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Conservatives' War on Birth Control

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Yesterday ARI released an op-ed called "The Conservatives' War on Birth Control" by Keith Lockitch. For the most part, I think this is an interesting and well written article, but there is one part that bothers me a little.

Consider that sexual desire is a response to personal values. For a rational person, it is not a desire for mindless, indiscriminate indulgence, but a feeling that results from the embodiment in one's lover of one's highest, most important values. For a couple in a serious, committed, romantic relationship, sex is a celebration of their love--an expression, in the form of intense physical pleasure, of the joy that each partner derives from the other.

The implication here is that it is irrational for someone to enjoy sex unless in a "serious, committed" relationship. Although an Objectivist would probably understand "committed" to mean a commitment to values, I would expect a religious conservative to assume this to mean a commitment to the other person, ie, marriage-- and since they are the subject of the article, I think this was a poor choice of words.

[Atlas Shrugged spoiler ahead]

Consider the relationship between Dagny and Rearden, in Atlas Shrugged. I would regard their sexual relationship as moral and responsible, but I would be reluctant to describe it as "a serious, committed" romance. There was certainly not an explicit commitment between the two of them. Rearden was married to another woman, and Dagny of course dropped Rearden as soon as she met John Galt. Given the mixed premises that Rearden was still struggling with at the time, I would expect him to have refused any explicit commitment if one had been suggested.

[End spoiler]

Of course, Objectivism doesn't endorse the pursuit of promiscuity or otherwise irresponsible or indiscriminate sexual relationships. So in a certain sense, I would agree that a rational sexual relationship should be "serious." But by combining the word "serious" with "committed," I think that this op-ed might give the wrong impression to those not so familiar with Objectivism, that it is much closer to the Puritanical view that the article is criticizing than it is (in reality, it is not close at all!).

Am I mistaken in this judgment?

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I always considered that one was serious and committed to one's own values, not a particular person, when considering a sexual relationship. By this, I mean that, for instance, I wouldn't have any kind of sexual relationship with a drug addict because that person hasn't a chance of meeting the standards of the serious values I am committed to (I likely wouldn't have any kind of relationship to most drug addicts). I might have a sexual relationship with someone who doesn't rise to the standards I have for a serious and committed long-term relationship, however. Just because the person isn't "the one" doesn't necessarily mean that I wouldn't be sexually attracted to that person because he met other standards, or represented other values I admired. I enjoy many things that I don't consider prerequisites for a committed, long-term romantic relationship.

When thinking about this, perhaps one ought to consider a sexual relationship and a relationship where one makes a serious, perhaps even a life-long commitment, as two separate things. Dagny loved Hank and their sexual relationship was an expression of that love. As much as she felt for Hank, however, even as the relationship was going on, she knew that he didn't meet the requirements for the final expression of her values. She probably could have spent her life with Hank and been happy, just as she would have been happy with Francisco, but there would always have been something missing. Remember the scene in the bare offices of the John Galt Line that dark and lonely night, when she saw the stranger's shadow pacing back and forth in indecision? That happened in the middle of her affair with Reardon.

It is late and my brain is close to being oatmeal. I hope I don't read this tomorrow and find I've come off like the slut of the year. :blink:

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It is late and my brain is close to being oatmeal. I hope I don't read this tomorrow and find I've come off like the slut of the year. :blink:

No, I don't think so. I totally agree with you.

I always considered that one was serious and committed to one's own values, not a particular person, when considering a sexual relationship.

Maybe if he had said "serious, committed individuals in a romantic relationship," instead of "serious, committed romantic relationship," then it would have been more clear and correct?

I might have a sexual relationship with someone who doesn't rise to the standards I have for a serious and committed long-term relationship, however. Just because the person isn't "the one" doesn't necessarily mean that I wouldn't be sexually attracted to that person because he met other standards, or represented other values I admired. I enjoy many things that I don't consider prerequisites for a committed, long-term romantic relationship.

I think that's a sensible way to look at it. Ayn Rand expresses some interesting views on sex in a letter to Gerald Loeb on June 3, 1944. Mr. Loeb is writing a novel in which his protagonist is struggling with conflicts between sex as a physical need, and his mind and ideals, and Ayn Rand is giving him advice on how his character should resolve the conflict.

The thing that seems to terrify your hero is the fact that his satisfaction depends upon another human being, upon some woman. There is nothing so dreadful in that. Not if he found the right woman. It can appear terrible to him—only until he does find her. But if he doesn't—well, as he matures and grasps the subject, he would learn that he can find a second-best substitute. Let's say, not a wife, but an attractive mistress. It would not be sex at its best and highest—not the perfect union of the spiritual and the physical—but it would not be terrifying or degrading or enslaving. That typically adolescent feeling comes, I think, only from physical impatience—a strong physical desire that drives the man to women he despises, for lack of anything better, while his mind naturally objects. Why should his mind object if he found a woman he did not despise?

I've spoken to some Objectivists (not on THE FORUM) who seem to think that it is immoral to have a sexual relationship with anyone who is less than one's highest romantic ideal. But I think that is a little bit prudish and almost an ascetic, Christian view of sexuality. I think there are all sorts of contexts in which it would be moral to sleep with someone-- not whom you despise, but who is less than your ideal. For instance, [FOUNTAINHEAD SPOILER!] I don't think it was immoral for Dominique, given her context of maturity and development, to sleep with Gail Wynand, when she was in love with Roark. She couldn't be with Roark, at that point-- she wasn't ready. So why not enjoy Wynand? He wasn't her ideal, but he was good for her, and even Roark understood that, without the need of discussing it. Of course, in Dominique's case, there always was a marriage commitment, with every sexual relationship she had, except for with Roark, in the early days. And the ironic thing is that her relationship with Roark was probably the most healthy of them all, even without an explicit commitment. Which I'd say further illustrates my point.[END SPOILER]

Well, I was slightly bothered when I first read those sentences in the article, and thought about posting something about it here. But later that afternoon, before I'd gotten around to posting anything, I saw someone (a very intelligent person) on a different forum quoting part of that same section, as an argument for the inherent immorality of strip clubs. I don't personally have much on an opinion on strip clubs, but that coincidence was enough to make me want to start a topic on this even more, because I think that section of the op-ed is too equivocal, and that it deals with a subject that's important and should be understood clearly.

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Although an Objectivist would probably understand "committed" to mean a commitment to values, I would expect a religious conservative to assume this to mean a commitment to the other person, ie, marriage

I don't see what difference this makes. The other person IS the value.

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he would learn that he can find a second-best substitute. Let's say, not a wife, but an attractive mistress. It would not be sex at its best and highest-not the perfect union of the spiritual and the physical-but it would not be terrifying or degrading or enslaving.

The big question is: what makes the mistress attractive? And if she's attractive, what is it about her that keeps you from marrying her?

If there are some things about her that are attractive, but many other things about her are repulsive, then I would most definitely be terrified at the thought of having her as a mistress. On the other hand, if she's a nice gal who perpaps isn't the brightest of all bulbs, but respects herself and knows right from wrong, then what is to prevent me from loving her as the most attractive woman available to me, and expressing that love by marrying her?

Refusing to marry the woman you love amounts to saying that your entire relationship with her is phony; that you don't really love her. I think it's no coincidence that Dominique always married the man she professed to unequivocally love: her integrity left her no other choice.

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Yesterday ARI released an op-ed called "The Conservatives' War on Birth Control" by Keith Lockitch. For the most part, I think this is an interesting and well written article, but there is one part that bothers me a little.

Consider that sexual desire is a response to personal values. For a rational person, it is not a desire for mindless, indiscriminate indulgence, but a feeling that results from the embodiment in one's lover of one's highest, most important values. For a couple in a serious, committed, romantic relationship, sex is a celebration of their love--an expression, in the form of intense physical pleasure, of the joy that each partner derives from the other.

The implication here is that it is irrational for someone to enjoy sex unless in a "serious, committed" relationship.

I do not see that implication in the words you quote. I read the quote as contrasting sex as "mindless indiscriminate indulgence" with "a serious committed romantic relationship," two endpoints leaving a middleground for which no particular judgment is being made.

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I've spoken to some Objectivists (not on THE FORUM) who seem to think that it is immoral to have a sexual relationship with anyone who is less than one's highest romantic ideal. But I think that is a little bit prudish and almost an ascetic, Christian view of sexuality.

We have had that sort of discussion on THE FORUM more than once. You might want to take a look at this thread, which started out on the subject of monogamy and, if I recall correctly, morphed into just the kind of issue that you raise.

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I do not see that implication in the words you quote. I read the quote as contrasting sex as "mindless indiscriminate indulgence" with "a serious committed romantic relationship," two endpoints leaving a middleground for which no particular judgment is being made.

This is how I read it too.

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The big question is: what makes the mistress attractive? And if she's attractive, what is it about her that keeps you from marrying her?

I've enjoyed relationships with partners I found attractive, among other qualities I value. I demanded more from my husband.

If there are some things about her that are attractive, but many other things about her are repulsive, then I would most definitely be terrified at the thought of having her as a mistress.

I would never have a relationship with someone who repulses me in any fashion. Just because someone doesn't click with me on the level I want in a committed romantic relationship, doesn't mean that I find no value in them, however.

On the other hand, if she's a nice gal who perhaps isn't the brightest of all bulbs, but respects herself and knows right from wrong, then what is to prevent me from loving her as the most attractive woman available to me, and expressing that love by marrying her?

Refusing to marry the woman you love amounts to saying that your entire relationship with her is phony; that you don't really love her. I think it's no coincidence that Dominique always married the man she professed to unequivocally love: her integrity left her no other choice.

Do you think that the only options are marriage and celibacy? All else is phony and dishonest? How is this attitude towards sex, in effect, any different than that of Christianity? Whoohoo! Objectivism allows me to find actual joy in the sexual relationship--within my marriage. That's it? All else is morally reprehensible?

What about the woman you accept as good enough? Do you think that a person can find happiness in a marriage where she knows she was accepted as good enough, not chosen because she meets your highest values? Or are you counting on her not noticing because, after all, she's not the brightest bulb? If she does know right from wrong, perhaps she might consider such a compromise wrong and inimical to her happiness. Of course, she could just decide that she loves you so much that she will live with the fact that you don't love her the same way. I would not expect her to find joy in her sex life knowing that, however, much less her marriage.

If you found that "Dominique always married the man she professed to unequivocally love", you have a copy of The Fountainhead with a lot of stuff in it that isn't in my copy. It was her integrity that was behind her marriages, but it was an integrity that was based on a seriously skewed viewpoint, borne of fear. She sought the destruction in her marriages; punishment, not joy. This is why her relationships are inverted: she marries the men she loathes, and has an affair with the man she loves.

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I've spoken to some Objectivists (not on THE FORUM) who seem to think that it is immoral to have a sexual relationship with anyone who is less than one's highest romantic ideal.

Incidentally, if they are claiming that in the name of Objectivism, you might want to quote them these words from Ayn Rand.

In her [Dagny's] first two romances -- Francisco d'Anconia, then Hank Rearden -- she was not committed to the man as her one and only love. In the case of Francisco, they were too young. In the case of Rearden, he had philosophical problems and he was married. Neither relationship was begun on the understanding that it was her final choice. And because she was not fully committed, when she met John Galt she was free to realize that he was exactly the type of man she had always hoped to find. (Radio Program, "Night Call," March 1969, quoted in Ayn Rand Answers, p. 138)

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We have had that sort of discussion on THE FORUM more than once. You might want to take a look at this thread, which started out on the subject of monogamy and, if I recall correctly, morphed into just the kind of issue that you raise.

Ah, I missed that one. Thanks, I'll look at it.

Incidentally, if they are claiming that in the name of Objectivism, you might want to quote them these words from Ayn Rand.

Thank you very much for this-- Ayn Rand Answers has been next on my list of things to buy.

I do not see that implication in the words you quote. I read the quote as contrasting sex as "mindless indiscriminate indulgence" with "a serious committed romantic relationship," two endpoints leaving a middleground for which no particular judgment is being made.

Yeah, I can see that. So you're reading it as though he's saying, the romance of a seriously committed couple is one example of rational people enjoying sex for a good reason-- an example that would be easy for anyone to understand, because it's an extreme; not that it's the only such scenario possible for a rational person?

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Do you think that the only options are marriage and celibacy?

I think the only option is marriage. :blink:

Well, for most people, anyway. There may always be special situations that change the context. But a happy, successful marriage has always been what I've dreamed of; the idea of an affair leaves me completely cold. I would be literally unable to pursue a relationship with a woman I didn't love enough to marry. If she's not the right one, she's not the right one--so what business have I sleeping with her?

All else is phony and dishonest? How is this attitude towards sex, in effect, any different than that of Christianity?

My objective is to come to rational conclusions and live by them, not to avoid doing things as Christians do. Even the most religious people get some things right--a person who consistently gets everything wrong cannot survive for long.

There are many variants of Christianity, so before I can begin to address your question, you would have to specify the exact attitude towards sex you have in mind. But I can tell you in advance that if you are opposed to the ideal of a serious and committed relationship just because that ideal is shared by most Christians, then I very strongly disagree.

What about the woman you accept as good enough? Do you think that a person can find happiness in a marriage where she knows she was accepted as good enough, not chosen because she meets your highest values?

Shouldn't I be the one asking this question, with "marriage" replaced with "affair" ?

My stance is that one should find the best romantic partner available, and stick with her. Do I think that a person can find happiness if she knows I chose her because she's the best? You bet I do. It's if I chose her for any other reason that she should worry about my motives.

If you found that "Dominique always married the man she professed to unequivocally love", you have a copy of The Fountainhead with a lot of stuff in it that isn't in my copy. It was her integrity that was behind her marriages, but it was an integrity that was based on a seriously skewed viewpoint

Where did I claim otherwise?

[FOUNTAINHEAD SPOILERS BELOW]

She sought the destruction in her marriages; punishment, not joy.

That's true for her marriage with Keating. That's the marriage where she really just professed to love her husband. With Wynand, it's different; I think she loved Wynand just like Roark loved Wynand--except that she was of the opposite sex, with all that it implied. Although her reasons for loving him were partly different than Roark's; she fell in love with "Mr. Wynand Papers."

And her marriage with Roark at the end, of course, was anything but based on destruction or punishment.

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I do not see that implication in the words you quote. I read the quote as contrasting sex as "mindless indiscriminate indulgence" with "a serious committed romantic relationship," two endpoints leaving a middleground for which no particular judgment is being made.

Yeah, I can see that. So you're reading it as though he's saying, the romance of a seriously committed couple is one example of rational people enjoying sex for a good reason-- an example that would be easy for anyone to understand, because it's an extreme; not that it's the only such scenario possible for a rational person?

I read it, especially in context, as being silent on other than what was chosen for the main purpose of the Op-Ed. The main theme was "Opposition to birth control is an assault on the pursuit of happiness," and the choice of "a couple in a serious, committed, romantic relationship" seems the best example to use to underscore the theme, especially as contrasted to "mindless, indiscriminate indulgence."

Personally, I share your opposition to the almost puritanical view towards sex voiced by a few Objectivists, but I don't think there is anything in this Op-Ed which promotes that view.

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I would be literally unable to pursue a relationship with a woman I didn't love enough to marry.

But why would you be unable? What ideas is your lack of motivation based on? What premises give rise to your view?

If she's not the right one, she's not the right one--so what business have I sleeping with her?

The "business" would be your pleasure and happiness, two joys that I presume you value. But, regardless, I wonder about your choice of words: "the right one." That phrase makes it sound like every other woman is the "wrong" one. Wrong for what purpose? Evidently, wrong for marriage. But exactly where is it ordained that marriage as a goal is the main criteria for having sex? I ask this is all seriousness, as I cannot fathom from what in Objectivism this view is derived.

Also, if you will, I am really curious what you think about the Ayn Rand quote I provided in this post. There Miss Rand speaks of some of the greatest heros she ever created, the ideals, and she indicates that, though Dagny slept with Francisco and Hank, "she was not committed to the man as her one and only love."

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But why would you be unable? What ideas is your lack of motivation based on? What premises give rise to your view?

The premise that sex is the highest expression of love. Kissing, stroking, fondling, hugging, petting--these are all actions that express love, and all forms of sex with a consenting woman involve these kinds of actions at one stage or the other. To have sex with a woman is to say you love her. Not just like her (the expression of that would be a friendly smile), but love her. So I think integrity demands that I smile at the girls I like, and go to bed with the one I love.

The "business" would be your pleasure and happiness, two joys that I presume you value.

Pleasure and happiness are emotional reactions; they are results and indicators of the achievement of my values. To make them part of my value hierarchy would amount to making emotions the basis of my ideas--which would, if consistently acted on, be a sure way to keep pleasure and happiness out of my life!

But, regardless, I wonder about your choice of words: "the right one." That phrase makes it sound like every other woman is the "wrong" one. Wrong for what purpose?

For the purpose of a romantic relationship, the essence of which is (at least as I see it) a partnership in life. I am looking for something like a business partner, except that in this case the "business" is life qua life. And I am trying to find the potential partner who is the best-suited one for this role; one is worthy of receiving a share in the "profits" of this "venture."

But exactly where is it ordained that marriage as a goal is the main criteria for having sex?

Objection, your Honor! The use of the word "ordained" is an attempt to emotionally influence the jury! :)

My main criterion for having sex, as I explained above, is love. That is, valuation. When I have found a worthy partner in life, I will want to let her know how much I value her. And, since I will value her above all other women (not because the other women are necessarily bad, but due to the fact that she is actually, not just potentially, my partner), I will want my actions to show that I value her above all women. And every affair I have now, before I meet her, would detract from the weight of my actions when I'm with her. The more exclusive an act of appreciation is, the better it conveys the degree of valuation.

Also, if you will, I am really curious what you think about the Ayn Rand quote I provided in this post. There Miss Rand speaks of some of the greatest heros she ever created, the ideals, and she indicates that, though Dagny slept with Francisco and Hank, "she was not committed to the man as her one and only love."

But in the same paragraph, she says "he [Rearden] had philosophical problems[.]" So it is clear that, even though these heroes were the greatest ideals, they still had mistaken ideas at times. Although Miss Rand probably thought that their relationship was not one of their mistakes. I think the relationship itself was fine myself--they clearly did love each other, and their love had a fully rational basis--but then I ask, why not be committed then? Well, the plot of the novel was a good reason to keep Dagny uncommitted, :D but I do not see such an approach to love as an ideal to follow in my life, nor would I recommend it to my friends.

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So I think integrity demands that I smile at the girls I like, and go to bed with the one I love.

That's nice, but the question was about what premises underlie you inability to "pursue a relationship with a woman I didn't love enough to marry."

Pleasure and happiness are emotional reactions ... would amount to making emotions the basis of my ideas ...

You answer my question as if I was promoting hedonism, but hedonism is not the only alternative to asceticism.

For the purpose of a romantic relationship, the essence of which is (at least as I see it) a partnership in life.

Which begs the question. I am asking about the premises which underlie your inability to have a romantic relationship with a woman unless you intend to marry her.

My main criterion for having sex, as I explained above, is love.... And every affair I have now, before I meet her, would detract from the weight of my actions when I'm with her.

Am I correct in assuming, then, that you would not have sex with "her" until after you are married?

I think the relationship itself was fine myself--they clearly did love each other, and their love had a fully rational basis ... but I do not see such an approach to love as an ideal to follow in my life, nor would I recommend it to my friends.

To see if I understand you correctly, are you saying that it is right and moral for two lovers to have sex (if they have a rational basis for their love), even if they do not intend to marry, but that such an act is not ideal?

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Pleasure and happiness are emotional reactions; they are results and indicators of the achievement of my values. To make them part of my value hierarchy would amount to making emotions the basis of my ideas--which would, if consistently acted on, be a sure way to keep pleasure and happiness out of my life!

In fact, how a person feels about his romantic partner is the most important consideration in selecting a partner.

When it comes to romantic love, emotions -- especially sense of life, that emotion that sums up all of one's deepest values -- are supremely important. The desire and passion that drives a man to possess a woman forms a bond between two souls rewarding them with the greatest of pleasures for possessing the greatest of virtues. It is that bond that holds a marriage together through all the sorrows and joys two people face, as individuals and as a couple, over the course of a lifetime.

For the purpose of a romantic relationship, the essence of which is (at least as I see it) a partnership in life. I am looking for something like a business partner, except that in this case the "business" is life qua life. And I am trying to find the potential partner who is the best-suited one for this role; one is worthy of receiving a share in the "profits" of this "venture."

I have seen that cold, calculating approach to romantic love many times before -- usually from sincere young Objectivists who want to to do the "proper" and the "rational" thing -- and it always ends in disaster. They select someone they ought to love, based on their list of required virtues and other characteristics, rather than someone they do love and find themselves trapped in a dutiful, loveless relationship. After a while, even sex becomes a chore that hardly seems worth the effort. The marriage becomes a selfless, boring ritual maintained out of guilt or dissolves in disappointment and hostility.

Don't let this happen to you!

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I agree completely with Betsy in her last post.

I have not observed anywhere near the number of relationships that she has. But the ones I have seen, have all ended in tragedy when emotions have been ignored.

Your conscious mind has your convictions that you have right now. But emotions, they reflect what you have lived by in your entire life of all your choices. They are a very powerful tool for summing up vast amounts of data. They should be checked with thought but most of the time, they are correct.

You want to have someone who you value highly not just at that specific moment that you are focusing on / aware of, but with all your value judgements that you have automatised in your life.

With such a relationship, you will be showing affection and love not just when your focus is on the relationship but also when it is off the relationship when thinking about other things(i.e. your career). There will never be conflicting signals sent to your partner. And you wouldn't be trying to find motivation for something that you tell yourself is good, but you don't really believe it deep down.

When your emotions don't match what you are thinking, that is the biggest alarm bells that your mind could possibly send you and it is worth checking out as soon as possible.

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That's nice, but the question was about what premises underlie you inability to "pursue a relationship with a woman I didn't love enough to marry."

So--just to make sure I get your question right--you mean a scenario where I love a woman to some degree, but not enough to marry her?

The answer to that is that in that case she wouldn't be "the one I love." That's why I wrote that the underlying premise is that "sex is the highest expression of love." It is an act that is reserved for the Number One person in my life. To my psychology, having sex means "this is the person I love the most." Not just "this is a person I love to some degree"--but the most.

For this reason, having sex with a woman about whom I cannot say "this is whom I love the most" would be an unthinkable breach of integrity as far as my psychology is concerned. It would be like saying "I am a radical for the mixed economy" when in fact I'm a radical for capitalism.

You answer my question as if I was promoting hedonism, but hedonism is not the only alternative to asceticism.

You answer my answer as if I was promoting asceticism!

My position is that one should seek rational values, and pleasure and happiness will come when one achieves them. An action based on "it feels good, therefore I'll do it" is a hedonistic action. "It feels good, therefore I mustn't do it"--that is asceticism. "It's the right thing to do for a rational man, therefore it feels good"--that's what my approach is, and I think Ayn Rand would concur!

Am I correct in assuming, then, that you would not have sex with "her" until after you are married?

Marriage itself is just a formality, so the answer is no. The important thing is the commitment--the identification of the lady in question as the best candidate for the role of my partner-in-life. As soon as that identification has happened, I'm ready for her (but of course when she's ready for me is up to her).

To see if I understand you correctly, are you saying that it is right and moral for two lovers to have sex (if they have a rational basis for their love), even if they do not intend to marry, but that such an act is not ideal?

What I am saying is that:

  • If I heard about a couple who had a rational basis for loving each other, but had no commitment to each other, then I would not say for sure that it is immoral for them to have sex. Rather, I would think that there appears to be (from my perspective) a contradiction between their love and their lack of commitment, and conclude that their approach to the matter is evidently quite different from mine. I would think that they would benefit from adopting my approach.
  • If I had sex with someone I wasn't committed to, then that would be a breach of my personal principles, and therefore not something that morality allows me to do.

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In fact, how a person feels about his romantic partner is the most important consideration in selecting a partner.

Absolutely. But it will only work if your feelings are based on reason. If your feelings have an irrational basis, they will mislead you, and the romantic partner they make you choose will not be the best one--but maybe the worst one.

I have seen that cold, calculating approach to romantic love many times before -- usually from sincere young Objectivists who want to to do the "proper" and the "rational" thing -- and it always ends in disaster.

Oh, there is nothing cold about what I am expressing here; I am very passionate about it! :D Any coldness you may perceive is the result of my desire to be polite.

And, come to think of it, my use of words like "business" and "venture" may have given the impression of "coldness." If that is the case, I'll quote from the Fountainhead to illustrate the emotional weight I attach to those words:

[Austen Heller:] "After all, it's only a building. It's not the combination of holy sacrament, Indian torture and sexual ecstasy that you seem to make of it."

[Roark:] "Isn't it?"

They select someone they ought to love, based on their list of required virtues and other characteristics, rather than someone they do love and find themselves trapped in a dutiful, loveless relationship.

This itself is a symptom of emotions not being based on reason. If your emotions are based on reason, the person you ought to love will be the person you do love.

Don't let this happen to you!

Thanks for your kind concern, Betsy, but I can assure you that if there's one mistake I am in absolutely no danger of making, this is it! :)

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CF, I've a question for you. Imagine a situation where the long-term pursuit of a relationship is impossible (say she's moving away in a week). Would you still say sex is out of the question?

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I think it would be good to keep in mind that while sex is the highest expression of love, that does not mean that sex (or even passionate loving tenderness) should be expressed ONLY for the highest possible love. Besides, whom you do love now is, now, your highest love. The question is, do you express and celebrate the joy of your valuing capacity now, or do you relegate it (your valuing self) to the sphere of the unworthy? And if you do not reward yourself now, do you strengthen your valuing capacity or weaken it? And if you weaken it, then how will you be able to know when that higher person comes along? And even if you did, how would you know that that is THE highest possible to you? Maybe you would find yourself waiting again, and again, and again.

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So--just to make sure I get your question right--you mean a scenario where I love a woman to some degree, but not enough to marry her?

The answer to that is that in that case she wouldn't be "the one I love." That's why I wrote that the underlying premise is that "sex is the highest expression of love." It is an act that is reserved for the Number One person in my life. To my psychology, having sex means "this is the person I love the most." Not just "this is a person I love to some degree"--but the most.

Is making out okay, for someone you love, but not the most? Holding hands? Where do you draw the line? Does there have to be a new, explicit level of commitment prior to each further display of intimacy? I'm curious, for instance, if you would stop a girlfriend from kissing your neck, saying something like, "I'm not ready for that commitment; lets stick to the cheeks and lips." Or would you avoid anything that might even "lead to sex" with someone before you're ready to make a commitment? (As I understand it, setting up a hierarchy of physical intimacy in proportion to commitment is the type of relationship principle recommended by Christian psychologist Dr. James Dobson; and though I understand your premises and motives are extremely different, I wonder if you would agree with this type of conclusion or behavior.)

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But it will only work if your feelings are based on reason. If your feelings have an irrational basis, they will mislead you, and the romantic partner they make you choose will not be the best one--but maybe the worst one.

My assumption is that my emotions ARE rational because I trust my thinking and my own intellectual honesty. I don't question or doubt my emotions until and unless I have a reason to do so such as conflict between what I think and what I feel (which rarely ever happens) or an emotional conflict (usually due to two competing rational values). Reason and emotion are friends and working partners, not antagonists, in a well-integrated personality.

If your emotions are based on reason, the person you ought to love will be the person you do love.

I don't think there is -- or ought to be -- someone you "ought to" love. You love who you love. Emotions like love are automatic and unaffected by "oughts" and "shoulds."

If what or who you love conflicts with reality or your other values, it's time to check the premises that gave rise to the emotion rather than to ignore, suppress, repress, or deny what you feel. You might find, as Rearden did, that the woman you consciously think you should not want is really the best one after all.

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