[NOTE: This article is not addressed to Objectivists. It is not meant as a criticism of Objectivists or Objectivism or as an argument with them about what they believe. This article is meant for those looking for sound principles for guiding their life in a morally decadent age, and a warning to them that Objectivism will not provide those moral principles.]
Ayn Rand famously said, "The world crisis of today is a moral crisis—and nothing less than a moral revolution can resolve it ..." [Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 1966.]
If Ayn Rand considered the moral state of the world a, "crisis," in 1966, she would no doubt consider the moral state of the world today a hopeless disaster. The moral state of society and culture is more corrupt and decadent than ever before in history.
Objectivism, in part, was Rand's attempt to help bring about the kind of moral "revolution," she believed would prevent the kind of moral degradation rampant today. Objectivism obviously failed to accomplish that mission and today has become a major contributor to that corruption.
Objectivism is a philosophical system developed and named by author Ayn Rand. Today, some thirty six years after her death there are two versions of Objectivism. One is the original Objectivism delineated by Rand herself. The other is a movement or ideology promoted by those who call themselves Objectivists and claim to promote Rand's philosophy, but is, in fact, quite different from that philosophy.
There are problems with both versions of Objectivism.
The problems with Rand's version of Objectivism are mostly technical and philosophical in nature, which are serious but correctable. The original Objectivism is generally based on sound premises and has contributed important concepts to philosophy, especially to epistemology and ethics.
The problem with what goes by the name Objectivism today is that it retains Rand's philosophical mistakes, which are defended with religious zeal, while corrupting Rand's Objectivism with ideas and interpretations that actually contradict Rand's views.
No matter which version of Objectivism one considers, Objectivism is not philosophy itself—Objectivism is the sum of one individual's philosophical thinking. Though it is treated by many as an ideology to be accepted and promoted without question, no one school of philosophy is the end of philosophical enquiry.
In future articles I will address other specific problems inherent in both versions of Objectivism. This article deals strictly with today's Objectivism and it's promotion of sexual promiscuity and sexual perversions, devoid of any moral principles.
Rand's views of sex were beginning to be challenged in the 1980's. By 2000, the views being put over as Objectivist completely contradicted Rand's views. For examples, by 2002, Objectivists promoted homosexuality as having no moral significance while Rand rightly identified homosexuality as a sexual perversion.
Objectivist "Anything Goes" View Of Sex
Craig Biddle of The Objectivist Standard says that, "Sex for Pleasure, Fornication, and Experimentation," is perfectly moral. He calls it, "a rational view of sex—a view in which sex for pleasure, premarital sex, and all manner of consensual adult sexual experimentation are seen as good things."
In another article, "Sex Among Older Teens Can Be Moral and Healthy," a rant against a certain Colorado preacher, Biddle says, "people who are mature and responsible enough to have sex should pursue it passionately and enthusiastically,..." Who are those, "mature and responsible," individuals? The "group under consideration is not thirteen and fourteen year olds, but older teenagers," he says. So for everyone fifteen or older sex should be pursued passionately and enthusiastically, according to Biddle.
The Ayn Rand Institute's Ari Armstrong article, "Have Sex for Pleasure this Valentine's Day," identifies everything that is wrong with the modern Objectivist view of sex: "the primary purpose of sex is not procreation (an optional value) but pleasure (a requirement of human life), which corresponds to the fact that the latter purpose is far more widely embraced." Let me emphasize the point Armstrong is making: The primary purpose of sex is pleasure.
How is the purpose of any human attribute or faculty determined? Why do human beings have genitals? To say the primary purpose of sex is not procreation is the equivalent of saying the primary purpose of the lungs is not breathing. If human beings reproduced in some other way, asexually for example, there would be no genitals. To deny the reason human beings have genitals is for reproduction flies in the face of both fact and reason.
Like every other human attribute and faculty, when used as their nature dictates, that proper use is pleasurable. Pleasure is our nature's way of rewarding us for right action, for using any of our faculties as their nature requires them to be used.
The nature of the human genitals dictates how they ought to be used. Male and female are naturally physically compatible to fulfill their function of reproduction. They are, among human attributes, the only ones requiring another human being to fulfill, the means not only of reproduction but of completing each other, and uniting each other in a physical act that perfectly reflects their love.
Ari Armstrong attempts to make "pleasure" teleological. Who decided the purpose of sex is pleasure? Eating provides a great deal of pleasure, but no sane person would say the primary the purpose of eating is pleasure, the primary purpose is sustenance. Pleasure is a byproduct. Almost all human activities are accompanied by pleasure, because they are appropriate to the nature of human life, but pleasure is never the objective or our nature's normal activities.
Using drugs provides a great deal of pleasure. For those who use drugs recreationally, pleasure is its only purpose. On the grounds that Armstrong advocates, taking drugs is good and moral because it provides pleasure, just as promiscuous sex is good and moral because it provides pleasure.
Of course sex is engaged in because it is pleasurable just as we often eat for pleasure without any thought of its actual purpose, but neither sex or eating can be indulged in indiscriminately just because we desire and enjoy them. The hedonistic view of sex promoted by Armstrong ignores the fact no pleasure is an end in itself and that pleasure sought for its own sake is always problematic. But don't look to today's Objectivism for any guidance on how to make right choices regarding one's sex life.
The Objectivist view that sex with anyone is always moral, so long as it is consensual, includes every sexual perversion. In his article, "Homosexuality: Moral or Immoral?" Biddle explains that sexual orientation per se is neither moral nor immoral ...," making the case that, "the relevant issue is whether, given a person's orientation, he approaches sex in a rational, self-interested, rights-respecting manner."
He also points out, "hostility to homosexuality stems primarily from religion and should be ignored."
This is a typical slight-of-hand obfuscation common among apologists for the sexually disfunctional. It labels anything but enthusiastic praise for every sexual variation as "hostility." Eating hair, metal, and other non-food objects and substances is called pica, a recognized abnormal and harmful practice. There is obviously no hostility in identifying that self-harmful practice as abnormal. Identifying the growing practice among young people called "self-harm" or cutting as dangerous and abnormal is not hostility. Identifying and explaining what is wrong and harmful about homosexual practices, both physiologically and psychologically, is not hostility.
Perhaps among the religious there is hostility toward homosexuality (but then there is a great deal of hostility on the part of homosexuals toward the religious). The problems of homosexuality have nothing to do with anyone's religious views, they have only to do with the reality of human nature—homosexuality is in defiance of that reality. It is harmful and destructive, both physically and psychologically, to homosexuals, individually and to each other. To do anything to or with another human being that causes them harm is immoral.
As Long As It's Consensual
Moral or ethical principles are not social. While they will certainly determine how we relate to others, their primary purpose is to guide us as individuals in making right choices to the furtherance of our own lives, futures, and happiness. Those principles are needed because, if we choose to live successfully and enjoy our lives, we cannot do just anything we feel like or desire, because indulging every whim and doing whatever gives us pleasure is the certain road to disaster. We need principles to determine which choices and which behavior will actually achieve true human success and happiness.
One of the most common wrong views today is the belief that anything that is consensual, anything that two or more individuals choose to do with or to each other, so long as everyone agrees to it and no force or coercion is used, it has no moral significance or is actually morally good.
What determines the morality of anyone's choices or actions is not others, what they like or dislike or want or agree to, it is whether one's own actions are based on moral principles.
A moral individual does not cheat, threaten others, rape, or "take advantage," of anyone else's weaknesses or foibles. He will not take advantage of anyone for his own gratification. He will not use women (and she will not use men) for his own pleasure and attempt to justify it on the grounds that it was, "consensual." What an evil lie one must tell oneself to use another person as though it was OK because that person agreed to being used, or perhaps even enjoyed it.
The moral individual neither desires or pursues anything, not wealth, nor position, nor pleasure, that he has not earned and is worthy of because he has achieved or acquired it by his own honest effort. He knows that taking advantage of others or pandering to their irrational desires is cheating, gaining what he is not worthy of.
The, "as long as it's consensual," view of morality is a cover for those who use others with the excuse, "I'm only giving them what they want."
That excuse is used for almost every kind of evil. Providing another with what harms them cannot be excused on the basis that it's what they wanted. The sadist is not justified in harming another just because the other is a masochist. I have no idea what pathology makes some people want to be hurt, but their desire does not justify someone taking advantage of their twisted desires to satisfy their own perverted passions. Every child molester, producer of pornographic, salacious, and degrading form of entertainment, every con artist and every drug dealer uses the excuse, "I'm only giving them what they want."
The fact that most peoples' desires are not determined by objective values but driven by subjective feelings and irrational beliefs does not justify taking advantage of their irrational desires. If you need an explanation of the morally corrupt society of the age it is the dominant belief that so long as no one is being forced to do something, anything anyone desires to do, or do with others, is morally good. It is the view being promoted by today's Objectivism.
Objectivism And Pornography
Ayn Rand opposed all censorship, even of pornography, but she prefaced her arguments against censorship as follows:
"I want to state, for the record, my own view of what is called 'hard-core' pornography. I regard it as unspeakably disgusting. I have not read any of the books or seen any of the current movies belonging to that category, and I do not intend ever to read or see them. The descriptions provided in legal cases, as well as the 'modern' touches in 'soft-core' productions, are sufficient grounds on which to form an opinion. The reason of my opinion is the opposite of the usual one: I do not regard sex as evil—I regard it as good, as one of the most important aspects of human life, too important to be made the subject of public anatomical display." ["Censorship: Local and Express," Philosophy: Who Needs It.]
Pornography is terribly harmful to those who become addicted to it, but even for those who are exposed to it casually, it's psychological affects can be harmful, because it corrupts everything about the intimacy and beauty of sex.
Objectivism today finds no moral significance in the production or use of pornography and even promotes it as a virtue.
In an Atlas Society article, "Pornography," William Thomas writes:
"The first thing to say about it is that Objectivism is not prudish. It does not counsel denying one's sexual nature, does not regard chastity as a notable virtue, does not regard masturbation as sinful, and thinks that in the context of a rational life, one should seek and enjoy pleasure. Speaking broadly then, it holds that one should enjoy what is to one's taste, and this could well include forms of erotica and pornography."
After some mild warnings of the possible abuse of pornography, Thomas concludes, "This said, pornography can be a source of sexual titillation and pleasure, and is so for many."
Another Atlas Society article, "Drawing a Line between Pornography and Art," Michael Newberry equates art and pornography with the objective of promoting pornography as a form of art, and therefore morally good. He provides pornographic examples to prove his point.
Only About Individuals
It is true we are living in a morally decadent age. Corruption and degradation dominate almost every aspect of American culture. Rand was right that nothing short of a moral revolution can reverse the ever accelerating moral and cultural decline.
Nevertheless, the purpose of moral principles is not for the sake of society, not for determining political policy, and not about producing a proper culture. Moral principles have only one purpose: to provide the means by which individuals can make the right choices in what they think, what they believe, and what they do—in other words, how they live, that will achieve all that is possible to them as human beings to be the best they can be in all things and enjoy their lives to the fullest.
If you are looking for moral principles regarding sex, for your own life or the life of your family and children, you will not find them in Objectivism.