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Why don't the young, sexually active characters in [Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead] (twenties and thirties) use birth control?

This has been bothering me since I was a high school senior and first read "The Fountainhead."

asked Jul 19 '13 at 08:02

Louise's gravatar image

Louise
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edited Jul 19 '13 at 11:44

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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1

They don't brush their teeth either. Ewww.

(Nov 18 '13 at 23:09) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Well it's possible they brush and floss in private moments which aren't mentioned in the actual text!

(Nov 18 '13 at 23:24) Louise Louise's gravatar image

What did most people use for birth control in 1922 anyway?

And which scene are we talking about? I doubt Roark brought condoms with him to the quarry just in case. So that explains that one.

(Nov 19 '13 at 00:30) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The action of "The Fountainhead" did begin in 1922, however I got the distinct impression that "Atlas Shrugged" takes place in the 1950s decade.

What can I say, I asked this question in the context of the socially immature seventeen year old I was at the time of my first Rand reading!

(Nov 19 '13 at 07:23) Louise Louise's gravatar image
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Actually, we don't really know that they didn't use birth control. What we actually know is that Ayn Rand, as the narrator of the story, chose not to say anything one way or the other about birth control. After all, fictional stories are exactly that -- fiction, i.e., art. And such art, coming from Ayn Rand, is designed to be romanticized art (romantic realism). Including the issue of birth control in such a work, if the issue isn't central to the story in some way, merely distracts the reader from a romanticist focus. Birth control is a mundane, distracting fact of life that romantic lovers probably would rather not think about or have to deal with any longer than absolutely necessary, and certainly not to a degree that would qualify for inclusion in a work of romanticist art. It is not the purpose of such art to provide basic sex education.

More broadly, the essential topic of the question is actually selectivity in art, as well as the distinctive nature of romanticist art. All art involves selectivity. It is non-art, such as objective journalism or photographs or documentaries, that try to be all-inclusive. Furthermore, if it is considered important to mention birth control in a work of art, then why wouldn't it also be important to mention STD's as well, and the fact that not all methods of birth control are effective against STD's? One certainly needs to be concerned about both birth control and STD's in real life, but romanticist art such as Ayn Rand created strives to focus on the most important aspects of life, which, in the case of sex, center around the enormous personal happiness that sexual love can bring. As I see it, the mechanics of sex itself, including attention to birth control and STD prevention, are beyond the scope of the psychological focus that Ayn Rand's stories sought to maintain and express.

There is a whole biological context surrounding human sexuality, as well as a whole social context (traditionally religious, more recently physically-centered and promiscuous). The biological nature of man seems so constituted as to maximize the chances that the most physically fit females will eventually become pregnant and will carry the pregnancy to full term, giving birth to healthy babies whom the females will then proceed to suckle and nurture until the youngsters become able to go out into the world on their own -- and do all of this in the context of a stable, supportive relationship with a strong, healthy, committed male who can protect the family and support it and perhaps assist in a very beneficial, fatherly way with the children's upbringing. Biologically, romantic love is an essential ingredient in this context, but it's far from being the whole story of life from generation to generation. Should that whole biological context be mentioned explicitly in a work of art?

From what I can discern from limited evidence, young people today seem increasingly willing to approach sex as a primarily physical, bodily need disconnected from psychological considerations. They indulge their physical "need" without waiting or striving for the psychological component. Should a work of art attempt to capture that kind of spiritual void?

Older generations, and still today in many parts of the U.S., often adhere to the religious view that sexual enjoyment is beyond the realm of morality entirely, that to be moral one must engage in sex only within a marriage and only for the purpose of having children whom one will take parental responsibility to support and raise. Religions want man's "spirit" to be devoted to the religious authority and the hope of happiness in the "next life," not on earth, and sexual enjoyment is a major distraction from that agenda. This divides the population into those who follow religion and eschew secular happiness, and those who defy the moral commandments in practice but have no answer for them in theory.

When a work of art comes along that can provide laser-like precision in upholding sexual love and happiness as a great value in man's life -- secular life -- why clutter it up with distracting contextual irrelevancies?

answered Jul 20 '13 at 16:01

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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"Birth control is a mundane, distracting fact of life that romantic lovers probably would rather not think about or have to deal with any longer than absolutely necessary."

Wow!

I don't agree at all; my life (which is an end in itself of course!) would be completely different without access to birth control.

And.."why clutter it (the story) up?"

In my opinion reality adds to a story.

Just my opinion of course.

(Jul 21 '13 at 11:26) Louise Louise's gravatar image
...my life (which is an end in itself of course!) would be completely different without access to birth control.

If the question is meant to be political rather than esthetic, then there is no dispute on this point. But it misses the points I was attempting to make about selectivity in art and the psychological aspects of sexual love. Adding more "reality" or "realism" to a work of art doesn't necessarily make it better esthetically or a greater value to those who contemplate it.

(Jul 21 '13 at 20:11) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

"Adding more "reality" or "realism" to a work of art doesn't necessarily make it better esthetically or a greater value to those who contemplate it."

I would definitely value a more realistic work of art over a less realistic one.

(Nov 18 '13 at 22:25) Louise Louise's gravatar image
I would definitely value a more realistic work of art over a less realistic one.

By logical implication, this seems to be saying that the commenter would favor naturalism over romanticism. And by further implication, it seems to say that the commenter might actually prefer photographs and/or documentaries over any form of art, for greatest realism. How and when should an artist exercise selectivity of any kind in what he depicts, and why? Clarifications welcome.

(Nov 19 '13 at 21:58) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image
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Asked: Jul 19 '13 at 08:02

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Last updated: Nov 19 '13 at 21:58