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Is the Objectivist view of sex flawed?

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Dormin111
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To reiterate, I believe Rand's views on sex were mystical in that she arbitrarily elevated a random physical activity to an inflated moral level.

In response to Eiuol:

"1) what is meant by approaching sex casually?"

To approach sex casually is to approach it in a non-intimate way (broadly). Generally this means that relationships and emotions are either irrelevent or non-existent. Examples include "friends with benefits" or going to a bar to have sex with a stranger just because she is attractive.

"2) what exactly does promiscuity mean?"

High propensity to engage in sex. Generally, promiscuity is correlated with casual sex. By my understanding of Rand, sex is a deeply "spiritual" (by her definition) act which should only occur between individuals who greatly value each other in a romantic way. To Rand, promiscuity would nearly always be immoral since promiscuous people generally engage in sex purely for physical pleasure or on whims. An example of the opposite would be Howard Roarke who rarely engaged in sex (if ever, I cannot recall) before meeting Dominique because few people could rise to meet his value standard.

"Also, just to add, food isn't a great comparison, since we're talking about human relationships. I would say friendship is important enough to never treat casually or lightly, as an example, although many people may interpret any friendship to be casual since it's not a romantic relationship."

I am arguing that sex doesn't have to involve human relationships in any meaningful sense. I do not see the immorality of meeting a stranger in a bar and engaging in sex without any intention of starting a romantic or friendly relationship with the person.

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What about having sex with someone you find both physically and mentally revolting? Do you see the immorality in that? The immorality is the same in all forms of sex divorced from values, just not quite as blatant.

Ayn Rand's position was that you shouldn't divorce body and soul, they are an integrated whole. Sexual desires aren't independent of one's values, and that fact shouldn't be ignored.

I do not see the immorality of meeting a stranger in a bar and engaging in sex without any intention of starting a romantic or friendly relationship with the person.

The immorality isn't in the lack of intention. It is in the (plausible) reason for that lack of intention: you don't value that person.

On the other hand, if you are in a foreign land, meet a great person but you're not planning to have a relationship with them because you're leaving soon, it is perfectly moral to have sex with them anyway (provided you're both aware of the plan, of course).

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Discussions like this one always miss the point. 'Moral' and 'immoral' are the giveaways. Rand did not say that you shouldn't behave this way (or want to), but rather that if you've cultivated a good character you won't be interested.

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What about having sex with someone you find both physically and mentally revolting? Do you see the immorality in that? The immorality is the same in all forms of sex divorced from values, just not quite as blatant.

Ayn Rand's position was that you shouldn't divorce body and soul, they are an integrated whole. Sexual desires aren't independent of one's values, and that fact shouldn't be ignored.

The immorality isn't in the lack of intention. It is in the (plausible) reason for that lack of intention: you don't value that person.

On the other hand, if you are in a foreign land, meet a great person but you're not planning to have a relationship with them because you're leaving soon, it is perfectly moral to have sex with them anyway (provided you're both aware of the plan, of course).

What if I value the person purely on the grounds of their physical appearence? I am repulsed by the personality, but she is gorgeous and therefore I want to initate a one night stand with no further intentions.

"Sexual desires aren't independent of one's values, and that fact shouldn't be ignored."

I agree with this, but I think Rand took it a step too far, to the point of "sexual desires aren't independent of one's highest values, and that fact shouldn't be ignored." My highest value in another person is not her physical appearence, yet I believe that can rightfully be the sole determinate of whether or not I would want to have sex with her.

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Discussions like this one always miss the point. 'Moral' and 'immoral' are the giveaways. Rand did not say that you shouldn't behave this way (or want to), but rather that if you've cultivated a good character you won't be interested.

Why would someone of good character not be interested in buying a prostitute for a night of fun?

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Sex is treated in two different ways in our culture due to the mind-body dichotomy. The mystic versions (i.e. religion) sees love as “sacred” or “profane”, with the sacred pertaining to the spirit and the profane being the body. With sex being a pleasure of the body you get the classic hostility over sex as evil but compromised later to only being available to marriage for the necessity of procreation. Thus it was a necessary evil.

The modern version of this is the other side of the coin with the collectivist view realized in the modern materialist mentality that considers the mind irrelevant. You can find this philosophic and political theme dancing across the news. The modern mentality considers conservative taboos on sex dated and wrong but largely agrees with their opponents that sex is still a physical act. The only difference is they see man as an animal and treat sex as they would for any other animal. In fact they consider all human acts, when you get down to it, animal functions since the role of the mind in men’s lives are disregarded. They are just more honest about it when it comes to sex.

To quote “The Basic Principles of Objectivism”:

“Such are the two alternatives that men have been offered – A choice between the spiritualists and the materialists, between those who believe in values without pleasure, and those who believe in pleasure without values. The spiritualists preach that man must pursue moral values, but must not expect any pleasure from them. The materialists preach that man may pursue pleasure, but must not pretend that it involves any moral values. Both accept the premise that pleasure and values have no relation to each other.”

There is an interesting analogy later that explains the decisions one makes on sex is not determined in the bedroom, but in the study. By the thinking you have done (or not done). This goes back to the fundamental premises a man holds all the way through his ethical choices later.

The point that is crucial to this topic is that when one integrates the mind and body, you don’t lose sight of the fact sex is a physical act (and an intense one at that) but you must realize that you have the choice to let it run on automatic pilot of its own will or make it be a tool of your own mind, just like any other act for which man should take responsibility.

Further, ask yourself this, if it is simple physical pleasure you want, frankly you could just masturbate. Or if you are heterosexual you could easily solve your physical desire by taking a partner of the same sex since no mental consideration is necessary. It is only physical, right? You only need to provide the stimulus and let your mind wander through a fantasy, right?

There is a reason you don’t, however, and that is the truth you need a partner to do this – One of your choosing. Even in autopilot your mind fills in the minimum it wants.

So the choice is do you accept the minimum happiness in your life, or do you take responsibility for your life and happiness and set about maximizing it. Do you learn the values you want to gain or keep, and then get out there any realize them in a partner?

Which sounds like a better Friday night?

There is nothing wrong with “one night stands” by the way, as long as they are made by not compromising your values (which include honesty with your partner). In fact it might be practical for two rational adults that can handle such a mature arrangement, arguably sounding not practical today simply because of the way the majority of people treat this subject.

I hope that helps clarify the subject better.

Edited for clarification

Edited by Spiral Architect
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1)

This is impossible for any activity, though. An emotion cannot be irrelevant, because emotions are always on so to speak. Now you might not be having intense emotions all the time, there are still that same kind of automatic evaluation going on. If I'm playing a video game, eating breakfast, or playing a game of chess, my emotions are not in the least irrelevant. I suppose you just mean relatively frivolous or unimportant, like eating a bag of potato chips or just simply an attitude of "meh, not a big deal". I know of no one on the planet who thinks that way about sex except an asexual person, but sex is not really interesting enough for them to pursue in the first place. People do think it's important because of the type of value and feeling it provides, so people take all sorts of measures to attain it - sometimes self-destructive, other times beneficial. This is what I take "not casually" to mean. To treat sex as "not a big deal" would be to say it is just skin rubbing against skin, and it is nothing to do with value. I actually don't think "friends with benefits" (I hate that phrase; it's as though there is no benefit to a typical friendship!) totally applies to approaching sex casually. It certainly doesn't mean that a person thinks sex is unimportant. So, casual to me just means treating sex as no big deal, rather than just having it with non-romantic relationships.

2)

"High propensity to engage in sex" is vague. How much is too much? The only sensible way to define this that I thought of is having sex with anyone, without standards. All Rand did say in what I saw you quote is that sex should be with a highest value, *not* highest value that you'll have in your whole life. Highest value in your whole life would be true for people who believe in "no sex before marriage". It's certainly possible to have someone be a highest value that is a friend as opposed to a romantic partner. I don't know if Rand believed it is only ever acceptable to have sex with a romantic partner, and if she said that, I disagree. I'm not trying to explain her views though. I'm giving my thoughts. Really, it depends on an individual circumstance to determine if pursuing a sexual relationship with a non-romantic partner is foregoing a greater value (which would be sacrifice and thus bad). If promiscuity meant having a one -night stand every single day for a year, it'd probably be destructive to the extent of foregoing a lot closer relationships.

I would say any sexual human relationship does fall under meaningful, whatever your reason may be. I would go as far to say that all human interactions are meaningful, precisely because there is an exchange of intellectual values. Even if you were picking out strangers at a bar, you probably wouldn't be thinking "ah, you'll do" to some random person. If you did, you probably wouldn't be even paying attention to physical appearance. So on some level, there is always a response to value. You did give an example of being repulsed by a personality but still wanting to have sex with them, but do you think it's possible in that situation to go through with it? I would imagine that such repulsion would kill the mood.

Edited by Eiuol
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Interesting points. I will respond to both Spiral Architect and Eiuol in this post.

I agree with nearly everything you have both written, but I specially am commenting on Rand's perceptions which I am not sure your statements entirely line up with.

From the Rand Lexicon on sex:

"But, in fact, a man’s sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself. No matter what corruption he’s taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which he cannot perform for any motive but his own enjoyment..."

"Sex is one of the most important aspects of man’s life and, therefore, must never be approached lightly or casually. A sexual relationship is proper only on the ground of the highest values one can find in a human being. Sex must not be anything other than a response to values. And that is why I consider promiscuity immoral. Not because sex is evil, but because sex is too good and too important . . . ."

I completely agree that physical pleasure must necesarily be connected with rational values. One should not merely pursue every action on whim or brute emotion, but should consider the logical and more implications and goals of their actions. My problem with Rand's perception of sex is that I do not see why sex gets this "artifical" boost. Why is sex one of the most "important" aspects of life?

Spiral Architect-

"So the choice is do you accept the minimum happiness in your life, or do you take responsibility for your life and happiness and set about maximizing it. Do you learn the values you want to gain or keep, and then get out there any realize them in a partner?"

I think this is a false dichotomy which Rand falls into. You later say that you have no problem with one night stands if they are honestly done, but as far as I can tell Rand did not agree (as indicated by the above quotes).

"if it is simple physical pleasure you want, frankly you could just masturbate. Or if you are heterosexual you could easily solve your physical desire by taking a partner of the same sex since no mental consideration is necessary. It is only physical, right? You only need to provide the stimulus and let your mind wander through a fantasy, right?"

I do not fulfill sexual desires just so I can stop being aroused, but also to gain a great amount of pleasure. Masturbation is nice and all but obviously there is a difference in sensation compared with having sex with another individual. It is my desire to maximize my pleasure with sexual encounters and generally sex with another person is preferable to masturbation. As a straight male, I do not desire having sex with other males because of my biological attraction to females. I do not think I have the will power, nor do I see any reason to close my eyes and have sex with a male while blanking out.

Eiuol -

1. By "irrelevent" I was refering to your bag of potato chips scenario in reference to the relationship between sexual partners. You say that it is wrong to think about sex as "skin rubbing against skin," I do not see why. Furthermore, I do not see why thinking about it in that way necesarily means that it is divorced from value. Value is gained from sex because it provides physical pleasure. It certainly can provide more if there is a deep and meaninful connection between those involved, but my case is that the deep connection does not have to exist in order for sex to have value.

What makes sex inherently different from getting a massage or engaging in any other physically pleasureable activity between consenting adults?

2. I don't think there is a "too much" or "too little" sex, just a general propensity to engage in sexual activity. There are people who never have sex before they are married and there are those who get laid a few times a week. It is a vague generalization to be sure.

The "highest value" issue is that I am really sticking on. Presumably another woman's physical beauty is not a "highest value," and thus Rand would consider sleeping with a woman only for her looks to be an immoral action (or perhaps not an immoral action, but indiciative of an immoral personality if I understand Reidy). I am questioning why is this the case with sex but not any other random pleasureable act. Why is ok for me to get a massage from some random person who I don't care about purely for the sake of physical pleasure, but it is immoral for me to sleep with a feeble minded slut for a night purely for the physical pleasure?

"If promiscuity meant having a one -night stand every single day for a year, it'd probably be destructive to the extent of foregoing a lot closer relationships."

I agree, and to reiterate, pursuit of sex for purely physical pleasure should not get in the way of meaningful relationships. But this does not mean that it should never be pursued under any circumstances.

"You did give an example of being repulsed by a personality but still wanting to have sex with them, but do you think it's possible in that situation to go through with it? I would imagine that such repulsion would kill the mood."

Of course an attractive personality would be preferable but between a choice of "attractive moron or masturbation," I might choose the former depending upon how repulsive the personality was and how attractive she was.

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I do not fulfill sexual desires just so I can stop being aroused, but also to gain a great amount of pleasure. Masturbation is nice and all but obviously there is a difference in sensation compared with having sex with another individual.

SpiralArchitect isn't actually taking the position he stated, but using that to explain why sex is different. You missed the sentence afterwards. He is explaining that the difference is that there is a response to values. In that way, I can explain Reidy's statement better. As your quote from AS by Francisco says, what a person finds sexually attractive is basically a reference to their character. If you would be attracted by someone with a literally repulsive personality, yet only respond to appearance, well, you probably don't value personality much in people. Your sense of life would be one probably of "it's pretty much all the same to me". So, it's not that the sex is immoral, but that an outlook on life is all twisted up.

What makes sex inherently different from getting a massage or engaging in any other physically pleasureable activity between consenting adults?

Given that sex is an experience, much can only be answered in personal terms. I can't tell or explain the difference between the experience of blue and red, even though I could talk about wavelengths. But one difference between various pleasurable activities and sex is the hormones released. The experience is literally a different kind, and biologically so. Your brain reacts notably differently. Sex is not just skin rubbing against skin for this reason. You respond to more than just nerve endings.

I understand what you mean by an attractive personality being preferable. I didn't mean just killing the mood, I meant probably becoming unaroused so that you can't even have sex. Responses to personality are a sense of life thing, so I'd wonder how you'd even manage to even stay interested long enough. You'd have to literally remove the personality, like with the meat puppets in the book Neuromancer. Character is relevant here again, since what kind of person you are leads to what sort of people you find attractive. The examples given so far are lacking any context about the people involved, so I can't say much else. The quote from AS I think is most representative of Rand's views, and taking that, it would be wrong and even impossible to answer "is it wrong to have a one-night stand?" or "is it wrong to have sex with a non-romantic partner?"

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Why would someone of good character not be interested in buying a prostitute for a night of fun?

Right now, I see absolutley nothing inherently wrong, immoral, evil about sex for hire. I'm sure it could be a very pleasurable economic exchange. :twisted: One that I have never been interested in taking though. I can't just have sex with someone to get off, allowed the use of somones body to essentially masturbate with, instead of making love to them as a person. There is a person not just pussy there to me. I want her to want me to fuck her because of who I am as a man to her, not because I have a few hundred dollars to get into bed with her. I have chosen to be single and not engage in sexual activity with women for half a decade, half a dozen years maybe more, I don't fucking keep exact count, but I still don't want to spend money to hire someone to give me a blow job or let me fuck around with her for a few hours or even just find a willing partner just to have sex with, with no money invovled in it at all, aas it's not an issue of whether I have the money to or not. I'm just not interested, the ones that have come onto me, one I really had to have a talk with about the pass she was making towards me. Just not interested. I'm am however interested in how to get more dolls (as in highend sex dolls and the like such as http://aidoll.4woods.jp/) than I am in getting with women, which I am not as interested in. Is that wrong of me? What the fuck do I care, I'm have incredible pleasurable experiences with the dolls as is. :twisted: Somehow I can't just have sex with a woman though, but I have no problem being with the dolls though. But whatever, i don't rule it out that someday I might again, but let me not fray this topic up, I simply felt I had to answer as to exactly why I am not interested. I need more to value in the women that I encounter in order to be with one again, in a sexual context, relationship, etc. Is that wrong of me to want more than just sex from a woman? That's rhetorical, btw.

Edited by intellectualammo
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Discussions like this one always miss the point. 'Moral' and 'immoral' are the giveaways. Rand did not say that you shouldn't behave this way (or want to), but rather that if you've cultivated a good character you won't be interested.

I didn't miss that point, I disagree with it. I disagree with the notion that good character and morality are in any way incongruent with each other.

The way one cultivates good character is by behaving morally. And the way good character manifests itself is through moral actions. The moral and the behavior of someone with good character are one and the same.

What if I value the person purely on the grounds of their physical appearence? I am repulsed by the personality, but she is gorgeous and therefore I want to initate a one night stand with no further intentions.

"Sexual desires aren't independent of one's values, and that fact shouldn't be ignored."

I agree with this, but I think Rand took it a step too far, to the point of "sexual desires aren't independent of one's highest values, and that fact shouldn't be ignored." My highest value in another person is not her physical appearence, yet I believe that can rightfully be the sole determinate of whether or not I would want to have sex with her.

Ok, so would you have sex with someone you utterly despise, if she was attractive? Would you have sex with Stalin, if he looked like a supermodel? Or rather, could you, knowing what the person you are intimate with has done? Wouldn't you find it distasteful?

Edited by Nicky
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Ok, so would you have sex with someone you utterly despise, if she was attractive? Would you have sex with Stalin, if he looked like a supermodel? Or rather, could you, knowing what the person you are intimate with has done? Wouldn't you find it distasteful?

Sex with Stalin...

Paranoia and mass murder are two of my turn-offs. Also the mustache.

I wouldn't have sex with someone I utterly despised, and (not to go all semantical, but) I wouldn't describe myself as "attracted" to them, or say that they were "attractive." Though the point stands that a person can be "good looking," though a beast within.

For me, the question of things like "promiscuity" come down to: at what point is a person "justified" in having sex? After all, when we meet a person, we usually don't know much about them. Looks are one of the first insights we have into their character, but looks can be "deceiving" (or rather, we may be mistaken in our inferences). We may meet and initially find attractive a supermodel who is Stalin-on-the-inside.

So what happens when you bring her home, and she starts complaining about her Jewish doctors? Or what if she never brings them up at all? Is there any justification for being attracted to someone on the basis of looks alone, and acting on that basis to the point of sexual intimacy? It's one thing to discover that a good looking person is awful, and dismiss them on that basis (as I would). But what if you don't know one way or the other?

I think that a person needs some level of trust for sexual intimacy. Hell, I'm wary of playing board games with people I don't know well -- the wrong partner can make for such an unpleasant experience. Sex carries risk of pregnancy and disease, and it's good to have some idea of what you could potentially expect of the person that you literally share your bed with.

That said, I don't know that I need an undying romantic love or an eternal partnership to enjoy sex with someone on a more casual basis. My attraction is (so far as I can tell) based on values still, including those values that are reflected in physical appeal. If this happens several times, I understand that someone else might describe this behavior as "promiscuous," but I don't think that would make it wrong.

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"Promiscuous" has lost all meaning, where sex is concerned. Only each man and woman can be the judge of casual sex, in my opinion. If one is attuned to one's sense of self-regard, one can sense when a little, is already too much.

I'm convinced (from experience) that all sex brings with it a sense of intimacy, notwithstanding how strongly one resists it, and doesn't want it - as seemingly inappropriate in casual sex. The psychological effects of deadening this 'urge to intimacy' is where damage can accrue. One can get too used to it, permanently. A (if although briefly) shared feeling of intimacy is a 'good thing', I believe, since it keeps one grounded in the reality of what we are doing. However, it can also lead to unwanted involvement or complication, too... So there is no blanket answer to this, except be aware of your actions, and all consequences. Take what you want, and know that one way or another, it is likely you will pay for it. Also know it does not come remotely close to the real thing - although unnecessary advice to you, here.

Edited by whYNOT
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For me, the question of things like "promiscuity" come down to: at what point is a person "justified" in having sex? After all, when we meet a person, we usually don't know much about them. Looks are one of the first insights we have into their character, but looks can be "deceiving" (or rather, we may be mistaken in our inferences). We may meet and initially find attractive a supermodel who is Stalin-on-the-inside.

You've asked the million dollar question! Perhaps Rand's claim of "highest value" being the sufficient point is too strong. I haven't seen many people take a stab at answering in the past.

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You've asked the million dollar question! Perhaps Rand's claim of "highest value" being the sufficient point is too strong. I haven't seen many people take a stab at answering in the past.

Are you looking for an answer in the realm of Ethics? I don't think that's where the answer lies. The Ethics answer is easy: we must act in accordance with our nature. Go against our nature, and there will be negative consequences.

What our nature is is the tough question. We need to establish what sex is. What evolutionary, physiological and psychological purpose it serves? (we need to establish its evolutionary purpose, because from it we can draw insights into the physiology and psychology of sex as well).

Here's my argument in defense of that statement by Rand, succinctly and perhaps a bit oversimplified:

If our hierarchy of values is geared towards choosing "that which enables us to live according to our nature - the only way to live, in the long run, really", and if a species survives by its members choosing sexual partners most fit to survive, how could a species which is geared towards choosing sexual partners based on something other than its highest values, survive?

It can't. Therefor, our sexual urges, as a rule, mirror our hierarchy of values. If a man likes to sleep with supermodel Stalin, that means he values looks over character. It doesn't mean that he likes looks over character for the purpose of sex, but other than that his values are fine. At least not as a rule (exceptions are possible, I suppose), because if that was a rule that applied to most men, then the human race would not have survived in nature all this time.

Edited by Nicky
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Given that sex is an experience, much can only be answered in personal terms. I can't tell or explain the difference between the experience of blue and red, even though I could talk about wavelengths. But one difference between various pleasurable activities and sex is the hormones released. The experience is literally a different kind, and biologically so. Your brain reacts notably differently. Sex is not just skin rubbing against skin for this reason. You respond to more than just nerve endings.

How do you reconcile this with masturbation? Must I have some special relationship with my hand or myself to masturbate? I think you are having a hard time bringing your conception of sex down to a concrete form (ie. it is a floating abtraction). Yes my brain reacts differently, but so what? My brain reacts differently depending on almost every different activity I can perform with another person. What is it specifically that makes sex different?

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Ok, so would you have sex with someone you utterly despise, if she was attractive? Would you have sex with Stalin, if he looked like a supermodel? Or rather, could you, knowing what the person you are intimate with has done? Wouldn't you find it distasteful?

I admit that if someone's personality was incredibly revolting, like Stalin, I would probably not be able or want to have sex with her. However, if I simply wanted to have some sexual pleasure within the next few hours, I would be willing to tolerate an annoying personality if it did not outweigh the sexual pleasure I could gain from the encounter.

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Here's my argument in defense of that statement by Rand, succinctly and perhaps a bit oversimplified:

If our hierarchy of values is geared towards choosing "that which enables us to live according to our nature - the only way to live, in the long run, really", and if a species survives by its members choosing sexual partners most fit to survive, how could a species which is geared towards choosing sexual partners based on something other than its highest values, survive?

It can't. Therefor, our sexual urges, as a rule, mirror our hierarchy of values. If a man likes to sleep with supermodel Stalin, that means he values looks over character. It doesn't mean that he likes looks over character for the purpose of sex, but other than that his values are fine. At least not as a rule (exceptions are possible, I suppose), because if that was a rule that applied to most men, then the human race would not have survived in nature all this time.

These statements assume that the only reasons to have sex are reproduction and romantic love. Why can't short term pleasure be a reason? As in, masturbation by way of another individual. This does not necesarily mean that personality has NO effect, but just that it is secondary to the sexual pleasure derived from the encounter.

"Therefor, our sexual urges, as a rule, mirror our hierarchy of values."

I think a better statement is: "Therefore, our romanitc urges, as a rule, mirror our hierarchy of values." If an individual seeks romantic relationships with supermodel Stalins, empty headed sluts, or gorgeous sociopaths, then he is indeed, likely immoral. But that is not the same as using these same individuals as masturbation toys for an evening.

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Are you looking for an answer in the realm of Ethics? I don't think that's where the answer lies. The Ethics answer is easy: we must act in accordance with our nature. Go against our nature, and there will be negative consequences.

What our nature is is the tough question. We need to establish what sex is. What evolutionary, physiological and psychological purpose it serves? (we need to establish its evolutionary purpose, because from it we can draw insights into the physiology and psychology of sex as well).

Here's my argument in defense of that statement by Rand, succinctly and perhaps a bit oversimplified:

If our hierarchy of values is geared towards choosing "that which enables us to live according to our nature - the only way to live, in the long run, really", and if a species survives by its members choosing sexual partners most fit to survive, how could a species which is geared towards choosing sexual partners based on something other than its highest values, survive?

It can't. Therefor, our sexual urges, as a rule, mirror our hierarchy of values. If a man likes to sleep with supermodel Stalin, that means he values looks over character. It doesn't mean that he likes looks over character for the purpose of sex, but other than that his values are fine. At least not as a rule (exceptions are possible, I suppose), because if that was a rule that applied to most men, then the human race would not have survived in nature all this time.

You'll soon note that this isn't necessarily a refutation of what you've said, but I want to register a bit of unease at this line of argument (and if you think it worthwhile, we can delve into it).

I do not have sex -- or make any decisions so far as I know -- for the benefit of "my species." It is not really in my interest what humanity qua Homo sapiens has evolved to do. If we're coming to a conclusion that I ought to value X, then I'd like to see how X benefits me, specifically, and not my ancestors or etc.

Further, if we're talking about "fitness" in the context of evolution, it might be worth pointing out that "character" is, itself, not hereditary. Supermodel Stalin's offspring are apt to be good-looking and possibly healthier than average if those "good looks" signify such, but I wouldn't expect them to necessarily turn out to be little Stalins.

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These statements assume that the only reasons to have sex are reproduction and romantic love.

They don't assume anything about the reason to have sex. I'm not talking about the reasons why you would have sex. I'm talking about the reason why sex, in general, exists, in the context of evolution. That reason is reproduction, not pleasure.

I do not have sex -- or make any decisions so far as I know -- for the benefit of "my species." It is not really in my interest what humanity qua Homo sapiens has evolved to do. If we're coming to a conclusion that I ought to value X, then I'd like to see how X benefits me, specifically, and not my ancestors or etc.

You are both missing my point. I am not talking about the reason why you would have sex, I am talking about the evolutionary justification for sex, and the implications of that fact for human biology and psychology.

I am not making a moral argument. What sex is, and how it works, has nothing to do with Ethics. It's Biology and Psychology.

Further, if we're talking about "fitness" in the context of evolution, it might be worth pointing out that "character" is, itself, not hereditary. Supermodel Stalin's offspring are apt to be good-looking and possibly healthier than average if those "good looks" signify such, but I wouldn't expect them to necessarily turn out to be little Stalins.

The survival of human offspring has been dependent on a lot more than just picking good genes, for quite a while now (and not just humans: primates, and even other highly social mammals, too). More than enough to matter. Having a child with Stalin is not a good plan, for anyone involved, in any context (including in the context of a primitive tribe living in a cave).

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I am not making a moral argument. What sex is, and how it works, has nothing to do with Ethics.

Okay. I was confused as to whether you were making a moral argument or not, I think in part due to this:

Are you looking for an answer in the realm of Ethics? I don't think that's where the answer lies. The Ethics answer is easy: we must act in accordance with our nature. Go against our nature, and there will be negative consequences.

What our nature is is the tough question. We need to establish what sex is. What evolutionary, physiological and psychological purpose it serves? (we need to establish its evolutionary purpose, because from it we can draw insights into the physiology and psychology of sex as well).

So... it had seemed to me that you were trying to draw conclusions as to our "nature" based on our evolutionary history, and then segueing that "nature" into an ethical argument (i.e. "evolution has made us this way for X purpose, therefore we ought to act in that manner"). But now that I know we're not discussing a moral argument... I guess I'm still confused. Why is it important to understand the evolutionary history of sex again?

I'm talking about the reason why sex, in general, exists, in the context of evolution. That reason is reproduction, not pleasure.

If this is simply a discussion about evolution (and apart from not truly understanding why that's important to the topic at hand), I may be out of my element. However... in the context of evolution, isn't it so that a great many things exist for the "purpose" of reproduction? Aren't we in some ways little reproductive machines? Now, I mean, I'm kind of speaking out of my bottom, so I won't be offended if you dismiss this out of hand. But I seem to recall that natural selection was about organisms' ability to reach sexual maturity and pass their genetic code to the next generation and such, so that evolution "favors" those things that are able to reproduce, and those mutations/adaptations which promote successful reproduction.

If we're prepared to assert that "we must act in accordance with our nature," and if we account that nature to our evolutionary history, and our recognition that evolution revolves around reproduction... then do we wind up with an ethics that would say, for instance, that every woman needs to seek motherhood? (I wouldn't think so, but I don't see where we would draw the line in the sand, once we start taking our ethical cues in this manner.)

You are both missing my point.

I apologize and will endeavor to do better.

I am not talking about the reason why you would have sex, I am talking about the evolutionary justification for sex, and the implications of that fact for human biology and psychology.

Okay. On the topic of the implications of the "evolutionary justification for sex" on human psychology, I have a question: if human beings are born tabula rasa, presumably with no knowledge of the "evolutionary justification for sex" (or "evolution") then isn't it doubtful that the evolutionary history of sex will have any necessary impact on human psychology? Or if you believe that it does, how precisely would that function?

I am not making a moral argument. What sex is, and how it works, has nothing to do with Ethics. It's Biology and Psychology.

I have an idea that the participants in this thread know "what sex is, and how it works"; it was my understanding that the questions being raised here were questions of ethics. So... I guess I'm ready for your case in full. But introducing evolution as a consideration is... confusing to me so far, and problematic.

The survival of human offspring has been dependent on a lot more than just picking good genes, for quite a while now (and not just humans: primates, and even other highly social mammals, too).

That's as may be, but I don't think it has anything to do with evolution -- evolution is about genes. In modern society, we might prefer mates with advanced degrees (for instance), but that information will not impress itself upon the genetic code. Our genes do not even know what advanced degrees are, nor can they appropriately prime our sexual organs to respond to them.

Having a child with Stalin is not a good plan, for anyone involved, in any context (including in the context of a primitive tribe living in a cave).

I'm not sure that anyone said that it was "a good plan." I think, rather, that this is what I said: "[supermodel] Stalin's offspring are apt to be good-looking and possibly healthier than average if those 'good looks' signify such, but I wouldn't expect them to necessarily turn out to be little Stalins."

Do you disagree with this?

You know, I've heard more than a few people claim over the years that the reason why women are sometimes attracted to "good-looking jerks" or even just jerks, is due to an evolutionary pressure to find strong, aggressive mates. These claimants seem to start from the same premise (that sexual attraction is based on evolutionary history) and arrive at opposite or askew conclusions. But I reject that idea just like I think I'm ready to reject the idea that Supermodel Stalin would be shot down on an equally "evolutionary" basis.

I don't think we take our cues from our evolutionary history, nor that such a history should be the basis to ethical claims.

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So... it had seemed to me that you were trying to draw conclusions as to our "nature" based on our evolutionary history, and then segueing that "nature" into an ethical argument (i.e. "evolution has made us this way for X purpose, therefore we ought to act in that manner"). But now that I know we're not discussing a moral argument... I guess I'm still confused. Why is it important to understand the evolutionary history of sex again?

Well if you disagree that we should act according to our nature, then it becomes a moral argument. I just assumed no one would disagree with that part.

The argument is scientific, because it aims to establish what our nature is: we are, by nature, driven by our values. Including when it comes to sex. Just like all the other animals. The only difference between us and other animals, in that regard, is that other animals' values are automatic, ours aren't.

We shouldn't ignore that fact (that we are driven by our values), and create a false dichotomy between values and sex, by pretending that some values are irrelevant to sex, and instead we should follow Ayn Rand's advice and rely on our full hierarchy of values in our choice of sexual partners. And, more importantly, if our values are flawed, we should consciously choose to act in a way that helps shape them.

P.S.

The reason why I am limiting my argument to evolution is because I don't have access to empirical data, and sharing personal experiences would be anecdotal. But I do know for a fact that my sexual preferences are a direct result of my values.

I don't think we take our cues from our evolutionary history, nor that such a history should be the basis to ethical claims.

Reality -all of it- is the basis of ethical claims. Evolution is real. Sex is the result of evolution. If you want to create the Ethics of Sex without understanding evolution first, that's just silly.

You know, I've heard more than a few people claim over the years

What others claim doesn't concern this debate. I don't agree with any of those claims, and my claims are in no way like theirs.

Edited by Nicky
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