The Onion: A New Danger to Our Kids

 Posted by on 25 June 2010 at 1:00 pm  Funny, Love/Sex
Jun 252010

Too damn funny: Children Exposed To Pornography May Expect Sex To Be Enjoyable.

Study: Children Exposed To Pornography May Expect Sex To Be Enjoyable

My favorite line: “[Pornography is] going to make kids think they’re doing something wrong when they find themselves in a thirty minute struggle to arouse their frigid partner, then they fall asleep with their hand in her vagina.”

Indeed, that would be a tragedy!

Questions on Sex and Romance

 Posted by on 19 May 2010 at 7:00 am  FormSpring, Love/Sex
May 192010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on sex and romance:

What is the best pick-up line to use on a rational woman such as your self?

Any man who would think of interacting with women in terms of “pick-up lines” wouldn’t get anywhere with me. Talk about something of substance in a lively way, then I might be interested. Overall, I’m definitely a “friendship-first” kind of gal.

More generally, I can’t imagine that I’d be even remotely interested in a total stranger pursuing me. That would actually be really off-putting: I wouldn’t think they were exercising good judgment to be interested in me purely from my looks. Plus, I’m too much of a weirdo (by conventional standards) to be interested in random guys.

Is exclusivity in a romantic relationship a reasonable expectation, or should I accept that I might be left for someone more suitable at any moment?

You need to know and ask for what you want in a relationship. If that something is sufficiently important to you, you need to end the relationship if you don’t get it.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for exclusivity in a relationship. I wouldn’t have it any other way, personally. More than that, I’m pretty firmly convinced that multiple partners (whether flings or affairs or polyamory) are psychologically destructive for everyone involved.

Moreover, if your partner might abandon you for something that seems better at the drop of a hat, that tells you something, namely that you’re not valued in the slightest by this person. You’re just a placeholder. That would be terribly degrading — and it would prevent you from seeking out a worthwhile relationship.

Can sexual acts be rational as versus irrational? If so, examples?


It would be irrational to cheat on your beloved wife (or husband) with some worthless bimbo.

It would be irrational to sleep with a person you find unattractive, uninteresting, or immoral.

It would be irrational to sleep with someone just because you’re bored or drunk.

It would be irrational to sleep with a total stranger who might be diseased or psychotic.

And so on… In all of these cases, the sex would not be a value to you — and it might even be seriously damaging. That’s irrational.

I think that questioner was asking if particular sexual acts are more or less irrational than others (vice versa with the other partner objecting to them)? E.g. Anal, bondage, pegging, etc


I’d say that a sex act definitely shouldn’t endanger life, limb, or health. It shouldn’t be seriously painful. It shouldn’t be degrading. It should be consensual.

I’d also say that it shouldn’t express a twisted psychology… but that’s somewhat harder to describe, except that such sexual acts often violate the above conditions.

I don’t see any inherent problem with anal, light bondage, sex toys, or whatnot. If you’re into them, use them — provided they’re not a distraction from the intimacy of sex. If not, then don’t bother with them.

Does morality apply to dating? In other words, is it possible for one’s choice of a romantic partner to be morally wrong?

Yes. It would be morally wrong to date Hilter, even if he brings you the nicest flowers.

Other (less extreme) examples are pretty easy to imagine. Take a look at my earlier Q&A on sex.

Sex in Guest Bedrooms

 Posted by on 3 March 2010 at 8:00 am  Advice, Love/Sex
Mar 032010

I was highly amused by this recent question and answer from Miss Manners. First, the question:

Dear Miss Manners:

My partner and I have been having a disagreement recently about the etiquette of having sex when staying in other people’s homes. I feel that it is extremely rude and should be avoided at all costs, while she feels that it is expected and normal, particularly if we are staying with friends/family for more than a couple of nights.

I asked my sister and her husband what their views are, and my sister informed me that they plan to have regular sex when they stay with us in our new home. She also informed me that other visitors would expect to do the same.

As our new home has my first-ever guest bedroom, which up until now I had been looking forward to having occupied by friends and family, I would be grateful if you would help clarify whether guests should have sex in guest bedrooms, and if this is conditional upon the relationship and length of stay.

Wow. Just ponder that for a moment… The man is so disturbed by the thought of his guests engaged in sexual acts with a spouse behind closed doors in his home that he’s now reluctant to invite them to stay. If that’s not prudery, then I’m not sure what is!

Care to guess what Miss Manners’ reply is? (It’s rather amusing.) She writes:

It is conditional on their not making it known to others in the house, before, during or after the event. Your sister has already violated this, but Miss Manners acknowledges that she can claim you provoked her.

That’s right. People with manners do not foist their sex lives on uninterested third parties. They don’t get it on in their friend’s kitchen, just because they happen to feel a bit lusty. However, what people do in private — including in guest bedrooms — is purely their own business. Just don’t break the furniture or wake the neighbors.


 Posted by on 14 February 2010 at 10:00 pm  Link-O-Rama, Love/Sex
Feb 142010

While I’ve never been much enamored of Valentine’s Day, I was feeling rather amorous (in my usual silly way) this year. So here’s a quick Valentine-O-Rama:

  • My favorite Valentine’s Day GraphJam is definitely the “Who Benefits from Valentine’s Day” pie chart.
  • When I was young, my father bought my mother a manure spreader for Mother’s Day. (She was happy!) This 1/2 mile wide manure heart seems to be in the same vein, albeit rather less practical.
  • Even the envelope of Paul’s Valentine’s Day card cracked me up… I’m the best woman he’s ever married because I’m the only woman he’s ever married!

  • Paul and I had a good day today: huge sous vide egg breakfast, then a matinee performance of Rossini’s comic opera “The Barber of Seville,” then a yummy steak dinner with friends. In honor of that, here’s the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon Rabbit of Seville. It’s set to the somewhat re-arranged overture of “The Barber of Seville”:

Ayn Rand on Monogamy

 Posted by on 3 March 2009 at 12:01 am  Ethics, Love/Sex
Mar 032009

Having followed the discussion of the supposed value of virginity on NoodleFood from last year, Ergo of Leitmotif took note of — and even transcribed — the following question and answer from Ayn Rand’s Ford Hall Forum lecture on “Of Living Death.” (Good man! Notably, he sent me this many moons ago. I delayed it — for far too long — because I wanted to check the transcription, but I never got around to it. Ah well, I have no time to do so now.) It’s quite fascinating.

Question: If romantic love includes more than one person, what does this do to the institution of monogamy?:

Ayn Rand’s answer: To begin with, if you want to ask it in principle, I’m fine. But I resent the nonsense of saying that Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged was promiscuous. She had three men in her life, not simultaneously. Where have you been all your life? It is not only permissible, it is virtuous and moral. I have never said that marriage is the only proper form of romantic love. There is nothing wrong with a romantic affair, if there are reasons why a couple cannot be married or if they are too young to marry; and that is not promiscuity, provided it is a serious feeling based on serious values.

Now, as to more than one love, now remember men have free will. It is the Catholic Church that advocates indissoluble marriage. I don’t. And a reason one cannot is because man is not omniscient. He can make a mistake in his choice of partner or the partner may change through the years and therefore a man may fall out of love, or as so can a woman, if the partner he or she has chosen no longer lives up to the proper values. In Atlas Shrugged, the better example of it to cite is Hank when he had met his wife Lillian. He was romantically in love with her at first because he thought she was a certain type of woman and she deliberately faked the kind of image she thought he would want and he got disappointed. Now, he was very wrong in carrying out a secret affair with Dagny, but what was wrong with it was not sex, but secrecy–the lie.

An open relationship with as many men as you can meet if you are unlucky–but not several at a time–is appropriate, except that of course, one cannot be as unlucky that often, one would have to then check one’s standard if one makes constant mistakes. But as a principle of romantic love, one cannot say that only a single life-long romance can appropriately be called romantic. That is the ideal. If a couple achieves that, they are extremely lucky and they must have extremely good premises, but one can’t make that the norm. Sometimes it is an exclusive single love for all time; sometimes not. The issue to judge here–the moral principle–is the seriousness of their feeling and one gauges that by what kind of values is it based on. What is it that the person is attracted to in a man or a woman, and why. That is the standard of romantic love.

I agree with all of that.

Force That Isn’t Force

 Posted by on 14 October 2008 at 11:23 pm  Epistemology, Love/Sex
Oct 142008

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has written an interesting post about a recent survey which purports to show that, “Approximately 18% of women aged 18-24 report having experienced forced sexual intercourse at least once in their lives”.

He notes that the types of “force” reported include “Told Relationship Would End” and “Pressured by Words/Actions Without Threats”. Of the women who said they were subject to force, 12% said they experienced the first and 61% said they experienced the second. (Respondents could select more than one category of force in the survey.)

As Professor Volokh notes:

This is just ridiculous. It’s true that the word “force” has many possible meanings: Some people, for instance, feel they’re “forced” “against [their] will” to work in certain jobs — or are doing those jobs not “of their own free will” — because that’s the only way they can enjoy the standard of living they want. But these are radically different kinds of force from being forced to do something by physical force, or threat of physical injury. And mixing the two yields results that are useless at best and misleading and dangerous at worst.

The survey did note that some women reported being subjected to genuine force, such as “Physically Hurt Or Injured” or “Threatened With Physical Hurt”. And of course, these sort of forced sexual intercourse should be condemned and/or prosecuted as criminal violation of individual rights.

But to lump into the same conceptual category of “Force” both “Pressured by Words/Actions Without Threats” and “Physically Hurt Or Injured” is a prime example of what Ayn Rand called the fallacy of package dealing:

“Package-dealing” is the fallacy of failing to discriminate crucial differences. It consists of treating together, as parts of a single conceptual whole or “package,” elements which differ essentially in nature, truth-status, importance or value.

This sort of intellectual package dealing destroys actual concepts (in this case of “force”) in people’s minds and makes rational analysis of the ideas impossible.

Fortunately, there are still people like Professor Volokh who recognize this as a dangerous fallacy and are willing to point it out.

Things to Say During Sex

 Posted by on 12 September 2008 at 1:02 pm  Funny, Love/Sex
Sep 122008

This chart is pretty much self-explanatory. Just don’t mix up the items on the right and left halves of the chart…

The Morality of Pornography

 Posted by on 21 April 2008 at 7:02 am  Ethics, Love/Sex
Apr 212008

An interesting question for NoodleFood, again on sex:

I was intrigued by your posting on the psychology of prostitution. I haven’t followed the Spitzer case all that closely, but I read Paul’s posting and Ari Armstrong’s essay with much agreement.

In the past you’ve suggested that we might ask questions related to Objectivism, and Ari’s writing brought to mind the question of pornography. Especially when he writes:

“Prostitution is a vice for the same reason that indiscriminate sex is a vice: sex properly involves a connection of consciousness as well as bodies between two people who genuinely admire one another. Purely physical sex undermines the distinctly human dimension of it.”

Now, I’m no prude and I have no desire to see adult pornography censored by the government. On the other hand, I’ve often been disgusted by the squalid nature of what passes for erotica.

And so… where is the proper place of pornography in the Objectivist ethics?

A couple years ago I listened to Peikoff’s recording on love and sex, and don’t recall his directly addressing the subject. Of course I know Rand did address the subject (In “Censorship: Local and Express”), but always felt her comments to be a reflection of personal taste and context and not necessarily part of her ethics.

What do you think?

On the one hand, the visual and auditory depiction of consensual sexual activity in itself certainly doesn’t seem to violate Rand’s fundamental virtues. On the other hand, as Ari writes above, I can’t see a follower of Rand sanctioning the quick intercourse (for pay) of two actors who hardly know each other.

I’d be interested in your thoughts or any advice on Objectivist writings that address the issue.

In fact, Leonard Peikoff does discuss pornography in his “Love, Sex, and Romance” lecture. So that’s a good place to start.

I would like to distinguish two related moral questions about pornography:

  • When is it moral to watch pornography, if ever? Can it serve a legitimate purpose in a healthy person’s sex life or in a healthy couple’s sex life?

  • When is it moral to create pornography, if ever? Is the production of pornography (e.g. as actor, director, distributor) a proper career?

I have my own thoughts on these matters, but since time is tight for me right now, I think I’ll just open the floor for comments.

Opposite Sex Friendships

 Posted by on 8 April 2008 at 8:08 am  Love/Sex
Apr 082008

The just-married Dan Edge — Congratulations, Dan and Kelly! — recently posted a very interesting essay on opposite-sex friendships. His general policy is that he refrains from developing intimate friendships with women when he’s in a committed relationship.

I agree with his overall analysis, particularly as applied to married or to-be-married persons. (Before that point, with some exception for long-term couples, I wouldn’t regard the relationship as “committed,” although it might be “exclusive.”)

Contrary to our culture’s common sappy mysticism, love is not a magic glue that holds people together, come what may. That love can be imperiled fairly quickly — if a person fails to consistently make his/her spouse (or partner) the most important person in his/her life. One common way of failing in that basic task is to cultivate emotional intimacy with a person who might (absent the primary relationship) be a love interest. That kind of friendship saps time and energy away from the love relationship. Issues discussed in depth with the friend are not likely to be discussed again with the spouse, or at least not discussed so deeply. That weakens the bond between the couple, while strengthening the bond with the friend. Sexual feelings for the intimate friend will have to be suppressed — but at some point, the requisite self-control might fail. In that case, the affair didn’t “just happen,” as many people would say. Disaster was deliberately courted, probably over the course of months.

Of course, those considerations apply only to intimate friendships — not merely friendly friendships. Friendly friends talk about their work, hobbies, politics, mutual interests, and so on. They talk about matters that they’d discuss with pretty much anyone they like. They talk on occasion or when convenient. Intimate friends discuss private thoughts and feelings, depend on each other’s discretion, and regularly carve out private time to spend together. Mere friendly friends (of whatever sex) are not a danger to a romantic relationship. Intimate friends of the opposite sex can be, precisely because such intimacy is so central to romantic relationships.

(Oy, that was less coherent than I was hoping, but oh well. More fodder for debate in the comments, I suppose!)

Mar 242008

Ari Armstrong recently published a defense of legal (but not moral) prostitution in the Rocky Mountain News: Should prostitution be legal?. It’s a good analysis: I recommend reading it.

As a followup on the OBloggers mailing list, Paul posted the following commentary on prostitution from a former booking agent for a high-end escort service describing the destructive effects of prostitution on the women and the clients. It’s fascinating, so I thought I’d repost it here:

“I’ve Seen My Share of Spitzers: The View From an Escort Service”

[About the men:]

…..But why would a rich, powerful and handsome man pay for extra-marital sex? Aren’t there tons of women waiting to throw themselves at him for free? Yes, there are. But those women always want something: they want attention, intimacy and romance. They want to enjoy the high of sleeping with a powerful man. Escorts don’t want or care about any of those things. At least one of the articles about the 22 year-old escort who slept with Spitzer implied that she didn’t even know who he was. Based on my experience, I think it’s highly unlikely that she knew or cared. She was in it for the money, and she had as much to hide as he did.

One high-powered New York attorney explained it to me like this: “Of course I love my wife. Escorts have nothing to do with that. She comes to my hotel room and I don’t have to know her name, because they all use fake names like Amber and Kimberly. I don’t have to worry about how she feels or what she wants. It’s a simple exchange: I give her a thousand bucks, we have a good time for a couple of hours, she goes away and we never have to see each other again.”

A thousand dollars is nothing for these men. Money has little value; because no matter how hard they try they will never be able to spend their hundreds of millions. And if you are about to say that for a thousand bucks those girls must supply the best sex in history, then you really do not understand this world. Because it is not about sex; it is about power. And the simple act of ordering up an anonymously pretty 22 year-old girl to do your bidding in the salubrious confines of a luxury hotel suite is an act of power.

[About the women:]

…..None of these girls was coerced into selling her body for money. Most of them came from middle-class backgrounds, and many had been accepted to universities. But they dropped out as soon as they discovered that they could make $20-30,000 a month as an escort.

Then they got addicted to the money and the lifestyle. And then one day, usually between the ages of 25 and 28, once they’d developed that knowing, experienced look that clients instinctively disliked, they found that themselves in a classic bind: they were addicted to high living but could no longer pay for it; they had no marketable skills; and years of late nights and lazy days had left them with no self-discipline. What to do? The really smart ones pulled themselves together and, with the help of a sympathetic client, started some kind of a business. Others married rich, cynical, older men in a sort of paid-wife arrangement. Those were the most common stories. I did not inquire into the fate of the girls who sort of faded away. I did not want to hear about their loneliness and poverty.

You can read the full essay here.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha