The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage, Part 1

On March 28, I published a blog post entitled “I am Married … to a Woman,” in which I opposed the notion of same-sex marriage. On April 3, in a comment to that blog post, I gave myself the goal of writing a new post that would reply to various comments regarding the broader issue of sexual orientation. I set the goal of posting something in time for the decisions by the Supreme Court related to these issues.

The Supreme Court’s decisions are expected tomorrow or Monday, and so it is time for me to publish something. The planned blog post has grown into a long essay or short book, and I am still writing the final polemical sections. Today I am posting the introduction and a tentative full list of references. I will post the second installment two or three days from now, and the third installment two or three days after that. I plan to publish the fourth and fifth installments about a week apart.

The thesis of the essay is evident from the title.

I will not be accepting comments until a couple of days after the final installment appears. That will give me some time to (try to) catch up on the rest of my life. It will also give commenters time to read my entire essay before commenting, and to weigh carefully their comments on this emotionally charged issue.

In moderating comments, I will accept respectful ones only. I do expect that most comments will be thoughtful and valuable.

I would like to thank Nicola Huntley, Glenn Marcus, and Brad Thompson for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this essay. Of course, any errors are my own.

The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage, Part 1

She knew, even though she was too young to know the reason, that indiscriminate desire and unselective indulgence were possible only to those who regarded sex and themselves as evil.
—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957, 109 [Part 1, Chapter 5]).

A sexual relationship is proper only on the ground of the highest values one can find in a human being. Sex must not be anything other than a response to values. And that is why I consider promiscuity immoral. Not because sex is immoral, but because sex is too good and too important.
—Ayn Rand ([1964], n.d., 8)

Romantic love, like Romantic art, requires utmost selectivity. As Romanticism is a theory of art that entails such selectivity based on one’s deepest values, so I use the word ‘Romanticism’ to denote an analogous theory of romantic love.

For romantic love—as opposed to mindless, indiscriminant sex—an individual must select, out of the whole world, only one other person as his sexual partner. Given all the possible criteria for selecting a partner, one must know which criteria are essential and which are not, which are indeed consistent with one’s deepest values.

Is gender—that is, whether one’s sex is male or female—one of these essential criteria, along with fundamental character traits such as honesty and integrity? Is it essential for a man to select a woman and not another man? Or is gender a non-essential quality, such as hair color?

Individuals who are exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual act in accordance with the premise that gender is indeed an essential criterion in selecting a romantic partner. Bisexuals may act as though gender is not essential.

For heterosexuals and homosexuals, what is the basis in each case for limiting the selection to one gender? Are the basis for heterosexuality and the basis for homosexuality equally rational, equally conducive to survival and happiness? Is ‘heterosexism’—the idea that heterosexuality is better than homosexuality, bisexuality, or other ‘sexual orientations’—an aspect of Romanticism, or is it like racism?

Moreover, does an individual even have a choice in whether he is romantically—which includes sexually—attracted to those of one sex or the other? If volition is involved, in what way is it involved in these attractions? Or are differences in sexual orientation determined by biological and environmental factors?

In this essay, I present a theory of heterosexual romantic love. I argue that heterosexuality in particular enables romantic love in a way that integrates with all aspects of a man and woman. I argue also that sexual orientation is the result of volition in the same way that other aspects of romantic love are volitional. I also discuss implications for the meaning of the concept of marriage and for interactions between heterosexuals and homosexuals.

But the main theme of my essay is that every individual should understand the reasons underlying his own sexual orientation.

My original motivation for studying this subject was to understand the differences between heterosexuality and other sexual orientations. But that initial motivation gave way to a much deeper motivation: to understand sexual orientation as a conceptually explicit, conscious conviction integrated with one’s deepest values and emotions, instead of as a vague idea merely led by emotions.

Ayn Rand ([1966] 1975, 33) writes,

Love is the expression of philosophy—of a subconscious philosophical sum—and, perhaps, no other aspect of human existence needs the conscious power of philosophy quite so desperately. When that power is called upon to verify and support an emotional appraisal, when love is a conscious integration of reason and emotion, of mind and values, then—and only then—it is the greatest reward of man’s life.

In this essay, I seek to demonstrate that an individual’s sexual orientation is an integral part of the expression of his philosophy. By understanding his orientation and what that orientation implies for his relationship with his romantic partner, it is possible for a man (or woman) to express his identity more consistently, more thoroughly, and more joyfully.

Consistent with my theme, I argue that a terrible injustice has been committed against all individuals—heterosexual, homosexual, etc.—by the intellectual mainstream of the psychological and related professions, which have assured all individuals—especially non-heterosexuals—that there is no need to understand the source of their sexual orientation. I refute the schools of thought, now predominant to the point of virtual unanimity, that claim that sexual orientation is the non-volitional product of heredity and/or society.

Based on my theory of heterosexual romantic love, I do not see how there can be a comparably integrated theory of same-sex romantic love; but I invite anyone to present or reference such a theory.

My theory may be opposed by most people—of all sexual orientations—who read it. But to detractors and supporters alike, I offer—in good will—this challenge: I can explain my sexual orientation; can you explain yours?

No other individual owes me an explanation of his sexual orientation. But he owes such an explanation to himself.

In this essay, I have chosen to explain my sexual orientation publicly, in the hope that it might help others understand their own and perhaps shed further light on this important subject.

Man is born with certain physical and psychological needs, but he can neither discover them nor satisfy them without the use of his mind. Man has to discover what is right or wrong for him as a rational being. His so-called urges will not tell him what to do.
—Ayn Rand ([1964], n.d., 9).

See next The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage, Part 2.

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