Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Question

Here is a question for you. If you would like to answer, please do so in the comments and explain your answer.

Imagine a man in a crowded night club where singles go to pick up other singles. He walks up to a woman he has not met and introduces himself, then asks, "Would you like to have sex with me?" She says no and he leaves her alone. He goes to another woman and does the same thing. He asks every woman to whom he is attracted in the club. Eventually, a woman says yes. They leave the night club, go to his apartment and have sex.

Has this man done anything immoral?


Anonymous said...

I would need to have a much better command of the Objectivist ethics than I do to be certain but I will take a shot. I am going to say yes. By pursuing indiscriminate sex the man is engaging in a practice which is not in his long term self interest. In that sense he is causing himself harm (psychological in this case). Thus he is behaving immorally. There is so much more that can be said and argued. I can think of counter arguments already. But I look forward to better informed responses.

John Kim

EdMcGon said...

Myrhaf, I used to know a guy who used that exact technique, although he was a bit more creative with the pickup lines.

Has he done anything immoral? I would say not. Sex between consenting adults is not immoral in any way that I can think of, and all he is doing is seeking another consenting adult.

As John brings up, the wisdom of what he's doing is certainly questionable.

Myrhaf said...

I have a few thoughts, but I'll wait to see some more answers in the comments. If I had a larger readership, I think I'd get Christians saying it is immoral because it is fornication and liberals saying it is perfectly moral because, as Sheryl Crow sings, "If it makes you happy..." Neither answer is what I have in mind.

Anonymous said...

I would say it's immoral.

First because the man is taking unnecessary risks. It is somewhat dangerous to have sex with strangers; one of them might turn out to be a murderer.

Second, having sex with someone is a way of rewarding them. When a rational man has sex with the woman he loves he is rewarding her for all the things he loves her for, especially her character. This man is having sex with women who haven't earned it (except on the basis of physical attraction). That means the women can't be proud of having had him as a partner, and it lessens the value of the reward. Suppose he fell strongly in love with a woman. He would not be able to reward her especially much by having sex with her, because he is the type who will have sex with anyone... a rational man has more pride than that.

Tom Rowland said...

Immoral? Because of the danger of unprotected sex (hopefully that's not an issue. It certainly wasn't mentioned)? Because it is indescriminant (nope--he only asked those he was attracted to and he got a positive response from the only person he asked who was attracted to him)? Not earned it? Being atractive isn't enough? If I remember correctly, Domonique fell in love at first sight with a quarry worker! Sounds like the makings of a hit country song to me.

What am I your mommy?

Sex is fun, sex is good
All who can get some, should!

Inspector said...

What, this again?

Yes yes, a thousand times yes. Not because sex is evil, but because it is too profoundly good to be shared on a random basis with the idiots of the world.

To say simply that "sex is good" (and it is) and stop right there is an almost infantile perspective of this subject, if one calls oneself an Objectivist.

Man is a creature of both body AND mind. A healthy body is not enough to determine someone's worth and character. This man does not know the characters of the women he solicits - whether they are worthy of being admired or despised by him. In fact, with the final one he knows only that she does not care whether she sleeps with a hero or a loathsome villain, as she presents the same lack of consideration.

The very asking - or answering in the positive - of such a proposition in fact indicts the character of both of them.

It would be like failing to discriminate between food and poison - and just eating the first organic-looking object one sees lying in the streets. Only, with one's soul. (and I don't mean that word in the mystical sense)

This is far too big of a topic to provide you a full explanation. I'm assuming you know it already, Myrhaf, but I don't know what part you're looking to hear. Let me know if that will suffice.

Jennifer Snow said...

The biggest immorality this man has committed lies in not knowing what he is getting himself into.

As Inspector can tell you, though, I don't like hypotheticals like this because there's never enough context to go on.

In asking whether someone is immoral, you also sort of need to ask whether you're talking about yourself or someone else. Would it be immoral for *you* to do that, or are you making a judgment on someone else's character as it pertains to your own life?

If I saw a guy doing that, I wouldn't say "that's an immoral jerk", I'd say "remind me never to have a romantic relationship with that guy", because in judging other people you're only interested in how their actions pertain to your specific life.

If I were a guy, and I acted like this, I'd judge myself immoral. But I don't, so I'm not. :)

Inspector said...

"As Inspector can tell you, though, I don't like hypotheticals like this because there's never enough context to go on."

Yeah, I'll second that.

See, I can stretch the example so that he's not immoral...

He's a researcher doing a study, and doesn't intend to sleep with any of the women, except for the last one, who is his wife.

Tom Rowland said...

I guess I'm in the position of defending myself.
Or rather the guy in the example.
I, myself would not be in the singles club in the first place.
As I understood the question, it was not "is this guy vulgar, cheap, you, me, someone you or I would date, someone to encourage, someone to secretly think was cute, putting himself in danger, or otherwise putting a lampshade on his head and dancing on a table while drunk as a lord." None of those things. The question was "has he done anything immoral?"
I take that to mean has he done anything that indicates that he isn't thinking. That doesn't mean he's got it right -- it means has he deliberately chosen that which in his judgement -- not yours, not mine, his -- is wrong. He may indeed have broken the law, but that doesn't make the act immoral.

Now consider: Readon sleeping with Lillian before he understands?
Roark's fling with the woman that was cut, Kira sleeping with Andre, Kira sleeping with Leo the first time. Dagny sleeping with a married man. Rand sleeping with Branden. Johnny Dawes killing himself for a woman he doesn't really know. Ragnar defying gravity. The strike, itself. Cyrano lying to Roxanne. Dagny leaving the valley. Immoral? No, I thank you.

Bottom line. Casual, lighthearted sex is not immoral (or, by the way, juvinile) as long as you know what you're doing. The operative question for me is: can this man's act be done as a mistake of knowledge? There is, as far as I can see, nothing in the scenario as presented that indicates any sort of immoral blankout.

There is a lot more that could be said about rules, commandments and being someone else's mommy, but I think I'll let it go at that.

Tom Rowland said...

Oh yes, the man knows quite a bit about the woman who said yes. She said yes. To him. I once took what should have been a one-night stand seriously enough to be divorced a year later. Wrong move. But which one? There's the rub.

Inspector said...

Two points:

One: Nothing blanked out.

Are you kidding? He blanks out *everything* about the women besides their physical appearance. Their minds (or lack thereof), their characters... everything.

Two: "Casual... sex is not immoral"

"In other words, sexual promiscuity is to be condemned, not because sex as such is evil, but because it is good- too good and too important to be treated casually."

-Ayn Rand; Of Living Death

The idea that it is anything but immoral to treat sex casually may be your opinion, Tom, but I hope you're not claiming that such is compatible with Objectivism.

Dismuke said...

My answer would be that context is everything - and your example does not give the full context.

For example, let's suppose that the man has reason to believe that he will likely die very soon. Or maybe the very next day he will be the end of a trial for a crime that he did not commit but could very well end up spending years behind bars for. Maybe he has never had sex because he has been waiting for the "right" woman to come along. Now he has very strong reasons to believe that the right woman will never come along. So, in celebration of what might be his last night as a living, free human being, he decides to have sex with some woman, any woman who will basically be an understudy for the sort of woman he always hoped to but never will meet.

I would suggest that, under such a scenario, such behavior would be entirely moral.

On the other hand, I can also think of a scenario where a man would be behaving immorally by going around asking people "would you like to go with me to watch a videotape the local Objectivist club is showing of a lecture that Ayn Rand gave to the Fort Hall Forum in Boston years ago? I have seen it before - it is very good." The man has a VERY important deadline for a major project at work or school that must be met and he hasn't even started - and the time he has to work on it between now and the deadline is VERY limited. This evening is the only large block of uninterrupted free time he is likely to have and it is enough to make a big dent in his project. But because being so far behind on it makes him feel uncomfortable and stressful, he seizes upon the showing of the Ayn Rand lecture - one that he has already see before anyway - as an opportunity to forget about his troubles and to pretend that they do not exist for at least a few hours.

To the degree that he is consciously aware that he is engaging in such self-destructive behavior and continues to do so anyway, I would suggest that he is acting immorally.

Context is everything.

Inspector said...

"Context is everything."

Absolutely. Exactly my point, above, in fact. (My answer in the affirmative assume that everything here is at face value)

EdMcGon said...

Let's consider the definition of the word immoral:

1. violating moral principles; not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics.
2. licentious or lascivious.

Based on the second definition, the act is clearly immoral. However, based on the first definition, the question becomes "whose principles?"

We can say for certain that this man's actions do not violate his own principles, or the principles of the woman who accepts his invitation.

But Myrhaf is NOT asking the people involved. His question is directed to his readers. Therefore, the principles of his readers (that's us) determine the answer.

Ergo, the answer is whatever you think it is.

Inspector said...


One's own answer is whatever you think it is. But the correct answer is that which is congruent with reality. Thus, the correct answer is the one which uses principles which are congruent with reality.

I do not consider morality to be a matter of personal taste, of social taste, or of the whims of a nonexistent, supernatural being. In my evaluation, morality is the recognition of reality as regards what one ought to do. The recognition of that which is beneficial as against that which is destructive to the life of a rational man.

As an Objectivist, obviously the principles to which my answer refers are the principles of Objectivism. I hold that it is those principles which are congruent with reality.

Objectivism recognizes that man is a being of both mind and body. That he is not a mindless animal which ought to rut at anything female on two legs like the man in the example is apparently doing (again - apparently; the context isn't exactly clear). That sex is good; very good and very important to him - and so is his choice of partner in it.

A rational man does not treat sex as a mindless or animalistic act. To a man of reason, it is the supreme recognition of the value of another - the physical, mental, and moral value of another. One's highest form of pleasure to be enjoyed with another human being. Therefore, one ought not simply throw the supreme recognition of value at those who one does not know the value of. A man ought not share life's highest pleasure with those who he does not know whether he loves or hates.

If he does, then he reduces and debases himself to the animal level. He severs reason from his sex life. If sex is no more important or significant to a man than scratching an itch, then obviously this is no loss.

But to those who hold sex in high esteem - who hold it, as I once said, in "breathless reverence for a sublime greatness," then such an approach is a gross debasement of one's self and one's values.