Reason as the Leading Motive

Rand on Love and Sex

Posted by Jerry on December 16, 2006

“Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love.”

“The subjectivist severs concepts from percepts and holds that sex is a mere sensory reaction, devoid of all intellectual cause.
… he tells men to go ahead and revel in it, to grab whatever animalistic sensations they want without reference to any principles or standards. In this theory, love is an abstract myth with no necessity of real manifestation, and sex is merely a wriggling of meat.

… Man’s spirit gives meaning to insentient matter by molding it to serve one’s chosen goals. This course of action leads one to the moment when in answer to the highest of one’s values, in an admiration not to be expressed by any other form of tribute, one’s spirit makes one’s body become the tribute, recasting it – as proof, as sanction, as reward – into a single sensation of such intensity of joy that no other sanction of one’s existence is necessary.”

— Ayn Rand

[I had originally posted this a long time ago. I stumbled upon this as I was going through my old posts to re-categorize them.

I am inclined to believe that in any romantic relationship, having sex is of utmost importance (provided it’s possible) because it is the physical manifestation, concretization, and expression of the abstract emotion of love. In that sense, it is similar to Rand’s theory of Art. In this matter, I am eagerly seeking thoughts, comments, opinions, analyses, criticisms, expositions, explications, etc. Feel free.]

UPDATE : Recently, I came upon an article written by Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute and a blogger at Noodlefood, titled “The Unselfish Objectivist: How Intrinsicism Undercuts Values.” His article is very relevant to this post because it precisely identifies the intrinsic root in considering sex outside of romantic love as de facto immoral.

A proper integration of Objectivism reveals that a rational and selfish valuation of anything or any person is preconditioned upon reason, choice, and alternatives. It is intrinsic to argue that sex with someone you do not love is flatly wrong, on principle. Because such a principle in untenable within the context and premise of agent-specific valuation.

Don points out that an intrinsic position undercuts the meaning of valuation and “deadens his values.” In particular, Don states:

“[When Objectivist intrinsicists] claim that sex with anyone who isn’t your ideal is wrong, they treat sex as a Platonic abstraction that man must serve, they treat sex as a test of their virtue, they… well, to put it simply, they treat sex in the most disgustingly un-sexual way imaginable.”

It is clear from the above that many Objectivists–some of them innocently–hold irrational and intrinsicist views that are in fact incompatible with Ayn Rand’s philosophy despite (and perhaps, because of) adhering to her exact words. They take her words as a religionist would accept revelation from God–without thought, analysis, integration, and if necessary, criticism; in short, without asking “why?”

To be sure, however, Don Watkins agrees with every word that Ayn Rand said about sex, love, and relationships. Indeed, I agree with everything I quoted from Rand above too, and upon careful reading, one can notice that nothing she says logically precludes enjoying sex with someone you do not love.

LATEST UPDATE: I have written a new post addressing the crucial matters of this topic in Emotional Responses to Sex.

Edit (June 26, 2007): Many have misconstrued my posts on Objectivist’s view of sex and love as permitting immoral, hedonistic promiscuity in sex. Since this is not a legitimate implication of my posts nor of Objectivism’s position on sex, I state unequivocally that sex and love should never be considered separate as one’s ideological or metaphysical position. However, relevant and particular cases of individuals may require that one engages in sex with someone who is not one’s lover or ideal partner. Objectivism does not advocate celibacy or life-long renunciation of sex unless one finds a lover. A rational man is permitted to explore his sexual options if his circumstances have not permitted him to find an ideal romantic partner.

28 Responses to “Rand on Love and Sex”

  1. holly and i were just discussing you yeh know- you make for a fascinating topic of discussion LOL

  2. maybe u could put rand in your own words? i am somewhat confused by her writing style…

  3. Ergo Sum said

    I was topic of discussion!? 🙂 Thank you, I’m flattered… I guess… depending upon what was discussed about me!

    So, WHAT were you two discussing about me?

  4. Ergo Sum said

    Well, yeah it is sometimes difficult understanding Rand especially because she uses regular concepts in such an unusual manner — but typically in the manner that it ought to be used… like taken “selfishness” for example. Common parlance attributes a negative connotation to that word, however Rand defines it uniquely and perceptively, making “selfishness” the crux of her ethical philosophy.
    So, selfishness for Rand is NOTHING like selfishness as you probably conceive it.

    Anyway, I digress.
    The point about sex, that Rand is making, is that love cannot be extricated from sex.. that those two concepts are mutually inexclusive… that if you seperate the two, then love becomes merely an abstract myth, a story, an idea, having no possibility of real manifestation nor any praxis with reality – it is not even an EMOTION (because Rand defines emotions as the union of the sensory AND the intellectual – which I totally agree)…

    And sex without love, according to Rand, is merely the animalistic sensation of the wriggling of meat.

    According to Rand, the greatest PROOF, TRIBUTE and REWARD one can give another person of their physical existence is the offering of one’s OWN body, insatiated with the intensity and emotion of love for the PHYSICAL EXISTENCE of that other person’s body, such that there can be no higher proof for them of their own physical existence.

  5. And sex without love, according to Rand, is merely the animalistic sensation of the wriggling of meat.

    i love it-!
    its true-
    sex without love is a lie–heather nova says that in a song i think she’s like
    “why do you lie when you fuck me… ?”

    really sad but really true

  6. Ergo Sum said

    Well, is sexual desire devoid of love really depraved? If yes, why?

    Is romantic love devoid of sexual desire also depraved? If not, why not?

  7. i don’t really know how i feel on this in relation to rand’s line of thought at present.

    i am pretty certain that one can if one so chooses engage in nothing other then animalistic sensory sex… ( although on a biological/scientific level this is basically impossible for woman ) however, i see this as merely that… to me it seems less, way less, becuase it is not neccesarily significant in any other way then fleeting sensation… this sensation is NOT bad in itself, it is a good thing, however… without a commitment to the person… all one sees is the piece of flesh/meat and utilizes it AND in doing so one does not see truth for there is inherently way more to the person then flesh… so sex without that love is an action which blinds itslef to the fullness of the reality of human personhood… it seems to me

  8. this above meaning

    “casual sex”

  9. Ergo Sum said

    “impossible for women”!??!? Explain that to me. It’s impossible for women to have animalistic sex?

  10. you can read about the biological factors which occur in the women’s body when she engages in sex…

    which make “casual sex” basically impossible

  11. you could look up be honest: your’re not that into him either

    chapter 2 of the sex segment—

    you thought you could have sex like a man

  12. LOL: its written for girls, btw, but it could give you some insight into whay happens to a girl when she has sex

  13. innommable said

    Oh Ergo, if you don’t have someone else to love, I think it’s just better to masturbate. After all, it’s sex with someone you love.


  14. yes. clearly that’s the solution to All your problems in life.

  15. innommable said

    lol, clearly!

  16. Rubicund said

    Oh how horrid… the wriggling of meat. I can just picture rotting meat squirming with maggots. Yuck.

  17. Ergo said

    Oh? Hmmm… the image that first came to my mind was of hot, muscular, naked men (several men) all entwined. And I kinda liked the image. I wonder why you thought of maggots, instead.

  18. Innommable said



    I’m laughing at my comment from 9-10-2005!

  19. Rubicund said

    Ergie: That must be the association – maggoty meat – that I have now with mechanical shallow loveless sex. With age comes wisdom, I guess.

  20. I personally see the issue as having sex with someone you value (at some significant level) versus having sex with someone you do not value. Now, I can say this firmly that it would really put me off if I found out that the person I slept with does not respect me….I would probably hate the person, and would feel used and cheated. And for the same reason, it would be as bad for me to have sex with someone I do not value or respect, and the other person would be equally justified in despising or hating me (supposing she found out later ).

    In instances where both the parties openly do not value each other and then indulge in sex, the emotional experience, after the physical ecstasy is over, would be pretty sickening. It is in this context that Ayn Rand says that to have sex without love is evil.

    However, what I maintain is that there should be some level of affinity between the two partners, and each one of us usually sets his own bar for the level which is acceptable to him, according to his level of self-esteem. For instance, some years back, I could spend time with a lot many people than I would choose to do now, as with some maturity, I have become more and more choosy.

    The same goes for the issue of sex, as one’s self-esteem keeps rising, one will be more and more choosy in his choice of his partner and at some stage, nothing less than a hero/heroine would suffice (and what one would naturally feel for a hero/heroine is a strong passionate love). This was the stage from which Ayn Rand was writing, I think. At that stage, one would rather not have sex than have with anyone who doesn’t meet his/her high standards. The reason is a bit similar to yours, when you say you prefer traveling alone or only with your loved one when you are out touring, in your recent post.

  21. Jason said

    Goodness! LOL, you people make me laugh and puke all at the same time (maggots?! Really?)

    I suppose if one were to consider the “One Night Stand” for arguments sake: One Night Stands are typically between strangers, and to meet a need of sexual desire both are currently feeling (whether due to biological/emotional factors, instinctual perhaps, or alcohol-induced :D), a human need is being met, whether or not ideally met. Sometimes this results in hurt feelings among the parties engaged in the Stand, but also can result in just “getting soemthing out of your system” as it were. It comes down to what the individuals actually needed to get from the Stand, as opposed to what they might have done during the Stand, and if those needs were just the primal urges of sex or the covering of an emotional wound or avoidance of soemthing bigger. I think to label all pre-marital or fly-by-night sex as immoral or evil is to try to simplify humans and their various reasons for doing something into a small box with a label, which, for all intents and purposes can never be truly done with any individual (although there is something to be said for stereotyping on a large-scale mass-people action, I think.)

    All this to say that I personally think sex is sometimes just sex, and sometimes it is a way for two persons to come together and exchange more than just the act and some fluids–a way for a person to acknowledge to another that they are revealing all of themselves, body and soul, to another as an act of giving and generosity. (Am I making sense to anyone but me? Sometimes I confuse simple points…)

  22. Ergo said

    Independent thinker, I do agree with you that with increasing age, maturity, self-awareness, and self-esteem comes the tendency to be choosy–or more selective–in the partners, lovers, or friends one associates with. It is a similar point made by Rubicunt.

    And I agree with all of that.

    However, my disagreement with Rand lies not in that I believe we do not have to be selective in our sexual choices but that I do not consider consensual and casual sex (e.g., one night stands or some arrangement as such) immoral or evil. I am unable to see the logical chain of arguments that posits a premise and leads to the conclusion (Objectively, i.e., rationally) that casual sex without love is immoral.

    Indeed, I am inclined to make the argument that sex without love, in some contexts, can in fact be necessary and healthy. This line of argument even Jason touched upon by talking about the emotional and psychological need for feeling sexual visibility, efficacy, and potency; the need to “get it out of your system,” and not repress it until whenever it is that you fall in love. For let us just be frank about it, some will just never find the one they will truly love. Some might simply have to “settle” for what/who comes their way. This doesn’t need to be harsh if it is accepted like any other metaphysical fact of life.

    Moreover, drawing the analogy to my other recent post on loneliness is not quite accurate for I do not consider those who are compulsive socialites as immoral or evil–certainly misguided on unfortunate premises. Far from evil.

  23. Faiyaz said

    See the point I was making is that for sex to be a worthwhile experience, you would have to value the other person at some significant level. I didn’t say that one has to fall in love in the conventional sense. Firstly, I don’t think we find every person we meet sexually attractive or desirable. When we do, we are in fact responding to the values actually held by the other person on a subconscious level. At times, we might never speak to a person a single word, yet we feel a very intense emotion to sleep with that person, just the way Dominique feels when she sees Roark in the quarry. There is nothing wrong with that.

    But in the instances when we are acting purely out of a sexual urge or to get something out of our system and only that need, let’s say all we need is any body to have sex with, then surely the after-effects of that experience will not be emotionally desirable. If you do not have any affinity or respect for that person, you would not feel good about it (have a hang-over of sorts) and as AR defines happiness as non-contradictory joy, it would not serve to further your happiness.

    Also guys, I say, try telling the person you slept with, that all you did it for was to getting it out of your system, that you were just acting on a pent-up sexual urge and you just happened to choose him/her by accident. If the other person has any self-esteem, he/she won’t like it. (It’s another thing if the person retorts back that he/she also finds you no great shakes and was just acting on his/her own pent up urges.)

    Moreoever, you would not continue with that person for long, it would not last. With the person you like, I don’t think the sexual experience would become unenjoyable, but with the person you don’t like, once you have let it out of your system or acted purely on your urges, you would not have much desire to sleep with him/her again, unless again when your urges build up.

    This is the problem I would see in one-night stands or casual sex. If the experience was so enjoyable, then why limit it to one-night or a short-while, unless the person has left the city or country or unless either one of you has entered into a commitment with someone else.

    We do not behave this way with our friends, we do not find their company enjoyable only for one evening and then stop meeting them, then why would we feel the need to behave this way with our sex partners, unless the experience overall was not worthwhile to repeat. And if that experience is not worthwhile for you to repeat, then it cannot be said as good for you, even though it may have momentarily helped you get it out of your system. It would be rightly termed as immoral, acting against you in the long-term.

    As to comparing with your recent post on your preference to travel alone, I was not saying that the people who travel in groups are evil or something like that. All I was saying is the fact that one prefers traveling alone is mostly a sign of maturity, it means that one is being choosy and would rather not have anyone around just for the sake of companionship, just as one would rather not have sex with anyone, even if it is just to get it out of your system.


  24. Faiyaz said

    To sum up my position, I would say: In order for the sexual experience to be meaningful and enjoyable, both the persons have to, in the least, like each other and respect each other at some level. It doesn’t matter then if they have just met or have known each other for years.

    If they don’t, then it leaves an ugly and bitter after-taste. What I am very against is the attitude I have seen expressed by some men, when they look at a girl with a strong sexual urge and tell aloud or to themselves in their own minds, “ Look at that B**ch; she will give a good bang…” In this sense, sex without respect ( I wouldn’t say sex without ‘love’ though) is really obnoxious, immoral and evil.

  25. qzurt said

    “Indeed, I agree with everything I quoted from Rand above too, and upon careful reading, one can notice that nothing she says logically precludes enjoying sex with someone you do not love.”

    Well.., specifically, what about rands statement that desire that doesn’t come from love is depraved? Is your answer that your love of sex or your love of your own sexual pleasure is your proper motivation,and not your love of the other person?

  26. Ergo said

    Rand’s quotes particularly denounces the intrinsicist who holds that sex devoid of love is immoral (or love devoid of physical pleasure is moral) and the subjectivist who holds that anything goes, that neither sex nor love has any more meaning that what is subjectively ascribed to it.

    In all her views, it is amply clear that she holds sex and love as variants of the same act–that is, a tribute to the person one values, a reward for their virtues. She denounces the act of conceptually divorcing one from the other on principle. Hence, this is logically different from saying that sex is immoral in all cases if it occurs without love.

    Perhaps I’m not being clear. The basic difference is this: the intrinsicist holds his principle without regard to the objective relationship between an individual and reality. A subjectivist holds no principle other than that everything is permissible subjectively.

  27. […] Other posts related to this topic are in the category of Love and Romance; the post titled Rand on Love and Sex includes extensive discussions on the […]

  28. Nikhil Pawar said

    hi ergo,

    check up the post

    would like your views on the post and the following comments. Kind of close to what this started out as 🙂

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