By 10:00 am, I had received more feedback than I have about any other post so far. I am obliged to clarify a few points.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) is tricky business. She attracts many who detest themes of “guilt, fear and pity” which dominate the “high literature”, for instance:
- A young girl is raped by her employer (a swindler) on the first day of the job. She becomes a devoted mistress…
- A young girl gets attracted to a man who cannot help thinking sexually about every female who walks on two feet. On their third meeting she decides to elope with him while he is being chased by authorities…
- A young couple runs away from oppression to find shelter in a wasteland, where the girl kneels before him to be taken…
- A young heiress gets raped by an angry worker. She starts sleeping with him and continues even after getting married in her own class…
- A young girl is raped by her trusted friend and gets fascinated by him. Afterwards, she is taken by a married man and starts an affair with him. When she sets out to kill someone who has caused damage to her family business she gets caught by him and falls in love with him…
The works cited here are, respectively:
- Night of January 16th, Rand’s first significant stage play
- We the Living, Rand’s first novel which she claimed to be partially autobiographical
- Anthem, a novelette
- Fountainhead, her most commercially successful novel in her lifetime
- Atlas Shrugged, her last novel which is claimed to be philosophical and “prophetic” and is setting new records in popularity since 09/11
“He said he’d give me a thousand kroner if I would go into the inner office and take my skirt off. I said I wouldn’t. He said if I didn’t, he’d take me. I said, try it. He did… After a while, I picked up my clothes; but I didn’t go. I stayed. I kept the job.”Now consider this segment from the famous detailed rape of Dominique by Howard Roark in Fountainhead:
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.Explanations offered by Rand make it worse. It has been said that she justified one of these incidents as “rape by engraved invitation.” Likewise, a comment on my blog entry defended the incident as “what might be considered a consensual rape”. Needless to say, such arguments have no room in a modern discussion on the subject but date back to ancient laws certain cultures where rape could be blamed on “provocative behavior” of the victim. “Rape by engraved invitation” and “consensual rape” are not denials – they do not suggest that depicting rape wasn’t the authors’ intention. They are justifications.
These are not “role plays” occurring within otherwise healthy relationships. The men in both cases are strangers. If these are not incidents of rape then how do we define sexual violence? If a victim begins to like the rapist, this doesn’t mean that the rapist is a hero. It means that the victim needs to see a shrink.
Nor are these some minor incidents embedded in a work of fiction focused elsewhere. We are talking about a persistent theme recurring in significant manner in several works. Increase in Rand’s popularity in America is alarming because what lies beneath the surface of her work might be quite different from something which could pass as mere perversion (allegations of perversions are commonplaces of modern culture, since what is considered perverse in one era may become acceptable in another). In this case, however, we are dealing with a society witnessing “dramatic increase in popularity” of works which might be promoting rape.
The followers of Ayn Rand are proudly claiming that her popularity inside the US has dramatically increased since 09/11. Is it a mere coincidence that the popularity of the US itself in the world outside has dropped in direct proportion? Today, the connotations globally attached with the words “the United States of America” are not those of democracy, human rights and liberty (and we all know what the new connotations are). Is it even possible that there may be no connection between the acts of a people and their thoughts? Nobody can be in a better position to answer that than the US itself.