I get a lot of interesting questions at Erosophia and I try to answer as many of them as I can. When I think the question and answer is particularly interesting, I usually publish an anonymized version of it. This is one of those.
What is your basic advice on using pornography and why do you think Ayn Rand was opposed to it? How is connected to mental health from your point of view?
I think that fantasy is a very important part of the masturbatory experience. While it’s possible to masturbate merely through self-simulation without fantasy, it is much more common for masturbation to include fantasy. Our imaginations, however, are not unlimited. We are limited by the things that we have seen and already know. To this end, pornography functions as a form of external fantasy. Through pornography, we can expand our sexual horizons to include new and exciting things that we may have never yet experienced. This leads to a much richer and more interesting masturbatory life (pornography can also enhance a couple’s sex life).
Now, I think that this can have drawbacks. For example, some people become so fixated on pornography, that they don’t enjoy sex with another person as well because they have conditioned themselves to need more variety or things that their real partner is not willing to do. This is a problem because pornography can create a very false picture about what sex is, what it looks like, and also what human bodies look like. For example, in porn the average penis size is around 8”, but in real life its around 5.5”. I think the other danger of pornography is that it can also create dispositions in a person to negative behaviors. Some people come to be too fixated on variety and difference and so start to watch pornography of things they wouldn’t want to do in real life. This is fine, as long as it doesn’t create a disposition to action in the person to do these things. It’s not fine if they create in themselves a disposition to action for something that would be actually wrong; for example, if they start to watch realistic rape fantasy porn and start to want to rape someone in real life. If pornography is used to create a negative disposition for action, then this is immoral (studies actually show that more porn equals less rape, for the record).
Ayn Rand was opposed to it, as far as I can tell, because she thought sex was intensely personal and private and that it would have been inappropriate to share any aspect of this. This would mean that both the creation and consumption of pornography was illicit. She was also worried that pornography, being focussed only on the physical side of sex, would drive a wedge between the spiritual side of sex and the physical side of sex, which would lead people to engage in dualism:
I want to state, for the record, my own view of what is called “hard-core” pornography. I regard it as unspeakably disgusting. I have not read any of the books or seen any of the current movies belonging to that category, and I do not intend ever to read or see them. The descriptions provided in legal cases, as well as the “modern” touches in “soft-core” productions, are sufficient grounds on which to form an opinion. The reason of my opinion is the opposite of the usual one: I do not regard sex as evil—I regard it as good, as one of the most important aspects of human life, too important to be made the subject of public anatomical display.
I think it’s clear that her concern was the disconnect of sexuality from values. She thought that pornography was evil (disgust is a moral emotion), because it would do this.
It’s no secret that Ayn Rand is one of my favorite authors and philosophers. So, imagine my excitement when I found out that one of my favorite of her books is being made into a play! Jeff Britting, who I first met back in my interns days at ARI, has taken Anthem and adapted it for the stage. Anthem is a really great book and is easily readable and the message is very easy to understand. I don’t want to say too much about the story, because it’s a great story and it’s best to experience it yourself, but it’s set in a dystopian collectivist ideal world.
If you’re in New York, go see this play! I would recommend reading the book first to really understand the play, but I’m sure it’ll be good either way. The website for the play is: www.AnthemthePlay.com
The press release is below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Miller Wright / Justin Garascia at (212) 977-7800
THE AUSTIN SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS A STAGE ADAPTATION OF AYN RAND’S NOVEL ANTHEM TO BE STAGED ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NOVEL: OFF-BROADWAY AT THE BARYSHNIKOV ARTS CENTER TO OPEN OCTOBER 4TH FOR A LIMITED 10-WEEK ENGAGEMENT
The Austin Shakespeare theatre company will present the New York premiere of Ayn Rand’s novel ANTHEM. Adapted for the stage by composer Jeff Britting, archives curator for the Ayn Rand Institute, the production is to be directed by Ann Ciccolella, artistic director of the Austin Shakespeare theatre company. Previews are to begin September 25at the Jerome Robbins Theater at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City—opening October 4 for a limited ten-week run through December 1, 2013
ANTHEM is the story of a young man, EQUALITY 7-2521, who is born into a future world that has banished all individuality. Not satisfied with a world lighted by candles, EQUALITY fosters his love of discovery in an abandoned subway, a relic of the past. In solitude, EQUALITY rediscovers electricity and a new source of light. Above ground he meets and falls in love with LIBERTY 5-3000, committing a further “sin of preference.”
Originally conceived as a play while Rand was a Soviet university student, ANTHEM the book was written in America in the summer of 1937, during a break Rand took from the writing of her novel The Fountainhead. ANTHEM waspublished in England in 1938. Since its full American publication in 1961, the work has sold more than 5 million copies. As reported in 2010, ANTHEM was the most popular adult novel checked out of the New York Public Library system. The novel remains a favorite among youth and is the subject of the most popular high school essay contest in the world, with more than 19,000 entries annually. ANTHEM’s Off-Broadway staging coincides with the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the novel’s publication.
The principle ethical-political issue in ANTHEM—and of our time—is individualism versus collectivism.
Is the individual the primary element of society, or is the group the basis of society? The play poses the questions: Do individuals have the right to think and choose their own goals in life—and pursue their own happiness? Or do the wishes of society determine the goals of individual lives—and is service to others the primary moral obligation among men?
When Austin Shakespeare produced Jeff Britting’s adaptation of Ayn Rand’s ANTHEM in 2011, the show generated sold-out and added performances. Theatergoers came from other parts of the United States and abroad, and audiences were intrigued enough to participate in lively post-show discussions.Austin Shakespeare looks forward to the transfer engagement Off-Broadway at the Baryshnikov Arts Center which will comprise an entirely New York City-based cast. With a background very involved in music, Mr. Britting has incorporated a unique underscore throughout the production, making it an innovative theatrical experience for the limited ten-week engagement.
Ann Ciccolella is artistic director for the Austin Shakespeare theatre company, Ann has directed: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Noel Coward’s Design for Living, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, and Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart. Also Shakespeare’s: Macbeth, Much Ado about Nothing, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale and a Bollywood-inspired Twelfth Night for Austin Shakespeare in the Park. As a director at Zachary Scott Theatre, Ann directed: Cabaret, The Vagina Monologues, Full Gallop, Closer, Master Class, and Misery. Also for the annual Summer Musical in Zilker Park, she staged Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Other Austin directing credits include: Hedda Gabler, and Other People’s Money, as well as productions of her scripts as a playwright. Before moving to Austin, Ann served as associate director for Shakespeare on Wheels, from the University of Maryland Baltimore County for three years. For ten years, she led the Renaissance Theater Company as artistic director, producing and directing in New York and along the East Coast with shows ranging from Oedipus Rex to Cyrano de Bergerac. A frequent guest lecturer at the University of Texas department of Theatre and Dance, Ann is a graduate of NYU in dramatic literature, history of theater and cinema.
Austin Shakespeare is the only professional classical theater company in Central Texas. Anonprofit professional theater company, Austin Shakespeare operates under an Actors Equity Small Professional Theater contract. A Resident Company of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Austin Shakespeare presents a season of plays by Shakespeare and other playwrights. This season includes The Belle of Amherst, based on the life of Emily Dickinson, and Shakespeare’s Othello and As You Like It.
Jeff Britting is the archives curator for the Ayn Rand Institute. He holds a B.A. degree in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley, where he attended the university’s first course on Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. He is the author of Ayn Rand, a biography in the Overlook Illustrated Lives Series published by The Overlook Press in February 2005. His essays “Adapting Anthem: Projects That Were and Might Have Been,” and “Anthem and the ‘Individualist Manifesto’” are included in Essays on Ayn Rand’s “Anthem”, edited by Robert Mayhew (Lexington Books in 2005). He associate-produced Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, a 1997 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature. He managed the Ayn Rand Archives from 1997 through 2011, when he began the first systematic preservation and arrangement of its Ayn Rand Papers and special collections. Mr. Britting also associate produced and composed the incidental music for the first stage production of Rand’s play Ideal. His special interests are music and drama.
ANTHEM starts previews September 25 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center’s Jerome Robbins Theater in New York City. Opening on October 4 Anthem will run through December 1, 2013. Tickets will be available through: www.AnthemthePlay.com or through Ovation Tickets at 866-811-4111. The Baryshnikov Arts Center is located at 450 W 37th St between 9th&10th Avenues. Ticket prices range from $50-$69.
Overview: The Fountainhead’s “rape scene” is not, in context, a scene of rape at all. One might even say that Roark could have been given no clearer invitation. Moreover, we can understand what this kind of thing might look like in the real world through the idea of consensual non-consent.
This essay contains spoilers about The Fountainhead. Moreover, it cannot be understood without the context of the novel. It is highly recommended that you read the book before this essay.
The Fountainhead is the story of Howard Roark and his drive for architectural integrity to be able to create buildings the way he thinks they should be and not simply as a testament to those who have come before him. In this process, he meets Dominique, who is his ideal woman, except that she erroneously believes that the good cannot succeed in the world as it is. He has an early affair with her and then leaves, only to reconnect with her later and start a relationship. He cannot have her until she overcomes her malevolent sense of life and he is ultimately forced to let her go to play out a grand drama with several marriages on her part, as well as her and Toohey attempting to destroy Roark’s career. Ultimately, Roark is successful and Dominique sees the error of her earlier beliefs, allowing them to happily be together. Continue reading ‘The Fountainhead’s ‘Rape Scene’: a Case Study of Consensual Non-Consent’
If you’ve been reading Erosophia for a while now, you know I’m working on my first nonfiction book currently titled: Eros and Ethos: The Ethics of Modern Sex. It has been going painstakingly slow for quite some time, but I’m happy to announce that the speed of writing has improved and great strides are being made now! Not only that, but Part 1, the first part that contains the primary theory of Eros and Ethos, is now complete in early draft! It’s 110 single spaced pages and 58,000 words. Seeing it all together was such a thrill for me. Now that the book is really taking shape and writing is going much faster, I’m really thrilled with things and can’t wait to get a complete draft so I can go and start editing and bringing things together really tightly. At the rate I’m going now, I hope to be completely done in a year. Perhaps even sooner if I can really push myself.
I hope you guys are as excited about this as I am!
Incidentally, if you are part of the admissions committee in a PhD program in philosophy…feel free to drop me a line. Or the Kinsey Institute, which would be awesome. Or a joint PhD in philosophy at IU with work at Kinsey. Dream spot.
I made the decisions today that I will not be speaking at ATLOSCon this year. Let me say only that it is not an issue of personal animosity between myself and the organizers, nor is it that I have some sort of issue with the conference itself. ATLOSCon is a great conference and I do recommend that people check it out.
My friend Marc Baer asked me to post an announcement of a new organization he is starting with Bach Ho. I am doing so here purely for informational reasons and not as an endorsement: I have not read all of their claims yet or had a chance to evaluate them. On the other hand, the more people out there providing high level training in Objectivism, the better.
“Marc Baer and Bach Van Ho would like to make the following announcement:
Due to the lack of an organized and serious effort at professional training of Objectivist intellectuals, we will be forming a new non-profit organization to address just this need.
Marc Baer earned his B.A. in philosophy from UCLA (1994), studied philosophy at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York (1996-99), and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Irvine (2002, 2006). He studied philosophy at the Ayn Rand Institute for many years, taking Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s undergraduate seminar in 1991 and the first undergraduate course on Peikoff’s Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, in 1994-95, as well as graduate courses with Dr. Harry Binswanger from 1995-2006. In 2006, he completed the Institute’s graduate program. He was an Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2005. He has taught philosophy at: the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the University of California, Irvine; California State University, Long Beach; Concordia College (Bronxville, NY); and Orange Coast College (Costa Mesa, CA). He is a referee for the academic philosophy journal The Journal of Value Inquiry. He lives in Orange County, CA.
Bach Van Ho earned his B.S. in Information and Computer Sciences, with honors and cum laude, from the University of California, Irvine (2004), and his M.A. in philosophy from Arizona State University (2007). He won the Ayn Rand Institute’s 2002 AtlasShrugged essay contest, graduated from ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center undergraduate program (2007), and studied in the graduate program until ARI closed it in 2009. From 2007 to the present, he has been enrolled in the doctoral program in philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate; his dissertation argues for the individual’s life as the source of moral values. He teaches contemporary moral issues, medical ethics, and environmental ethics at California State University, Fullerton. Mr. Ho lives in Orange County, CA.”
Apparently during the Super Bowl (I say apparently because I don’t care about sports and didn’t watch it) there was a commercial for Atheism:
[UPDATE – apparently this was a video for scientology (another nonsense religon) that someone edited to be for atheism.]
I think it’s great that religion is losing it’s grip on people and fading away. I sincerely think that faith is the single most evil thing ever thought by humans.
Another example of the fading away of religion is “Atheist Churches” that attempt to salvage the good parts of organized religion with the irrationality of religion. There is a great value in gathering together in friendly groups to enjoy each other’s company, to learn and think with each other, and to experience a sense of community and belonging. After all, we are, as Aristotle says, political animals (he means “social”).
Although I applaud these efforts, one major problem still remains: atheism is the lack of a belief. As I argue in “The Irrationality of Atheism,” being an “atheist” just means you don’t believe in a god. It is not itself a belief. The problem with this, as I argue in “Shattered Illusions,” is that atheism is a cognitive void. People can’t just lack beliefs, they need to believe in something. This is one reason why when we, as Objectivists, argue against religion, we must do so in a positive way that replaces that anti-life ideas of religion with pro-life ideas and values that will help people live good and happy lives. This point can’t be stressed too much and is the same point I made in “Inspirational Philosophy“:
If we don’t take a positive tack, if we don’t take the moral high-ground and argue on moral terms, if we merely attack and never build, then we lose. In order to win, to truly win, an argument or a culture, you must present positive reasons why your course of action is the better one, how it is the moral one, and give people something to believe in and to fight for.
In order to win the world, you must give people a morality worth living for: you must help them find meaning.
Ultimately, I’m glad “atheism” is growing, but we need to exploit this while it’s happening and show people that they can still have moral and meaningful lives without religion and its antiquated morality.