Rand Versus Orientation

If you want to make people you disagree with look bad, just tie them to Ayn Rand.  Sometimes, this is pretty easy to do, such as folks who support big business over the poor.  Other times, it is a bit more…um…muddled.

The author argues:

Traditionally, sexual desire has been characterized as being called forth by the other, a motion of love and desire that wells up in us as a response to a value perceived in another human being. Sexual attraction, in this view, is other-orientated.

And then continues:

Rand reverses this order, arguing that “sex is an expression of self-esteem” and “the most profoundly selfish of all acts.” A man “will always be attracted to the woman who reflects the deepest vision of himself.” Man — considered as an individual, without any reference to another person — has a set of values. The woman he is attracted to is not attractive insofar as she presents something “new” or “other.” Rather she presents something “old” and “the same” — the embodiment of a value-set he already has. For Rand, all sex is masturbation, sex with oneself. The other becomes a mirror for our values, and we — Narcissus, all — are aroused by the sight.

I see the setup…where we are going here…

I cannot reject Ayn Rand as easily as I’d like, for the simple reason that our current logic of “sexual orientation” is Randian to the core. That I am a “heterosexual” means precisely this, that I have a pre-set “orientation” towards the other sex, an already-operating valuation of “women” as such. A particular woman, far from presenting some “new” value, calling forth attraction from me, is attractive insofar as she “clicks” with my orientation. She is a fulfillment of my values, my already-established desire, which is not for her – for then it could only be called forth from a personal encounter with her — but for “the other  sex.”

When a young boy finds himself attracted to another boy, we admonish him to “come out of the closet,” to recognize himself as being a homosexual — or at least bisexual. But what does this mean, except that his sexual attraction to another, particular person is nothing more than evidence of his pre-existing orientation? Our boy had, unbeknownst to himself, an identity, a set of values and desires and a mode of being in the world. His attraction was not called forth by another, it was only revealed as having always been a part — and a fixed, identity-determining part, no less — of his ego. The ego, and not the other, becomes the reference point for human sexuality.

See, by accepting the notion that we have a generally preset orientation, that are attractions are based on self.  To be frank, this is rather loopy semantics.  I cannot recall a time when there was not something about women I found to be, well alluring.  I may not have quite understood what caught my eye about Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman or Catherine Bach on the Dukes of Hazzard…but I knew there was something.  Puberty kind of cleared it all up.  It made the attraction clearer (but with all new confusions).  Does it actually change something to say Lynda Carter called forth my feelings of desires?  Even in the traditional view, we are drawn to the person who called us out because of a feeling stirred in us.

And the other problem with the “called forth” school of thought is it takes all responsibility off of me.  I cannot help my feelings, the other person is stirring them, not me!  This is, oddly enough, the stalker school of thought.  I cannot control this because the other person inspires my love, whether they want it or not, it is their doing.

The Rand philosophy was, “I desire what I want and will take it, whether the object of desire wants me to or not.”  The notion of being heterosexual or homosexual is simply, “I desire this trait.”

Acknowledging the existence of a pre-ordained orientation is not Randian at all.  It is simply being aware that your attraction to a person has many components in play.  I would note that the “called forth desire” model would favor gay relationships as equal to heterosexual ones, as you are being drawn to the person, not their gender.

But really, the whole piece is a semantic argument in an attempt to tie Rand to the school of thought on orientation.

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