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."
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 for Life ♦