Each year I do a round up of my favorite posts from the prior year. This year I want to do something a little different and solicit your opinions about which posts from 2012 were your favorites. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
Ayn Rand’s books are full of depictions of sexuality that are well outside the norm. These depictions range from general BDSM, to extreme dominance and submission, and even to consensual non-consent. The question then, is whether these alternative sexualities can be compatible with a rich conception of a good life as advocated by Ayn Rand. This essay will analyse these issues in depth and argue that they very much can be compatible with a good life and in some cases are even necessary for a good life.
It can also be purchased directly from me for $8.00 for a pdf version by emailing me at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com or using the donate button to the right (if you do this, put a note with the email you want the essay send to) if you don’t want to go through Amazon. The price will be the same until the first of the year, then it will be $9.99.
I’m also offering a free copy to someone who can help me make a decent looking cover for it. It doesn’t even have to be anything fancy, just look nice and have all the relevant info.
For a little preview, here’s the introduction:
When I was first reading Ayn Rand’s fiction, one thing that struck me was that there seemed to be a number of instances of BDSM type sex. For those who don’t know, BDSM stands for Bondage/Disciple, Domination/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism or B/D,D/S,S/M, if you omit the repeated letters, you get BDSM. While not every story of hers has this, many do: there are unambiguous instances in The Night of January 16th, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. When I first read these scenes, years ago, I was rather shocked at the violence that was involved with the sex. It seemed as though the things that the characters were doing could only be painful and that no rational person could desire these things. Certainly, the kind of person who could do these things had to be morally corrupt.
It has been some time since I first read these and in that time sex has become something of my area of expertise. This, however, raises more questions in my mind than I even knew how to ask before. For example, I now I understand that Ayn Rand thought that, at least in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, the violence flowed naturally from the context of the story: the culmination of a long and arduous struggle could hardly be celebrated with dispassionate sex. However, the burning platinum dress from The Night of January 16th is not an instance of build up, since they do it years after they’ve been together, so at least not all of the BDSM type sex can be explained away as a simple literary device. Furthermore, even the BDSM that is used as a literary device raises some questions: it’s definitely not clear that someone with no experience of, or desire for, BDSM type sex would be able to come up with something like the burning platinum dress from The Night of January 16th.
If you didn’t already understand that sometimes pain can be pleasurable, you certainly wouldn’t write that kind of psychology into your protagonists. Now, whether this means that Ayn Rand was kinky herself is not my question here. While I do think it’s true that an author often reveals himself through his writing, I think it’s generally ill advised to speculate too strongly based on weak evidence. Instead, I want to look at instances of this BDSM type sex, or kinky sex, and try to understand why a person would desire this and why Ayn Rand might have included it in her most important fictional works. After which, I want to ask the more fundamental question: can one incorporate alternative sexualities like kink or homosexuality into a rich conception of a good life like Objectivism advocates?
This is a little too late in the day to be practical, but I wanted to call attention to it anyway. Apparently December 17th is “End Violence Against Sex Workers Day,” which is something I can get behind.:
December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally conceptualized by Annie Sprinkle and initiated by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations and their allies stage actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against our communities.
I will be hosting a Google+ hangout tomorrow night at 6PM PST (9PM EST) for anyone wanting to ask me questions, discuss a subject related to sexuality, or generally have a good time. All are welcome and no RSVP is needed.
How often do you get to ask questions of a top sex-blogger for free?
UPDATE: Several people have contacted me and said that they won’t be able to make the Hangout, but would still like to ask questions (the video will go on YouTube after the Hangout is over). For anyone who wants a question answered but can’t make the Hangout, you can email me at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com or send me a tweet (@JStotts) and I’ll try to fit your question in.
Sex involves passion: for your own and happiness, your lover’s life and happiness, and for your life shared together. Passion is appropriate and desirable in sexual relationship with your beloved: who would want to have a dispassionate relationship? Passion is a way of showing your lover just how much they mean to you and of expressing the true depth of your feelings. Yet passion can be so great that it slips its bounds, so great that restraint is swept away in its torrent.
This boundless passion can be the genesis of, and impetus for, the incorporation of pain in sex. It is not a desire to harm or injure your partner, but rather a desire to hurt them – the desire is to cause them pain without any sort of deleterious physical affects. This can only be done in a relationship where each partner trusts the other completely. When this is the case, the pain is not merely an end, but moreover, and more importantly, the means to something further. What, you ask, could possibly be the goal of causing pain to your beloved?
In the earlier cited passages from Atlas Shrugged, the sexual encounters had an element of violence in them because they were the result of a long and arduous struggle. In the scene with Dagny and John, when they realized that the person for whom they had been struggling for so long was finally within their reach, that their perfect lover was finally theirs to have, the passion and excitement would have been boundless – the intensity of the situation necessitated more than gentle sex. In order to show the other person the depths of their passion and their absolute trust, they had to incorporate pain. Furthermore, their sexual union was their surrender to each other and a sign of ownership: their having sex meant their total commitment to one another as they gave themselves to each other.
The case is similar in real life in the best kinds of relationships. In such relationships where the lovers are each other’s complements, where they are both excellent and good, sex becomes a way to experience the unification of your life with your lover’s. This union can arouse love so strong that it is painful, as it feels as though it will tear your heart asunder under its force, and an intense anger, that there is so much separating you from your beloved – even an infinitesimal distance seems to be too great a gulf. In this state your passion for your lover is strong beyond words; the only way to describe the experience is as one of unmitigated intensity.
This heightened state of ecstatic union drives you to test your lover: to test their resolve, to test their trust, to test them to see if they are worthy of your total surrender to them: to see if they are truly worthy of your love. The tests can vary in intensity, the more strenuous the test the stronger the resolve of the partners and their devotion to each other. The tests range from light scratches on an arm to deep gouges on the back, from gentle kisses barely grazing the skin to kisses that draw instant bruises, from caresses that cause sighs of contentment to caresses that cause gasps of pain, from sex done gently to sex that tests the limits of your tolerance. All the while the thought that runs through your head of whether your partner will break: it drives you to even greater lengths: wondering whether you are doing too much while concurrently being proud of your lover’s strength. Also, there is a sense of exerting ownership over your lover because you know that they will let you do whatever you want to them, almost a defiant sense of “you can’t stop me from hurting you, you’re mine now.”
The pain is experienced as a trial that one would rather die than fail, as a test that tests not only the limits of your endurance but also the resolve of your lover who is inflicting the pain. To break while being tested is bad, but so much the worse for you to break while causing pain: to stop prematurely shows your lack of respect for your lover, assuming that they could not handle more, that they are weak. To break while receiving shows weakness, to break while giving shows disrespect.
Of course, this is only appropriate in an intimate context. To inflict pain upon your beloved in the course of daily routine, not as test of their commitment but just to inflict pain merely as an end, is to show yourself not to value your beloved. To cause pain during sex is to show respect, but to inflict pain outside of a sexual context is to degrade your beloved and yourself. There is a reverence in this kind of encounter that is unique, an honor reserved solely for your beloved. This is the kind of activity which you would only allow your true love to do to you and from whom you would only accept it.
Furthermore, there is a distinctive kind of joy that accompanies this sexual trial; a joy born of overcoming and confirming your worthiness for your lover and a joy born of testing and reaffirming your lover’s worthiness for you. The trials, while involving pain, are ultimately pleasurable for both of the lovers. Humans, because of the neural pathways for sensation, experience pleasure and pain on a continuum: the exact same action that feels painful in some contexts can feel pleasurable in others; the same amount of force used on a person who was unaroused could feel painful while a person who was aroused would enjoy it. Furthermore, not all pain is unpleasurable, one can experience pleasure from pain as when a bite that is painful also causes great feelings of pleasure. Conversely, one can experience pleasure so exquisite that is it painful, as when you are doing something that is so pleasurable it hurts. In addition, pain can make pleasure more pleasurable: the contrasting sensations can add a level of depth to the pleasure that is otherwise unattainable.
Ultimately the issue of sex and pain is one of confirmation, reaffirmation, and celebration: a test of strength of will to confirm your equality and worthiness, a trial to reaffirm your mutual trust, and the most poignant and complete unification to celebrate your existence together. In a proper relationship, pain during sex becomes a testament to the depth of the love: there is no aspect of shame or degradation. This kind of pain, born of the intensity of your passion for your lover and the desire not to hold anything back, is not only morally permissible, but appropriate in the right context. But, it should be well noted that this pain is merely physical and never emotional.
I don’t usually put up commercials, but this one is really good. I like how it depicts a loving family where the parents are still sexual and enjoy each other. I’m surprised, and pleased, that they have such an explicit and sex positive commercial and I commend Samsung for it.