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Why Liking Ayn Rand Makes You a Terrible Lover
Shockingly, it has little to do with trains.
by Alex Heigl
Ayn Rand's been in the news again recently, thanks to Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's assertion that he got into public service thanks to Rand. (Which, come to think of it, seems a little backwards.) And of course, we've seen the attendant flurry of think-pieces about Rand's particularly horrible brand of self-interest. But no one's addressed our most pressing concern about the logical result of Rand's philosophy: bad sex.
Theoretically, Objectivists should be great in bed. Given their relentless talk about discipline, self-direction, and personal achievement (so say nothing of their love of trains, the sexiest form of transportation), they should all be shimmering, sexy übermenschen, ja?
Nein, schätzen. Nein.
Objectivists love themselves. And that's not a masturbation joke — they quite literally love the idea of themselves as heroically conquering individuals who owe the world nothing but their own glorious presence. (Rand was also a relentless narcissist who, according to Tobias Wolfe, named Atlas Shrugged as "the only great American novel.") Rand wrote, “I am done with the monster of ‘we,’ the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame." That's not a particularly pleasant sentiment, ethically speaking. But it's an even uglier sentiment when it comes to sex or love.
I have to think Ayn Rand must never have had any truly satisfying sex in her life, because, as anyone who's ever had an orgasm can tell you, you're not really thinking about yourself, and certainly not the glory of yourself, at that point. (Maybe later.) You're not really thinking about the other person, either, except for maybe with some vague gratitude. The point is that you're not thinking. Sex, and its occasional bedfellow, love, remains the great equalizer: everybody loses a little bit of themselves to their partner, and they get something back in return. The more you give, the more you get.
Love is the same way — when you've found someone you can't help but put above yourself, someone whose needs and wants and weird little foibles you would die to fulfill and preserve, you lose yourself as an individual. In this instance, Rand's "I" is the ugly word, the monster. People tend to give couples shit when they shift, all giggly and happy, into "we," but that's an important moment — it's a mindset shift as much as a romantic one.
Anyone who truly and deeply internalizes Rand's worldview isn't going to be privy to moments like this. Obviously, you can compartmentalize it — "I'm a Randian economist, but a McCartneyian love-ist." But I'd question how well that actually works. We tend to reflect a lot of our day-to-day lives under the covers. There's a reason that sex tends to get better in long-term relationships (even as the frequency might drop off) — it ceases to be about "I" ("How does my stomach look when I'm on top?" "I'm going to use my move... now!") and starts to be about intuition, and a better sense of what the other person likes. These are not the concerns of someone who thinks "we" is a dirty word.
There's actually an Ayn Rand dating site. They elected not to take the low road (as I would have done) and name it "The Fountainhead," but went with the more restrained "The Atlasphere." Profiles include blurbs like: "You should contact me if you are a skinny woman. If your words are a meaningful progression of concepts rather than a series of vocalizations induced by your spinal cord for the purpose of complementing my tone of voice," and "I am rational, integrated, and effacious. So far, I've never met a person who lives up to the standard I hold for myself." These profiles would be contemptible if they weren't kind of sad, like this guy's: "People see me as a socially inept loner because I tend to avoid superficial conversation but actually I love talking to people who like to think (the problem being I don't know very many)."
These are people locked in the hell of "I." These are not people having great sex. Learn from them: avoid taking sex advice from a shrill Russian woman. Learn to enjoy "we." Learn to enjoy the art of letting someone in, of giving something back. And don't giggle at that, you immature moocher.