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Is the Objectivist view of sex flawed?

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Dormin111
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If I derive pleasure fucking a communist lobby coordinator, why not?

You're not going to forget she's a person who you don't like much. Why would you want to have sex with someone you don't like, unless she has a quality you do like, such as a particular sense of humor or maybe a temperament in bed?

The point is, if you're going to completely divorce the other person from the act, why don't you just pleasure yourself?

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You're thrusting back and forth thinking about her curves and dumping jizz in her orifices.

This reminds me of those descriptions of the human mind as "random squirts of hormones through lobes of pink fleshy meat," or whatever. Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

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is sex really THAT different if you like the girl's personality?

You're thrusting back and forth thinking about her curves and dumping jizz in her orifices. I fail to see how disliking the girl's personality or completely disagreeing with what she stands for leads to your unhappiness or unethical behavior.

If I derive pleasure fucking a communist lobby coordinator, why not?

I'd like to see that on a Valentine’s Card you give to someone. Bet that works out real well for you.

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  • 7 months later...

Objectivism, if I have understood correctly, says that sex is is of major importance, and to avoid degrading it to mere physical satisfaction and destroying one's capacity for appreciating romantically significant sex, it should not be approached casually.

 

Granted, sex has the potential to be romantically significant. But so does eating. If engaging in 'casual eating' or 'eating around' by catching a cheap hotdog on the run does not destroy your capacity for appreciating romantic meals, then what harm do casual sexual encounters have?

 
 

 

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Yes. 

 

Although I don't consider that the legitimate objectivist view of sex. I view it more as Ayn Rand's personal view of sex, resulting from the fact that she (like many people) confused sex and romance. And like in some other areas, her personal views became the "objectivist view" for some people, even if they don't rightly belong in that category. 

 

(I should say that Rand's thoughts on sex do show up in her writings on objectivism; I nonetheless believe those thoughts are flawed and don't belong as a part of objectivism.)

Edited by secondhander
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...If engaging in 'casual eating' or 'eating around' by catching a cheap hotdog on the run does not destroy your capacity for appreciating romantic meals, then what harm do casual sexual encounters have?

 

I think what she means is that casual sex has no lasting meaning, and that's why it isn't significant.

(I'm interested in hearing what people have to say about the bolded part of your question. I imagine there isn't much longterm harm, unless you're trying to derive something special from those acts.)

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The food analogy is limited at best.  Yes, we can eat casually and without planning, but sexual opportunities don't happen this way.  We're in such situations because we wanted to be and planned to be and because we took deliberate action to get there.  Outside of adolescent jerkoff fantasies, they don't just happen our way at random as eating opportunities might.  If we find ourselves in a position where hooking up with a semi-stranger or buying it comes naturally, or for that matter if we find ourselves in a romantic situation with someone we respect, we asked to be in that situation and sought it out.

 

My problem with the doctrine, as with a number of claims Rand and Branden made, is that it's a testable psychological claim which they give no evidence of having tested.

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One of two things happens with casual sex: it's either meaningless, scratch my back, I'll scratch yours - or it's

loaded with counterfeit significance for self-justification. There's no difference in the final assessment, they both

'fake it' , at cost to oneself. I think the capacity for self-faking sex does vary from a person to the next, but the trouble is

you don't know until you have crossed the line, and it is a habit. Sex is a currency, finally: when it becomes an end

in itself, you are squandering its value, as well as your own self-value (and that of your lovers', present and future.)

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"... it's either meaningless, scratch my back, I'll scratch yours ..."

 

Meaningless in what way? 

 

Are you sure it's entirely meaningless? How much meaning does something need to have before you decide to do it? Is eating dinner with friends at a restaurant meaningless?

 

It seems to me that in your estimation, sex needs a much higher level of meaning than most other things. Would you agree with that assessment? If that's true, it appears to be a bit of a begging of the question.  I would wonder also, then, if you are opposed to anything done "casually." 

Edited by secondhander
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EDIT: I began drafting this post when there were only one or two replies to this topic, so some of the rhetoric in it might make more sense in that context.

First of all, this topic has been covered here in the past. I say this not in an attempt to shut down this discussion, because it is one worth having, but to provide a reference to previous discussions on this topic to see more explanations that are sure to be better than mine.

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=7645

As I understand it, the Objectivist view on sex (Yes, whether you agree or not, it is the Objectivist view as it is the one explicitly laid out by Ayn Rand. You may argue all you wish that she got something "confused", which in this case I sincerely doubt, but because she laid it out in her philosophical works, it IS Objectivism. Officially. That is a fact which leaves no room for disagreement - that is, disagreement on whether or not Ayn Rand's view on this subject is Objectivism.) stems from the fact that the mind and body cannot be separated. A sexual relationship is based on people perceiving each other as being an important value - a value as a mind in addition to being a value in a physical sense (being attractive). As Francisco says, "a man's sexual choice is the result and sum of his philosophical convictions". Rand also argues (through Francisco) that sexual choice is "an effect and expression of a man's sense of his own value" which is I think another very relevant consideration. What does it say about your valuation of yourself that you are willing to share an intimate moment that is perhaps the height of pleasure and passion with someone about whom you care very little?

But I think the real question to ask here is: why would you want to have a sexual relationship with someone who is not a rational value to you? What possible interest could you have in a sexual relationship with someone who does not matter to you beyond that sex? What rational thought process would lead you to want that? I can say with all honesty that while certain facets of the idea may seem attractive on their face, I personally would not want to have a sexual relationship except with someone who I considered a rational value in my life. I would not want to wake up in bed with someone I hardly know; I would only want to do so with someone I care about.

I'm sure someone here can explain the justification for the Objectivist position on sex more clearly than I can, but I felt that I should post in favor of it. So my answer to the OP is "No - sex should in fact be between people who care strongly about each other and is not something to be taken lightly with regard to choice of partner - but it should be clear that this does not imply the necessity to wait to be in love or anything to that extent before having sex."

I think an interesting discussion of the extent to which one should discriminate in choice of sexual partner can be found in one of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's podcasts. This is directed at teenagers who may not necessarily have fully formed value systems, but he does give a greater degree of clarification as to whether Objectivism considers it necessary to be in love before having sex.

http://www.peikoff.com/2008/02/25/what-is-the-difference-between-love-and-rational-sex-2/

(I think something that is worth discussing in greater detail is whether the Objectivist position allows for relationships that are sexual but not romantic in nature between two people who are of value to each other - for example, friends of the opposite sex who share major values and convictions but due to differences in temperament or current life circumstances could not form a life relationship with each other. I would say the answer to this is an emphatic "Yes!" in cases as I described where those involved consider each other to be high values, but I think it would be an interesting discussion to have.)

Edited by 425
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One of two things happens with casual sex: it's either meaningless, scratch my back, I'll scratch yours - or it's

loaded with counterfeit significance for self-justification. There's no difference in the final assessment, they both

'fake it' , at cost to oneself. I think the capacity for self-faking sex does vary from a person to the next, but the trouble is

you don't know until you have crossed the line, and it is a habit. Sex is a currency, finally: when it becomes an end

in itself, you are squandering its value, as well as your own self-value (and that of your lovers', present and future.)

 

Why do sexual acts carried out for mere pleasure and fun have to be meaningless? And how do such acts squander the value of romantic sex any more than casual eating squander the value of romantic eating? 

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The big majority of sex acts are "carried out for mere pleasure and fun."  Some likely exceptions are trying to conceive or doing it for money, a job or a part in a movie (or an Oscar for that matter).  Suppose we leave these aside.  In normal cases, where both (all?) parties get into it voluntarily and as an end in itself, what are you distinguishing "mere pleasure and fun" from?

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@425

Your statement appears to be begging the question. One the one hand you say that sex is "an intimate moment." I take it by this that you mean emotionally intimate, not just physically intimate. And then you use this as a reason to argue against casual sexual moments. As though you are saying, it is wrong to have a casual sexual moment, because it is a non-casual sexual moment. 

 

I'll have more to say later when I have time.

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The big majority of sex acts are "carried out for mere pleasure and fun."  Some likely exceptions are trying to conceive or doing it for money, a job or a part in a movie (or an Oscar for that matter).  Suppose we leave these aside.  In normal cases, where both (all?) parties get into it voluntarily and as an end in itself, what are you distinguishing "mere pleasure and fun" from?

 

From romantic love. 

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And how do such acts squander the value of romantic sex any more than casual eating squander the value of romantic eating?

I don't see a connection between sex between two people and one person eating food. One deals with relationships, judgments of others, and giving and receiving pleasure while the other is purely a physical pleasure.

Having sex with another is a massive indication of approval - you WANT them. This is why I think its obvious (and Ayn Rand hits on this in Atlas Shrugged) that a lot of casual sex is driven by the need for approval coming from a lack of self-esteem. Its not that "players" find lots of girls they truly, personally want - they just need approval and seek it from this particular form.

If I don't like someone, I don't want to be near them let alone have sex with them. The only way this would happen would be to withhold any judgement of them while pretending to like them to escalate towards sex. Why put on an act to fake your judgements to be very close and intimate with someone you don't like? I would say the minimum requirements for a beneficial sexual relationships would be for both to know who the other person truly is and for both to truly admire, in some personally important way, the other person. Sex is the physical act that expresses this mutual admiration (or in the best case, love). I'm pretty sure this is in line with the Objectivist view.

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That's a good assessment, bert.

 

Its not that "players" find lots of girls they truly, personally want - they just need approval and seek it from this particular form.

 

I hear it's also a physical thing.. as in, men have needs that must be met. (And as far as I know, women don't have that problem.)

 

If I don't like someone, I don't want to be near them let alone have sex with them. The only way this would happen would be to withhold any judgement of them while pretending to like them to escalate towards sex. Why put on an act to fake your judgements to be very close and intimate with someone you don't like?

 

You can like someone enough to have sex with him a time or two, but not necessarily like him enough to enter into a serious relationship. Imo, that is what differentiates casual sex from a lasting relationship.

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Most of the posters in this (in the freshly revived portion at least) thread are blatantly misrepresenting Ayn Rand's position. It's easy to argue against strawmen. I never read anything where Ayn Rand claimed that casual sex causes lasting damage, nor anything where she was against having sex for pleasure and fun, nor does she make a distinction between "romantically significant" and otherwise (she makes a distinction between valuing a sex partner and treating them as an object), she also pretty obviously wasn't opposed to sex with people you recently met, etc.

I would suggest starting this whole mess all over again, this time with some direct quotes (preferably not out of context snippets). I'm not familiar enough with Branden, but I doubt a single one of these arguments could be applied against anything Rand actually said about sex.

Edited by Nicky
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I honestly hate merges like this.

 

Not to mention the fact that the title is "Is the Objectivist view of sex flawed?" started by Dormin111 in 2012, and I don't think that's true. Wasn't that Kjetil's thread's title? Or am I mistaken?

Without merging threads, the forum would just degenerate into people having the same exact arguments over and over again. This way, at least they have the opportunity to read back a little bit and continue where they left off.

No one here bothered to do that, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.

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Not to mention the fact that the title is "Is the Objectivist view of sex flawed?" started by Dormin111 in 2012, and I don't think that's true. Wasn't that Kjetil's thread's title? Or am I mistaken?

Error on my part, I thought it would automatically use the old name when merging, and now I've forgotten the old name. It was something like "Was Ayn Rand wrong about sex?" or something to that effect.

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Most of the posters in this (in the freshly revived portion at least) thread are blatantly misrepresenting Ayn Rand's position. It's easy to argue against strawmen. I never read anything where Ayn Rand claimed that casual sex causes lasting damage, nor anything where she was against having sex for pleasure and fun ... .

 

Huh?

 

"Sex is one of the most important aspects of man’s life and, therefore, must never be approached lightly or casually." 
-- Playboy Interview: Ayn Rand
 

She goes on to say promiscuity is immoral, and that sex is too good and too important to be approached casually, and that it must involve a "very serious relationship."

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@425

Your statement appears to be begging the question. One the one hand you say that sex is "an intimate moment." I take it by this that you mean emotionally intimate, not just physically intimate. And then you use this as a reason to argue against casual sexual moments. As though you are saying, it is wrong to have a casual sexual moment, because it is a non-casual sexual moment. 

 

I'll have more to say later when I have time.

 

I do want to back up and say that I am not against casual sex necessarily, dependent on how you define it. I think that it is necessary in sex to value the person with whom one is having sex. And I think the valuation should be fairly strong, not something like "I met this person a week ago and they seem somewhat nice and funny". I do NOT think that a romantic relationship is necessarily a prerequisite for a sexual one. I think Nicky put it better than I managed to when he described Rand's position as:

 

(she makes a distinction between valuing a sex partner and treating them as an object)

 

 

This is the crucial distinction. Since the body and mind are not separate entities but one whole, sex is an act of the body and mind and must necessarily incorporate both. There is no such thing as purely physical sex; anyone who claims that they are engaging in it is merely evading the mental aspect. Rand says:

 

Just as an idea unexpressed in physical action is contemptible hypocrisy, so is platonic love - and just as physical action unguided by an idea is a fool's self-fraud, so is sex when cut off from one's code of values

 

[source]

 

 

 

 

This is why it is wrong to have sex which is by necessity an emotionally intimate moment with someone with whom one has no sufficiently strong positive emotions. It is an attempt to have only the physical aspect of sex and negate the mental aspect, which is impossible due to the nature of sex. 

 

Edited to fix code, I'm not used to this forum's editor yet.

 

Edited by 425
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The problem Ayn Rand, and many other people, have with casual sex is due to a remnant of evolutionary psychology. This is why I've argued before that Ayn Rand's view could be improved upon with an allowance for the understanding of evolutionary psychology. Sex is one of the clearest examples of that. 

 

Societies' various issues concerning sex have to do with what I call the who's your daddy problem. 

 

If you have the knowledge and ability to manage and/or prevent pregnancy, and remain safe from STIs, then sex itself doesn't have to be a significant issue. But sex has been a big issue for most of our history as humans. In a more primitive society that has no good method of birth control; sex always brought with it the real possibility of pregnancy. No woman wanted to become pregnant without being able to prove whom the father is, because it would have left her without a partner willing to take on parentage of the child, and without a partner willing to provide resources for the survival of the child and the mother. 
 
To put an Objectivist understanding on it: Casual sex in those societies DID constitute a threat to a woman's survive-ability.
 
In other words, in a primitive tribe, if it was known that a woman had more than one sex partner in a short amount of time, and she became pregnant, there would be no way to determine whom the father was. And none of her partners would volunteer himself to be the father or to share resources for a child whom he couldn't be sure was his. That would leave a mother to support herself and her child. For that reason, a woman had to either become very selective and deny sex only to a man who was willing to make a relationship commitment (marriage, betrothment), or she had to at least convince the tribe at large that she was chaste and not "loose" (whether she was in reality or not). The main point was to make sure the men believed she wasn't "sleeping around," so that if she became pregnant after having sex with a man, the man would be convinced that he had to be the father, and therefore would form a relationship contract with her (if he hadn't already) and help share resources for the survival of the woman and their child.
 
This is the whole reason why we have the views on sex and marriage and relationships (and the double standards regarding women and sex) that we do. It's a remnant of our evolved psychological makeup as humans. But over the past 50 years the world has changed dramatically. It is now possible for smart people with the right technology to separate the threat to survive-ability from sex. Now, with the right precautions and methods, you can have sex without much danger of STI contraction and without the possibility for pregnancy. But because people don't know the evolutionary psychological underpinnings for their feelings about sex in the first place, and don't understand the survive-ability/objective value connections with sex, they still cling to the hard-wired views that casual sex is immoral and that women who sleep around should be called nasty names.
 
This is where people are confused. Because of that psychological background, people tend to believe that they must form romantic attachments to whomever they have sex with. Often, even if they begin casually, they will find themselves "falling in love" with a person they have sex with casually. It's a sort of trick of the brain, but it can cause real problems and confusion about what real love really is. I don't think a person can grow up fully in terms of sexual relationships, and relationships in general, until they learn to be clear about the separation between sex and love, and to know that they really are separate concepts.
Edited by secondhander
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(she makes a distinction between valuing a sex partner and treating them as an object)

 

Yes clearly you should treat people as people, and not as objects. This is actually one of the primary reasons why many men have trouble getting women to have sex with them. 

 

(As an aside, there's nothing wrong with objectifying your partner in the act of having sex -- for fun and roleplay. But that's a different issue than treating a person as an object instead of a person in day-to-day life.)

 

But none of this has anything to do with forming an argument against casual sex.

 

You seem to be making two errors: 1. You are arguing that you shouldn't do anything casually with someone else. (Somehow that's wrong in your estimation, but I'm not sure why.) 2. You are begging the question by saying that casual sex is wrong because it is not actually casual sex, and never can be. (You are assuming the very thing you are trying to prove; i.e., casual sex can't be because it can't be.)

 

Additionally it occurs to me that your definition of casual sex is a bit of a strawman. You are assuming that casual sex means that you don't think of your partner as a person or a friend. Who says? Any woman I have sex with is absolutely a person, and absolutely a friend, though maybe a casual friend. I do have a love for her, a sort of friendship love. Even if I were to meet someone and decide to have a one-night-stand, I still form a casual friendship with that person in the time I know her. Sure, it's not deep love. Is that a requirement for activities with people? It's not deep and romantic love to be sure, and yet you think that's the only kind of love that sex belongs to. And thus in that I believe you are begging the question once again.

Edited by secondhander
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