Rebirth of Reason

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Post 0

Wednesday, October 9, 2002 - 3:59pmSanction this postReply
Bravely spoken, Chris Matthew Sciabarra (I'm sure you recognize the quote from BEN-HUR, but I don't mean it the way Hugh Griffith did--I mean it literally). I've been aware for years that the relationships between Roark and Wynand in THE FOUNTAINHEAD and Rearden and Francisco in ATLAS SHRUGGED are implicitly romantic, but never seen it so clearly stated in print. (The way Rand stated it in her letters and journals was contradictory and confusing.) Much as she reportedly did not intend it, those relationships do come across as homoerotic, if not actually homosexual -- and it wasn't until I recognized that they do that I could understand why many of the men I met at the Nathaniel Branden Institute were gay. Three of those men were long-lasting friends of mine, and though we finally went separate ways, I still care deeply about them and hope they are happy. If the Objectivist movement was homophobic, one of the most important things I learned from it was to understand and accept homosexuality as a normal variety of human sexual response. Thanks again for your wonderful (and very courageous) series on Objectivism and homosexuality.

Post 1

Sunday, October 20, 2002 - 3:35pmSanction this postReply
Many things can be read into a situation, and I think Sciabarra is reading his own personal values into Rand's writing. I think Sciabarra sees these relationships as homosexual because this is his relationship to reality. He sees friendship and closeness between men in a homosexual context, when perhaps it is only friendship and bonding that he is seeing. Hetero males have needs and wants of other males, and these needs and wants are often misinterpreted by others. Gay males generally relate to men in a different way then hetero males, and many things are often misinterpreted.Many men see any closeness between women as a sign of lesbianism, when in fact, many times, it is just gals being pals and friends.

I would say to Chris, work for an acceptance of homosexuality but don't try to impose it on Objectivism, or on Objectivists, who are accepting of homosexuality but who are in favor of heterosexuality. This type of behavior is similar to those heterosexual shrinks who were always trying to change gay men and women. I think, right now, you are trying change Objectivism to suit your personal lifestyle, when in fact the world is open to you to create your own view of it, exclusive of Ayn Rand.

Post 2

Monday, October 21, 2002 - 6:56pmSanction this postReply
With supposed friends like Chris Sciabarra, why would Ayn Rand need enemies? Apparently, Sciabarra has found the vulnerable point in Ayn Rand, and is about to exploit it to death: her dislike for homosexuality. Yes, she said it and how terrible of her, so let's get down to the real business at hand: changing our society.

Really Chris, I wish I had a dollar for every gay women who has told how disgusting she thinks heterosexuality is, and how repugnant and vile the heterosexual act is, especially the part called f......!

Also, your comment from Rossano Brazzi, is just a remark from someone who had no knowledge of who or what she was. Do I have to repeat here some of the remarks I have heard about you, especially your favorite position, and what part of the male anatomy you favor?

And last but not least....Jon Galt! Is it possible you could have chosen a sleezier example? With all the responsible, productive gay men and women, you have to chose someone who seems to favor his penis over his brain.

In my opinion, you are an enemy of Ayn Rand, and I tend to sympathize with the Peikoff crowd, and their disdain for your work. You exploit Rand, and you strive to destroy her image. People like you and Mimi Gladstein can't decide to love her, or hate her, in the meantime, you survive by exploiting her.

Olivia Hanson

Post 3

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - 4:42amSanction this postReply
Just a few points in response to those who have contributed to the dialogue here.

First, thanks to Kristen Russell for your kind words with regard to this series on "Objectivism and Homosexuality."

Second, to Sal Barbella: If you'd carefully read this segment of the series again, you'll find that I have NOT imposed my own personal context on Rand's work. In fact, what I did was merely to state that several commentators have noted the "homosocial" aspects of Rand's fiction, and that Rand herself viewed the relationships between some of her male characters as extensions of romantic love. I then contrasted this view with her later, stated views, about the mutual exclusivity of romantic love and friendship, thus causing a tension between the two depictions. I do not believe that Rand viewed any of the relationships between her fictional men as homosexual, and I do believe that she says something of great importance about the need for emotional bonding among men---of whatever sexual orientation.

Ultimately, I'm not trying to impose homosexuality on anyone. As the conclusion of my series proclaims: Rand offers us "a legacy that projects an exalted view of love as a response to values. It is a legacy that belongs to all rational men and women of whatever sexual orientation."

To Olivia Hanson, I am not an enemy of Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand has made the biggest impact on my thinking of any philosopher I've ever read. I've devoted volumes to Rand's work because I think it is important---not only philosophically, but as an engine of analysis to combat human oppression on any scale, be it personal, cultural, or political/economic.

I also think I present a rather sympathetic picture of Rand's sexual views, despite my obvious disagreement with her assessment of homosexuality, which, as I've stated, is not a core principle of Objectivism---and should have no effect one way or the other on our acceptance of that philosophy.

The comment from Rossano Brazzi that you point to was, in fact, COUNTERED by me in the article, since I pointed out that I found absolutely no evidence of Rand's "bisexuality." Interestingly, however, I have been in touch with a few people who know the nuances of Italian a lot better than I do; some of these individuals have suggested that Brazzi may have been talking more about Rand's "androgynous" blending of "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics, rather than any sexual proclivities. Either way, I do not give any credence to Brazzi's claim. I merely raise the issue as a way of examining the theme of gender in Rand's life and work.

And as for all those remarks you've heard about me, let me repeat them for you: I've been called The Evil "Sciabarra Man"; a second-hander Peter Keating; my search for evidence of Rand's Russian roots has been likened to the approach of Adolf Hitler, racists, and other crackpots; upon writing a piece on "The Laramie Project" for THE FREE RADICAL, I was told by an alleged "Objectivist" reader to go join the gay-bashed "AIDS-infected Matthew Shepard in hell"; upon debating the issue of homosexuality some years ago, it was said of me that my attendance at NYU in Greenwich Village made clear that I'd received all three degrees as a "c*cksucker on my knees". And let's not forget the real classic that my sexual orientation explains the "warped" bizarre views I have on dialectical method.

Yeah, some so-called "Objectivists" are paragons of benevolence.

Oh, as for my favorite position: sitting in front of this computer. And my favorite parts of the male anatomy: eyes, hands, and feet. :)

As for Jon Galt: we've already had a long discussion about him, no, uh, pun intended. Let me say that I simply found it unusual and worth discussing--that somebody so unashamed of their anatomy and sexual orientation would take the name of one of Rand's protagonists and build a career in adult film. Yes, of course, there are plenty of productive gay men and women, straight men and women, in many other professions. Nobody is denying that.

Finally, as to your sympathy with the Peikoff crowd and your disdain for my work: take a look at "Partisanship vs. Objectivity in Ayn Rand Scholarship" on SOLO HQ. Perhaps then, you might have a different opinion as to who is actually exploiting Rand (spiritually and materially) and destroying her image.

Loving Ayn Rand as I do, does not mean that I am unwilling to analyze her---with the same critical, objective stance that I'd bring to my analysis of any other giant in intellectual history.


Post 4

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - 3:46pmSanction this postReply
I think Chris you suffer the from the same Objectivist disease that runs rampant in the Objectivist world, the melding of consciousness and the objective world into one, so as to think your view of a certain situation is objective reality. I, Chris Sciabarra, see it as thus, and therefore it is. However, I, Olivia Hanson, gay female, Objectivist, see your articles in a different light.

No doubt, you think you are pursuing a certain course but I think in the end, your deeper more unconscious forces are ruling the day. Primarily, I would say a large contradiction between your sense of life, and that of Rand as portrayed in her writings. This, to me, is the most glaring contradiction, and I think something that is manifesting in your writings.

I think many people see your efforts as intellectually honest, yet perhaps guided by hidden drives that you are not aware of.

As to whether you are an enemy of Ayn Rand or not, I would definitely say she would see you in this light, exclusive of your homosexuality, and guided only by your intellectual efforts. In my opinion, along with many other people, she would have disliked "Femininist Interpretations" immensely; probably would have disliked "Russian Radical" especially with the Marxist dualist twist of yours.

Also, while homosexuality in regards to Objectivism is an important issue, and I applaud you for your effort, you seem to be intent on beating her over the head with her unfortunate statements. After all, she was from another generation, and died just about the time homosexuality was coming into public light.

While Jon Galt seemed like a good idea for you, I see it as extremely disrespectful to Ayn Rand, and her life. You must realize you carry her name, and you live off her name, so you must respect the consequences of what you do and say for her name, and its public image.

And please, Chris, you keep using the same example of how you got your degree, and that some person sent you a hostile email in regard to Matt Sheppard, and called you anti-gay names. Get over it. It comes with the territory, and if you want to play with the big boys, suck it up and become a leader, not a whiny, little victim. You state that you love Ayn Rand, so then why not act like it? Why not show a heroic posture instead of whining and victimizing yourself as some poor little gay boy brutalized by those Objectivists? Would Roark or Rearden start whining when someone said something to them? We all know the price of being gay, but how many of us know the price of showing a heroic posture? Did Jackie Robinson start crying when people called him nigger? No, he struck a heroic posture and changed his world.

If you want to prove your love of Ayn Rand, show it in your actions! And stop crying and making excuses. Life is more than an academic exercise.

Post 5

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - 7:53pmSanction this postReply
Jon Galt's hardware will never match Ayn Rand's software, although I must admit I enjoy his virtues much more than Rand's. Who needs women when we have Jon Galt, and the pleasures of male on male sex. Besides, women are cruel creatures, heartless and unforgiving in regards to sex. Real intimacy only occurs amongst brothers who love and nurture without contempt.

Anyway, there is definitely something homoerotic about Rand's world. I think Rand's world is a perfect blueprint for homosexual men, who despise society, sex with women, and a normal life. Think about all the future societies that can be built with only men at the helm. Of all the selfish concepts, the love between two men is the utmost, an erotic adventure unmatched by women. Also, I think Wynant wanted Roark's baby, more than he wanted a building designed by him.

Post 6

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - 10:38pmSanction this postReply

You've failed to make your case. Maybe you should reevaluate your position. You seem to think Chris' articles are some smear job towards Ayn Rand. But the evidence doesn't support it.

He's shown what Rand said, and how Objectivists have not only accepted her mistake, but practice it. If this were just about Rand being wrong, it wouldn't be that interesting. But he's shown that her mistake has had a large influence on other Objectivists, and that other Objectivist have made their own mistakes making it worse. Which means he's not focusing primarily on Rand, but on the culture of Objectivism. That should be clear from reading all FIVE articles.

You started off implying that Chris had no good reason to discuss this issue, and that it's merely because he's an evil enemy of Rand. Well, if the evidence provided in FIVE articles wasn't sufficient, he gave even more evidence. And what do you say? Instead of recognizing his attempt to show the results of these ideas, you've just told him to stop crying. But this is just dismissing the evidence he's provided.

The result of your statements is that there is no justification for discussing Rand's mistakes, ever. Any possible reason is dismissed as mere whining, and the motivation can only be that of an enemy trying to tear her down. Lovely. Mere questioning of Rand is considered a moral fault. Or is questioning okay if you don't do it out loud?

I did notice that you didn't try to argue with him on any points of substance. You've called him an enemy, talked of mysterious "hidden drives" that somehow affect his work, and dismissed his evidence as whining. Guess that means you agree with all his facts and reasoning?

Post 7

Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 4:43amSanction this postReply
Olivia tells me I'm suffering from some "disease" and that I'm a victim of my own unconscious drives. My, my, my... that's quite an exercise in psychologizing---which, as we all know, Ayn Rand herself declared was an argumentative fallacy.

I've not questioned your motivations or psychology, Olivia. And I can even disagree with you without attacking you personally. But don't presume to know anything about me or my sense of life.

You're probably right, however, that Rand would have disliked some of my work---though not all of it. Clearly, I am less interested in the approval of Rand, or Peikoff, or even you---than I am in the pursuit of truth. I don't claim to have uncovered the One and Only Truth. But I do claim to have worked hard to uncover lots of interesting pieces of evidence that have helped me to put forth a bold and daring thesis about Rand's methodology and her intellectual roots. We can disagree about that, we can even disagree over my five-part series on homosexuality and Objectivism, but there's no reason to fault the other person's sense of life or "hidden drives."

I do appreciate your applause of my efforts... but the point of the series was NOT to beat Ayn Rand over the head. In fact, I clearly state that Rand DID have a RIGHT to her opinion, and you'll find no argument from me that Rand's views should be placed in historical context. That is, after all, the raison d'etre of AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL.

The purpose of the series was to examine "homophobia" within the "Objectivist movement"---its origins, its implications, and its effects. That "homophobia" has been buried in the closet for so long---and I simply wanted to rattle the chains a bit. Unless we "check our premises" on this issue, it will never become the NON-ISSUE it SHOULD be.

As for Jon Galt: I chose to interview him and to quote him in a SINGLE paragraph (300 or so words) of my 15,000+ word five-part series. Try not to reify one paragraph as if it were a whole unto itself.

Finally, there is only one reason why I mentioned the issue of the names I've been called. It's because, YOU, Olivia, RAISED the issue. Since you made some innuendos about the things people say about me and my sexuality, I wasn't going to allow THAT to go unanswered. It is better to state such things EXPLICITLY and OBJECTIVELY than to make off-the-cuff implicit statements, which might be interpreted in any number of off-the-wall ways.

I do live in the real world, and I do not play the "poor little gay boy" victimized by nasty Objectivists. I've been criticized from every angle and on every issue, and have publicly answered many of these criticisms---and I've made these critical exchanges a vital part of my website. I know the price that is paid for standing up for what one believes, for living by the judgment of one's own mind. The price---the reward---is living a life of integrity.

I'd like to say something more about me, and why Ayn Rand appealed to me so personally... because, indeed "life is more than an academic exercise."

Like other people, I've had my obstacles, including some pretty severe health problems since birth. I've nearly lost my life several times. That doesn't make me a victim. It's just a recognition of a fact. And I learned to live with facts from a very early age, because that is the only way to survive. I learned that nothing is handed to you, that you have to work hard to get over obstacles, that you have to live a life of authenticity---because without authenticity, life is not worth living.

And when I found Ayn Rand and saw in her eloquent words the objective necessity of living such a life, I felt that I'd discovered an explicitly enunciated heroic creed to live by.

And I've done my best.

Post 8

Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 11:47amSanction this postReply
One of the most refreshing things about Chris Sciabarra, other than his manifest intelligence, scholarliness, honesty, and good will, is the fact that he is secure enough in his personal and sexual identity that he is comfortable being good friends with people, regardless of ~their~ sexual orientation -- and this makes it possible for people who are secure in ~their~ sexual identities to be open to the joyous opportunity of calling him "friend." One of the enlightening things about the current exchanges of comments about his revealing series on homophobia in the Objectivist movement is that it has stimulated people of ~all~ sexual orientations to engage in hateful, ad hominem attacks. Rand's supposed defenders do her no service by resorting to such scurrilous behavior.

Best 2 all,
Roger Bissell, heterosexual
and devoted friend of CMS

Post 9

Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 3:26pmSanction this postReply
For those who think "Sciabarra is reading his own personal values into Rand's writing," let me add my two cents: for what it's worth (two cents, I guess), I'm a heterosexual male, but the Roark-Wynand relationship has always struck me as having homoerotic overtones. So I'm afraid I don't find very convincing the suggestion that one has to be a homosexual male in order to find homoeroticism in _The Fountainhead_.

At any rate, surely the way to resolve the question is to focus on the text, not on other interpreters.

So: suppose you found the following scene in an Ayn Rand novel. How would you interpret it?

"She, Dagny Taggart, was the helpless one in this moment, with the solid planking of the deck under her feet. Roark, floating like a piece of driftwood, held a power greater than that of the engine in the belly of the yacht. Dagny thought: Because that is the power from which the engine has come.
Roark climbed back on deck; Dagny looked at Roark's body, at the threads of water running down the angular planes. She said:
'You made a mistake on the Stoddard Temple, Howard. That statue should have been, not of Dominique, but of you.'"

Would you interpret it as devoid of heteroerotic overtones? If not, why interpret it as devoid of homoerotic overtones in its original form?

Post 10

Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 4:25pmSanction this postReply
To follow up on Chris Sciabarra's discussion of relationships
among Rand's male heroes:

Before giving a label to a concept, one ought to identify the facts
of reality that concept pertains to. Branden's theory of romantic
love as based on mutual "psychological visibility" identifies the
romantic partner as, prior to anything else, a person who makes
visible - who exemplifies and/or visibly responds to - one's own
essential awareness of what one is. This feeling of "psychological
visibility" is, at least in my experience, an aggregate of
experienced visibility on many different dimensions of character.

One's sexual identity is only one of those dimensions. And it is the
only dimension of character that requires, for visibility, a mutually
reciprocated sexual attraction.

To Rand's heroes, sexual identity is much less central to who they
know they are, than their virtues "qua men". I read Rand's "Man"
in "qua Man" as a translation of the yiddish "Mensh", that is, a
person equipped with the complete set of human virtues, regardless
of whether those virtues are culturally stereotyped as masculine or
feminine. Let's keep in mind that Rand came from a culture that values
the androgeny implicit in developing oneself as a complete human,
rather than merely a male or a female. In Hebrew, the highest praise
for a woman's character, which Ayn clearly deserved, is "ayshet khail".
It means "soldierly woman", that is, a woman of strength, endurance,
and courage. Her male heroes are perhaps the most androgynous in any
English-language novel by a heterosexual author: benevolent and
compassionate, sensitive to beauty, feeling deep and developed
emotions. They are also, in complete integration with their androgeny,
powerfully masculine.

Roark and Wynand, or Francisco and Rearden, each made their most
important dimensions of character psychologically visible to the
other. The fact that both men in each pair were simultaneously in love
with the same woman, was a result of the same traits that gave them
mutual psychological visibility to each other.

Romantic love is built on two foundations: mutual psychological
visibility and mutual sexual attraction. It does not diminish the
special value of romantic love when psychological visibility is
also valued and celebrated for itself, even in the absence of Eros.

Adam Reed

Context matters. Seldom does *anything* have only one cause.

Post 11

Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 7:11pmSanction this postReply
I think your work in bringing homosexuality out of the closet in regards to Objectivism has been excellent, and that you deserve a good round of applause for your efforts. If you asked for and got only a tiny response from gay Objectivists, this is disappointing, disheartening, and maybe a wake-up call to people who are supposedly supporting a heroic philosophy.

My initial response to the world was as a radical of the left, and I have followed their reactions to homosexuality over the years, since the 60's. In this regard, Objectivism is light years behind, drapped in a world of darkness.

Recently, I was on N. Branden's forum and witnessed him saying that, he did not understand homosexuality and therefore could not comment on it. I was extremely disappointed in this type of response, and thought it inappropriate to anyone calling themselves a psychologist. I remember listening to one of his lectures at NBI in the sixties, talking about the flaws in homosexuality, and the arrested development of homosexual males. Apparently now, he has gone blind and just doesn't want to deal with the issue, as is the case with many others.

While Leonard Peikoff is often brutalized in open Objectivist circles, I thought his comments on homosexuality very much to the point, and at least he had the courage to make a statement. I don't remember his exact words, but he related that intelligent, sensitive boys have a hard time of it, and thus if they are homosexual, often seek the approval of men in this way.

Don't hold me to the exact quote. I am just summarizing what I remember him saying. Yet, as a gay man, I found it to be a cogent observation, and entirely lacking in hostility.

As for Ayn Rand, I met her several times and found her to be a very warm and charming person. At one time, I am told, she had a gay man working for her in some capacity, and I am told she adored him.

Yes, she made those regretable remarks. Yet, coming from leftist circles, I can tell you whatever she said, is quite lame compared to the "kill the cksucker" remarks I heard during the sixties and seventies.

Now, to be a bit critical. I didn't like the Jon Galt picture with penis exposed, and really thought it inappropriate, and had to wonder if it was your idea or was put there by someone else. Here, in talking about Rand (and we all know her exalted view of the world), we have a picture of him excentuating his penis as if this is what he values most in his life. Stereotypically, this is one of the images people have of gay men, penis-fixated drolls who worship Tom of Finland like musclemen. Anyway, lose the porn will you Chris. Very shabby, disrespectful of AR and I think a terrible example of gay Objectivism.

While Ms. Hanson has her own agenda, I do think many people do see you as an enemy of Ayn Rand, and not all of these people are being vindictive or anti-homosexual. As a friend, or someone who is appreciative of what you have accomplished, you might just want to step back and take a look at Chris Sciabarra from the outside. Not only with homosexual issues (which make many Objectivists very uncomfortable) but with some of the other things, like FI, there is a view that you are opposed to her.

Anyway, thanks again for a great series of articles on homosexuality, and opening up the Objectivist world to a different vision. In your own way, you are an innovator, and I look forward to reading your new books in the future.

Ari C.

Post 12

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 5:04amSanction this postReply
This is Part One of my response:

As I said on the SOLO Yahoo group forum once: My, my, my, my, my, my... :)

Some people have wondered if I get a thrill out of plucking all these strange chords and exciting so much controversy. I suppose I do---but the controversy is not an end in itself. It is always something that opens up new boxes for Objectivist Pandoras... and I think this is almost always a good thing.

I would like to respond with some depth to the many issues raised here. First, I would like to thank Roger Bissell, Roderick Long, Adam Reed, and Ari C. for their illuminating comments.

I have to admit that Roderick's implicit juxtaposing of the imagined Taggart-Roark encounter over the Stoddard Temple with the actual Wynand-Roark encounter was almost jarring. His question about heteroerotic versus homoerotic overtones was, I think, well phrased, and very provocative. I hadn't thought about it in these terms, and he's even raised > eyebrows (not an easy task).

Adam Reed deals with additional issues that are also extremely provocative; I was struck many years ago by Ronald Merrill's initial raising of the Jewish subtext of Rand's writing---and I think that Adam's discussion here lends even more credence to the project of grappling with that subtext. The fact that the subtext raises all sorts of interesting issues regarding gender and sexuality is all the more reason to examine it in greater detail.

Ari's excellent comments are, for me, the ones needing most attention. So I will focus on that in the remaining portions of this post.

First, thanks Ari, for your kind words with regard to the series and to my work in general. I should point out, however, that I got an ~overwhelming~ response from gay Objectivists in my call for interviews for this series. Those interviews numbered over 100, and the majority of these were from people of an alternative sexual orientation (gay, bisexual, transgender). The sad thing about the interview process was that next to nobody wanted to speak "on the record"---and so, well over 90% of the material that I used had to be quoted "anonymously." This was without respect to orientation, because heterosexual individuals were just as cautious about the use of their names in the series. If anything, this does show that for all of our progress, a certain stigma is still attached to this subject. In that sense, the series is a "wake-up call," as Ari has pointed out.

I was most interested in what Ari had to say about the left of the 1960s; as I point out in my finale, the left has had a very mixed record with regard to homosexuality. While some of the liberation impulses emerged out of the civil rights movement, the "Lavendar Left" was always looked at with some suspicion by Marxists who were of the opinion that homosexuality was a degenerate pre-communist vestige that would disappear in the ideal communist society. The gulags that were erected to usher in that society speak for themselves... since many of the victims are unable to speak.

I, too, was surprised by Nathaniel Branden's comments on his forum, but in fairness, his own mystification over this issue has been addressed in his post-Rand lectures---and I note these in the series. I think his attitude is one not simply of toleration; he thinks sexuality is enormously complex and that sexual orientation is not a moral issue, and I think he's moved away, quite considerably, from his earlier views about "arrested development." Peikoff's comments have also been mixed, as I've pointed out in the series, and as Ari himself notes in his post.

On the issue of Ayn Rand, I think I was very clear in the series that Rand enjoyed close relationships with many gay men, including her own brother-in-law, Nick Carter. Her own negative attitudes toward homosexuality did not seem to affect---in the slightest---her respect for people as individuals. (And yes, she did have a gay man working for her in some capacity---check out Arthur Silber's "Light of Reason" blog, for more information, since Silber, who is gay, and is a SOLO participant, worked with Rand during the period of her AYN RAND LETTER days... though I'm not sure if this is the same individual that Ari has in mind.)

Whatever the nature of Rand's attitudes, then, it never seemed to affect her behavior toward people. On this count, she was exemplary---and I note this in the finale of my series (which makes it all the more puzzling when people suggest that I was hammering Rand over the head with this issue... I think, if anything, I've made her much more sympathetic, in spite of whatever views she held).

Please read on to part two of my response ... the message was too big for the server.

Post 13

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 5:07amSanction this postReply
This is part two of my response:

The Jon Galt picture has caused a commotion. The commotion was addressed on the SOLO yahoo group, and actually, Arthur Silber himself enunciated his own concerns on the "Light of Reason" blog. Let me say that I recognize these concerns, and I don't wish to belittle them. But I think we need to place this whole discussion in a wider context.

First, THE FREE RADICAL---which is where the photo was initially published--- ~ regularly ~ prints photos of people who are naked, thanks to our esteemed editor Lindsay Perigo who has never shown the slightest embarrassment over the depiction of all sorts of male and female naked bodies. :) Jon Galt provided us with the opportunity to look over a number of his photos, and I can tell you that the one that was selected was the ~least~ "pornographic." Because his name was mentioned in the article, it was not an unusual choice to include a photograph of him.

When I did an article on rapper Eminem, and interviewed Brooklyn teens about him, THE FREE RADICAL published photographs not only of the rapper, but also of the teens whom I interviewed. So there was nothing strange, on the face of it, in publishing a photo of a person mentioned in an article.

I must confess I, myself, remain a bit mystified over the controversy of the photo, because I don't think it is all that revealing. (This might say something about my own libertine mores, but I don't think so...) We see the man's penis, but not the "head" and it is certainly not depicted in an aroused state. He is also in pretty good physical shape.

The interview itself portrays Galt as an adult film star who is very intelligent and concerned about the role of adult films as a purveyor of positive sexual values. Galt also makes points about eroticizing safe sex and about his libertarian concerns over the issue of censorship. All of these points, I think, are challenging. A part of me thought it necessary to introduce Jon Galt, not only because of his name and his love of Ayn Rand, but also because I do like pushing the envelope... and, as I explained above, not for its own sake.

I think that just as FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND upped the ante on discussions of gender in Objectivism, and just as the "homosexuality series" upped the ante on discussions of sexual orientation in Objectivism, so too raising the issue of "obscenity" and "pornography" has upped the ante on this discussion. I think there is a general discomfort among Objectivists with ALL of these issues, and for a philosophy that speaks of overcoming the mind-body dichotomy, this is all the more important to address.

I think we need to remind ourselves that Rand herself was criticized---in her time---for including steamy "fornicating bits" (as William Buckley called them) in her own novels... yes, even "rape scenes," rough sex, and B&D, S&M-type imagery. (The very name "Dominique" suggests "domination", and Rand's journals clearly show that she was dealing with all of these issues quite consciously.)

I also think it should be noted that for all of her problems with "pornography," Rand herself had absolutely no problem being interviewed by Alvin Toffler in PLAYBOY magazine in the 1960s. In that issue of PLAYBOY, there were lots of naked women in sexually-charged poses. If Rand herself had no problem being published in a magazine that, even during the 1960s sexual revolution, was viewed as "pornographic" by some, and that published photos of naked women, why should we be ashamed of depicting a not-fully-naked photo of Jon Galt in an article that mentions his name? Galt's photo is actually ~less~ revealing than any photo found in PLAYBOY, hardly a "hard-core" pornographic magazine. Is it because he's a man? Is it because he's gay? If so, then we need to check our premises.

I'm not certain of this, but I suspect that the outcry over this particular photo makes people uncomfortable for different reasons, but that uncomfortability itself has generated a valuable discussion; for that reason alone, perhaps it wasn't a bad thing to publish after all.

Some people have suggested that I should do a sequel series on "Pornography and Objectivism," but I think I'll put that one on the back-burner for now. Pretty soon they'll be calling me the "Larry Flynt of Objectivism"; I'm not sure I'm ready to add that title to the many other illustrious ones that I've heard. :)

Finally, I do appreciate Ari's suggestion that I need to "take a look at Chris Sciabarra from the outside." I actually do this on a very regular basis; I have to. In my capacity as an editor, whether of FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS or of THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES, I frequently have had to deal with authors who are constantly challenging me on all sorts of issues, and those challenges, by their nature, require the kind of self-examination that Ari thinks necessary. I sometimes have published articles with which I've had so many disagreements, that I startle myself for my liberality!

But the truth is that I publish such material (as long as it passes the required double-blind review process) because I am actively seeking to "up the ante" in Rand studies. I think that the outcry over the homosexuality series and several articles in THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES, and, before that, the feminist book (which got a thorough trashing in the pages of THE FREE RADICAL for over a year), are all indicative of just the kinds of things that Objectivism needs: engagement with hot-button approaches and issues.

The FEMINIST book alone brought together many different styles of feminism, but it also featured some cogent critiques of left-wing feminism in the contributions of authors such as Nathaniel Branden, Diana Brickell (now Hsieh), Sharon Presley, Karen Michalson, Wendy McElroy, and Valerie Loiret-Prunet. It also featured an interview with David Kelley (in Joan Kennedy Taylor's essay) that brought into question the very term "feminism." That this book now appears on the shelf as part of a series featuring over twenty similarly titled anthologies on Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Dewey, and others, speaks to its importance. Through my efforts and the efforts of many of my academic colleagues, Rand is being taken very seriously by scholars worldwide coming from very different traditions. It is simply one more necessary step in the wider permeation of Objectivism into the academy and into the wider culture.

Do some of these initial steps falter? Perhaps. That depends on the standard by which you evaluate them. I can only say that a baby doesn't learn to run, until it has learned to walk, and it doesn't learn to walk, until it begins to crawl.

Rand studies are probably still in the crawling stage. Some day, they will be soaring through the air.

In my view, Objectivism needs even more "enemies" to help that process along.

And as I've said in previous postings, if this be treason, I'll make the most of it.


Website: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra

Post 14

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 5:58pmSanction this postReply
Why can't I know anything about your sense of life? You are a public figure, and your books have open covers. And really Chris, that charge of psychologizing is so childish and beneath you!

Are you telling me that hidden, unconscious drives are something one should ignore in the name of philosophy? If someone like you, who profeses to love Ayn Rand, does many things, that one would judge as anti-Rand, is it improbable to postulate that maybe hidden forces are work?

After all, anyone in therapy knows about ambivalent feelings toward loved ones, feelings of anger, rage, and hatred, as well as love.

Have you experienced therapy, delved into your deepest emotions, pains, hurts and resentments?

We all have hidden drives, unless we are fortunate enough to have spent time in therapy, so as learn what they are. Your article on Matt Shepard is the perfect example. Why would two men beat him to death, and mutiliate him in such a way, when he posed no physical threat? What hidden, unconscious forces drove them to beat him to death? And why would Matt Shepard get into their vehicle in the first place? Was he unaware of the danger gay men face, or was he refusing to look at this, seeking out some deep need of his own, that he wasn't in touch with?

So many times, when one reads of male gay bashing, the heterosexual attackers are quoted as saying the gay victims, "were coming on to them" and therefore they had to defend their masculinity. But why not defend their masculinity by walking away? Why are they striking out in murderous violence if it is not some hidden drives or feelings they don't want to face?

And by the way, while I was extremely critical of you, I would like to say your article on Matt Shepard was very touching and moving. Good work!

Other than that, I made my statement. If you can't see what the Jon Galt photo represents to many people then I am not on earth to educate you. And please, stop with the prudish nonsense. It is not a case of penis, vagina, etc., but a man focusing on his penis, AS HIS MOST IMPORTANT POSSESSION. Here again, I repeat. Your SENSE OF LIFE diverts sharply with that of Rand. She emphasized mind, ability, talent, productivity, and sexuality as a consequence.

Jon Galt is emphasizing penis, muscles, sexual lust, using a famous name as a gimmick.


Post 15

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 7:06pmSanction this postReply
Olivia wrote:

And really Chris, that charge of psychologizing is so childish and beneath you!

At first I was taken aback at Olivia accusing Chris of being childish, but there is a kernel of truth if you dig hard enough. Because it is true that there are many things beneath Chris --- he would, if he slipped, have far to fall. But Olivia, there doesn't seem to be much that is beneath you.

Post 16

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
Olivia asked: "Why can't I know anything about your sense of life? You are a public figure, and your books have open covers."

Rand tells us that "sense of life" is one of the most personal, most intimate aspects of the subconscious. It is formed, in essence, by a tacit process of emotional abstraction, from the earliest moments of childhood. In most cases, it is also quite tenacious, affecting our ways of communicating, our choices, actions, responses, and so forth.

The point here is that it is an enormously complex aspect of human life, not something easily discernible by a person's articulated statements, or even a person's singular aesthetic responses. For anyone to presume that they "know" another person's sense of life without ever having actually MET (and getting to know) the person is remarkable on the face of it. (I don't think we've met, Olivia, have we? And even if we have, I don't think we've been friends all these years, have we?)

And, yes, of course, I do not believe that subconscious drives should be ignored. You make valid points about the Shepard murder in this context. What I'm saying, however, is that in order for you to pass judgment on an aspect of my consciousness that is implicit by definition, you'd have to have access to a lot more information about my consciousness and my life than you actually have. And it's not even something you can easily discern by simply reading an article or two of mine, or even a book or two.

For example, if I'd read WE THE LIVING, where all the main characters are destroyed, and Rand's short story "The Little Street," reeking with quasi-Nietzschean contempt, and ONLY these two works, I might have had a very different view of Rand's "sense of life" (as "malevolent") than, say, if I'd read ANTHEM and ATLAS SHRUGGED.

But even that is not a guarantee. Let's not forget that some people, like Whittaker Chambers, have read ATLAS SHRUGGED, and argued that Rand, in effect, expressed a malevolent sense of life: "To a gas chamber, go!" as Chambers put it. He was no more correct about Rand's sense of life than you are about mine.

You assert that my "SENSE OF LIFE diverts sharply with that of Rand. She emphasized mind, ability, talent, productivity, and sexuality as a consequence. Jon Galt is emphasizing penis, muscles, sexual lust, using a famous name as a gimmick." Do you realize that by making this statement, you are practically identifying me with Jon Galt, and judging my whole sense of life on the basis of a single 300-word paragraph and its accompanying photograph?

I'm not going to get into all the personal details of my life on a public board; quite frankly, it is none of anybody's business. Let me say, however, that I do know the importance of the formal therapeutic process, and that I've also kept a personal journal since I was 11 years old, and that 30+ years of introspective journal-keeping provides a remarkable opportunity for "premise checking"---which I do routinely.

With all due respect, worry about your own premises, and I'll take care of mine.


Post 17

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 8:55pmSanction this postReply

You are showing your sense of life to be a very negative and destructive force. The first time I read a message from you on SOLO I was shocked at your lack of benevolence and total disregard of proportionality. In fact your comments shocked me far more than the photo of Jon Galt on Sciabarra's article! I smiled at the photo, I frowned when I read your message.

Unfortunately, Ari seems to agree with you that the photo of John Galt is beneath Sciabarra and that therefore Sciabarra did not use good judgment by including it with the article. I am sure many people like you are shocked. Many more are not. You seem to feel that the central issue is that including a photo like that of Jon Galt in an article discussing Rand is beneath her as well. Yet Ayn Rand had an interview with Playboy that many prudes would have regarded as beneath her BECAUSE of the associations. Playboy has interesting articles but they also show lots of nude women.

Rand didn't have to talk about the glories of heterosexual love and sex because, as you will note, most heterosexuals don't have to talk that way. They are the majority. They rule. I think it is perfectly valid for Sciabarra to speak of homosexuals in Objectivism past, present, and future if for no other reason than to avoid the kind of emotional and sexual repression that occurs when people are forced to closet themselves. You should know better than that, you seem at least intelligent enough to know that a gay identity is a rather recent event in human history. There has been much discussion on SOLO as to whether or not there is even such a thing as a "gay" or a "straight" identity, and yet we never thought to consult YOU. Why, you seem to have all the right answers, and above all: "Stay away from Chris, don't read him, don't get infected by the gay disease." Or would that be the Objectivist disease, is that what you called it?

Tell me though, if everything is beneath you, then how on earth do you get along in life? In quarantine? Are you not disgusted with absolutely everything you see? Are you mad at Chris because he doesn't see everything just the way you do? Would you rather have everyone think just the way you do? I won't. I am the first to state openly that if the world were to be the way you want it to be, I don't want to be in your world. You see if you start "psychologizing" (dreadful word), then any number of others can do the same to you. Judging from the tone in your writing, you must be unhappy if you consider that Dr. Sciabarra is beneath you:)(Sorry Dr. Sciabarra)

Yet I think he is far more benevolent and intelligent than the orthodox Objectivists who breath dragon fire and give hell to anyone who dares speak independently. This is nonsense and nothing will cause Objectivism as a philosophy to fold quicker than this attitude. Objectivism should be applied to homosexuality. Sciabarra is right in doing it as he has done, and he has fun doing it, which is apparent from the outset. I have seen Rand's philosophy compared and applied to just about everything from maple syrup to the Goddess Athena:) Yet I hear Objectivists screaming "bloody murder, libel, infamy, blasphemy, traitor, enemy, commie, homo, wimp!!" every time it happens. If you think Chris Sciabarra makes a bad name for Objectivism then you are SOOO wrong! Mean spirited people in the Objectivist groups do that.

You seem to think that the gay movement should march to the beat of Rand's pronouncements. HA HA I think if you give any serious thought to the issues of gays (and now we're called queers) and you are gay yourself, you should befriend Sciabarra and applaud his FIRST TIME EVER efforts to speak openly of Rand and homosexuality in a BENEVOLENT way. I don't think that Rand was beneath that. You wrote: "Jon Galt is emphasizing penis, muscles, sexual lust, using a famous name as a gimmick." I'd rather have that than what you offer any day! What is wrong with using a famous name as a gimmick? Are you not a capitalist?

Unfortunately, as far as the gay bashing and psychologizing, I think she inspired a lot of it. Her more orthodox followers tend to use her philosophy to vent that kind of cultural rot. Then there is hunky, gorgeous, sexy Jon Galt who only uses her name as a gimmick not a weapon.

I think if you will look around, gay people tend to be more benevolent and rational than Ayn Rand imagined. For Rand, it followed logically that gay people should be irrational. If you think, as she did, that homosexuality is purely nurture, then it becomes only a moral issue, and biological makeup is -0-. If you then reason as she did, that it is because of their poor logic that they CHOSE to be gay, then homosexuals become...that's right, the enemy. Rand then appended a neat little gimmick borrowed from a major philosopher (Nietzsche) and called homosexuals and hippies all of them, Dionysians.
I don't think she was a racist, but she certainly made blanket comments about gays and hippies. I am not even going to begin to apologize for her, although I know that context is everything. It proves to me that she is not to be worshipped as a deity or a goddess as you do. She is beneath Sciabarra in many ways, and he has applied her philosophy to difficult areas that she couldn't even imagine. She didn't have the sophistication and easy knowledge that an intellectual develops from methodological research orientation (which I don't think you know anything about).

What Rand discovered in her limited research of homosexuality was limited and sad. She invented a moral monster, a Frankenstein when in fact she should have done more empirical investigation before pronouncing judgment. The reason I am pronouncing judgment on Rand is beacuase I have looked over her entire work and have found nothing but negative assessments of homosexuals. Sciabarra's is the FIRST DIFFERENT voice within Objectivism.

We still don't know everything about why gays are gay, it could be some nature, some nurture, all nature, all nurture. How odd that Rand, who never even openly embraced evolutionary theory because of its status qua "theory", should yet enlist herself on the side of bigotry against homosexuals (the nurture only side) when we don't even know yet what these actual ratios are. How medieval.

By coming out and calling Dr. Sciabarra an enemy of Rand you are so wrong. He constantly refers to her intelligence, her benevolence, and her inspiring personality. I wouldn't go as far as HE did on admiring her personality. I think she inspired alot of really messed up people to become even more messed up. Sciabarra doesn't think that he has to make a religion out of her or protect her from academics because the merits of her thought are strong enough to outlive her persona.

What I gather from your message, especially the last line, is that you don't want to see her submitted to academic scrutiny. You don't seem to like academics. Well you had a good metaphor when you said that "life is more than an academic exercise"--if academics is an exercise, you certainly seem to be very out of shape:)

Post 18

Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 9:19pmSanction this postReply

In my mad rush to stuff Olivia down the shoot:) I forgot to read your message above, so mine sounds like nothing new. How dare you keep having all the right ideas all by yourself! I think what you have done for Objectivism is wonderful and I congratulate you on closing out a series of installmetns that has been monumental. I also congratulate all of the SOLO staff for being such wonderful models of benevolence and promoting the discussion of such passionate topics. Somehow I knew that the series would close out with either a bang or a harangue:)

Post 19

Friday, October 25, 2002 - 5:01pmSanction this postReply
I would accord with Anthony Teats when he points to you as a great source of wisdom and intelligence in regards to Objectivism and homosexuality. In my first post, I meant to say I was greatly disappointed, not in the lack of response to your articles, but in the failure of people to go public. For this, in my opinion, is the path to resolving the problem, or at least having it on the table: individual Objectivists, gay or straight, speaking out in public about their experience.

This, to me, is a very serious matter. While the left is producing gay examples, or if not, gay supporters seemingly in triplicate, organized Objectivism, both from the gay and heterosexual side, seems comfortable to ignore the subject. While yes, you are right about the left vacillating about the subject, many leaders of the left were at the forefront in changing the world in regards to homosexuality.

In this regard, Chris, your legacy may be the "The first gay Objectivist." Not of course in reality, but in respect to speaking out about it, making it public, and working toward some kind of view of the world from a gay male Objectivist perspective. (In this, I mean a gay Objectivist male is certainly going to have a different perspective than a male who is heterosexual, married, with three children.)

In regard to Leonard Peikoff and ARI, I would not expect a sympathetic view of homosexuality, or much support. They follow the strict Randian path, and homosexuality does not fit into their view, although I know many individuals sympathetic to ARI, who personally have no problem with homosexuality as a personal lifestyle.

(I find the ARI side much more honest in regard to homosexuality, then many of the open school, who seem to be politically correct, and don't want to offend anybody WITH WHAT THEY REALLY THINK.)

Branden and his mystification of homosexuality has been a major disappointment. He was in a position to advance at least the acceptance of it as a lifestyle, and chose to take the "blind monkey" approach.

In this respect, what if I said I didn't understand heterosexuality, and couldn't comment on it. Certainly, I am not an expert on it, nor do I have all the answers, yet I think I could make rational observations about it. And certainly, as a gay man, I can't say I understand all the complex issues involved with homosexuality, yet as a conscious human being with an alert mind, I can make rational observations.

One last point about Jon Galt. I would say the issue is being obscured by offering up the example of "Playboy" magazine. "Playboy" at the time of the Rand interview was softcore, and carried articles from some of the best authors in the world. It was a classy, well-produced product.

I haven't read "Advocate" for a long time by at last glance it too was a classy, well-produced product, that shed itself of the "seedy, pornographic" beginnings and became a vehicle for intelligent, gay discussion.

In this respect, in first reading your article, I saw a muscular man with an exposed penis, who is using the name of one of Rand's characters in order to promote himself as a star of pornography. I really don't see pornographic films as an act comparable to that of an architect, engineer, lawyer, or astronaunt. I mean where is the productive expenditure of the mind, talent, ability in respect to reality?

In fact, I see both hetero and homo porno as titillation for sexual release, sometimes cheap and anonymous, other times done with at least a theme and a plot. But whatever, I don't view it as something to admire or emulate, or does it equal the act of writing a book, constructing a building, or running a railroad.

Rand would be vehemently opposed to this in RELATION TO HER NAME, as she would be with heterosexual pornography. We all know her romantic view of the world, her belief in "spiritual pin-ups" and I think it is necessary to respect this.

I think in this respect it is important to respect the name of Ayn Rand if one is an admirer of her. This does not preclude criticism of her, but it does involve respecting her, and her view of the world.

Ari Cohen

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