Too Bad for the Ladies

 Posted by on 28 April 2005 at 7:23 am  Uncategorized
Apr 282005

Some of you might be interested to read my recent posts to an Objectivism Online thread on the meaning and propriety of a joking comment about romantic availability. (Note that the linked thread actually starts in the middle of the discussion, since it was siphoned off from another thread. However, Post #16 on the first page has a summary of the original exchange.)

Basically, a poster joked that the women reading the board were missing out because he was romantically unavailable to them. He was attacked for making such a comment in jest on the grounds that it betrayed a lack of self-esteem and confidence, particularly a lack of security in his own value to women. Notably, those critics also claimed that making such a comment seriously would be entirely appropriate for a rational man.

I was pretty thoroughly appalled by the grand psychologizing of the poor joker, particularly in public and particularly under the guise of “helping” him. In my view, his joke did not at all betray the psychology so easily attributed to him. But even if it had, the public castigation was entirely improper. Perhaps (and I stress that “perhaps” since the parties were strangers) private discussion might have been appropriate. (Happily, one critic did apologize.)

I was also rather astonished that anyone would regard a serious comment like “Too bad for you ladies that I’m unavailable” as anything other than absurdly rude, disrespectful, and presumptuous. As I repeatedly argued, it ignores the optional values of the women in earshot, values which are critical to romantic relationships and unlikely to be satisfied by some random, unknown man, even if a perfect Objectivist. Such a comment also presupposes a substantially intrinsicist view of value: a good man just is a value to all good women, whether or not they are even aware of his existence. In fact, values are human identifications of the facts by the standard of life, not goodies to be plucked off of trees. So before Paul and I met, say when he was a sophomore at MIT and I was in second grade at Barley Sheaf Elementary School, neither one of us was a value to the other. We became values to each other only after we met.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the debate was my last exchange with “iouswuoibev.” After commenting on his total change of subject from serious comment back to joking comment, I wrote, “That’s fine, I really have no desire to say any more on the topic.” He replied, “That’s unfortunate because we haven’t finished.” Now perhaps he wasn’t finished with the discussion, in the sense that he had more that he wanted to say. But I was certainly done. I’d said all that I wanted or needed to say, particularly given his sudden reversal of topic and particularly given the time available to me. So that “we haven’t finished” was almost as insufferably presumptuous as the hypothetical under discussion.

True to that form, “iouswuoibev” seems to have moved on to telling a someone who inquired about his (reasonable) feelings of loneliness that his problem is second-handedness. Really, I kid you not.

(I don’t mean to pick on this poor young man too much, since I don’t think that he is malicious. Nonetheless, he is doing very real damage. If he won’t stop, he ought to be publicly opposed.)

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