incomparable pleasure, beauty, pride, self-esteem, and happiness that proceed from that achievement.

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"I think the first step is just to acknowledge that these principles exist."

Specify what you mean *precisely* by "these principles".

 

"In my post, I explained that 'the standard of life qua man', and subsequently the ethical principles guiding our behavior, should include masculinity and femininity."

You didn't explain, you just asserted.

 

". . . dominance and submissiveness, as the most essential characteristics of masculinity and femininity respectively . . ."

Reason for claiming this to be so?

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stuff

You've answered everything but the issue at stake.

 

Let me put it another way, more directly. 1) What are the principles of M/F - does it differ from the OP or the Peikoff/Branden quotes from earlier? 2) Can you validate or reduce M/F to observations of phenomena in reality? It isn't enough to say "females are penetrated, males penetrate", or to say "principles exist!".

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"In my post, I explained that 'the standard of life qua man', and subsequently the ethical principles guiding our behavior, should include masculinity and femininity."

You didn't explain, you just asserted.

I think my description of how moral principles follow from one's nature in Objectivism is a good explanation of why masculinity and femininity are important. It wasn't "just an assertion".

Edited by epistemologue

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Is implies ought. Indeed. Why and how does the is of one's particular sexual organs imply the specific oughts you are in favor of though, epistemologue? All I see for that in your text is "sex is important". All that means though is the oughts involved are important, nothing about what exactly those important oughts are.

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Masculinity and femininity should be ethical principles which guide one's volitional choices - and going against those would be immoral.

 

Let's try something new.

 

Proposed: the central hallmark of femininity is not "being penetrated," but motherhood.  The importance of sex is not alone "the sense of pleasure, beauty, pride, self-esteem, and happiness that proceed from the achievement of one's moral values," but even greater in the natural purpose sex serves regarding the procreation of life, and in motherhood the shaping of a new soul.  After all, this is what truly separates heterosexual sex from homosexual sex, and vaginal intercourse from all other forms; it is vaginal intercourse between a man and a woman which allows for the continuation of the human species, and thus gives rise to the various differences we note in sex/gender, including conspicuous breasts (for nursing), wide hips (for birthing), and etc.  If there is any importance found in the specific nature of vaginal intercourse, with the man supposedly responsible for "causing pleasure" in that way, as opposed to forms of oral sex and etc., where it may well be the woman who is responsible for providing pleasure (or both in equal measure), it is due to the importance of vaginal intercourse for the purpose of procreation.  That's the fact of reality which makes "sex" and vaginal intercourse so universally synonymous.

 

Commonly recognized feminine virtues do not stop at "submissiveness," what is more, but extend to nurturing, comforting, patience, etc.  This is easy to understand, given that a woman qua her nature, is designed to bear and raise children, something her body provides conspicuous evidence of well before she is likely to understand why she must be "submissive" towards anyone at all.

 

We can quickly work out some "quality" conclusions from here, including an unneeded (but always appreciated) confirmation that homosexuality is deeply and fundamentally immoral, as are oral and anal sex, masturbation, or any other form of non-procreative sex.  (Sex is too good, too important, to be used for any purpose other than procreation!)  The woman who does not desire to be a mother is likewise deeply irrational, at war against her nature qua woman.  And any woman who desires an abortion, let alone pursues one (the least "feminine" action possible), is a moral abomination.

 

Anticipating objections, let us remember that "is implies ought," those who deny that such principles can be derived from observations of man's nature (or woman's) is indulging in subjectivism, several women are likely to confirm this theory through introspection (valuing motherhood, doubtless, to an utmost degree), and thus the factual relationship between sex and procreation... leads to my conclusions about motherhood, just as surely as the sexual mechanics between penis and vagina are supposed to imply a gendered domination/submission dichotomy and the psychological inadequacy of female leadership.

 

Finally, as is obvious (I hope), I don't believe any such thing.  But I think this specious and truly immoral theory to arguably be even more rhetorically defensible than the original, and in terms of content to have at least the same level of "evidence" and "reasoning."  I hope that if anyone tries to reason out exactly where my theory goes wrong, and why, that might provide a little insight into the larger matter at issue.

Edited by DonAthos

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Oh goodness.

 

"Vanilla is the superior flavor of ice-cream!  All who prefer chocolate are irrational!"

 

"Uhm... I think that individual people have different tastes in ice-cream, and that this is okay..."

 

"Subjectivist!!!!!"

 

Alleging that different individuals have differing tastes, not alone in food but also in terms of "sense-of-life," including art, job preferences, and (yes) romantic partners, is not subjectivism.  It is a recognition of the fact of difference among individuals.  Pretending that these differences do not exist in reality would be dropping relevant context and ignoring important information.

 

Given these differences in terms of "psychology" or "sense of life," we can still ask where they come from (though we know we're not "born with them," strictly speaking; "tabula rasa"), and we can still ask what we should do with them (should homosexuals attend camps to try to become heterosexual?), but we must first recognize that these differences exist.

 

Thank you, DonAthos, for pointing out that recognizing the fundamental fact about human consciousness, i.e., that there will always be objective differences in the minds of individuals (including differences in their sexual orientations, sexual standards and sexual preferences), does not invariably mean one is being subjective.

Regarding homosexuality, there was very little which was known in the 1960s about sexual orientation, particularly homosexual orientation. So at that time, homosexuality was considered as "unnatural" (and therefore, "immoral"), i.e., as going against one's own heterosexuality, given the gender one is born into, and the romantic-sexual attraction towards the opposite gender one is supposed to feel, given one's sexual development.

The same thing is happening now with regard to transsexuality. It's the Branden Syndrome, reprise. I would say there's very little which is known today about gender orientation. So until the field of clinical psychology discovers why some men and women do not naturally feel like "men" and "women", i.e., do not psycho-sexually identify with the gender they are born into (are they born that way, or is gender orientation formed in early childhood just like sexual orientation and sense-of-life are, or are there other unknown factors which are operative in that context?), I would hesitate to view transsexuals as "acting-on-whim" by "rebelling" against a "fundamental" fact about themselves, i.e., their own gender.

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