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A Question About Love, Sex And Romance

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Hello all,

In his latest podcast, Dr. Peikoff states in answer to a question that there is a difference between loving someone with whom one is having sex and rationally valuing someone with whom one is having sex.

He says in the first case, you are holding the person as an irreplaceable value and in the second case, you are holding the person as a high rational value.

So I was wondering in the second case, what emotion would one be feeling if one was holding someone as a high rational value and having sex with the person?

Can it be called (romantic) love if the person is not yet an irreplaceable value, only a high (rational) value? Or is it still love but not of the same intensity as the love one feels when the person is an irreplaceable value?


Ramesh Kaimal

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Actually, you've got me - I don't know.

I've heard the term used by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in two different ways: one, in which to describe exclusively the absolute pinnacle of human love and valuing (as in what Dr. Peikoff seems to use here), and the other which simply describes love of a high order, and in the romantic category, but not exclusively the absolute highest order as in the former. An instance of the latter would be where Ayn Rand spoke of "...the depravity of sex without love." From the context of her other writing she clearly didn't think that any sex without love-of-the-irreplaceably-highest-order was depraved; she was indicating that sex without love-as-describing-romantic-love-generally was depraved (i.e. people who are "just friends" or even worse: mere acquaintances, strangers or enemies, etc).

Generally the question of which one they are using is clear from the context - but still it is less than ideal from the standpoint of clarity. I think the problem is that both uses describe a legitimate concept, but there simply doesn't exist a distinction in the English language between the two.

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The cover of my copy of "We The Living" has the phrase "They (Kira, Leo, and Andrei) would die to live and love." I suspect that one of the themes, if not the central theme, of that novel is this distinction. The exposition of just how deeply a nation's political system affects the day-to-day, and internal lives, of it's citizens is perhaps merely a vechicle by which to express it.

Each one of these characters loses something irreplacable - the early years of their adult lives - and suffers because of it. The freedom that they've been denied (or, in Andrei's case, denied himself) is a supreme value that when lost, to whatever degree, can never be recoverd. Of course, it was possible, and appropriate, to experience pleasure from whatever legitimate values they could while trapped inside Soviet Russia, but without their individual liberty, everything that they experienced was colored in some way - especially their relationships; which unfortunately both came to unhappy endings. I suspect that this is because all three, being who they were, sensed the futility of trying inside the hell they were living. Does this mean that their relationships were not very important? No, but it was obvious throughout the book that none of them were in love with each other. The fact that Kira kept "replacing" Leo with Andrei, and Andrei with Leo; that Leo took that other woman he met in the Crimea; and that, if I remember correctly, Andrei took a Communist girl at some point.

If love means the full realization of what is possible, then to lose it is the same as losing one's freedom. It means not achieving - either by calamity or because of circumstance - what is within your capacity, as a human being, to achieve. When Andrei realized that he had lost his integrity and his independence, he had no reason to live and, precisely because of his love for integrity and independence, he took his own life. When Leo realized that he had lost his capacity to judge and his will to live, as his own form of confused rebellion, he condemned himself to the slow, painful death of being a Soviet citizen. And finally, when Kira realized that Andrei deserved to die and that Leo no longer deserved, nor wanted her love, she condemned her country to death by risking (or, judging by her frantic escape attempt, I'd say guaranteeing the loss of) the only thing that could keep any country alive: the extraordinary passion to live that she, and few others like her, possess.

Now, political freedom is merely an analogy here. I do not mean to imply that Ayn Rand believed that romantic love, and a sense of that another person is irreplacable, is impossible inside a less than laizzes-faire society. Perhaps she did, but I certainly don't mean to. I don't know the answer to that question, but it's a fascinating one.

What I mean to say is that, on an emotional level, no value - freedom, romantic love, not even life itself - are ends in themselves; only happiness is. To paraphrase Rand: That joyous, guiltless, profound sense of happiness that can only come from the certainty that one is deserving of it, and capable of it. If one knows that that highest, most exalted of feelings is not possible, no matter what hope you (or your lover) can inspire, I find it hard to believe that one can get excited about the idea of living happily ever after together. Would it be possible to fall deeply, romantically in love with someone who has a terminal illness?

So once lost, can this feeling of "irreplaceable love" be replaced? Well, I think that after a profound grieving process and after some very significant "emotional disintegration" (or geographical relocation) it can be recreated, but the pain that one feels from losing it can never be lost. Even if it only expresses itself in a subtle recollection that this new happiness is not what could have been, but what had to be.

I think that that feeling is completely appropriate, no matter how virtuous, admirable, and sexually gratifying your new lover might be.

Edit: Last sentence, 2nd paragraph.

Edited by stephenmallory
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""Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire," writes Ayn Rand, "is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love." This brings us to the typical subjectivist approach to sex."

That's OPAR, chapter 9.

In the past, Dr. Peikoff did a series on tape regarding sex and romance, where he definitely cautioned against having sex with one's friends. Not only does it belittle the nature of sex as a rational value, but one also runs into issues of the difference between a lover and a friend, which are different from one another in kind, not just degrees. And could one actually remain "just friends" after the fact?

Keep in mind also that he was talking about a 17 year old guy, who doesn't even know what his values are yet, or what type of woman he is looking for in a long-term romantic relationship.

I'm not sure about the terminology myself. I mean he definitely said one doesn't have to be in love to have sex, but I think a sex partner would be different than a friend, even if it is not the full-blown romantic love. I think the overall point is that it ought not to be casual.

For myself, for me to want to have sex, she has to mean something to me on the romantic plain, even if she isn't really my once in a life-time true love. It's better if romantic love is involved, but if her sense of life is fairly close to yours and the values overlap to a large degree, then I think it is OK to enjoy each other's -- perhaps low level -- romantic interest in one another.

I know several women I wouldn't mind having sex with that I know I do not love at this time, though, in a way I love their sense of life and their self-confidence, but it might blossom, and I think that would be the rub. I mean if it is not casual, but it is not fully romantic love, I would think that it would be disappointing, if one expects something more later on; because if it is not fully romantic love, then there isn't much of a basis for a long-term relationship.

I think the bottom line is that sex is a rational value, and if one hasn't found that one true love, then ought one to do without sex? I think it is clear that Dr. Peikoff is saying no, to enjoy it, with the right partner. And the right partner in this context is one that one can enjoy being around due to her being a high value. I have found that this leads to "broken hearts" if one projects too much into one's partner, so being honest with oneself and with each other would definitely be a factor.

I would definitely not tell a woman that I loved her if I didn't, you know, to get "sexual favors", but so long as that basic honesty is there, then it is OK to enjoy the rational value of sex. And maybe you just won't know until you get intimate anyhow, and it might turn out to become something better; but I agree with him that one needs to be inductive about the issue instead of being rationalistic.

In other words, she would have to be more than just a friend at the get-go, she just doesn't necessarily have to be the ultimate romantic partner.

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I'm not sure about the terminology myself. I mean he definitely said one doesn't have to be in love to have sex, but I think a sex partner would be different than a friend, even if it is not the full-blown romantic love. I think the overall point is that it ought not to be casual.

Oh, certainly that much is clear and consistent across OPAR, the Love, Sex, and Romance lecture, and this. It's just that the terminology differs, even if from context you can tell he is saying the same thing.

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