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According to Leonard Peikoff in his lecture Love, Sex, and Romance, which is supported by her comments that I've seen, Ayn Rand maintained that the essence of masculinity is strength or being a hero whereas the essence of femininity is the worship of strength or of a hero. When explaining her view, she apparently always said that these concepts do not imply any superiority or inferiority and that they are delimited to the sexual context. I would like to know how they are delimited to that context. Besides the sexual act itself, what else is appropriately included in this context? And how does one determine this? That is, what is proper masculine and feminine behavior, and why? (Please note that I'm asking with respect to Ayn Rand's view of these concepts, not alternative views such as the notion that they are arbitrary constructs.)

asked Oct 26 '10 at 04:23

BMV's gravatar image


edited Oct 26 '10 at 14:21

I assume the questioner wants answers that can be referred back to Rand's writings, not just answers that people consider to be consistent with Objectivism, is that right?

(Nov 07 '10 at 15:46) Mindy Newton ♦ Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

Yes. I'd like an answer from the framework of AR's view, but one could then say whether or not one thinks that view is consistent with Objectivism. In other words, I'm not looking for an answer that presents an entirely different view that does not first address the questions from an understanding of AR's perspective.

(Nov 07 '10 at 16:30) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

You could write a whole book on this, or several.

In brief, I'd say that masculine behavior includes anything that highlights strength, confidence, or leadership. Feminine behavior includes anything that highlights beauty, grace, or charm.

When Ayn Rand said that her characterization of "strength" vs. "hero worship" was delimited to the sexual context, I think what she meant was this: It's not inappropriate or unfeminine for a woman to be strong or heroic; nor is it unmasculine for a man to be a hero-worshipper. My take on it is: Being strong and heroic does not contribute to, is not part of, a woman's femininity. Similarly, being a hero-worshipper does not contribute to a man's masculinity. (Elsewhere, I think AR said that the essence of femininity was different from the essence of being a woman.)

To understand it deeper, I'd recommend an inductive approach: What do you consider to be masculine? Feminine? Give examples, and make them as concrete and specific as you can—preferably actual people, places, and situations. Then start to figure out what those things have in common, and what makes them different.

answered Oct 27 '10 at 02:46

jasoncrawford's gravatar image

jasoncrawford ♦

edited Oct 27 '10 at 03:04

Though, I think you need to be careful to discover and articulate an essential distinction while doing so. That is, the real question is: is there something inherently male about leadership, for example? Is the essential which brings together grace and charm femaleness? I'm dubious, but would love to see someone try to develop it.

(Oct 27 '10 at 12:20) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg: Again, it's important that the essence of masculinity is not the same as the essence of maleness, or of being a man. In my view, masculine traits are those which emphasize, reinforce, or highlight a man's sexual identity—and similarly for a woman. The question is: what's the essence and meaning of the difference between men and women? Masculine and feminine traits are those that highlight that difference.

(Oct 28 '10 at 02:23) jasoncrawford ♦ jasoncrawford's gravatar image

For those who may be interested in learning more about Ayn Rand's view of femininity and masculinity in her own words, there are a number of illuminating excerpts in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, under the topics of Femininity, Sex, Love, and Man-Worship. There is a brief entry on Marriage, as well, but the same excerpt is already included at the end of the entry on Sex. There are also extensive concrete characterizations of masculine and feminine traits throughout Ayn Rand's fiction works.

The original question asks about "proper masculine and feminine behavior." The expression, "proper behavior" (of any kind), suggests an ethical focus, i.e., a quest for ethical principles. But Objectivism, as a philosophy, does not prescribe any specific principles of what is proper or improper (right or wrong) in masculinity and femininity. The only principle of proper or improper human action that Objectivism offers in the whole field of human sexuality is that sex is good (in the context of a serious relationship). OPAR explains this in Chapter 9, "Happiness," in the section titled, "Sex as Metaphysical" (pp. 343-348). A key passage in that section states:

"The subject of sex is complex and belongs largely to the science of psychology. I asked Ayn Rand once what philosophy specifically has to say on this subject. She answered: 'It says that sex is good'" [OPAR, p. 346]

In fiction, Ayn Rand's view of femininity and masculinity certainly forms an essential aspect of her projections of the ideal man and ideal woman, implying by artistic selectivity that significantly contrasting alternatives are less than ideal (if not utterly non-ideal).

Where, then, does philosophy end and psychology (and other fields) begin? From OPAR, it is clear that Objectivism, as a philosophy, says only that sex is good -- very good, in fact. In an interview in Playboy (March 1964), Ayn Rand herself once described romantic love as a rational person's "greatest reward.... [L]ove is an expression of self-esteem, of the deepest values in a man's or a woman's character. One falls in love with the person who shares these values."

If it is disconcerting to some (and perhaps a relief to others) that Objectivism doesn't say more about how people should behave in regard to masculinity and femininity, remember that Objectivism's view of philosophy itself is that philosophy deals only with broad fundamentals of man and existence, leaving the details to the special sciences and ultimately to every individual to work out for himself within his own chosen hierarchy of values.

answered Oct 31 '10 at 01:48

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Are you saying that it is wrong to ask about proper behavior that cannot be entirely explained by philosophy, or just that this question is not purely philosophical? If the former, that's mistaken. If the latter, then most of your answer is beside the point: I did not ask what Objectivism had to say about this issue, and this forum is not exclusively philosophical so as to imply that intention.

(Oct 31 '10 at 13:36) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

BrandonMV states: "I did not ask what Objectivism had to say about this issue...."

The name of this forum is "Objectivist Answers," so I've attempted to offer an Objectivist answer -- the best I can think of, given the limitations of my knowledge and ability. I also regard it as important and valuable to clear up potential confusions about Objectivism as best I can when there is a need. It is specifically Objectivism that I seek to understand and apply on the "Objectivist Answers" website.

BrandonMV also mentions "proper behavior that cannot be entirely explained by philosophy." But what does this mean? If "proper" or "improper" human action is the intended topic, what is the standard of "proper," particularly if the field of psychology (or some other field) is being offered in lieu of philosophy as the source of such a standard? How can one define a standard of "proper" without philosophy? One can certainly form concepts of what masculinity and femininity denote by looking at reality and conceptualizing it, but how can one say what is specifically "proper" or "improper" (not merely what is, but whether or not it is "proper") without an answer to the question: proper to whom and for what? -- which would be a fundamental philosophical issue.

(Nov 01 '10 at 02:29) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Be careful to distinguish between whether philosophy has something to say vs. whether philosophy applies. Objectivism has nothing to say about the issue of masc. and fem., but as a philosophy, it underlies all other sciences and therefore does apply. Those are distinct pts.

If you want to clear up potential confusions about the question, that's fine, but if you're going to do so in the answer field, then to be objective I think you should note your purpose rather than present it as an self-sufficient answer. Otherwise, your implication is that the confusion is inherent in asking the question.

(Nov 01 '10 at 14:21) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

Also, I did not speak of proper behavior apart from philosophy, but of proper behavior that cannot be explained entirely by philosophy. And what does that mean? Well, for example, philosophy will tell you that health is a value, but not the concrete means to achieve it, such as a particular diet or exercise routine. Still, following such regimens may be considered proper behavior if they are in fact healthy. The same applies to masc. and fem. behavior.

Lastly, I'm speaking to you, so please have the courtesy to speak to me rather than about me in the third-person. Thank you.

(Nov 01 '10 at 14:25) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

RE: "please have the courtesy to speak to me rather than about me in the third-person."

I don't have anything new to add so far to my response to the original question that was asked. But if there are any follow-up questions, readers of this website should feel free to ask.

I would also like to emphasize again that I strive to focus on ideas of general interest, not on particular personalities or specific personal interests. No one should assume that any discourtesy is intended in this approach toward individuals who may be seeking a less impersonal response. Speaking in the "third-person" is often a very effective way to separate the ideas from the personalities in order to address the ideas.

It might also be interesting to start a separate discussion of what "courtesy" means and what makes it a value or not. I suspect many conventional views of courtesy may actually proceed from an implicitly altruistic base, i.e., an "other-ist" view of what people allegedly "owe" to each other.

(Nov 02 '10 at 01:09) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

A courtesy is an expression of politeness, the value of which is civility, not selflessness. When someone addresses you directly in a context such as this, they are starting a conversation. To respond by speaking of them in the third-person is a refusal to acknowledge that fact and their presence. That is rude, and note that it does not separate a person from his ideas; it excludes him from the conversation. If you want to focus on someone's ideas, then do so and speak of the person as little as possible; but don't speak of him as if he's not present.

(Nov 02 '10 at 02:02) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

I'm afraid the topics of courtesy, politeness, civility, personal vs. impersonal comments, and whether or not these discussion threads should be conducted as "conversations," are all too far off topic for further comment by me in this thread. To repeat: it might be interesting to start a separate discussion thread on these topics.

(Nov 03 '10 at 02:11) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image
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Asked: Oct 26 '10 at 04:23

Seen: 7,393 times

Last updated: Nov 07 '10 at 16:31