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What exactly is the value in sex?

Ayn Rand Lexicon definition:

Sex is a physical capacity, but its exercise is determined by man’s mind—by his choice of values, held consciously or subconsciously. To a rational man, sex is an expression of self-esteem—a celebration of himself and of existence. To the man who lacks self-esteem, sex is an attempt to fake it, to acquire its momentary illusion.

Romantic love, in the full sense of the term, is an emotion possible only to the man (or woman) of unbreached self-esteem: it is his response to his own highest values in the person of another—an integrated response of mind and body, of love and sexual desire. Such a man (or woman) is incapable of experiencing a sexual desire divorced from spiritual values.

Is there any value in sex simply for the physical pleasure of it such as in bestiality, prostitutes/one night stands/masturbation? If there is no value then are they inherently immoral? Is sex only moral if they are done out of love?

asked Jan 26 '11 at 01:30

Junky's gravatar image


edited Jan 26 '11 at 08:09

Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

Andrew Dalton ♦

The question asks: "Is there any value in sex simply for the physical pleasure of it such as in bestiality, prostitutes/one night stands/masturbation? If there is no value then are they inherently immoral? Is sex only moral if they are done out of love?"

If you are looking for an approach to morality that says, "Thou shalt do such and such," or "Thou shalt not do such and such," you won't find it in Objectivism. Objectivism does not attempt to offer a commandment-based moral code. In this respect, Objectivist morality is probably unlike anything you've ever seen before.

Objectivist morality is primarily concerned, first of all, with defending the moral choices, actions, and rights of great producers, as well as producers at any level, against moral and political attacks. Objectivist morality is based on the recognition of man's power of conscious choice in adhering to any moral code, and on man's survival qua man -- life in fully human form -- as the objectively appropriate standard by which to identify a code of values for achieving that standard.

In regard to issues such as sex, Objectivism offers a view of what is morally good or ideal for man, and what is less good or even destructive of man's life. Objectivism answers questions about what is "good" in sex and what isn't by the standard of what does the most (or the least) to sustain and strengthen the life of a rational being, with rationality identified as the essence of what man needs to do to achieve the ultimate value (standard of value) of man's survival qua man. By that standard, wouldn't any rational person benefit far more from a form of sex that includes a strongly life-serving psychological dimension (companionship, admiration, intense affinity for shared values mutually understood), than from one that doesn't?

When Objectivism evaluates something as "despicable" or "disgusting" or "contemptible," etc., it simply means that the target of the evaluation is seen as detrimental in some significant way (possibly major) to the life of a rational being.

If the question is, "Why does man have to live as a rational being?" -- Objectivism observes that man, by his nature, can't live efficaciously any other way, and can't live inefficaciously for long. Even if man tries to live by the method of animals, relying on physical force and disavowing any reliance on reason at all, it still remains true that he would be far more able to sustain and strengthen his life (at any level) by using human intelligence, i.e., reason, instead of brute force. Reason is aways a greater vaue for man than brute force. (Even in self-defense, the combination of mind-and-force is far more efficacious for man than brute, mindless force.)

Morality in Objectivism is "a code of values accepted by choice," "a code of values to guide [all of] man’s choices and actions -- the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life." If man is confronted by a choice between something that benefits man's life qua man and something that doesn't (or something that harms it), Objectivism shows man how to know what is beneficial or detrimental to man's life, and therefore which alternative to choose. If you want a more specific application of the Objectivist moral perspective to man's choices in the field of sex, you will find a wealth of insights in the literature of Objectivism, including the excerpt cited in the question and especially the love stories in Ayn Rand's novels.

Another seminal observation, originally from Atlas Shrugged, is also included in the complete Lexicon excerpt referenced in the question: "Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life." This is a summation of the far reaching fundamentality of sexual happiness in man's life.

If all you want is someone to say, "Purely physical sex is ok, too" (or not), why not judge for yourself what benefits the life of a rational being and what doesn't? And why settle for something less beneficial to a human life (or destructive of it) when you could be seeking and finding something far more beneficial?

answered Jan 27 '11 at 16:45

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Jan 26 '11 at 01:30

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Last updated: Jan 27 '11 at 16:45