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Honors Senior Thesis: “An Engraved Invitation to Rape” Sexual Psychology in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead

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“AN ENGRAVED INVITATION TO RAPE”

SEXUAL PSYCHOLOGY IN AYN RAND’S

ATLAS SHRUGGED AND THE FOUNTAINHEAD

 

                                                                             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                          A thesis submitted to the

                                                Kent State University Honors College

                                              in partial fulfillment of the requirements

                                                             for University Honors

                                                                             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                 Thesis written by

 

                                                                  Heidi M. Bauer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                    Approved by

 

                                                                                           ,                                                   

Thesis Director, Associate Professor, Dr. Kathe Davis, Department of English

 

                                                                                           ,                                                   

Chair, Dr. Ronald Corthell, Department of English

 

                                                                    Accepted by

 

                                                                                            ,

Dean, Dr. Don Williams, Honors College

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ……………………………………………………………………………………. v

 

CHAPTER

 

I.         INTRODUCTION: DAGNY, DOMINIQUE, AND DOMINANCE…… 8

 

II.                   “I DON’T WANT ANYTHING EXCEPT TO OWN YOU”:

              THE PROBLEM OF CAPITALISM UNCHAINED………………………… 19

 

               Male Identification……………………………………………………………………….. 26

               Possession, Ownership, and Agency……………………………………………….. 27

               Work and Body……………………………………………………………………………. 31

               Communal Property in Homosocial Love…………………………………………. 32

               Where are the Children?………………………………………………………………… 35

               Depictions of Other Females………………………………………………………….. 35

     

III.                “THE 11TH COMMANDMENT: THOU SHALL NOT RAPE”:

               RAPE IN LITERATURE……………………………………………………………… 38

 

               What is Rape?………………………………………………………………………………. 38

               A  Brief History of Rape……………………………………………………………….. 40

               A Brief Look at Submission through History……………………………………. 41

               Permission to Rape……………………………………………………………………….. 46

               Rand’s Personal Biography……………………………………………………………. 48

               Possession Leading to Violence……………………………………………………… 52

               Hate and Sex……………………………………………………………………………….. 54

               The Fountainhead Rape Scene……………………………………………………….. 58

 

         IV.         “THE LOOK OF BEING CHAINED”:

                        THE DILEMMA OF SADOMASOCHISM…………………………………….. 64

 

                         Authenticity…………………………………………………………………………………. 69

 

V.                    “I AM A MALE CHAUVINIST”:

              THE CASE FOR AYN RAND AS A FEMINIST……………………………. 76

 

         VI.          CONCLUSION……………………………………………………………………………. 85

                                   

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 92

 

APPENDIX

 

 

            1.        Illustration 1: RAND QUOTE AT EPCOT CENTER………………………. 106

            2.        Illustration 2: ARISTOTLE AND PHYLLIS…………………………………… 107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

It is with great appreciation that I express my immense gratitude to the following individuals who each helped me in the completion of this thesis. First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Kathe Davis, my thesis director and advisor. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for your insight, suggestions, editing, advice, and time. Knowing the circumstances you dealt with surrounding this thesis make your contribution even more significant and I cannot thank you enough; to Dr. Kimberly Winebrenner for her encouragement and advice when I first discussed this project with her and for participating on the oral defense committee. You are a big part of my path leading to Women’s Studies and I thank you for all that you have taught me; to Dr. Deborah Barnbaum and Professor Teresa Minick for their participation as oral defense committee members. I appreciated your time, candor, questions, suggestions, and corrections.; to the Kent State University Library and Media Services, particularly Tammy Voelker, for her invaluable assistance with library research; to Vicki Bocchicchio for her assistance with all the administrative aspects of submitting an honors thesis; to my sponsor, Darlene J. Sadlier, faculty member of Indiana University at Bloomington and Kent State Honors College alumni, for “adopting” my thesis and contributing funds to assist with the completion of my work; to my mother, Linda M. Bauer for all the hours spent doing my laundry and watching my son so that I could complete my research and writing, as well as to my sister, Sherri L. Kirkpatrick, whom I dedicate this thesis to, as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence, I am inspired by your courage and perseverance, and finally, but most importantly,  to my son, Keagen, for sacrificing quite a bit of his mommy’s time so that I could complete this project. It is my hope that when you get older and read this, you, as a man, will understand, there is no such thing as an engraved invitation to rape.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
DAGNY, DOMINIQUE, AND DOMINANCE

 

 

 

This past year, 2007, marked the fiftieth anniversary of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957), the story that Rand and her supporters claim is about the death and rebirth of the human spirit. Atlas Shrugged continues Rand’s philosophy, to which she introduced her readers in her earlier novel The Fountainhead (1943). For the last five decades scholars have debated the validity of Rand’s philosophical theory, Objectivism. Atlas Shrugged has never been out of print since its first publication. Her followers even created an institute that flourishes to date, The Ayn Rand Institute. Its impact has proven sustainable throughout the last half-century, with many new readers each generation being introduced to Rand’s work in their teens and early twenties. Objectivism being so actively promoted can have major consequences or impact on how young people develop their views of capitalism, and more significantly, how capitalism affects the behavior of women.

Atlas Shrugged follows Dagny Taggart, a strong, independent, and successful executive of Taggart Transcontinental, the primary railroad of the United States, through her life and sequence of three loves: Francisco d’Anconia, Hank Reardon, and John Galt. The novel opens with a question, “Who is John Galt?” an expression used throughout the novel to mean “Who knows?” It isn’t until later we find out about the actual existence of the man.

The basic theme of the novel is how altruism and collectivity are crushing society.  The plot concerns a select group of “thinking” men, top industrialists who rebel and refuse to live by the current standards of society and instead forge their own way, living out their creed that man exists solely for himself and not for the sake of another.

The Fountainhead, containing similar themes, follows Dominique Francon through her life and relationship with architect Howard Roark, complicated by her disillusion with society. She has lost hope and instead of being with whom she loves, she subjects herself to marrying two other men, first Peter Keating and then Gail Wynand, whom she does not love, in fact, does not even like. Mere hopelessness does not seem quite an adequate motive for such perverse behavior, but Rand has her behave this way nonetheless. Rand once wrote that if you take the character of Dominique literally, then she is indeed quite stupid, but she was meant to be more of an idea personified.

Both novels contain many instances of sexually sadomasochistic relationships between the female protagonists and their male counterparts. Sexually submissive behavior, even in light of the independence and success, by the two female leads, Rand explains by the idea of “hero-worship,” or “man-worship.” Ayn Rand has often referred to herself as a “man-worshipper.” She described Objectivism as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and his reason as his only absolute.” (Atlas Appendix)  It should be noted here that by man she does not mean all humankind, or at least only selectively.  Though Dagny and Dominique are the “heroes” of her novels, it is men, the male gender, which Rand –and her female protagonists –“worship.”


Most academic work on Rand has concentrated on the economic, political, and philosophical ideas of Objectivism’s credo: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine” (Atlas 680). There has been little real consideration of the personal and particularly the sexual dynamics of the novel as they relate to Objectivism’s extreme view of capitalism and the question of possession and ownership. The primary source of feminist scholarship on Rand is a collection of essays, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, with most contributors falling in the pro-Randian category, classifying her as a feminist. Little academic work exists that is critical of Rand’s sexual psychology.

Though her supporters see her depictions of sexual relations as consistent with her philosophy, Rand writes her characters with a strong emphasis on sexual sadomasochistic violence, to the point of pathology. Dagny Taggart and Dominique Francon, the protagonists of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead respectively, also contradict her idea that no man can obtain value from another by resorting to physical force or violence. Rand’s depictions of seduction and sex throughout both novels show almost nothing but the resort to physical force to bend the will of another. The descriptions, development, and actions of Dagny and Dominique are contrary to Rand’s stated values, as well as in violation of standard and currently accepted theories of female sexual psychological behavior.

Rand develops Dagny Taggart as a strong, independent and economically enterprising woman. However, in her romantic relationships with the three leading male characters, her economic and social status is contradicted by the sexual dominance of her male partner(s). In every “love scene” between Dagny and her sexual partner, the scene is depicted as if it were rape. I would not even go so far as to say that these scenes are written as romanticized rape, for the sexual act is not romanticized at all. In fact, what makes the portrayal so interesting is the spotlight placed on the violent dominance and submission, which is stark and overt. Coupled with that feature is Rand’s depiction of Dagny’s seeming willing participation in these acts.

Dagny becomes more susceptible to domination, in spite of her economic and social success. Society suggests the opposite, that the more economically sound a woman is, the less likely she is to experience a sexually submissive role.  If accurate, Rand’s portrayal of the opposite effect would call into question the consequences of integrating economic equality for women into a patriarchal society. In fact, her characterization of an economically successful yet sexually submissive woman depicts a cultural manifestation that occurs with alarming frequency, even in contemporary society. Backlash against women for being successful still persists in our society. Side-effects on romantic relationships can be seen in various forms of physical violence and psychological control, when it has become socially unacceptable to overtly dominate woman in other areas of public life. The private bedroom becomes the alternate outlet for domination.

            This phenomenon is not restricted to Rand’s depiction of Dagny Taggart. The fact that such a depiction is by a woman itself adds another layer of questions to the psychology of women’s sexuality. Is masochism built into the female psychology of romantic love? Whatever the reality, did Rand think that was the case?  She appears to be saying that through loss of self, woman finds access to power. However, that just becomes one more characterization that should not apply to Dagny, because she already has power, therefore she would not need to gain it another way. Rand appears to be writing a “master to master” relationship between “equals” in her depictions of Dagny and her three male counterparts, Francisco D’Anconia, Hank Reardon, and John Galt, but the depiction always ends in Dagny’s submission to her male counterpart’s dominance sexually, thereby negating any equality.

Rand said she believes that men and women are equal intellectually and spiritually but not physically, including sexually. It’s as if she thinks men’s greater physical strength gives them the right to simply take what they want sexually. She thinks women, while otherwise independent and equal, are not equal, nor should they be, in sexual matters. Women should be and seek to be dominated by men.

This belief presents a problem for me. Equality means just that, equality. Rand picks certain things out from a whole and denotes them as equal while leaving the rest as unequal. This idea would split a woman, compartmentalize her and not take into consideration the wholeness of her being.

Her portrayal raises such questions as: Are women innately sexually submissive or culturally conditioned?  And what conditions would create submissiveness: Conditions like childhood trauma, abandonment by father, or absence of male role model? I contend that if women, at the fundamental level of their humanity, their physical bodies, their sexuality, are unequal and submissive, then the equality gained in other facets of life is still limited. Firestone writes, “If women are differentiated only by superficial physical attributes, men appear more individual and irreplaceable than they really are” (Firestone 170). By implication, that differentiation is the devaluation of women. Susan Brownmiller, groundbreaking author of second wave feminist text, Against Our Will, states that “men have always raped women, but it wasn’t until the advent of Sigmund Freud and his followers that the male ideology of rape began to rely on the tenet that rape was something women desired” (315).

In this study I examine the gender structures in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and their relation to economic ideals. I evaluate the prevalence of love depicted as rape and look at the persistence of old patriarchal habits even when some progress with stereotypes has been made and obstacles have been overcome: the results of integrating female economic success into a patriarchal society. I critique the portrayal of an economically self-sufficient woman who nonetheless submits sexually to men. Additionally Rand relates her sexual view to her economic view through depictions of sensual business transactions that foreshadow physical intimacy.

Rand’s novel prior to Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, contains similar depictions of sex as rape. In fact, the text actually refers to it as rape. But, astonishing enough is that in a later interview, Rand said: “If that was rape, it was by engraved invitation. Literal rape would be contemptible and disgusting and unthinkable to any hero of mine” (B. Branden 34). There are also rape and rape-like scenes in her other prominent works, Night of January 16th and We the Living. Had there been an isolated incident like this within Rand’s body of work, it might not have raised such questions, but almost all of her fiction is permeated with these types of scenes. From statements Rand has made as well as her non-fiction writing, we see Rand’s own psychology being directly translated into the depiction of her characters. In fact, in the Afterword to Atlas Shrugged, Rand writes: “My personal life is a postscript to my novels; it consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it!’” (Gladstein, Ayn Rand Companion 29)

            Researchers have studied female rape fantasies since the mid-twentieth century. Scholars such as Helene Deutsch wrote that women may even want to be raped, a notion that has been criticized much since then, particularly by Brownmiller, who writes that masochism is pathological. Nancy Friday also exposed the fact that many women experience rape fantasies, though these do not resemble actual rape. For instance, women do not really want to experience pain or be hurt and their “would-be rapist” is someone they are desirous of having a sexual liaison with. While the latter may apply to Dagny, her actual experience of sex does resemble rape in the violent sense, but it also demonstrates a seeming acceptance on her part, yet without romanticizing it in the classic sense as a fantasy (above) might play out. Instead the scenes are starkly violent and show sex as almost enemy warfare between Dagny and her partners. Rand’s view of sex as experienced by both her female and male characters lends a unique perspective to how a female author writes seduction as rape when the female character is not depicted in any other area as a “damsel in distress.” It also displays the pride that Dagny shows in her body bearing the “scars” of her bouts of “love-making.”

Chapter II focuses on the effects of Objectivism, what we might call Capitalism Unchained, on the behavior of women. Albert Ellis, vocal critic of Rand and author of Is Objectivism a Religion?, writes:

Under any economic system they still have to eat; and they must frequently give up a considerable amount of their freedom in order to eat regularly. Capitalism forces them to work in order to eat; and only under some kind of social welfare system where everyone was guaranteed a minimum income whether or not he worked at anything would they have maximum freedom in this respect. Objectivism defines force in purely physical terms and, by definition, says that a person is free when he is not subjected to physical force. But this definition ignores the powerful forces which any conceivable kind of capitalism will exert against what we ordinarily call human freedom (Ellis 57). 

This definition also ignores the fact that physical force is used repeatedly against Dagny and Dominique in Rand’s novels. It would appear that Objectivism’s denunciation of force only applies to men, while it is allowable for women to be forced. By definition, rape is force, and Chapter III focuses on how literary seduction and rape have been previously written by both men and women in contrast to Rand’s depiction of sex within Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.  It also explores the consistencies and contradictions in Rand’s sexual psychology and that of her characters.

Chapter IV focuses on what could fairly be called the sadomasochism in the novel. I take a look at the origins of sadism and masochism. I also analyze Dagny and Dominique’s apparent desire for pain and submission.

Chapter V focuses on the idea of Rand as a feminist. I critique her supporters and offer my own conclusion as to how I view her in terms of feminism.

The importance of Rand’s impact can be seen in many ways. It is reported that Rand’s books still sell around 250,000 copies annually, long after her death. The first Libertarian Party presidential candidate, John Hospers, devoted many pages to her ideas in his ethics text, Human Conduct (Walker 330). Rand’s essay “The Ethics of Emergencies” began being included in Joel Feinberg’s Reason and Responsibility in 1998, which is the most widely used introductory philosophy textbook in America (Walker 331). Alan Greenspan, a one-time participant in Rand’s “collective,” went on to serve President Ford as economic advisor and later to be the Federal Reserve Commissioner and is a household name.

We have only to look as far as Disney World to see Rand’s impact. The Rand quote “Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision” (illus.1) is featured at an American Adventure exhibit in Epcot Center of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where millions of men, women, and children venture every year.

The popular video game Bioshock (2007) is based on Rand’s Objectivism philosophy and Atlas Shrugged’s dystopian setting. There is a film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged in the making, with Angelina Jolie slated for the starring role. An independent film about Rand’s life, based on Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand, was released in 1999 and starred Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren, who won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her performance as Rand. Rand is even featured on a 1999 United States Postal Stamp celebrating literature. The ARI recently listed sales figures for Rand:

Fifty years after its publication, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is selling more than ever, having reached the astounding mark of 185,000 copies sold in 2007. As noted by Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, ‘this sales figure is an all-time annual record, far exceeding sales of any year in Ayn Rand’s lifetime.’ ‘Even more impressive,’ added Dr. Brook ‘is that since its publication in 1957, more than 6 million copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold. […] English paperback sales […] have been climbing steadily through the decades since the novel was first published. In the 1980’s, Atlas Shrugged sold an average of 77,000 copies a year, increasing to 95,000 in the 1990s, and jumping to 130,000 in the first years of the new century. The trend is clear and inescapable. Atlas Shrugged is selling more than ever and tens of millions of individuals in America and across the world are now aware of Ayn Rand’s revolutionary ideas. Media coverage of the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged was extensive, with pieces printed in the “Wall Street Journal,” “Los Angeles Times,” “New York Times,” “Washington Times,” and “Forbes” magazine (ARI, 10 March, 2008).

With all of Rand’s influence, I cannot help but be concerned that her sexual views will also influence young men and women and train them for a damaging way of viewing and practicing sexual relationships. Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, said that “the debate continues about whether classic pornography makes men violent toward women. But beauty pornography is clearly making women violent toward ourselves” (142). I see Rand’s depiction of sadomasochistic sex within her novels and her representation of her female character’s sexuality as a type of soft pornography. If Dagny and Dominique revel in sexual degradation and they are the ideal of what other women should aspire to, then how many women are thus subjecting themselves to these unhealthy sexual relationships in an effort to realize such an ideal?

Rand incorrectly removes emotion from the category of love. She writes in The Romantic Manifesto, one of her non-fiction books, “And if there are degrees of evil, then one of the most evil consequences of mysticism—in terms of human suffering—is the belief that love is a matter of “the heart,” not the mind, that love is an emotion independent of reasons, that love is blind and impervious to the power of philosophy” (41). Could Rand’s obsession with applying “reason” to everything and anything also be the warrant of such cold, interpersonal relationships between her heroes and heroines? There is no room for emotion and feeling in the world of Rand. Her idea of love is cold, clinical, and unreal. 

However distorted Rand’s notion of love is, her ideas have had real impact on her readers. “Mary Gaitskill reports interviewing a male Objectivist who told her he knew a lot of guys who felt after reading Rand that they had to slap their girlfriends around first and pretend they were raping them in order to have correct sex” (Walker 116). According to Gladstein, Dagny is “not demeaned or punished for her emancipation, sexual or professional” (54). I contend the exact opposite. Her entire sexual life consists of demeaning and degrading acts of violence and submission.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

“I DON’T WANT ANYTHING EXCEPT TO OWN YOU”:

THE PROBLEM OF CAPITALISM UNCHAINED

 

 

In 1962, in “Introducing Objectivism,” Rand articulated her theory of Objectivism more systematically than the abstract idea in her novels, The Fountainhead, where it was introduced, and Atlas Shrugged, where she developed the idea more fully. She divided her philosophy into four main parts: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, and Politics. In her own summary, as found on the Ayn Rand Institute website:

1.   Metaphysics (Objective Reality): Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

2.   Epistemology (Reason): Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

3.   Ethics (Self-interest): Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

4.   Politics (Capitalism): The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire     capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and

      executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any value from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. (The Ayn Rand Institute)

Laissez -faire, capitalism without boundaries and regulations, allows the ruling patriarchal class to trade women as commodities. Wolf writes, “According to the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs: ‘While women represent 50 percent of the world population, they perform nearly two-thirds of all working hours, receive only one-tenth of the world income and own less than 1 percent of world property’” (23). If women are treated thus in the economic realm, how can improvement in equality be made if we also allow such maltreatment in the physical and sexual realms? If under capitalism women are viewed as possessions and rewarded as such as in Rand’s fiction, then how can they possibly be treated as equals or even individuals?

Albert Ellis, fierce critic of Rand, writes: “Economic coercion is so pervasive and subtle that it is probably far worse than most coercion by physical violence” (98). For instance, one can amass such power and wealth as to “rule” others. This could result under pure capitalism. It does little good to have no threat of physical force if your life can be made just as miserable and loss of individuality results under a system that supposedly caters to the individual.

Rand’s portrayal of women suggests a view of capitalism as a type of economic domination of women which then filters to a sexual domination. Felicity Nussbaum, author of Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives, writes: “Discouraged from exploring their own bodies, women await ‘discovery’ by another” (101). In essence, their bodies are territory: territory that must be conquered by an invading force. Annette Kolodny exhaustively documents this fact in her second wave study, The Lay of the Land, which catalogues metaphors of sexual conquest in discussion of the land in American literature and metaphors of the land in representations of women.

For Rand, capitalism is an absolute. As an émigré from Soviet Russia (1926), Rand was severely anti-communist, having been shaped by her experiences in communist Russia.  Utterly pro-capitalist, she was understandably a fierce opponent of Karl Marx and his ideas. However, her novels serve almost as illustration of the way Marx said capitalism distorts human relationships. Marxism has often been incorrectly viewed and associated with communism in the Soviet Union, which was actually state-run capitalism. Many fallacies surround Marxism. According to Eric Fromm, author of multiple books on Marxism, “Marx’s aim was that of the spiritual emancipation of man […] it was aimed at the full realization of individualism” (3). Critics of Marx have argued that Marxism is a study in collectivism and not individualism. Also, many of the consequences that opponents warned would come about if Marxism prevailed have now actually applied to capitalism. Fromm writes about Americans under mid-twentieth century capitalism: “They are increasingly satisfied with a life regulated and manipulated, both in sphere of production and of consumption, by the state and the big corporations and their respective bureaucracies; they have reached a degree of conformity which has wiped out individuality to a remarkable extent” (4). Furthermore, European culture, from which capitalism derived, has traditionally viewed women as chattel, offering no individualism for half of the population. Ellis states:

Capitalism by no means necessarily protects an individual’s “rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness […] under pure laissez-faire capitalism a given person can be left to starve to death (because his particular skills are not wanted), can be deprived of his liberty (by being forced to engage in some kind of work he does not enjoy), and can be restrained from attaining his own happiness (by not being able to accumulate enough capital to make sufficient money that he could happily spend on himself)” (57). 

“Individualism” has a history of limiting the individuals who get included, from Aristotle’s Greece, which excluded women totally, as well as slaves, to the US, which began by enfranchising only property-owning males, excluding women (for another hundred forty-four years after the Declaration of Independence) and the original inhabitants of the land, and notoriously counting blacks as only 3/5 of a human even for the purposes of the census. Eric Fromm writes:

Marx’s aim was that of the spiritual emancipation of man, of his liberation from the chains of economic determination, of restituting him in his human wholeness, of enabling him to find unity and harmony with his fellow man and with nature. Marx’s philosophy was, in secular, non-theistic language, a new and radical step forward in the traditions of prophetic Messianism; it was aimed at the full realization of individualism, the very aim which has guided Western thinking from the Renaissance and the Reformation far into the nineteenth century (3).

In the view of Fromm and others who maintain the validity of at least some portion of Marx’s massive critique of capitalism, the Russian Communists misinterpreted Marx, and their contempt for individual dignity and humanistic values cast a shadow over true Marxism (Fromm 5).

Marx did not view “the outcome of human nature and the motivation of man in capitalism to be the universal motivation within man” (Fromm 13). Even Adam Smith, father of laissez-faire capitalism, didn’t mean, “taking care of number one,” (Coontz 51) but rather “enlightened self-interest […] by supporting the extension of mass education, vigorously opposing financial speculation, and fully accepting political obligations. Laws, regulations, and due process provisions were seen as enhancing individual rights by providing a secure framework for social cooperation, competition, and negotiation” (Coontz 51).  Be that as it may, it is understandable that Rand, having suffered at the hands of Soviet communism, would despise the system of communism.  But equally it is hugely ironic that her novels serve as illustrations of the limits of capitalism.

Rand’s background exposure to communism and the changing times of women’s sexuality in the decades leading up to the publication of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged can perhaps explain some of her views. In 1910, Freud was translated into English and, while shattering some Victorian ideas that were oppressing women, some of his ideas provided new ways in which women could be demeaned. No matter how incorrect he may have been, Claudia Zanardi, editor of Essential Papers of Psychology of Women writes: “Freud’s idea that women have envy because they have no penis is symbolically true in this culture” (217). Girls learn at a young age that boys have certain advantages and privileges that they themselves do not for no other reason than the anatomical addition of a penis.

When American women finally got the vote in 1920, women also became more sexually liberated. The twenties were a time of greater sexual freedom for women. The difficulties of the Great Depression during the 1930s and then World War II, in the 1940s, first liberated women, relatively, and then set them back. Women became more economically independent as they went to work in droves when men went away to war. Because they had greater sexual freedom, and economic independence, the “middle class needed to police appropriate heterosexual conduct in the industrial economy. As the border between the traditions of community and the realities of urban life broke down, young single working women began their own adventures in self-definition—to the consternation of social reformers” (Kennedy and Ullman 161). But, all of the progress for women changed when the war ended. As men came home, they replaced female employees and a propaganda campaign was introduced to put Rosie the Riveter back into the kitchen. The freedom and liberation women had started to claim was now replaced with a “suburbanization” ideology and women were told they should exemplify the June Cleaver image. The Victorian image of woman was re-introduced by such propagandists, traces of which still linger today in modern society. Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were, writes: “The actual complexity of our history—even of our own personal experience—got buried under the weight of an idealized image” (1). Zanardi writes:

Something of the Victorian attitude still persists in the psychology of most women. One finds several remnants of it; for example, the notion that it is more womanly for a woman to marry and let a man support her […] Also under the influence of tradition and prejudice many women are convinced that their adequate sexual fulfillment, including children, and an adequate self-development are not to be reconciled. Men have no such traditions and with them the two interests usually reinforce each other. In this, certainly, women still have real grounds for envying men (216-217).

Victorian attitudes that “never really were” camouflaged an entire society, primarily at women’s expense. While men enjoyed greater individual liberty in the United States, women’s liberty was squashed and had to be fought for aggressively. An interesting note about Rand, who saw individual liberty as a cornerstone of human life, is that she referred to her circle of friends as the “collective.” Rand ruled this “collective” with an iron fist, which was something she denounced as a former citizen and fierce oppositionist of communist Russia. Also her despisal of the use of force on the individual conflicts with the scenes in Atlas Shrugged when Galt forces Dagny to stay in “utopia” for a month. Dagny, who until now, is depicted as fiercely independent and individualistic, drops to her knees, figuratively, gladly becoming his housemaid and cook to pay her way for her captivity. 

MALE IDENTIFICATION

 

Rand, schooled in male superiority, perpetuates the cultural myth of “natural” subservience, to the disservice of other women and men as well. It can be very psychologically confusing to be told that women should be viewed as equal in all areas of life except sexually. Rand, original promoter of this idea, though a single individual, influenced hundreds of thousands, if not millions, with her ideas.  That inequality of our most basic, primal expression then bleeds out into other areas so woman is never fully equal even in realms in which she is supposedly equal in contemporary times. Until woman’s sexual psychology does not comprise what men have conditioned them to think, women will never realize their full potential.

     Dagny appears to be a male-identified woman, the favorite of her father, and intellectually superior to her incompetent brother, James. Some people, particularly in that era, would dub it a “masculinity complex” in that she is trying to be like a man in her rise at Taggart Transcontinental. Zanardi tells us that women, having no path of their own, follow in the path of men (218). I do not believe that Dagny is really thinking for herself when Galt and the other rebels share with her their plans to “stop the motor of the world,” and choosing of her own volition to follow them as well, rather than just conforming to Galt’s view of thinking because she is submissive to him and he is her ideal man, therefore, in Rand’s world, she “worships” him. (Ellis 135)

Zanardi’s accurate description applies to what Dagny does to herself: “Women, by aping men, may develop a caricature situation and lose sight of their own interests. Thus, one must consider to what extent it is profitable for a woman to adopt the ways of a man” (218).  This is of course a huge question. What are “the ways of a man” as opposed to “the ways of a woman”?  Fromm writes:

Idols are the work of man’s own hands—they are things, and man bows down and worships things; worships that which he created himself and in doing so he transforms himself into a thing” (44). Dagny is just that—not “man”, not human—but object, particularly for the men she loves, as Rand’s language everywhere shows.

 

POSSESSION, OWNERSHIP, AND AGENCY

 

According to Kathleen Kennedy and Sharon Ullman, the twentieth century brought an expansion of consumerism, and “sex became currency in the consumer world” (163). Ownership of anything and everything is the ultimate goal of Rand’s universe. John considers Dagny a reward. She is a prized possession, the “one reward I had to have” (Rand, Atlas 892). According to Nussbaum, control of women’s sexuality and fecundity emerged with increasing demands of trade and colonization. Sexual control is both a means and a metaphor for colonial domination.

Both Hank and Francisco consider Dagny in terms of ownership as well. Hank thinks of Dagny as a “railroad executive who was a woman he owned” (Atlas 266).  He goes further when he tells Dagny to wear his metal bracelet as a token of his ownership of her. With Francisco, we see how “he enters her room and acts like he casually owns the place. He always acts like that with her” (Atlas 105). Kathryn Gravdal, author of Ravishing Maidens: Writing Rape in Medieval French Literature and Law, writes that historically “crimes against persons were less serious than crimes against property” (126). When woman is viewed as property, then crimes against her are considered crimes against her owner, man, thus negating any personal injury to woman herself. Women are commodities to be traded. Woman is a possession to be fought over competitively, women being in Levi-Strauss’s phrase, “objects of exchange” (Butler 39).

Upon confronting Dagny about her affair with Hank, his wife Lillian says to Dagny she hopes that she knows the “magnitude of the sacrifice man has made for the privilege of using your body” (Atlas 788). So, even other women adopt this view and again, we see Dagny’s body as a possession to be used. Indeed the language of ownership and possession is littered throughout Atlas Shrugged as well as Rand’s precursor novel, The Fountainhead.

Dominique in The Fountainhead is likewise owned by Howard Roark: “He stood looking up at her; it was not a glance, but an act of ownership” (Rand, Fountainhead 205). He even comes right out and states, “I don’t want anything—except to own you” (Fountainhead 496). Then, with Peter Keating, her first husband: “He bowed and nodded vigorously, with the smile of greeting a private possession,” (247) upon looking at Dominique.

Rand’s journal entry of February 9, 1936 reads: “Notes on religion for Howard Roark, none. Not a speck of it. Born without any ‘religious brain center.’ Does not understand or even conceive of the instinct for bowing and submission. His whole capacity for reverence is centered on himself” (95). Rand is obviously showing that man unto himself is the Supreme Being and there is no God, but in her portrayal of women, she depicts them as worshipping man; therefore man is God to woman, man is superior. Later in that same dated entry she goes on to describe what Roark feels (or doesn’t, as the case may be) for Dominique:

It is merely the pride of a possessor. If he could not have her, it would not break him or affect him very deeply. He might suffer—in his own indifferent way, a suffering that can never reach deep enough to obscure his life. His attitude towards Dominique is not: “I love you and I am yours.” It’s “I love you and you are mine.” It is primarily a feeling of wanting her and getting her, without great concern for the question of whether she wants it. Were it necessary, he could rape her and feel perfectly justified. Needless to say, it is she who worships him, and loves him much more than he loves her (Rand, Journals 95-96).

This shows a premeditated stance in Roark’s mind. He is already going into his “relationship” with Dominique where the only goal in his mind is to own her and his actual love for her is in question. This is the ideal romance that Rand wants women to be wooed with?

It appears that the sole purpose of women is to be physical objects that men can own, sexually, bodies encompassing the mind, the view of sex in the female mind. Man will teach them to treat themselves as sexual objects to be owned, possessed. If it is their own “choice” then no blame can lie with man. Never being conditioned to or knowing an alternate environment allows for women’s confusion over what they really think and feel, what they have been taught versus what really is natural. Laurel Crown and Linda J. Roberts state that “sexual agency has been defined as the possession of control over one’s body and sexual choices,” in “Against Their Will: Young Women’s Non-agentic Sexual Experiences” (389). Man’s cultural and systematic assault against woman’s agency has so distorted their views of their own bodies and sexuality. Crown and Roberts further explain with examples:

Several respondents’ accounts suggest that the woman’s lack of sexual agency had more to do with her own sense of obligation than with the other person’s actions or intentions. For instance, one woman who was kissed against her will wrote: We walked home and by the time we reached the house I knew I didn’t want anything to happen. But I felt obligated to invite him in since he walked me home and when he leaned over to kiss me, I felt obligated to kiss him back for the same reason. Another respondent who had intercourse against her will wrote, ‘There was no force, only a feeling that I was a tease if I wouldn’t consent, so finally I just let him.’ The latter two incidents are markedly different than the first. Neither involved coercion of any sort. Yet, both happened against the women’s will. These examples illustrate how sexual encounters can be technically consensual yet also non-agentic. They are just a few of the many instances of non-agentic sexual interaction that fall into an extensive ‘gray’ zone, fitting neither into the category of ‘clear cut’ ‘sexual assault’ nor into the category of healthy sexual relating (394).

“Healthy sexual relating” is lacking with Dagny and Dominique and their partners as well. While Rand supporters argue that her love scenes cannot be classified as rape, it is much harder to argue that the violent sadomasochistic sex scenes can be considered healthy relating between men and women.

WORK AND BODY

 

Dagny’s work and body (sexuality) become linked throughout Atlas Shrugged. She receives physical pleasure from her work and from watching those she admires, particularly Hank, when he is working. Laura Mandell in Misogynous Economies writes: “Thomas Otway’s The Orphan eroticizes rape by using it to figure specular relations of power. The play renders rape appealing, represents it as procuring sexual pleasure, while simultaneously using rape to figure competitive business relations among entrepreneurs” (37). This also applies to Dagny in Atlas Shrugged.

Dagny Taggart and her brother James grow up with Francisco d’Anconia. Dagny and Frisco, as she calls him, become best friends and later, in their teens, lovers. Without Dagny’s knowledge, Francisco joins John Galt’s rebel movement and leaves Dagny, to go perform a façade of living the life of a playboy. In the meantime, Dagny reaches adulthood and goes to work for her family-owned business, Taggart Transcontinental, and through business dealing meets Hank Reardon. Though Hank is married, he enters into an affair with Dagny for several years. After Dagny’s plane crash in the mountains where she uncovers Galt’s Gulch and meets John Galt, she realizes her love for him and breaks off her affair with Hank in order to be with John.

Dagny and Hank’s original business transaction becomes a metaphor for their upcoming romantic relationship. Hank tells Dagny not to be so relieved that he will sell her his metal, or he will think he holds Taggart Transcontinental in his power. What he is really saying is that he holds Dagny in his power. She acknowledges this power as he remarks that he intends to make her pay, again, another metaphor for his dominance over her (Atlas 84). Dagny sees Hank as an adversary whom she can respect even though he is cool and detached. The rape of Dagny begins in Hank’s business transaction with her before it reaches the actual physical stage.

Dagny’s love for her work is linked to desire of her body (Atlas 210). One gives her right to the other. “Her work was all she had or wanted” (Atlas 68). She has a moment of intense, almost, euphoric longing, that could be bordering on sexual, when she wishes to be “carried by the power of someone else’s achievement” (68). She receives physical pleasure from the railway. Her work, Hank’s work, gives her physical pleasure. Work is sexualized and it becomes her partner, particularly during the lapses of having an actual sexual partner.

After spending a month with John Galt in his “utopian” valley, Dagny desires to go back to the world and her work. When Dagny chooses to leave Galt’s Gulch, Galt tells her, “I have pulled every girder from under Taggart Transcontinental and, if you choose to go back, I will see it collapse on your head” (Atlas 725). Rand places Dagny in a long, almost archetypal line of women whose work is undone, whether it’s Penelope in the Odyssey unweaving her own work in order to remain faithful to her husband, who is not at all remaining faithful to her, or Dagny, having her (country-benefitting) work destroyed by the man who ostensibly loves her.

 

COMMUNAL PROPERTY IN HOMOSOCIAL LOVE

 

Another area of exploration is of Francisco, Hank, and John’s “communal” ownership of Dagny within a framework of homosocial love. She is their object to be consumed within the further homosocial context. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who coined the term “homosocial,” in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, quotes Heidi Hartmann’s definition of patriarchy as: “relations between men, which have a material base, and which, though hierarchal, establish or create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women” (3). The competition between Gail Wynand, Dominique’s second husband, and Howard Roark in the Fountainhead is seen here in Rand’s notes: Wynand “offers her anything to remain with him; she can have all the lovers she wants, but not that one! She can even leave him, Wynand insists, and go with any other man, but not Roark. Anything, but not Roark” (Rand, Journals April 4, 1938, 175). Referencing Rene Girard’s Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, Sedgwick states, “And within the male-centered novelistic tradition of European high culture, the triangles […] are most often those in which two males are rivals for a female; it is the bond between males that that he most assiduously uncovers” (21). In her journals, Rand describes Gail Wynand in relation to Howard Roark: “Wynand is actually in love with Roark. There are no definite events, no concrete speeches in which this is displayed. It is there, nevertheless. It is an instance of Wynand’s masochism, of which he has quite a taint. The torture of loving a man whom in many other ways he hates appeals to him. He hates him for everything that Roark is and he, Wynand, isn’t” (Rand, Journals April 4, 1938, 171).

This same description could apply to Dominique in reference to her love for Roark. It is as if through Dominique, Gail can actually experience this love relationship with Roark. After Dominique and Wynand are married and Wynand befriends Roark, they spend time together at the Wynand home that Roark has designed for them and Dominique comments about Roark: “I belong to him here as I’ve never belonged to him” (The Fountainhead 584). It is only through the homosocial context of Gail’s love for Howard that gives Dominique the absolute feeling of being owned by Howard. Wynand even asks Dominique: “Would you understand if I told you that I love you more since I’ve met him? [Roark] Even—I want to say this—even when you lie in my arms, it’s more than it was. I feel a greater right to you” (The Fountainhead 552). So Wynand feels a greater ownership of Dominique while, at the same time, she feels a greater sense of being owned by Roark.

Judith Wilt writes about Gail Rubin’s “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex” (1975) that women are used as means of exchange between men. This exact premise can be applied to Dagny. She is used as the object of exchange to “deliver” Reardon, d’Anconia, and finally Galt, together (184). There is a definitive homosocial text contained within Atlas Shrugged. The men greatly admire each other, to the point of actual love, though Rand in her notes is adamant that it is not rooted in homosexual love. Dagny is but the female object used to unite these three male subjects. Francisco tells Dagny that she will always love him even if she gives a greater love to another (John) because it comes from the same root, the notion of love for someone who holds your highest ideals (Atlas 713-714).

The portrayal of sexual relationships is unrealistic to actual men and women. Hank, even after showing his possessive nature over Dagny multiple times, steps aside for her to be with John Galt. He tells Dagny, “I have met him. I don’t blame you” (Atlas 930). He knows she loves another and accepts it. How convenient and easy! After Dagny is with John, he talks about knowing she was with Hank previously, yet accepting its occurrence (Atlas 890). There always seems to be a communal factor to the use of Dagny’s body by these three men. “Rape becomes a male weapon against men, as well as a gesture of male solidarity” (Catty 27), just as Hank takes out his revenge on Dagny, raping her after finding out that Francisco had been with her sexually first.

 

“WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?”

 

The invisibility of children and lack of any conversation of pregnancy is noticeable. If the pregnant body signifies a “split” in self, a loss of “individualism,” that could be a reason why there is no mention of pregnancy and children in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Pregnancy would prove contrary to Rand’s idealism of self-hood. The fear of losing dependency can cause difficulties when it comes to pregnancy because of its threat to independence (Zanardi 219).

 

DEPICTIONS OF OTHER FEMALES

 

Another effect of capitalism is that it is used to pit class against class, particularly damaging to women from different classes, who instead of forming solidarity with each other, often fight one another for advancement in man’s favor. Rand’s portrayal of women other than Dagny shows them in a negative light. She remarked to Nathaniel Branden that she was not interested in writing about women unless it was in relation to men. Rand does not allow her female characters to bond with one another in any significant way, thus reinforcing the patriarchal cultural bonds between men. Patricia Klindienst Joplin in “The Voice of the Shuttle Is Ours”  from Rape and Representation writes “that the bonding of men requires the silencing of women points to an unstated male dread: for women to define themselves as a group would mean the unraveling of established and recognized cultural bonds” (42).

Rand’s descriptions of her female characters other than Dagny, Dominique, and Kira, the three main female leads she wrote, cast almost all of them in the ugliest terms possible. In her journals, Rand refers to Comrade Sonia as “the new woman,” and “mob womanhood at its most dangerous” (Journals 59). Betty Pope, the woman James Taggart, Dagny’s brother, is sleeping with, is depicted as giggly and shrill. Their sexual relationship is also shown in unhealthy terms, “The nature of their relationship had the same quality. There was no passion in it, no desire, no actual pleasure, not even a sense of shame. To them, the act of sex was neither joy nor sin. It meant nothing. They had heard that men and women were supposed to sleep together so they did” (Atlas 73). This depiction is somewhat comical as it leaves out even the possibility for animal instinct within sexual activity.  Hank’s wife Lillian is a frigid, manipulative and self-identified martyr. Lillian Reardon accepts that she has to take second place to her husband’s reflected glory (Rand 134). His mother is depicted in no more a positive way. The women with whom Francisco spends his time in his farcical pretense that he is a playboy are shallow and stupid. He even tells Dagny, upon one of their reunions, “You’re lovely. I wish I could tell you what a relief it is to see a face that’s intelligent though a woman’s” (Atlas 116). Cherryl, James wife, is an ignorant low class naïve girl for whom Rand appears to show sympathy even though she holds her in contempt for finding no better outlet than suicide.  That is, she depicted her as capable of nothing better.  Dagny would never self-destruct, obviously. James marries Cherryl because he sees her as worthless and someone who will look up to him unquestioningly. He does not want to see her rise above such worthlessness so that he may feel the superior (Atlas 837-838). Again, the sexual relationship that is depicted is not that of a normal healthy sexuality. Jim thinks that the “prospect of receiving pleasure was not worth the effort” (Atlas 254).

When Lillian discovers Hank and Dagny’s affair, she summons James Taggart to engage in sexual relations as a type of revenge but, as with Hank, her frigidity has James thinking, “Afterward it did not disappoint him that what he had possessed was an inanimate body without resistance or response. It was not a woman that he wanted to possess. It was not an act in celebration of life that he wanted to perform—but an act in celebration of the triumph of impotence” (Atlas 836). Rand claims that the nature of sex is depicted as spiritual and life-celebrating for Dagny and her partners, however contrary the violent descriptions play out and for all others in the novel sex is written as a perfunctory experience at best.

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

“THE 11TH COMMANDMENT: THOU SHALL NOT RAPE”:

RAPE IN LITERATURE

 

WHAT IS RAPE?

With the question of rape heavily conflicting Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, it is pertinent to start with the legal definition of rape. From the Ohio Revised Code, rape is legally defined as the following:

(1) No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another who is not the spouse of the offender or who is the spouse of the offender but is living separate and apart from the offender, when any of the following applies:

(a) For the purpose of preventing resistance, the offender substantially impairs the other person’s judgment or control by administering any drug, intoxicant, or controlled substance to the other person surreptitiously or by force, threat of force, or deception.

(b) The other person is less than thirteen years of age, whether or not the offender knows the age of the other person.

(c) The other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age, and the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the other person’s ability to resist or

 

consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age.

(2) No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another when the offender purposely compels the other person to submit by force or threat of force.

(Ohio Revised Code, Title [29] XXIX Crimes-Procedure Chapter 2907: Sex Offenses). The code also includes the clause: “A victim need not prove physical resistance to the offender in prosecutions under this section.” Though, this definition is still inadequate in addressing spousal rape, it provides a fairly accurate definition of what I think rape constitutes. Robin Morgan states:

Rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire. . . . How many millions of times have women had sex ‘willingly’ with men they didn’t want to have sex with? . . . How many times have women wished just to sleep instead or read or watch the Late Show? . . . Most of the decently married bedrooms across America are settings for nightly rape (165-66).

Higgins and Silver explain in the introduction to their collection of essays on the ways in which rape has traditionally been presented:

But the act of rereading rape involves more than listening to silences; it requires restoring rape to the literal, to the body: restoring that is, the violence—the physical, sexual violation. The insistence on taking rape literally often necessitates a conscious critical act of reading the violence and the sexuality back into the texts where it has been deflected, either by the text itself or by the critics: where it has been turned into a metaphor or a symbol or represented rhetorically as titillation, persuasion, ravishment, seduction, or desire (poetic, narrative, courtly, military). Here, the recurrent motif of disfiguration becomes significant: disfiguration both in its rhetorical and physical senses (and ways in which the first hides the second), as both textual and corporeal deformation or mutilation. In reading the violence back into texts, then, the essays in this collection reclaim the physical, material bodies of women from their status as “figures” and reveal the ways in which violence marks the female subject both physically and psychologically (4).

We must re-read the text of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead with new eyes and see the violence in the sexual encounters of Dagny and Dominique and how damaging the portrayal is and how it should not be thrown off as a side comment of merely “rough sex.”

 

                                                A Brief History of Rape

 

     The word “rape” is derived from the Latin “rapere” which means theft. Even when this crime is perpetrated against a woman personally, culturally, she is still seen as object, as property. Rape becomes a crime against men because women are their property. However, rape is predominantly written as the failure of women’s virtue.

Rape has served as an element of the domination of women in history. Ancient Babylonian and Mosaic law was codified and included the acceptability of bride capture according to Brownmiller, who points out that the Ten Commandments have no “Thou Shall Not Rape.” However, it does forbid the coveting of thy neighbor’s wife, house, field, servant, ox, and ass. Woman is relegated to the category of chattel, along with the slave and the livestock. We see throughout history that rape was commonly viewed as an economic crime against man (owner) but not against the victim and her body itself (19).

Initially “virgins” were held guiltless when raped, but married women were not as lucky and in many cases were held as responsible as the perpetrator of the rape. It was not until the reign of Edward I of England that married women received the same status as virgins with regard to the handling of rape cases. Also, the term “statutory rape” originated there in the 1275 Statutes of Westminster. Unfortunately, not much changed in the laws between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries (Brownmiller 29).

 

A BRIEF LOOK AT SUBMISSION THROUGH HISTORY

 

Sexual submissiveness by women has been prevalent throughout our literary history in works by both male and female writers. Kathryn Gravdal, author of Ravishing Maidens: Writing Rape in Medieval French Literature and Law, writes: “Sexual violence is a powerful motor in the romance genre, both in plot and in audience interest” (14). The voice and reader experience vary in different depictions, however. Early Christian writers inherited assumptions from classical eras that woman was secondary and her subservient role both natural and divine. According to Jocelyn Catty, author of Writing Rape, Writing Women in Early Modern England: “Rapes and attempted rapes proliferate throughout the history of literature […] an act perpetrated by men against women, with drastic implications for the victim’s moral and social status, the act of rape is an extreme expression of the power-relation between men and women” (2).

Monica Brzezinski Potkay and Regula Meyer Evitt, co-authors of Minding the Body: Women and Literature in the Middle Ages, 800-1500, write, “An author’s need of rationality prevented most medieval women from writing, for their culture assumed that they were less reasonable than men; it accordingly gave them few opportunities to cultivate their minds or voice their opinions” (18). However there were some exceptions. Hrotsvitha, a tenth-century intellectual and woman, wrote rape in a different voice than her male counterparts. Although portraying male aggression and violence against women as did they, she wrote in such a way as to depict the heroine’s strength of character, rather than a sinful part of her nature that she couldn’t overcome. Hrotsvitha focuses on “the alternatives of women as they respond to such objectification” (Gravdal 28).

In the twelfth century the Romance genre imbued with female submissiveness also embedded the now long-standing “ravishment” argument. The blame is placed on the female for her ability to arouse the male in such a way as to render him incapable of being responsible for his own actions. It is the female, then, who forces the male and not the other way around. Gravdal says rape is considered the “frustrated man’s attempt to express true love” (18). In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark rapes Dominique but later acknowledges Dominique’s “control” of him. This argument serves to displace the blame from the perpetrator onto the victim.

In much of the historical literature, sexual coercion or rape is written in such a romanticized way as to have the male hero “needing permission” from the woman to dominate her. This releases the male from his responsibility for his aggressive or violent actions. We’re also “internally coded” to view male force and female submission as erotically appealing (Gravdal 18). Likewise, schooling women to consider male aggression flattery was commonplace throughout the literary record. Seduction and rape become so blurred that the reader’s concept of actual rape versus mere seduction is skewed. For centuries rape has been moralized throughout the political, legal, social, and literary systems.

Medieval author Chretien de Troyes portrays this moralization of rape in many of his works. His “troping of rape leads the audience to ignore its physicality and its literal consequences and to focus instead on the ideology of chivalry […] the ultimate effect of romance ‘ravishment’ is to shift the gaze away from the physical suffering of the female body to the chivalric dilemmas of men” (Gravdal 15).

The famous poem The Rape of Lucrece (1594) by Shakespeare “shows how the belief that rape is physically impossible produces a new definition of rape as ‘forcing a woman to yield’” (Catty 31). Lucretia commits suicide to absolve her of guilt because she was unable to prevent the rape, and therefore feels she is not virtuous. Rape becomes a chastity test versus male chivalry. Sexual violence comes to lie behind most courtship in heterosexual relationships.

Clarice Lispector, Brazilian novelist and author of the story “Pig Latin,” from The Stations of the Body (A Via Crucis do Corpo, 1974,) portrays a woman who is about to be raped and so, to defend herself, behaves wantonly like a prostitute. The result is that the men are shocked. “This act of self-defense masked as seduction reveals the hidden motives of the men. Cidinha correctly sees that they desire not sexual pleasure but inflicting cruelty and humiliation. When she offers to give freely (or perhaps for a fee) what they were about to take, the men are amused and put off” (Peixoto 189). Catty’s statement is an accurate description of this behavior: “The act of rape is an extreme expression of the power-relation between men and women” (Catty 2).

In the early nineteenth century “the woman question” became a topic of public debate between men and women. As Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar have massively documented, both men and women wrote openly of the “battle of the sexes.” Women’s continued progress in the twentieth century did not lessen the hostilities, and Freud’s introduction of the concept of the unconscious provided new ways of theorizing the relations between the sexes.

D.H. Lawrence, for instance, wrote about women in disturbing ways that served to humiliate and degrade them. David Holbrook, author of Where D.H. Lawrence was Wrong about Woman, writes: “Katherine Mansfield perceived that one of Lawrence’s motives in seeking to reduce and humiliate woman is his jealousy of her creativity and that the most disturbing aspect of his books is his propaganda that makes it seem that woman likes being dominated” (33). This “unconscious fear of women” leads to social and political cruelty against women. Women are feared for their responsibility of giving birth to man. Man is wholly dependent on woman, thus fears her. Men seek to “triumph over a dangerous enemy” (Holbrook 322). Man, as subject, seeks to destroy woman, the object.

It is common in much literature to see women provoke and enjoy rape. They are portrayed as desirous of being dominated. Nancy Friday, author of My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies (1978,) states: “Girls are taught that surrendering their autonomy wins them something more valuable: They will be called womanly and attract someone to love and take care of them. The little boy is taught that love, while important, is not as sexually defining as independence. That is his gender identity” (400).

Overall, the effect of literary rape has been to turn “audiences away from the consequences of sexual violence, away from a reflection on the physical suffering of women, and to focus attention on the chivalric dilemmas of male feudal culture,” (Gravdal 67) an idea that would last, long after feudal culture was over. When an author, especially a female author, writes women as accepting of violent and aggressive sexual acts, it serves to show men and other women that this is condonable and acceptable behavior for men against women. It thus contributes to our culture of rape. Romance novels, to date, still prove popular: millions of women read them. Most of this fiction uses rape disguised as seduction. Violence is sexualized and used to titillate the reader (Catty 36).

 

 

 

                                    PERMISSION TO RAPE

 

Francisco’s ownership of Dagny is without explicit consent. Rand attempts to show us how implicitly Dagny is really giving her permission, as if Francisco is asking, “May I please rape you, Ma’am?” Upon their initial sexual encounter:

She felt a moment’s rebellion and a hint of fear. He held her, pressing the length of his body against hers with a tense, purposeful insistence, his hand moving over her breasts as if he were learning a proprietor’s intimacy with her body, a shocking intimacy that needed no consent from her, no permission. She tried to pull herself away, but she only leaned back against his arms long enough to see his face and his smile, the smile that told her she had given him permission long ago (Atlas 107).

Then later with Hank, as his mistress:

He led her to the bedroom. He took off her clothes, without a word, in the manner of an owner undressing a person whose consent is not required. He clasped the pendant on her shoulders. She stood naked, the stone between her breasts, like a sparkling drop of blood. “Do you think a man should give jewelry to his mistress for any purpose but his own pleasure?” […] She could not speak or move, only nod silently in acceptance and obedience; she nodded several times, her hair swaying with the wide, circular movement of her head, then hanging still as she kept her head bowed to him (Atlas 348).

We see this transfer of responsibility with Dominique and Howard in the Fountainhead also: to look upon her as he did, “he had not merely taken that right, he was saying silently that she had given it to him” (206). 

Dagny Taggart differs from most fictional women in that their submissiveness extends to all facets of life, not just sexual. Dagny does not present herself at all in a passive way, whereas the psychological data, according to Anne Reich in “Extreme Submissiveness in Women,” from Essential Papers on Masochism, states that “the submissive woman wants to remain passive far beyond the realm of sexuality” (426). Being independent holds no pleasure for the typical submissive woman. By contrast, Dagny Taggart is nothing but independent. Likewise, studies like “Cultural Pressures in the Psychology of Women” show that women who are submissive in adulthood hate being a woman because they had a brother who was favored when they were children. This again, is the opposite of Dagny, who was favored by her father over her brother, James. (Zanardi, ed., 212)

Furthermore, another anomaly with Dagny is that she, as an extremely economically successful executive, still “submits” to abusive, rape-like sexual relations with her male partners. However, studies have found that instances of domestic violence and rape is lower, the higher the economic status of a woman: “In replication of the study using all 50 states, Straus found, using logistic regression, that the higher the status of women, the lower the probability of a state’s having a high rate of wife assault” (Yodanis 659).

Another irony of the novel is the portrayal of Dagny as this strong, independent executive who upon meeting John Galt immediately turns into his “servant” girl. This powerful, intelligent woman takes on descriptions like this: “she looked like that which she was: his servant girl” (Atlas 722). Her demeanor becomes subservient, with obedient nods of her head (Atlas 682) and statements like: “’Yes, sir’, she said, her eyes lowered” (Atlas 707). Her executive experience is thrown out the window as she becomes like a “school girl” (Atlas 698-699) around John. She is all too content to work for servant wages. With Hank, she also takes on the subservient role when at a dinner party: “she stood obediently watching. She did not expect him to notice her again; she had to remain there as long as he was in this room” (Atlas 262).

Dagny reduces herself to helplessness by succumbing to Frisco’s ability to give her pleasure. “It was “his hand, that it moved as if her flesh was his possession” (Rand 888). But according to Sanchez, when sexual autonomy is gone, pleasure is actually less. “In the process of fitting their sexual behavior and desires into this cultural mold, women may unwittingly undermine their sexual arousal” (Sanchez 522).

 

RAND’S PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY

 

Ayn Rand’s personal life is intricate and titillating enough to be a novel in itself.

Rand was born Alice Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia to a Jewish family. (She later changed her name to Ayn, adopted from a Finnish writer, and Rand, the brand name of her typewriter.) When Rand was nine years old, she decided that writing would be her future, just as Dagny also, at nine, knew that she would run Taggart Transcontinental.

Rand’s father’s pharmacy was nationalized after the Russian Revolution began and she moved with her family to the Crimea and finished high school there. After the war ended, they returned to Petrograd, now under Communist rule. Ayn enrolled in the university there, a student of history. After graduating in 1924, she secured passage to the United States because of relatives living in Illinois. In 1926, at twenty-one, she arrived in America. She would go on to renounce religion in favor of atheism. She stated she became an atheist at thirteen for two reasons: one is that there was no reason or logic for the existence of God and two that having a god meant that man was inferior and she could not abide that idea.

            “Contrary to her dictum that love is a response to a person’s values, she fell in love, at sight, with a man she knew nothing about, believing that his character and spirit were conveyed by his face and manner” (B. Branden 34). She married Frank O’Connor, whom she met through her involvement with Cecil B. DeMille. To her, he resembled her later hero of The Fountainhead, Howard Roark, for his seemingly ability to remain unaffected by others. However, Branden would later state that Rand confided in him that Frank never initiated sex; it always had to be her. She also wore the proverbial pants in the relationship and Frank was often referred to as the “man who wasn’t quite there.” According to Jeff Walker in The Ayn Rand Cult, Rand’s own husband, Frank’s, “nature was such that he didn’t need to dominate anyone, least of all his wife” (261).

            Rand would work for a Hollywood studio during the late twenties and thirties, writing screenplays for films. During this time, she also wrote the play Night of January 16th and her novels Anthem and We the Living. She did not reach wider-known success until The Fountainhead was published in 1943.

Perhaps generalized from her own experience, Rand’s view of sexuality was that all women wanted men stronger than they. They wanted to relinquish their strength to a stronger force, to surrender to someone physically stronger than they. She did not believe that men and women were unequal in terms of intellect or spirituality. However, she did say that physically (sexually) women should look up to men. She viewed men as superior in that way and to be worshipped by way of admiration.

In the Russia of Ayn Rand’s youth, woman was seen as” a limited, weak creature who needs protection […] regarded with condescension, rather than offering her rights that should belong to her as a member of society. No woman could legally leave her husband, refuse him domestic and conjugal services, or deny him full obedience and respect” (Engelstein 125). Perhaps in reaction to those limits, Dagny Taggart is Rand’s notion of the ideal woman. But she characterizes her as a “man worshipper.” Rand described her once as Rand herself without flaws. She did not see Dagny as being conventionally feminine with attributes of weakness and passivity. She believed in a “rational universe” where women and men complement each other’s sexuality. But a rational universe is not necessarily the real universe. Cultural attitudes about women’s sexual life went from denial of its very existence to the notion that the sexual life of woman is not as important as that of her male counterpart. Characteristics of female sexual drive are masochism and passivity, “clearly forced upon her by the inhibition of the right to aggression” and her masochism “proves to be a form of adaptation to an unsatisfactory and circumscribed life” (Zanardi 213). We see Rand’s vision of sex materializing in her prodigy Nathaniel Branden and his wife, Barbara’s, turbulent marriage. During difficult times when they were arguing, he would shout at her and in a “complex mixture of rage, pain, hatred, and desire, I initiated ‘love making’ very aggressively and was astonished by the intensity of her responsiveness” (N. Branden 93)

Rand would begin an affair “in spirit” with Nathaniel Branden when he was twenty-four and she forty-nine in August of 1954; the affair would turn sexual in January, 1955. They actually informed their respective spouses, who grudgingly allowed the affair to take place with their knowledge and manipulated consent. Branden stated he still viewed himself as a man of monogamy and sexual exclusiveness, his affair with Rand notwithstanding. Later Branden’s wife Barbara would ask for consent for an affair of her own, which Nathaniel would at first be completely against even while engaging in his ongoing affair with Rand and then a new affair simultaneously with the woman who would become his second wife, Patrecia.

Branden describes his sexual relations with Rand: “I knew that what she wanted most was not my tenderness but my aggressiveness, my willingness to do anything I felt like doing, without asking and without hesitating. She wanted me to be a master, to use her language, exercising his rights over his property. This and this alone, allowed the female in her to emerge fully” (N. Branden 140). Branden also states:

I wondered about her need for control. Given that it was so powerful could she really surrender in any context other than sex? And in sex, I sometimes found the ideas of control and surrender far from transparent. Once I said to her laughing, “Your sexual slave will now proceed to dominate you.” She smiled but did not find this as amusing as I did. She was profoundly invested in the concept of male domination” (N. Branden 87).

In a conversation he had with Rand while they were in bed, Branden said:

In spite of myself, I began to reflect on Hugo’s line (Woman is clay, longing to become mire.) Spoken by a woman of high self-esteem, it conveys one kind of message, a very erotic one. Spoke by a woman of low self-esteem, who seeks actual degradation, it has an opposite meaning, a tragic one. Spoken by Ayn, it was probably intended to stress her desire to surrender to masculine strength, to give up all authority, to be traded as an instrument of the man’s pleasure—provided, of course, that it was her man (193).

Rand considered herself a Romantic writer. According to Shulamith Firestone:

To the degree that a woman is like his mother, the incest taboo operates to restrain his total sexual/emotional commitment; for him to feel safely the kind of total response he first felt for this mother, which was rejected, he must degrade this woman so as to distinguish her from the mother. This behavior reproduced on a larger scale explains many cultural phenomena, including perhaps the ideal love-worship of chivalric times, the forerunner of modern romanticism (147-48).

 

POSSESSION LEADING TO VIOLENCE

There is a great deal of possessiveness in Hank Reardon. He is jealous of every man able to approach Dagny because he cannot, due to the fact that he is married and still trying to be faithful to his wife, along with his notions of sex being the lower part of a human being. Ownership is shown most strongly with Hank. Property is the ultimate source of pleasure to a possessive man, and Dagny is treated as his property. Hank speaks to Dagny of how much her workers respect her, think of her as pure, right before he mockingly has sex with her as if to repudiate such thoughts. Afterwards he badgers her to tell him what other men has she slept with. When she won’t reveal that information, he forces himself on her:

He held her body as if the violence and the despair of the way he took her could wipe his unknown rival out of existence, out of her past, and more: as if it could transform any part of her, even the rival, into an instrument of his pleasure. He knew, by the eagerness of her movement as her arms seized him that this was how she wanted to be taken (Atlas 257).

In one scene where Hank is observing Dagny, jewelry is used to depict a slave in chains: “The diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects; the look of being chained” (Atlas 133).

After Hank’s and Francisco’s confrontation, he finds out from Dagny that Francisco was her first (Atlas 596-601). Dagny tells Hank that even if he continued to sleep with his wife, Lillian, she would accept that. However, a double standard prevents Hank from being able to accept that Dagny had another man before her. He cannot accept that the things she does with him, she would have done, wanted to do, with another. At this early point in the novel he still sees sex as something dirty. We see Hank’s sexual past before Dagny as agonizing. Hank hates his desire. He hated that he felt compelled to give in. He hated women’s casual acceptance of pleasure. There was no challenge in it to him. The challenge brought him to his wife Lillian, but after their wedding, he realized she viewed sex only as duty to him and lay there like an object. He hated himself because he vowed he would never touch her again but his desires would not allow him to keep that promise. He would not go to a whore but he hated sex with his wife, yet his body still craved a woman.

 

HATE AND SEX

 

     In Atlas Shrugged we see hate playing out with Dagny and Hank’s first sexual encounter:

It was like an act of hatred. […] She felt him trembling and she thought that this was the kind of cry she had wanted to tear from him—this surrender through the shreds of his tortured resistance. Yet she knew, at the same time, that the triumph was his, that her laughter was her tribute to him, that her defiance was submission, that the purpose of all of her violent strength was only to make his victory the greater—he was holding her body against his, as if stressing his wish to let her know that she was now only a tool for the satisfaction of his desire—and his victory, she knew, was her wish to let him reduce her to that. Whatever I am, she thought, whatever pride of person I may hold, the pride of my courage, of my work, of my mind and my freedom—that is what I offer you for the pleasure of your body, that is what I want you to use in your service—and that you want it to serve you is the greatest reward I can have (Atlas 240).

Earlier in the novel, Dagny relishes the physical scars and wounds she bears from Francisco’s brutal treatment of her: “She saw a bruise above her elbow, with dark beads that had been blood” (Atlas 241). We see this “body marking” in other scenes as well. Rand is glamorizing the mutilation or destruction of women’s bodies by depicting her female characters as desirous of having such battle wounds.

            When Hank finally gives into his desire for another in the form of Dagny Taggart, he tells her, “What I feel for you is contempt. But it’s nothing compared to the contempt that I feel for myself. I don’t love you. […] I wanted you as one wants a whore. […] I thought you were above a desire of this kind. You’re not. You’re as vile an animal as I am” (Atlas 242). Dagny laughs at him and tells him he can come to her for his baser needs. “He acted as if their passionate intimacy were a nameless physical fact, not to be identified in the communication between two minds” (Atlas 267). Later, he repudiates this stance, admitting he really loved her from the start, but his aggressive rape-like sex does not stop with such revelations.

At first, Lillian thinks Hank’s affair must be with a low cheap whore with no brains. She mocks Hank for giving into his baser animal instincts when he has prided himself on his morality and virtue thus far. She is oblivious that it is Dagny with whom Hank is having the affair because she views her as “the great businesswoman above reproach and feminine weaknesses. The great mind detached from any concern with the body” (Atlas 496). Then when Lillian sees Dagny wearing her husband’s bracelet still, she insinuates that Dagny is sleeping with Hank. Hank then makes her apologize to Dagny, even though they really are having an affair. Rand writes the portrayal to show Lillian in the bad light and the adulterers as the heroes. Lillian, the actual wife, becomes the whore with whom Hank does not want to associate. When Hank is forced to go to a party with his wife, where Dagny will be, he wishes to die rather than be shown off as a husband to Lillian. He stops all marital relations after he begins sleeping with Dagny. When Lillian tries to initiate sex he rebuffs her.  “It was the swift, instinctive, ferocious gesture—of a young bridegroom at the unrequested contact of a whore—the gesture with which he tore her arms off his body and threw her aside” (Atlas 293).

When Lillian derides Dagny for being a whore and insinuates that she has slept with multiple men, Hank feels anger so violent as to think he may be capable of killing her, in anger not just at Lillian but at himself for previous words he had used against Dagny. He sees the “terrible ugliness of that which had once been his own belief” (Atlas 498). Lillian tells him, “I should have known that she was just a bitch who wanted you in the same way as any bitch would want you—because you are fully as expert in bed as you are at a desk” (Atlas 498).

Typical of Rand defenders, Michalson writes that in this first “love” scene between Dagny and Hank, Dagny is the one in control: though it resembles rape, it is actually Hank who is in confusion and not in control. This argument is ages old and a classic case of blaming the victim. Why is it rape? There is always an “overcoming” for Dagny and Dominique. Neither submits until there is force or the threat of force. With John Galt, we see the same depictions of violence and fighting associated with the act of sex: “She felt her teeth sinking into the flesh of his arm, she felt the sweep of his elbow knocking her head aside and his mouth seizing her lips with a pressure more viciously painful than hers” (Atlas 888).

In a conversation with Dr. Kathe Davis, Women’s Studies and English associate professor at Kent State University, she stated that in the fifties men and boys were told that when women say no to sex, they actually mean maybe, and those who say maybe actually mean yes, therefore, if that logic is taken verbatim, then women really do not have any agency when it comes to their sexuality. There is no way for women to say no. Political activism in the 1960’s and 1970’s sought to free women, but didn’t necessarily: Coontz writes, “too many political radicals were pushing a kind of ‘liberation’ that denied women the right to say no” (197).

As Brownmiller observes, rapists may also “operate within an emotional setting or within a dependent relationship that provides hierarchal, authoritarian structure of its own that weakens a victim’s resistance, distorts her perspective and confounds her will” (256). We see this pattern in Dominique after her rape. She goes between wanting to wash herself to reveling in the bruises. Days later she is still thinking, “I’ve been raped,” yet then appears to enjoy the thought. Her experience is distorted. She knows she has been raped but tries to justify the rape through Roark’s experience of it and not her authentic gut reaction. As Firestone writes, traditionally “women can be fulfilled sexually only by vicarious identification with the man who enjoys them” (167).

Ann J. Cahill, author of Rethinking Rape, argues there is a third alternative to Susan Brownmiller and Catharine MacKinnon’s opposing arguments about rape. Brownmiller in Against Our Will writes that rape is about power and not sex, whereas MacKinnon writes that rape is violent due to the fact that it is sexual. Cahill states that neither position offer the argument for a possibility of feminine agency (Cahill 37).

 

THE FOUNTAINHEAD RAPE SCENE

 

I feel we must look at the entire infamous rape scene of The Fountainhead, though lengthy, in order to try and comprehend what is going on:

He came in. He wore his work clothes, the dirty shirt with rolled sleeves, the trousers smeared with stone dust. He stood looking at her. There was no laughing understanding in his face. His face was drawn, austere in cruelty, ascetic in passion, the cheeks sunken, the lips pulled down, set tight.

Here Rand couples cruelty with passion. She also emphasizes Roark’s dirtiness to point out his class status in comparison to Dominique. Even the lowest worker, who is male, has the right to take any woman, even the highest class.

She jumped to her feet, she stood, her arms thrown back, her fingers spread apart. He did not move. She saw a vein of his neck rise, beating, and fall down again. Then he walked to her. He held her as if his flesh had cut through hers and she felt the bones of his arms on the bones of her ribs, her legs jerked tight against his, his mouth on hers. She did not know whether the jolt of terror shook her first and she thrust her elbows at his throat, twisting her body to escape, or whether she lay still in his arms, in the first instant, in the shock of feeling his skin against hers, the thing she had thought about, had expected, had never known to be like this, could not have known, because this was not part of living, but a thing one could not bear longer than a second.

Here we see Dominique in utter terror with such descriptive language of her body, her resistance and the painful violence of Roark’s body on hers. Then we see her attempt to escape continued:

She tried to tear herself away from him. The effort broke against his arms that had not felt it. Her fists beat against his shoulders, against his face. He moved one hand, took her two wrists, pinned them behind her, under his arm, wrenching her shoulder blades. She twisted her head back. She felt his lips on her breast. She tore herself free. She fell back against the dressing table, she stood crouching, her hands clasping the edge behind her, her eyes wide, colorless, shapeless in terror. He was laughing. There was the movement of laughter on his face, but no sound.

Roark is laughing at her struggle, mocking her and her attempts to escape him. This “game” is enjoyable to him, this conquest.

Perhaps he had released her intentionally. He stood, his legs apart, his arms hanging at his sides, letting her be more sharply aware of his body across the space between them than she had been in his arms. She looked at the door behind him, he saw the first hint of movement, no more than a thought of leaping toward that door. He extended his arm, not touching her, and fell back. Her shoulders moved faintly, rising. He took a step forward and her shoulders fell. She huddled lower, closer to the table. He let her wait. Then he approached. He lifted her without effort. She let her teeth sink into his hand and felt blood on the tip of her tongue. He pulled her head back and he forced her mouth open against his.       She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help. She heard the echoes of her blows in a gasp of his breath, and she knew that it was a gasp of pleasure. She reached for the lamp on the dressing table. He knocked the lamp out of her hand. The crystal burst to pieces in the darkness.

This animal-like fighting and resistance is so parallel to an actual stranger rape. It is, in my mind, almost impossible to romanticize it at this point.

He had thrown her down on the bed and she felt the blood beating in her throat, in her eyes, the hatred, the helpless terror in her blood. She felt the hatred and his hands; his hands moving over her body, the hands that broke granite. She fought in a last convulsion. Then the sudden pain shot up, through her body, to her throat, and she screamed. Then she lay still.

Again, we see the terror that Dominique is feeling and now hatred is added to the mix before the penetration of her body.  

It was an act that could be performed in tenderness, as a seal of love, or in contempt, as a symbol of humiliation and conquest. It could be the act of a lover or the act of a soldier violating an enemy woman. He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him—and she would have remained cold, untouched by the thing done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted. Then she felt him shaking with the agony of a pleasure unbearable even to him, she knew that she had given that to him, that it came from her, from her body, and she bit her lips and she knew what he had wanted her to know.

Every paragraph leading up to this reads as a horrific rape, and yet here we are supposed to now think that Dominique had wanted this “rapture.”

He lay still across the bed, away from her, his head hanging back over the edge. She heard the slow, ending gasps of his breath. She lay on her back, as he had left her, not moving, her mouth open. She felt empty, light, and flat. She saw him get up. She saw his silhouette against the window. He went out, without a word or a glance at her. She noticed that, but it did not matter. She listened blankly to the sound of his steps moving away in the garden.

Notice that no words ever pass between them. He comes in, forces her to have sex and then leaves without ever saying a word.

She lay still for a long time. Then she moved her tongue in her open mouth. She heard a sound that came from somewhere within her, and it was the dry, short, sickening sound of a sob, but she was not crying, her eyes were held paralyzed, dry and open. The sound became motion, a jolt running down her throat to her stomach. It flung her up, she stood awkwardly, bent over, her forearms pressed to her stomach. She heard the small table by the bed rattling in the darkness, and she looked at it, in empty astonishment that a table should move without reason. Then she understood that she was shaking. She was not frightened; it seemed foolish to shake like that, in short, separate jerks, like soundless hiccoughs.

This previous excerpt is so contradictory. If she was not frightened, then why is she shaking? She appears to be exhibiting normal reactions to rape. We see this further in the next paragraph:

She thought she must take a bath. The need was unbearable, as if she had felt it for a long time. Nothing mattered, if only she would take a bath. She dragged her feet slowly to the door of her bathroom.

Her first instinctual reaction to the rape is to get clean. A typical occurrence after sexual assaults, but then:

She turned the light on in the bathroom. She saw herself in a tall mirror. She saw the purple bruises left on her body by his mouth. She heard a moan muffled in her throat, not very loud. It was not the sight, but the sudden flash of knowledge. She knew that she would not take a bath. She knew that she wanted to keep the feeling of his body, the traces of his body on hers, knowing also what such a desire implied.

Yes, just what does it imply? Perhaps this is the onset of guilt, the woman blaming herself, convincing herself that she must have really wanted it even though her first instinct was to remove any traces of the rape.

She fell on her knees, clasping the edge of the bathtub. She could not make herself crawl over that edge. Her hands slipped, she lay still on the floor. The tiles were hard and cold under her body. She lay there till morning. (The Fountainhead 216-18)

Consent is only implied later by Dominique but at the time of the rape, Roark does not know she is consenting. Even if his thoughts say he does, we do not see her explicitly giving consent and to the contrary, we see her fighting him off, therefore we cannot say with assurance he knows he has consent, therefore the act is rape. It also might be said that Dominique appears to be suffering from what has been classified as Stockholm syndrome, where the victim is brainwashed into viewing her captor or abuser as her savior. Brownmiller writes:

We must look toward those elements in our culture that promote and propagandize these attitudes, which offer men, and in particular, impressionable, adolescent males, who form the potential raping population, the ideology and psychological encouragement to commit their acts of aggression without awareness, for the most part, that they have committed a punishable crime, let alone a moral wrong. The myth of the heroic rapist that permeates false notions of masculinity, from the successful seducer to the man who “takes what he wants when he wants it,” is inculcated in young boys from the time they first become aware that being male means access to certain mysterious rites and privileges, including the right to buy a woman’s body. (391)

Rand’s portrayal of sex as rape does just this. The male characters take what they want, regardless of whether they have permission. The female characters’ bodies become objects and property to obtain by force. The heroic rapist is alive and well in the world of Rand.

CHAPTER IV
“THE LOOK OF BEING CHAINED”:
THE DILEMMA OF SADOMASOCHISM

 

 

 

Sexual submission fantasies are typically and significantly more common in women. Being passive in sexual situations has traditionally been “the prescribed role for women” (Renaud and Byers 484). One explanation points to the experience of sexual abuse in childhood. Women then become conditioned to associate sexual submission to sexual arousal. The Renaud and Byers study, “Positive and Negative Cognitions of Sexual Submission: Relationship to Sexual Violence,” shows that women who were sexually abused report more submission fantasies than those who were not. This reflects a “traditional, patriarchal sexual script” (Renaud and Byers 488).

The social and economic progress made by women since the 1970s, which might have been expected to lead to greater sexual equality as well, have in at least to some extent engendered the opposite reaction:

Backlash may be especially pronounced against women who engage in nontraditional, high-power roles, as women who refuse to adhere to subservient scripts are seen as subversive and threatening. The backlash effect thus maintains power inequities between men and women by encouraging women’s subservience to men (Sanchez 512).

Even today, many television, movies, and magazines portray men’s sexual dominance over women. Sexual submissiveness in a woman, as a means to pleasing her male counterpart, is still deeply engrained in our culture. The University of Michigan study of

Sanchez, Kiefer, and Ybarra, “Sexual Submissiveness in Women: Costs for Sexual Autonomy and Arousal” shows that women learn this link of submissiveness with sexuality at an unconscious level. Sanchez contends that “autonomy is a fundamental human need […] benefits of autonomy include heightened vitality, improved performance, and greater psychological well-being” (513). The “loss of sexual agency through viewing oneself as a sexual object, impedes sexual functioning because it distracts women from their own pleasure” (514).

We are dealing here with two related, though separate, ideas: simple submission, and masochism and sadism, or sadomasochism. The relation between pain and sexual pleasure has existed for millennia. Various paintings, pictures, and even a copper statue exist of Aristotle being ridden like a horse by Phyllis while she holds a whip. You can find them in various galleries or museums such as the interpretation by Hans Baldung in 1503 available at the Louvre (illus. 2). Pain in sex, considered an aphrodisiac in classic civilization, has in the last few centuries gradually come to be viewed as a sexual perversion.

 The term “masochism” was first used in 1886 by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his Psychopathia Sexualis, which he defined as “the perfect counterpart of sadism” (Avalos 35). The terms masochism and sadism come from the autobiographical literature of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895) and Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, otherwise known as the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814). “Masochism is a neurotic state characterized by a search for suffering. The masochist feels a real need, an ‘appetite’ for suffering” (Hanly 18). The suffering can be physical, moral, or both. The suffering is eroticized.

We see the need for both sexual submission and physical pain in the character of Dagny. We see these masochistic tendencies as a young girl embarking on womanhood in her relationship with Francisco. Her brother, James, confronts Dagny about her relationship with Francisco:

All those airs you put on, pretending that you’re an iron woman with a mind of your own! You’re a spineless dishrag, that’s all you are. It’s disgusting the way you let that conceited punk order you about. He can twist you around his little finger. You haven’t any pride at all. The way you run around when he whistles and wait on him! Why don’t you shine his shoes?’ ‘Because he hasn’t told me to,’ she answered (Atlas 94).

 Dagny unabashedly admits her subservience to Francisco even before they enter into a sexual relationship, but she views it as acceptable, a badge of pride because she considers Frisco a worthy “master.” She states that “he makes me expect excitement and danger” (Atlas 96).

When Frisco slaps Dagny for contemplating pretending to be stupid to gain popularity,

She knew that she would have killed any other person who struck her; she felt the violent fury which would have given her the strength for it—and as violent a pleasure that Francisco had done it. She felt pleasure from the dull, hot pain in her cheek and from the taste of blood in the corner of her mouth. She felt pleasure in what she suddenly grasped about him, about herself and about his motive (Atlas 100).

Dagny treats her wounded face as a badge of honor. She tells Frisco that she wants the wound to swell and she likes it, and in turn he tells her she is wonderful for having that response, a foreshadowing of what is to come. Dagny shows a classic sign of abuse victims even in the face of her supposed feelings of equality with Francisco, though in the rest of her characterization, she is not portrayed as an abuse victim. She feels his full equal for the first time and is triumphant, but then lies to her mother, which is pointed out as her only lie ever. She does it not to protect him but because “for some reason which she could not define, that the incident was a secret too precious to share” (Atlas 100).

Before Dagny’s and Francisco’s first sexual encounter, the act of rape is played out in a tennis match between the two. Dagny feels “stabs of pain causing pleasure” because she knows her pain becomes his. This push and pull between the two is another foreshadowing of their first violent sexual encounter (Atlas 104). Terms like “seize” portray sex more as rape than lovemaking. “He seized her, she felt her lips in his mouth, felt her arms grasping him in violent answer […] She thought that she must escape, instead it was she who pulled his head down to find his mouth again. She knew that fear was useless, that he would do what he wished, that the decision was his, that he left nothing possible to her except the thing she wanted most—to submit” (Atlas 107).

Sex to Rand becomes another argument for women’s ability to “enthrall” man and cause him to lose control. Men are “willed” to and “have” to be violent. Sex is “as the nature of the act demanded—an act of violence” (Atlas 282).  Some supporters of Rand’s sexual psychology dub her female characters sexually self-defining and liking of rough sex (Gladstein and Sciabarra 3).  But defining oneself as a victim is hardly “self-defining” in the usual positive sense of the term and Rand goes beyond merely “rough sex.”  

We also see the physical and psychological manifestations of masochism in Dominique in The Fountainhead. She is so consumed by a belief that evil will prevail that, in her hopelessness, she submits herself to degradation by way of marrying two men she despises (Gladstein 41). She also actively seeks out ways to destroy the man whom she really loves, Howard Roark, and each time she does, she then goes to him and allows him the use of her body in order to humiliate herself. She hates him for her wanting him and so hurts him and then goes to him after she’s hurt him so he can use her, punish her, and destroy her through the sexual act. Through this sexual act, she expresses her contempt for herself which is a result of this twisted behavior (437).

According to Freud, “feminine masochism is based on a ‘primary erotogenic factor, the pleasure in suffering.’ By feminine masochism, Freud understands a psychosexual behavior characteristic of the nature of woman” (Nacht 31). Could the lack of “love” or acceptance in her professional life create a masochistic need in her that she could fulfill only in her sexual life?

In other examples of submissiveness in women we find severe low self-esteem, which Dagny does not represent. “It is worthy to note that the self-esteem of the submissive woman falls to a strikingly low level when she is away from her lover. The man, on the other hand, is overrated; he is considered to be very important, a genius. He is the only man worthy of love” (Reich 424). In one way, this does not apply to Dagny who in her own perverse way, loves all three of the men she has relationships with even though her ultimate choice of partner is John Galt. However, she does throw aside all others, namely Hank Reardon, when she meets John Galt and finds him more worthy and more closely fitting her ideals than any of her previous lovers, this thought could apply.

 

AUTHENTICITY

 

“The submissive woman wants to remain passive far beyond the realm of sexuality. The man has always to take the first step; she wants only to be his executive organ. If the man inspires or orders something she can do it, but independent action has no such pleasure attached to it” (Reich 426). The former is again strikingly not Dagny but the latter point can be seen somewhat in reference to Galt’s Gulch, the utopian valley of Atlas Shrugged where Dagny becomes completely subservient to John Galt.

The entire argument of “self-chosen” or “authentic” versus “forced” submission presents a hurdle. Sanchez writes: “We believe that the motivation underlying submissive behavior determines whether submission undermines autonomy: It is not the behavior that matters but whether the behavior is perceived as self-chosen and authentic” (Sanchez 521). However, women cannot “freely” choose to submit to men as long as we live in a patriarchal society that already has conditioned women that way. Zanardi agrees, and writes that it is not part of woman’s biological makeup to be submissive but rather cultural conditioning (213-214).  She observes how passivity and masochism are considered natural characteristics for women but passivity throughout history has been forced on women and at the same time aggression has been inhibited. This “nature vs. nurture” argument can perhaps never be wholly resolved but if submissiveness was carried on the X chromosome, all women would be submissive and that manifestly is not the case.

Masochism is foregrounded for both Dominique and Dagny in their sexual relations. Dominique states that when being violently “taken” by Howard Roark, “she found a dark satisfaction in pain–because that pain came from him” (The Fountainhead 209). Loving physical touches become “not a caress but a wave of pain” (The Fountainhead 282) in the world of Rand. Wendy McElroy, feminist writer and pro-Randian contributor to Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, claims that “Rand attempts to capture ‘ecstasy’, not merely pleasure” (165), but since when has ecstasy been synonymous with violence? Some would use women’s documented rape fantasies as an argument for such sadomasochistic relationships:

And yet… what heterosexual woman hasn’t fantasized about being swept into the strong impetuous arms of Rhett Butler and conveyed up a curving staircase to the satin sheets of ravishment? These gentler, less threatening fantasies of “being taken” seem to survive intact through actual violence, perhaps because they express a natural urge within women (and some men) to relinquish control and be conquered by a mutual passion (McElroy 169).

My point, though, is that it is not a natural urge to fantasize about rape, even in its many varied forms, rather rape is an idea that women have been conditioned to view as natural, consequently keeping them at a level inferior to that of their male counterparts. Above all, Nancy Friday’s point that rape fantasies are fantasies is vitally important.  The fantasies have little resemblance to actual rape, and, most notably, the woman is in control. These idealized fantasies of “rape” can be appealing to women in a culture that is highly repressive of women’s sexuality and its acknowledgement, since being “overcome” by the male frees the woman of guilt. 

     McElroy writes:

Feminism’s discomfort with these depictions may be part of its more general discomfort with the fact that consensual violence (S/M, bondage, mock rape) is a popular way that sex occurs on this planet. Some feminists have been accused of  becoming “the new Puritans” of our society, who police the images of graphic sex (e.g., pornography) and the expression of unacceptable sexual choices (e.g.; prostitution) (62).

But I question whether violence can ever be considered consensual. What authentic and autonomous individual would consent to violence and pain? The whole point of pain is to inform the individual that something is wrong. It is our body and mind’s way of telling us that there is something not right, so pain being considered a natural state of desire is preposterous. However, the contrary is argued by apologists like Dorothy C. Hayden, author of “Psychological Dimensions of Masochistic Surrender,” who writes:

I began to see masochism less as a sexual aberration and more as a metaphor through which psyche speaks of its suffering and passion. There was a definite connection between suffering and pleasure that intrigued me. Clients spoke of the rapturous delight in submission, the worship, in wild abandon and the deliverance from the confining bondage of normalcy. (Hayden, Psychological Dimensions of Masochistic Surrender)

But she doesn’t ask in what way pleasure became associated with suffering for these individuals?  Since pain and pleasure are physiological opposites, and we are biologically programmed to avoid pain, clearly some environmental factors have intervened to forge this profoundly unnatural connection. Hayden seems to assume that just because this is happening, it makes it okay. Brownmiller argues:

It was hardly by accident sadomasochism has always been defined by male and female terms. It has been codified by those who see in sadism a twisted understanding of their manhood, and it has been accepted by those who see in masochism the abuse and pain that is synonymous with Woman. For this reason alone sadomasochism shall always remain a reactionary antithesis to women’s liberation (263).

She goes on to charge that Helene Deutsch, author of Psychology of Women, “has caused real—and incalculable—damage to the female sex, as has, it goes without saying, Freud” (316). Deutsch claimed that “masochism is an essential element of femininity, and a condition of erotic pleasure” (Brownmiller 316). Like Freud, Deutsch was limited by her historical era.  On the contrary, her contemporary Dr. Karen Horney was able to escape the assumption that what is, is natural, and believed that “masochism in women was a neurotic manifestation culturally induced and culturally encouraged, rather than a normal, inevitable result of female biology” (Brownmiller 321).

     Upon reviewing The Fountainhead rape scene, Brownmiller writes:

So this was grand passion! A masochistic wish by a superior woman for humiliation at the hands of a superior man! The Fountainhead heated my virgin blood more than twenty years ago and may still be performing that service for schoolgirls today. Ayn Rand is the chief ideologue of a philosophy she calls Objectivism, essentially a cult of rugged individualism, vaguely right-wing, and what I would call spiritually male. She is an example of the ways in which a strong, male-directed woman accommodates herself to what she considers to be superior male thought (64-65).

 In contrast, Barbara Branden writes in defense of Rand:

Without exception, in every sex scene Ayn Rand wrote, the woman resists, and the man physically forces her submission. But in each case, the woman has, through words or actions or manner, issued her “engraved invitation.” Thus, in psychological fact, there are no literal “rape scenes” in Ayn’s work. No feminist loathed rape more than she (37-38).

Rand “loathes” what she imagines as rape—a stranger with a knife at one’s throat, presumably—while depicting sex in distinctly rape-like terms.  It’s like the path-breaking work of Mary Koss, who found that when she asked women if they had ever been raped, they said NO; but when she described the elements of rape, without using the term: had they been compelled to have sex without their consent, had they been forced, had they said “no” and been ignored, had they been hurt, etc., a shocking percentage of them said YES. (Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1987 April Vol. 55(2) 162-170)

            The consistent argument that women want to be dominated sexually by men is that there have been studies of fantasies of “ravishment” which are transcultural, and also that the romance novel genre, riddled with bodice-ripping scenes, is the most lucrative genre in publishing history (N. Branden 229), implying that women desire the scenes depicted. Millions of women read such romance novels and get a distorted view of romantic relationships between women and men. The statistics are staggering from Romance Writers of America including that 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year, 78 percent of them being women. More statistical information can be viewed at: http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre/romance_literature_statistics/readership_statistics.

But what this argument fails to take into consideration is how these fantasies, and the subsequent quest to fulfill them through the novel, have been coded into girls and women on a cultural level and not because of some innate portion of the female psyche that consciously or unconsciously seeks to be dominated by men. On the contrary, it is so ingrained in us culturally, that when we read many of these male-dominates-female stories we don’t even blink, because that has just become the norm. As a woman is educated, however, and begins genuine introspection, she may experience the epiphany that these interpersonal relationships between men and women are grossly distorted, deforming or preventing our authenticity as women. In trying to make Dagny unapologetic in her views and actions about sex, Rand mistakenly has her take on the persona of someone who cares not whether she is degraded, someone who revels in violence against her. Female sexual autonomy, self-definition, and choice cannot equate with being demeaned; there is an inherent contradiction.

Wolf takes a critical stance against sadomasochism, which “claims that women like to be forced and raped, and that sexual violence and rape are stylish, elegant, and beautiful” (136). Wolf also questions what pornography does to women’s sexual attitudes toward themselves.

If soft-core, nonviolent, mainstream pornography has been shown to make men less likely to believe a rape victim; if its desensitizing influence lasts a long time; if sexually violent films make men progressively trivialize the severity of the violence they see against women; and if at last only violence against women is perceived by them as erotic, is it not likely that parallel imagery aimed at women does the same to women in relation to themselves?  The evidence shows that it does. Wendy Stock discovered that exposure to rape imagery increased women’s sexual arousal to rape and increased their rape fantasies (though it did not convince them that women liked force in sex). Carol Krafka found that her female subjects “grew less upset with the violence [against women] the more they saw, and that they rated material less violent” the more of it was shown to them (141).

Has “women’s oppression so damaged us that we enjoy wallowing in masochistic fantasies?” (Harrison 74) And if so, how do we curtail such wallowing and learn to live and love in sexually healthy relationships?

CHAPTER V
“I AM A MALE CHAUVINIST”:
THE CASE FOR AYN RAND AS A FEMINIST

 

William Thomas of the Atlas Society in “Feminism and Objectivism” states that “Rand called herself a ‘male chauvinist’ because she admired the many great men of history, to whom all of civilization owes so much.” Rand’s logic is so flawed because she ignores the great women in history, as well as how many women would have been “great” in their own right, though, if given the opportunities that men had? It reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister” story from A Room of One’s Own where Woolf imagines what would have happened, had Shakespeare had a sister, and she had been given the same opportunities as him, that she could have likely gone on to be a great writer in her own right.
    
      Rand is a feminist insofar as Dagny is represented as a competent successful business woman, but she negates all that by her extreme anti-feminist views of female sexuality. Barbara Branden said that Dagny was the perfect woman from a feminist point of view. I utterly disagree. Dagny needs to submit to men psycho-sexually in order to feel whole. What could be more anti-feminist? Rand did make the argument that woman should be allowed into traditional male jobs, with statements from Betty Pope, Dagny’s brother James’s mistress, like this: “I think that your sister is awful. I think it’s disgusting—a woman acting like a grease monkey and posing around like a big executive. It’s so unfeminine. Who does she think she is, anyway?” (Atlas 74) We again

see Rand accurately representing the conventional opposition to a woman in a major leadership role when Dagny’s brother’s reacts to her: “He gasped, ‘But, Dagny, you’re a woman! A woman as Operating Vice President? It’s unheard of! The Board won’t consider it!’” (Atlas 60)
     Dagny’s own father has mixed emotions, torn between pride in his daughter’s accomplishments and his knowledge of how a woman will be treated in a position of authority: “Her father seemed astonished and proud of her, but he said nothing and there was sadness in his eyes when he looked at her in the office” (Atlas 55-56). Rand develops Dagny as unconcerned with the censure and simply going ahead and doing the job, but she then has to compensate for such progress with sexually degrading behavior and this nullifies any feminism Rand is said to have. 

Rand is perplexing as a “feminist” figure, though the economic ideas of feminism do coincide with her root belief of men and women. Women should be equal in matters of economics. However, as Walker writes:

In the 1960s she surprised most of her followers when she explained that, for a rational woman, assuming the presidency of the United States would be ‘unbearable’ and ‘excruciating psychological torture,’ producing ‘the most unfeminine, sexless, metaphysically inappropriate, and rationally revolting figure of all, a matriarch.’ A woman who would seek the presidency would be psychologically unworthy of the job (117).

She would more than likely be disgusted, were she still alive now, as we witness the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Rand’s attitude toward a female president raises the question of what she considers different between a powerful industrialist women who retains her sexuality and a female president who she clearly thinks would not.

Compounding that observation with Rand’s public denunciation of the modern feminist movement and many anti-feminist statements she made leaves little doubt as to whether Rand was a feminist. According to Walker, “‘I am a male chauvinist’ were the last words Rand spoke in public at Ford Hall, in 1981” (117). “She was convinced that being a woman had never been a factor in her own long and painful struggle.” (B. Branden 26). However, just like much of Rand’s philosophical ideas and writing, her actual life was the mirror opposite of her claim. Many women cite Rand as being a catalyst for their choosing certain careers that, beforehand, they would not have dared pursue. But what is the price in the damage Rand’s ideas have done?

The most approving reviews of Atlas Shrugged were, surprisingly, by women. There are two reasons I believe this may be the case. First, regardless of the sexual degrading content toward women, just to have a woman writing ideas is good enough, perhaps in contemporary terms akin to women voting for Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman. Secondly, had Rand been male, her philosophy would likely have been taken more seriously by men as well.

Peter Schwartz, distinguished fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute in his “Feminism’s War on Objectivity” (December 28, 1991): “While feminists claim to be pursuing justice for women, it is becoming ever more apparent that their actual goal is the obliteration of justice. More precisely, their aim is to eliminate that which makes justice possible: objective standards.” Using the worn-out argument likened to those used against other minority affirmative action programs, he writes:

Instead of urging employers, for example, to adopt objective standards of merit in hiring and to apply them consistently to all candidates, irrespective of the (irrelevant) fact of gender, feminists call for the very opposite. They demand the lowering or the suspension of standards, in order to accommodate certain women. They no longer argue that women who meet objective qualifications ought not to be rejected solely on account of their sex (an argument which would merit moral, though not legislative, backing); rather, they declare that females who fail to qualify should be accepted solely on account of their sex (Schwartz).

This is akin to critics of affirmative action for other minorities as well. The standard move is to create a straw woman, an invented “feminist,” who says what no real feminist ever did, and then knock her down. However, even if what Schwartz says is accurate, it would not take into consideration that America’s biggest myth is that of its meritocracy. Those who do not have nor are given the same opportunities are then chastised when they fail. Schwartz continues:

This approach represents not a search for “better” standards, but a jettisoning of standards as such–and of objectivity. According to Marxist ideology, there is no objectivity in human reasoning, but only “proletarian logic” and “bourgeois logic,” with one’s economic class determining the contents of one’s mind. Feminism likewise contends that objectivity is impossible. Feminists believe that standards–in jurisprudence, in employment, in any sphere–are the products of a “male power structure.” They maintain that the “class interests” of men compel them to perceive reality from a distorted, prejudiced perspective–that men, by biological necessity, “just don’t get it. […] If there is no objectivity, then the basis for deciding who is entitled to what is not the standard of justice, but the whims of any collective (enforced by the politics of pressure-group warfare). This is why feminists do not insist that one hire a female worker who deserves the job, or believe a female witness because she has earned credibility, or include in a university’s curriculum a female author whose works merit study. Feminism’s essential message–a message demeaning to all rational, conscientious women — is that the female gender needs to be granted the unearned.

This argument is just not true. If I could ask Peter Schwartz to name one feminist who makes this argument, he would not be able to, because there are none. Affirmative Action does not recommend a course of action, but rather, it says that all other things being equal (i.e. qualifications) the woman (or minority) should be hired. But, how can one earn in a consistently oppressed state? As writer and feminist Katha Pollitt has observed, white men have been (and continue to be) the recipients of unearned benefits, from “heritage” admission to Ivy League colleges through executive positions up to and including the presidency. Tim Wise references Pollitt in his article “Whites Swim in Racial Preference,” which details the University of Michigan debate over affirmative action and President Bush’s comments attacking their policy.

In Rand’s world, women need men to be complete human beings whereas men do not need women, only themselves. They live for themselves. “Rand was not a feminist, not because she did not believe in the equality of women, but because she did not value women as people” (Brown 292). How contradictory. If you cannot value a woman as a person, how can you attribute any equality to her or vice versa? Thomas Gramstad writes that feminists claim that gender roles and rules are a form of collectivism. When these gender rules are removed, then women and men are free to be individual humans. This idea then directly conflicts with Rand’s ideas and depictions of gender, thereby making contemporary feminism more like Randian theory than Rand herself (349).

     Rand showed her disdain for American women of the upper-class while discounting the factors that might have placed them in the positions they were in. Rand wrote in her essay, “The Age of Envy” (1971):

As a group, American women are the most privileged females on earth: they control the wealth of the United States—through inheritance from husbands and fathers who work themselves into an early grave, struggling to provide every comfort and luxury for the bridge-playing, cocktail-party-chasing cohorts, who give them very little in return. Women’s Lib proclaims that they should give still less, and exhorts its members to refuse to cook their husbands’ meals (Taylor 239).

Rand says that women in their “hero-worship” should specifically admire man’s masculinity. However, she does not designate a difference between sex and gender. It is commonly understood now that the two are not synonymous. “Masculine” traits need not be attributed to a person of the male sex and vice versa with femininity and females. Rand’s ideal woman is worshipping traits that have only been socially and culturally ascribed to a certain sex, not biologically contained within that sex.

            Michalson writes of Rand’s attitudes that “the problem some readers have had in recognizing her is that there’s really no difference between her and her male counterparts” (217). That is one of the core problems, though, because a woman emulating what males in patriarchal society have been and done does not constitute strength or authenticity for a woman. She is merely accommodating herself to the male-dominated society and not forging her own path of thought and action. There is a term applied to this, the “Queen Bee Syndrome” for a “self-made” woman’s taking on typical male condescension and/or contempt for “ordinary” women who have stayed within their culturally assigned and enforced roles.

Robin Morgan’s idea of women “surrendering” to men because of their anatomical make-up is absurd. The man with a penis is seen as the “invader” and the woman with the vagina is the “receptacle.” What a simplistic notion. We could reverse and say that the vagina “engulfs” or “encloses” the penis and therefore is the dominant force, but again that would be equally simplistic. Basing sexual equality on body parts is archaic.

            Proponents of Rand want us to view Dagny as the ideal woman, the embodiment of what feminism should be, but even Dagny has to play within the patriarchal structure: “Dagny only gets a chance to run Taggart Transcontinental because it’s a family-owned railroad company and her only brother is not competent” (Walker 321).

Barbara Brandon writes about a conversation Henry Hazlitt had with Rand: “Lu Mises called you ‘the most courageous man in America.’ ‘Did he say man?’ Ayn asked, and Hazlitt replied yes. Recounting the incident to Barbara and me, she said, ‘isn’t that wonderful?’”(116). Rand, when describing the character Kira Argounova in her circa 1930 journal, wrote: “The more powerful, then, is her attraction for men with whom she condescended to be a woman, and who saw the woman in her” (50). With this negation of woman as valuable, women essentially view “themselves as defective men: women’s issues seemed to them ‘special,’ ‘sectarian,’ while issues that concerned men were ‘human,’ ‘universal’ (Firestone 21). Rand shows that women can only succeed if they not only “think like a man” but insofar as possible try to be a man. In one Atlas Shrugged scene, Hank Reardon says to Dagny:

 “Since the first time I saw you…. Nothing but your body, that mouth of yours, and the way your eyes would look at me, if… Through every sentence I ever said to you, through every conference you thought so safe, through the importance of all the issues we discussed… You trusted me, didn’t you? To recognize your greatness? To think of you as you deserved — as if you were a man?” (Atlas 196)

Rand is clearly implying that Dagny wasn’t safe, that because he wasn’t seeing her like a man, he was raping and pillaging in his mind, or at least doing things with her for which she had given no permission, and indeed did not know of nor even participate in. However as Coontz writes, even from early on: “For some women, of course, and some men as well, the contrast between liberalism’s claim to universality and its denial of individual rights to women was an insupportable contradiction” (60). Rand and Objectivism participate in this “insupportable contradiction.”

The complexity of her stance presents a conundrum for feminists. Prior to her novel, there were almost no strong, independent, work-oriented female characters in literature with the exception of maybe Jane Eyre. Not only is Dagny work-oriented but Rand actually shows her at work, almost unknown before. While this is undeniably feminism, it makes Rand’s portrayal of sex even more dangerous then, because these two contradictory ideas come as a package deal. A young impressionable mind might feel if they accept the one idea, they must accept the other.

CONCLUSION

Rand’s vision of the ideal man ends with the subjugation of woman, thereby negating her supposed doctrine of the equality of the (female) individual. Her utopian description of John Galt’s valley becomes a dystopian future for women.

Like those who have gone before her, Rand normalizes rape. In Atlas Shrugged, in order for man to be the hero (subject), woman must be attacked (as object).

Rand’s characters are so idealized; they are not remotely human, and even in that “ideality,” are her considered ideal traits really the ideal that we all strive for?

Perhaps Rand wanted to present Dagny as a woman who was unapologetic when it came to her sexual desire, unlike the Marxist and politically active woman of her Russian youth, seen as unfeminine and unable to acknowledge their sexual desire. Russian author Anastasiia Verbitskaia’s novel The Keys to Happiness (1913) presents the idea that women “should give themselves to physical pleasure without becoming the slaves of love, that personal autonomy and sexual satisfaction without emotional involvement constitute ‘the keys to happiness’ (Engelstein 405). This idea would be in direct contrast with Rand’s idea of sex and love, where one is supposed to seek and find love only with another who embodies their highest ideals.

            It can be speculated that “women who love Rand’s books are seduced by an age-old formula: they identify themselves, in fantasy, with a strong, dominant woman who is subdued by an even stronger, more dominant male; with the independent woman who

 

must, to preserve her integrity, [and “femininity”] capitulate to a more powerful man” (Harrison 72). Masculine qualities of “purposefulness and strength” were what Rand valued most. For her, Barbara Branden said, “A man was defined by his relationship to reality, while a woman was defined by her relationship to man” (B. Branden 31).

If self-sacrifice, commonly attributed to women, is what Rand views as evil in her theory of Objectivism, then how do her main female characters, serving in a submissive role to their male counterparts, not conflict with her ideals? As Wilt observes of Atlas Shrugged, “in this novel it is still true that women, even the heroine, mainly exist and demonstrate, while men develop and articulate” (61). And not only does Rand’s thought suffer internal contradiction, it appears that much of her ideology was in conflict with her actual life. She also falls into the trap of thinking she has to make woman have man’s sexual desires and be aggressive to the point of sadomasochism in order to demonstrate that sex is not evil or dirty, instead of depicting a more authentic experience of female sexuality.

            When I first read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, I have to admit to the allure of the titillation, and then afterward began to contemplate what that said about me, my own sexual psychology, my past experiences, and, finally, how uncomfortable the sexuality in Ayn Rand’s works made me feel. I realized the titillation was not evoking something natural, but something manufactured through years of cultural conditioning, personal sexual assault, and violent domestic experiences. With that, I began to read more closely, and research in pursuit of my own authenticity.

McElroy speaks for the feminist defense of Rand, arguing that “many feminists often ignore a key aspect of Rand’s ideal woman: she is the full intellectual, emotional, moral, and political equal of man” (159). But she leaves out “sexual equal.” However, I contend that a woman who feels compelled to submit masochistically sexually to a man can never be fully equal. Because of her representation of a standard and an ideal, Rand is “worthy of emulation by women everywhere” (38) according to Barbara Branden. But, Randian characters are so unrealistic that they do not resemble actual humans. And even if one could emulate Dagny, who would want to in the bedroom? If this is a step up for women, I’d rather take a seat. If the price of economic and political power means woman must continue to degrade herself sexually, that economic and political power is nothing but a ruse, a false hope of equality. “Women’s damaged sexuality is relatively harmless in social terms; whereas the man’s sexual sickness, the confusion of sexuality with power, hurts others” (Firestone 65-66).

Rand quotes Aristotle, who said that “fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, because ‘history represents things as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be’” (Romantic Manifesto 57). What Rand thinks “ought to be” is continued inequality for women under the guise of universal individualism, individualism that really only applies to the male half of the population.

This is the legacy of Rand. As a woman, she condones men’s continuation of their oppression of women and behavior like her own, chauvinist. Women must like rape and submission, just as women were supposed to have loved their past roles. But as Coontz writes, “no sooner was the ideal of the postwar family accepted than observers began to comment perplexedly on how discontented women seemed in the very roles they supposedly desired most” (36).

In Rand’s December 11, 1941 journal entry she writes:

“Power over another person is clean only when you can be proud of the person that you have in your power—perhaps love is the only place to know and exercise power. ‘You have much to learn—yourself—I can’t help you.’ ‘Not until you come back, of your own will, completely, forever, and on your knees’” (Rand 216). Here we see the contradiction of “free will” against being “on your knees,” which again serves to make it appear that woman is freely choosing, when in reality, man is psychologically in control of her. This shows Rand’s own deep confusion, which is pretty amazing in a woman dedicated to “reason.” Wolf, in 1998 wrote:

The effort to retrain sex into violence may be nearly won. […] Education of the young in sex as stylish objectification or sadomasochism may have produced a generation that honestly believes that sex is violent and violence is sexual, so long as the violence is directed against women. If they believe that, it is not because they are psychopaths but because that representation in mainstream culture is the norm” (162-163).

In support of this contention, extreme as it may sound, following is a list of statistics taken from a survey of 114 undergraduate men in the late 1980s, contained in The Beauty Myth:

“I like to dominate a woman.” 91.3%.

“I enjoy the conquest of part of sex.” 86.1%.

“Some women look like they’re just asking to be raped.” 83.5%.

“I get excited when a woman struggles over sex.” 63.5%.

“It would be exciting to use force to subdue a woman.” 61.7%. (Wolf 165)

Wolf also quotes UCLA researcher Neil Malamuth, who “reported that 30 percent of college men said they would commit rape if they could be sure of getting away with it. When the survey changed the word ‘rape’ into the phrase ‘force a woman into having sex,’ 58 percent said that they would do so” (165). Wolf believes that even with our training to be submissive to men, it does not mean we cannot reject such harmful instruction (154). She believes, as I do, that women can “unlearn” and reverse our conditioning to linking our sexuality with violence (280). And if our behavior changes, so will, necessarily, that of the men in our lives. Yodanis writes that “for nearly 30 years, feminist researchers have argued that in order to stop men’s use and women’s experience of violence on the personal level, structures of gender inequality at the societal level must change” (655), but I contend that if we also stop violence against women and submission to men at the personal level, it will begin to change society. Change from the bottom up.

Simone de Beauvoir said: “Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth” (175). That claim has not changed nearly as much as we might wish and Rand bears her share of the responsibility. Rand’s descriptions of love as rape and violation of women demonstrates how such violation not only physically hurts women but that violation of the body, the rape, the assault, further violates Dominique’s entire being, as we see the results of such violation: “Because of him, because she was letting him change the course of her life. It would be another violation” (Rand 243). We see that even though Rand’s depictions of sex read like rape, even she cannot help showing the damage that it does. Rand said her interpretation of the “rape scene” between Dominique and Roark was “wishful thinking” on her part and drawn directly from her personal fantasies. Sady O., author of the article “Cult Fiction: Ayn Rand, Anais Nin, and the Feminist Backlash” (19 September 2006) writes that it would have mattered to a lesser degree had it only been that Rand enjoyed sexual submission herself, but the problem was that she called for all other women to embrace it.

Like Wolf, Brownmiller tells us that “women are trained to be rape victims” (309). Rand is an instructor in such a curriculum through her depictions of female sexuality in her novels. Wolf states that after the backlash against the second wave of feminism, “sexuality was quickly restrained again by the new social forces of beauty pornography and beauty sadomasochism, which arose to put guilt, shame, and pain back into women’s experience of sex” (132). This painful experience of sex is not authentically woman, because men behave as the agent for women, representing their sexual desires. Women who are socialized to view themselves as sexual objects are distracted from their own pleasure. (Sanchez, Kiefer, Ybarra 514)

            Rand’s contradictory portrayal of Dagny as an independent, successful, working woman and a sexually submissive masochistic woman can be construed as even more dangerous than had she portrayed her as completely submissive. Young women reading her novels on one hand may aspire to be like Dagny in terms of careers and economics, however, those positive attributes of feminism come with the price of being subjected to the portrayal of sexual relationships as masochistic and submissive. These women then have a skewed idea of what a liberated woman should be.

Michelle A. Masse writes that women are taught masochism in fiction and culture (Brown 290). With hundreds of thousands of Rand’s books still being sold each year, there are masses of young men and women who are being taught that dominance and submission in romantic relationships are the ideal. If psychosexual identity is an inherent part of our human nature (Brickell 325), then inequality within this important aspect of our nature would surely be counter-productive, undermining any other elements of equality in our life.

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead can possibly be complimented for several virtues. However, the striking link between sexuality and violence as it pertains to women not only does both novels a disservice, but devalues women in our society as well. When Rand off-handedly remarked that the sex scene in The Fountainhead was “an engraved invitation to rape,” she did not even comprehend that it, indeed, would turn out to turn her entire depiction of female sexual psychology into “an engraved invitation to rape” for so many young minds that pick up a copy of her novels each and every year.

 

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APPENDIX

 

 

 

(Illustration. 1: Rand Quote at Epcot Center, Disney World: Orlando, Florida)

 

 

 

(Illustration 2: Aristotle and Phyllis, Hans Baldung (1503) available at the Louvre)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by hbauer

August 2, 2008 at 6:14 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Your writing is absolutely brilliant. What else can I say? Great work!

    Love,
    Sherri

    Sherri

    August 2, 2008 at 6:30 pm

  2. DAMN!!! IT WAS LONG BUT IT KINDA MAKES ME WANNA READ THAT BOOK!!!! GOOD JOB HEIDI! IT KEPT MY ATTENTION!

    DIANNE

    August 4, 2008 at 5:40 pm


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