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Sex And Morality, How Can I Reconcile Them

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I have a strange situation I have been going though for a while and have been reading objectivism based literature for about a year (non fiction, like ITOE and OPAR). However for the last 5 years (I am 23) I have been dating this girl and we currently live together. The thing is in general it's not a good relationship. I feel and have felt that she is not considerate of my feelings and pretty much just thinks of herself.

A lot of the relationship has been on again off again but after gaining a reasonable understanding of objectivism I have started to think conciously about why we are together and I feel that most of the reason has to do with me being afraid to leave or something along those lines (which are important to discover but not the main point of this post).

So logically I can see at this point that I probably should not be in a relationship like this, in that she doesn't really respect me, is pretty much self consumed and really there is no reason for us to be together. The problem is though I understand it's bad to be together I still want to have sex with her. This is very disturbing to me and I am not sure how I can change this. I continually think of why I think I want to have sex with her and really it's just for the pleasure of it. Which in a way kinda makes me disgusted. I feel almost like a self-enforced prisoner. What happens is that we end up having sex and ending back in a relationship... :thumbsup:

So my two questions are this:

1) is it wrong that she cares pretty much only about her feelings and her values? Is this considered a good selfish?! I can't see how but I had to ask.

2) What can I do to get myself to see it as bad to have sex with her? I keep telling myself that and I agree but I want to have the pleasure more than I want to break up. B)

I am trying to be really honest about myself here. I don't want to sugar coat it, that is just going to delay any rational solution.

What do you think i should do?

- Matt

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You sound honestly deeply troubled, and I think I understand why.

Bear in mind this short disclaimer: If you feel you have overwhelming psychological difficulties with this, seek professional help. I am not a therapist. A cognitive therapist can help you sort out your introspections if you need some help early on. What I am, however, is someone who has been through nearly the same issue and understands your question. With that in mind, let me proceed to offer my suggestions:

You have said that your girlfriend "thinks only of herself", but you haven't said that she is doing anything bad to you. It is possible for both of you to think of your own happiness and not make sacrifices for the other, and have a relationship that works. In fact, my wife and I do that now. :thumbsup: However, I suspect what you really meant to say is that you have to make sacrifices for her. In that case, you should seriously consider what your values are, and what their order of importance is. You need to introspect and decide what is important to you, without considering her at all. You need to be selfish and make yourself happy, because no one is going to do it for you.

This may seem like a daunting task. My blog articles on introspection may help. They are in the Egosphere metablog on the front page of this site, and also on my own blog Focus Foundry.

To address your problem with your desire to have sex with someone that apparently doesn't like you, you have to introspect again on where it is that desire comes from. I could guess that your subconscious has been programmed improperly, because you haven't ever before known that there should be reasons why you might want to have sex with one person over another beyond their physical appearance. It is most likely the past reliance on physical appearance, and beating that into your subconscious over and over, which has led you to this. If you read my blog entries on introspection, they may help you to understand that as well. And then, if you conclude that is true, then you should value your relationship with her accordingly.

What is most important here, whether I'm right or wrong about the reason for your conflicted desire, is that you trust no one but yourself, use your own mind and your own knowledge to figure this out. When you do and you know you are right, you will be very proud of yourself -- and I would be it will be the most glorious feeling you have ever experienced to date.

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In any conflict between your thought and your feelings, go with your thought.

That doesn't mean you should engage in repression (denying the existence of your feelings). You should acknowledge them, and then remind yourself that you think they are incorrect. Don't feel guilty if you have what you consider to be improper feelings. In the short term, fixing your incorrect subconscious assumptions is a lot of work.

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What can I do to get myself to see it as bad to have sex with her?

I suppose you could become a born-again Christian, and imagine God frowning down upon you whenever you so much as look at your girlfriend with lust. Or you could become a religious-minded Objectivist, adopting essentially the same method, only with the abstraction "morality" in place of God as your authority. Granted, neither of these options are likely to do much to improve your life (or to persuade you to stop having sex with her), though you'll definitely see your actions and yourself as "bad," which is after all what your question literally asks for.

In my eyes, your terrible sin is not so much that you've been intimate with a woman you don't really care for, but that you're settling for so much less than the best in your life. You're in an unhappy, pointless relationship, one apparently so unpleasant that you feel the need to get out of it — regularly. (Honestly, I don't know how you can stand the "on-again, off-again" thing. Isn't breaking up ONCE awful enough?)

Your situation is indeed strange, but not at all untypical. Lots of people are miserable, and endure all kinds of uncertainty and fog in their lives. The real tragedy is not that it's so common, but that so many accept it as normal — as "just the way it is."

I think this is at least part of your problem: You speak of breaking up with your girlfriend, but then you get back together after having sex. Huh? How do you have sex with someone AFTER you've broken up with them? And this is not a one-time event, but it happens continually, again and again. Really, man, how can you live like this?

I think you need to grow some self-esteem. You need to grasp what comes naturally to people who enjoy a high degree of self-confidence and self-respect: that love is simple — that where there's constant drama, bickering, fighting, breakups, ambiguity, weirdness, etc., there are problems. People with a healthy self-concept tend to have a commensurately healthy view of romantic love; they see it a source of profound joy and pleasure in life. They don't settle for tepid relationships — they don't "put up with" someone they're unenthusiastic about, merely because the sex feels good. And while anyone can make a mistake in choosing a romantic partner, people with high self-esteem tend to rectify their errors quickly and permanently; they don't keep making the same painful mistakes over and over again.

If you can raise your overall self-estimate, I think you'll come to see this relationship, and this kind of situation, as intolerable and unworthy of you. Obviously, you don't right now, and that's a big part of what's keeping you stuck in it. Don't fight it, though: examine it. You mentioned fear as a factor — fear of what? Of being happy? Of being alone? Perhaps of meeting and becoming involved with someone you would truly respect and love — which would feel strange to you? These are not facetious questions; a lot people find the prospect of happiness and fulfillment absolutely terrifying. For many, boredom and lethargy seem much safer, and much better suited to their (low) opinion of themselves.

As for your question #1, if you were to pose it anywhere other than a philosophy forum, you'd have to word it without the intellectual obfuscation — namely: "Is it OK for my girlfriend to treat me like a worthless piece of crap?" I hope that by now my answer, and the implications of the question, are obvious.

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Now, that's an oxymoron, if I've ever heard one!

If only that were so.

(Sure, a "religious-minded" Objectivist isn't really an Objectivist, but enough of those people call themselves Objectivists. And many of them post regularly on this forum. And many of them drive the quality posters away through their self-righteous posturing. It is presumably to such people that Mr. Delaney was referring.)

Don Watkins

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Or you could become a religious-minded Objectivist, adopting essentially the same method, only with the abstraction "morality" in place of God as your authority.

Out of curiosity, if you don't think one should be guided by morality, what should one be guided by? Whim?

If abstractions are not a basis on which to make decisions, what should serve as the basis of one's decisions? Don't abstractions stand for concretes?

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Out of curiosity, if you don't think one should be guided by morality, what should one be guided by? Whim?

If abstractions are not a basis on which to make decisions, what should serve as the basis of one's decisions? Don't abstractions stand for concretes?

I can't speak for Mr. Delaney, but I believe you are misinterpreting his post. I believe he was distinguishing between Objectivists, who use morality as a guide to achieving their values and securing their lives and happiness, and "religious-minded Objectivists" who view the Objectivist ethics as a set of commandments or dogma to be followed for the purposeof being "a good Objectivist."

Don Watkins

Edited by DPW
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I can't speak for Mr. Delaney, but I believe you are misinterpreting his post.  I believe he was distinguishing between Objectivists, who use morality as a guide to achieving their values and securing their lives and happiness, and "religious-minded Objectivists" who view the Objectivist ethics as a set of commandments or dogma to be followed for the purposeof being "a good Objectivist."

Okay, that is a valid distinction. I wonder, though: you said that there were many such people regularly posting on this forum. Could you give me some examples of the kinds of posts that fall under this category?

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If only that were so.

(Sure, a "religious-minded" Objectivist isn't really an Objectivist, ...

That is exactly what I meant. Ayn Rand wouldn't have wanted followers who treated her ideas like dogma, so I think it is an insult to her to even call such people Objectivists.

This is the reason why I don't call myself an Objectivist. Though Ayn Rand's ideas seem true to me at a glance, I have not yet entirely convinced myself that they are true. The day I call myself an Objectivist will be the day I have completed the enormous task in my mind of tying the last of her ideas to reality.

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I have a strange situation I have been going though for a while and have been reading objectivism based literature for about a year (non fiction, like ITOE and OPAR). However for the last 5 years (I am 23) I have been dating this girl and we currently live together. The thing is in general it's not a good relationship. I feel and have felt that she is not considerate of my feelings and pretty much just thinks of herself.

A lot of the relationship has been on again off again but after gaining a reasonable understanding of objectivism I have started to think conciously about why we are together and I feel that most of the reason has to do with me being afraid to leave or something along those lines (which are important to discover but not the main point of this post).

So logically I can see at this point that I probably should not be in a relationship like this, in that she doesn't really respect me, is pretty much self consumed and really there is no reason for us to be together. The problem is though I understand it's bad to be together I still want to have sex with her. This is very disturbing to me and I am not sure how I can change this. I continually think of why I think I want to have sex with her and really it's just for the pleasure of it. Which in a way kinda makes me disgusted. I feel almost like a self-enforced prisoner. What happens is that we end up having sex and ending back in a relationship...  :)

So my two questions are this:

1) is it wrong that she cares pretty much only about her feelings and her values? Is this considered a good selfish?! I can't see how but I had to ask.

2) What can I do to get myself to see it as bad to have sex with her? I keep telling myself that and I agree but I want to have the pleasure more than I want to break up. :confused: 

I am trying to be really honest about myself here. I don't want to sugar coat it, that is just going to delay any rational solution.

What do you think i should do?

- Matt

I'll answer your questions one at a time:

1) It is not wrong at all. Whose values should she care about other than her own? If she is rude to you or does not consider you worthy of respect, she is not acting in her own self-interest. As Howard Roark said in The Fountainhead: "To say, 'I love you,' you must first be able to say the 'I.'" It isn't selfless to care for someone else's feelings; if she doesn't, she's not acting for *either* of your values.

2) You need to explore the *reasons* why you want to break up with her, and consider whether they are valid. If you love her, stay with her, and have sex with her as much as you want (If you read more into Objectivism, you'll discover that sex is about much more than pleasure.) If you do not love her, and do not hesitate to admit it if it is true, break up.

As an afterthought, I want to tell you one thing that has helped me more often than any other caveat. No one can resolve something for you. To decide something, you must self-validate it in your own mind, which means: you have to know you are right, not because someone has told you so, but because you have come up with the truth yourself. Don't let anyone in this forum or anyone else tell you whether or not you really love your girlfriend. And, most importantly of all: If there is a conflict between your head and your heart, go by your head!

Good luck.

P. S.- Despite what some posters in this thread say, a religious-minded Objectivist is not an oxymoron. A dogmatic Objectivist certainly is, but consider other aspects of religion: worship, admiration, respect. These are all common devices of almost all Objectivists.

Edited by ingok
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I would say not necessarily an oxymororn, if by religious-minded you mean possessing the qualities of worship (to a consciously validated ideal), admiration (for all things heroic), and respect (for things worthy of respect). However, I think in the context of the way it was used in this thread, "religious-minded" was meant to connote "dogmatic," so yes indeed these posters were correct. Thus I question your motivation for making the point that it might be ok to be a "religious-minded" Objectivist. Are you trying to brush some negativity off the term "religious?" If so, why?

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I would say not necessarily an oxymororn, if by religious-minded you mean possessing the qualities of worship (to a consciously validated ideal), admiration (for all things heroic), and respect (for things worthy of respect).  However, I think in the context of the way it was used in this thread, "religious-minded" was meant to connote "dogmatic," so yes indeed these posters were correct.  Thus I question your motivation for making the point that it might be ok to be a "religious-minded" Objectivist.  Are you trying to brush some negativity off the term "religious?"  If so, why?

No, I'm not trying to brush any negativity off the term. I don't like very much when people use such terms as "religious-minded," while only briefly brushing over what they mean by it. What I was trying to say is that religion carries both good and bad qualities, and when a term such as "religioius-minded" is used, it should always be defined clearly. Not that I can accuse the posters who used it though, as I am often guilty of the same thing.

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A "religious-minded Objectivist" is exactly what I said it is: a person who subscribes to the Objectivist ethics — not as a guide to life, but as an authority to be obeyed.

The R.M.O.'s central purpose and goal is not to be happy, but to be moral — to be able to think of himself as "good." To the R.M.O., morality is an end in itself: ethical principles are merely rules or commandments to be followed, bearing little if any connection to anyone's actual life and well-being.

When you see a person questioning the moral status of concrete, contextless actions — and others responding exclusively in terms of how well they believe such actions correspond to Objectivist principles (or what they claim to be Objectivist principles) — what you are witnessing is, in effect, a religious, authority-based approach to ethics.

Even where their conclusions are true and consonant with Objectivism, what's wrong is the method — the very concept of morality implied in the way the issue is being approached and discussed.

In the post which started this thread, the author is concerned with the problem of feeling and acting upon a sexual attraction to a girlfriend he doesn't love or respect. As he sees it, the root of his trouble is that he is not fully persuaded of the wrongness of his actions — he doesn't fully see it as "bad" to have sex with her — and if he did, he'd lose his irrational feelings, and would thus stop engaging in the offending behavior. (He's apparently unaware that plenty of people do things they think are "bad" all the time, they just regret and feel guilty about it afterward.)

In this type of situation, it's essential to get the person to see his problem in terms of his real-life, long-range, rational self-interest — and to see his self-interest specifically in terms of his self-esteem, his quality of life, and his overall level of happiness.

[For the record, I'm not saying that the author of the original message has a religious mindset — only that his post seems to indicate a possible tendency in this direction.]

Can a person who suffers from this methodology be called an Objectivist? As with any such problem, it exists in degrees, and I've noticed that some people can be relatively clear-minded and well-integrated in certain areas, while being shockingly rationalistic and concrete-bound in others. By my definition, an Objectivist is a person who has studied the writings and ideas of Ayn Rand, and whose stated, conscious convictions are consonant with the essence of her philosophy. I never hold a person's psychology or psycho-epistemology against him — except perhaps in truly egregious cases, where an individual clearly has no real grasp of what Objectivism is, and how philosophical principles are formed and arrived at.

I also don't negatively assess a person in this respect merely on the basis of his manner of expressing his views. Some people simply have no tact or empathy when responding to ideas they disagree with; some people are just very poor at articulating and communicating what they mean. While these certainly are problems, I don't think they necessarily imply a religious mentality or approach.

Edited by Kevin Delaney
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  • 1 month later...

Wow, we went back and forth and so...what's the outcome? I hope you managed to determine that there are so many other women out there who would do you right.

BTW, its important to be rational in your selfishness. To be so inconsiderate of you doesn't warrant your highest, which sex represents.

Lots of ppl have offered some good food for thought. I'm wondering how you think about it.

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