February 26, 2009
Ayn Rand referred to men as the "Prime Mover" in sex, referring to his size, strength, and the necessity of his arousal for sex to occur, as well as the way in which these facts lead to the man being the dominant partner in sex. She also referred to the principle of femininity being "hero-worship."
I'm not quite sure what to make of this "hero-worship" comment, so let's explore that.
Heroes are people of high virtue and of course rational men and women admire other people of high virtue. Virtue is one of those human qua human things, so we can safely say that worship is the more critical portion of the expression with regard to sexual relationships.
But what does it mean for a woman to worship a man? Rand again
It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments.What kind is it? Because obviously men have an intense kind of admiration for virtuous women of strong character and independent value-judgments. So, how are they different?
The answer to these questions has really already been addressed briefly.
For women, it is the admiration of his masculinity in addition to those generally human virtues. It is the admiration for his strength and male physical efficacy, which turns quickly to a desire to be the object of his desire, to be possessed by him. I think there is a clear indication here that "worship" does include a certain amount of sexual submission which stems from the fact that the woman must accept him into her in sex even if she is the initiator of the sex act.
For men, the admiration is the reverse. He loves her female-ness, her femininity, her position as that which he will physically penetrate during the sex act. His desire to to have her and claim her as the most precious value in his life. I think it safe to say here that we could state the principle behind masculinity has "the pursuit of a heroine."
In either case, people should strive rigorously for human virtues. The perspective that separates men and woman here is their physical relationship in sex: him penetrating her.
Initiation and Assertiveness
There was significant resistance in our discussion to the suggestion that women are somehow passive in this process, that they cannot "take charge" in either romance or in sex.
I think women certainly can and should take charge of their romantic and sexual lives. I also think they can seek out a hero in an assertive, but still feminine way. She might make sure that she can sit next to him in a class or she might give him a come hither look from across a crowded room. Even striking up a conversation may be in order.
During our discussion, one of the gentlemen in the group related a story in which a woman approached him and actually gave him her phone number. Although this is fairly assertive, I don't consider this un-feminine or brash. All she has really done is made it clear that she wants him to call her.
I know that some men find their masculinity challenged when a woman is forward in this and other ways, but I think this is silly. What man of virtue wants a woman who allows her life to be ruled by accident and caprice? It is one thing to want a man to take charge in the boudoir, but it is quite another to rely on him to be omniscient.
For instance, I think I am quite a great catch and, although in exploring these ideas of masculinity and femininity I've realized that my own sexual identity does lean toward the feminine, I am willing to court a man if I know that he's receptive. But how am I to know every time some guy is interested in me? Sometimes guys are just thick-headed and unobservant and you have to give clear, unambivalent signals that you're interested.
So, ladies, feel free to be clear about your own intentions as well. And, gentlemen, it is your job to respond to these signals in a masculine way as well. Call the lady. Ask her for a date. Bring her something thoughtful.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this topic, but I think now is a good time to talk about men and women in courtship.
The masculine role is that of the pursuer and the feminine role is that of the pursued.
Those taking the masculine part should apply their energy toward demonstrating their prowess as an achiever of values, a conqueror in his domain, and his desire to have her. This is why it makes sense to me that it is traditionally masculine to bring flowers, candy, or some bauble to a date and why men are so eager to get flashy cars and provide outward demonstrations of their efficacy.
I explained during our discussion on Monday that as a man, I have a very strong desire to provide for my mate. I want to bring him things, nice things. I want to show off for him. "I want to bring home the kill," I said. As far as it relates to the sexual relationship between men an woman, this is the masculine role in romance.
The feminine role means directing effort to being that which the man will desire to have. Wearing pretty clothes that accentuate her distinctly female characteristics, for instance. (I haven't given much thought to the other concrete ways a woman might demonstrate her feminine desirability to a man beyond fashion, frankly.)
I think the process of courtship can be seen somewhat like a game of one-upmanship. He does things to make himself desirable to her as a man and she does things to make herself desirable to him as a woman. Ultimately, as human beings, the hero and heroine are compliments to one another as human beings both in virtue and in their sexual relationship.
Next: Sex as the Omnipresent Elephant in the room
Posted by: Kevin at February 26, 2009 05:49 PM (a5LXf)
Posted by: Sascha Settegast at February 27, 2009 05:52 PM (OEK+V)
Excellent series so far.
One point, though. I'd caution against using the term "heroine" in this context. Although obviously virtuous for other reasons, it is not for a woman's strength or heroic qualities that a man seeks her qua masculinity and femininity, despite the glorification of such in the milieu of modern media. Your articles don't in any other way imply this so I don't think you were going for that angle; I just mean to point out where that term trips people up.
Of course, the term works just fine in other contexts, as for example to differentiate strength of character. But this is more of a question of the ethics and implied psychology of romance than one in which the masculine and feminine are being differentiated.
Hope that's clearer than mud...
Posted by: Inspector at February 27, 2009 10:43 PM (DuvsM)
I'm not sure there's a distinction to be made here.
Hero and heroine are the male and female forms of the same term referring to a person of high virtue. A hero and a heroine together are heroes. It does refer to their strength of character.
This is why I wrote this:Heroes are people of high virtue and of course rational men and women admire other people of high virtue. Virtue is one of those human qua human things, so we can safely say that worship is the more critical portion of the expression with regard to sexual relationships.
My point here being that the term "hero" in the broadest sense refers to men and women of high virtue and strength of character and it goes without saying that they would be admired and the object of admiration between one another.
Perhaps that's the confusion. In the sentence above, I was using "hero" to refer to all human beings of virtue, not just men.
Posted by: Flibbert at February 28, 2009 11:34 AM (Zkddz)
If the topic of discussion is the distinction between the masculine and feminine, then "hero" is appropriate for the male, since his masculine role is tied to strength, action, and the other qualities associated with the word. But the female role doesn't have anything to do with these qualities as hers is the role to be the hero-worshiper, and not a female-hero. Which is why I think the term heroine can lead to confusion in a discussion like this.
So it depends on what one means by "heroine." If you take it to mean "a hero who is also a woman," then this is incorrect as the roles are: hero and hero-worshiper, not hero and also-hero. If you take it to mean "virtuous," then it's not untrue but it's beside the point because it doesn't have anything to say about how she is feminine. And the major issue is that even if one means the latter (which clearly you did), at least some people can assume the former which is why I said the term "trips people up."
I'm coming from the context, here, of many a forum discussion in which just such confusions have arisen, which is why I am quick to caution against anything which might allow room for them.
Posted by: Inspector at March 01, 2009 02:50 AM (+g6bq)
I am actually not arguing that the roles are merely "hero and hero-worshiper." I am arguing that the roles may also be described as "heroine and heroine-hunter."
As stated, the point of virtue is NOT related to sexual identity. Everyone should have it in abundance and seek partners with the same. In the phrase "hero-worshiper" the characteristically feminine aspect is not "hero" but "worshiper."
Similarly, the characteristically masculine aspect of "heroine-hunter" is not "heroine" but "hunter."
In effect, the union between a virtuous man and a virtuous woman is hero and hero (using "hero" in its broadest, non-sexual sense) where their sexual identities are defined by the role they take in the relationship of hunter/worshiper, man/woman.
I think this will become more clear when I get to the final section of this series in which I discuss homosexual relationships, but I can see why this would cause confusion in a forum discussion and I would simply highlight that Ayn Rand's formulations about sexual identity are almost exclusively from the feminine perspective and the very reason I've chosen to describe the roles the way I have is to try to uncover some of the masculine perspective of the same issue.
This is somewhat ironic because as I explore these ideas I'm discovering that my own sexual identity contains a hefty note of the feminine.
Posted by: Flibbert at March 01, 2009 06:30 PM (Cniw0)
"This is somewhat ironic because as I explore these ideas I'm discovering that my own sexual identity contains a hefty note of the feminine."
Which is why I believe that being gay lends us a unique and privileged seat from which to examine such issues of human psycho-sexuality. Of course, implied in this is our choice to cultivate the thinking skills necessary to exploit this vantage point.
Posted by: Ergo at March 02, 2009 06:16 AM (zlI39)
"In the phrase "hero-worshiper" the characteristically feminine aspect is not "hero" but "worshiper.""
Right, exactly my point. That's why I caution against the term, because I believe in this kind of discussion it suggests the opposite.
Maybe I'll just have to wait to see the rest...
Posted by: Inspector at March 02, 2009 11:20 PM (ztsup)
Posted by: Flibbert at March 03, 2009 12:40 AM (Cniw0)
Is what I said correct?
Posted by: Flibbert at March 03, 2009 12:41 AM (Cniw0)
Posted by: Inspector at March 04, 2009 07:51 AM (ztsup)
What has always sort of tripped me up about the hero/hero-worshipper thing is that it seems like both people ought to be both. The man's masculinity should be worshipped by the woman, and the woman's femininity should be worshipped by the man. Why is only masculinity - strength, physical power, etc - to be worshipped? Why wouldn't men worship femininity- creative power (baby making) and softness?
Posted by: Kelly Elmore at March 04, 2009 02:52 PM (VvU3e)
Even the word "submission" presents problems because it implies that a feminine woman cannot pursue her sexual values and I completely disagree with that because I think a woman should pursue her values actively even in sex.
So, it's a challenging point in my opinion.
Posted by: Flibbert at March 04, 2009 03:23 PM (ErOeR)
Posted by: Flibbert at March 04, 2009 03:24 PM (ErOeR)
Oh, and Kelly's challenging point is exactly what I mean, as well. I think that's just the sort of line of reasoning that is being left open by the sort of wording that I was uncomfortable with above. And I strongly disagree with it. See, I wasn't just being paranoid. Right there, bam, someone comes along with it! (heh)
Ahem, being more serious:
Masculine men. Don't. Worship. I'm going to say that right up front. Now, what you're thinking is that clearly, the man values what the woman has to the same, reciprocal degree that a woman worships a man. And you're absolutely right - with the amount of effort that a masculine man puts into gaining, keeping, cherishing, and protecting his woman, it's pretty plain that it's not a one-way street. But don't let's go throwing around words like "worship" to describe what a man does - you'll ruffle the feathers of any masculine man by suggesting that. His actions take a different form.
I think the Roark and Dominique conversation is most enlightening on this point. She knows that, even though she's the worshipper, she is a value to him, and like all values has a power of sorts over the valuer. For a masculine man, the idea of something having power over him is antithecal to his whole operation. It's not what he's about. Women are supposed to keep this point unspoken and not draw attention to it. And so she thinks she can mess with him by focusing right in on it. But he's too clever for her. He's just like, "yeah, I know." Which is such a secure, dominant, masculine, way of dealing with this inconvienience that he's turned the tables entirely on her in the little game. Masterfully played.
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 03:09 PM (G8zND)
I'm trying to be fair by stretching my brain to come up with some aspect of these descriptions which excludes masculine men from worshiping their feminine women. The only thing I can come up with is that the word "reverent", in some contexts, might be taken to be submissive, that I think that is stretching it too far.
No, worship, in the context of sexual relationships and romantic regard, is not peculiar to women. If the essence of femininity is "hero worship" (which I don't concede) then that's just another way of saying that the feminine woman acknowledges (through her attitudes, actions, words and thoughts) the supreme worth of masculinity, especially in the person of her man.
And a masculine man makes the same acknowledgment of his woman's femininity, whatever that is.
Unfortunately, given this understanding of worship, there is very little content to the distinction between masculinity and femininity. They are simply complementary, though asymmetrical, facets of a gendered species.
Personally, I find it interesting that Flib should point out that another point of view is that as women worship heroes, men hunt heroines. His phrasing is telling. It is quite similar to an objection to the whole conceptual framework that I've seen (somewhere) in Feminist discussions. Namely that as much as the man can be said to penetrate the woman, during intercourse, it can be said that the woman engulfs the man. The point is that using the active voice to describe the man's activity and the passive voice to describe the woman's activity isn't necessarily correct.
Then again, it all comes back to how one regards the roles. Is man hunter and woman prey? Is man subject and woman object? Man does and woman is? If this generalization of the roles is accurate, then there is an element of passivity on the woman's part which is indeed not symmetrical to the man's activity.
Perhaps the core truth is merely that in any meeting of two individuals there cannot ultimately be parity. One individual must be dominant in any given co-operation. Even in someone as simple as "It seems like this is the best course of action. What do you think?" and "Yes, I concur. Let's go with your idea.", one has initiated and taken the lead and the other has responded and is nominally subordinate to that extent. (Isn't this also true even within the same brain? Isn't there a similar sort of co-operation between the right and left sides that ends in dominance of one over the other? And doesn't this condition habits and reactions?)
If this is the way things must be, then I'll be quite interested in Flib's analysis of homosexual relationships and the implied tension of dominance vs subordination.
Posted by: Rachel at March 05, 2009 04:22 PM (6rNvL)
Posted by: Rachel at March 05, 2009 04:50 PM (6rNvL)
I'd say that understanding the term "worship" as non-dominant is fairly simple. Picture the dominant person bowing down before an altar upon which stands the non-dominant person.That doesn't exactly fit, does it?
Also notice that your (to my mind, incorrect) understanding of the concept leads you to the point of there being no content to the distinction between masculinity and femininity. That should tell you right there that you're off the track.
I'd say you're right to say that the man makes an acknowledgment of the value of the woman that is equal to her acknowledgment of his. But it's not the same acknowledgment. The intensity is the same, the value is the same, but not the form. To say that something is equivalent in weight is not to say that he's just doing the same thing back.
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 05:12 PM (G8zND)
When a man dotes on his wife, daily performing tasks that demonstrate is deep and abiding love, people say that he worships her, or maybe "the ground she walks on". This does not emasculate him. When an entrepreneur pursues his dream of prosperity and wide-spread recognition, he is said to worship the dollar. He does indeed, but not in a way that diminishes him. I've even heard it said that immigrants arriving in America come to worship at the altar of freedom. How can a man be less than the ideas he cherishes?
As metaphorical as these examples may be, none of them imply that the wife, wealth, or freedom are superior to those who worship them. Don't let religion's usurpation of spiritual terminology make you think in its terms. Worship: It's not just for mortals anymore.
(That last is cute, but I couldn't resist!)
Posted by: Rachel at March 05, 2009 05:40 PM (6rNvL)
That's easy for you to say. You're a woman.
"When a man dotes on his wife, daily performing tasks that demonstrate is deep and abiding love"
Again, just because the weight is equivalent, don't assume that means it's the same thing. To say "oh, but see how much effort the man puts into the gaining, care, protection, and happiness of his wife" is not, in other words, to prove your point of "worship." What men do is not worship and yes, that word does imply some form of subordination in terms of dominance.
As for history,
1) Not everyone in history was right.
2) I can't think of an example of that where there was a masculine man doing that to a woman that was his own. What did you have in mind?
Again, don't confuse high value and protection with "worship." A man would move mountains for his woman. This is, however, with the goal of making her his, an action of dominance and not of worship. Yes, the thing is not one-sided, if he's going around moving mountains for her sake. There's a reciprocation of sorts involved. But not a direct one. To say "she worships him and he worships her" is not correct. You could say "she worships him and he does this other thing which is equally intense in return." I've come to use the word "cherish" to describe what men do.
But stop with the whole "men worship" thing. As a masculine man, I find that offensive.
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 06:18 PM (G8zND)
I'll make worship the genus and give it two species. One is a dom-sub variety that subsumes mortal-deity and supplicant-master worship. The other is of the type I described.
Regardless of what you call it, what the man is doing is acknowledging the supreme value of femininity in the person of his beloved. That he does it by moving mountains and through other feats of power and strength makes it no less worshipful. He is reverent, ardent, and devoted.
I'm sorry you find the term offensive. However, I've explained the contents and referents of my concept and I see no reason to change my basic definition (i.e. acknowledging worth or worthiness).
(With regard to history, I am not a historian and have no ready examples. Therefore I withdraw that assertion.)
Posted by: Rachel at March 05, 2009 06:48 PM (6rNvL)
So we'll just have to agree to disagree on that bit. But the rest, yes indeed.
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 11:01 PM (G8zND)
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 11:09 PM (G8zND)
Posted by: Rachel at March 05, 2009 11:35 PM (znM85)
"If the essence of femininity is "hero worship" (which I don't concede)"
I think it was a bit of an oversight on my part to have not mentioned this point sooner. I think that's a key point of my, and Rand's, position. Naturally, you might disagree on the masculine definition if you're not accepting this definition of the feminine side. Because accepting my position requires accepting that definition of femininity.
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 11:42 PM (G8zND)
I don't mean to say that you're doing the same thing for the same reasons as Dominique, if that's what you mean. Just that you're making the same point about how that relationship between men and women works.
Posted by: Inspector at March 05, 2009 11:45 PM (G8zND)
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