Atlas Shrugged: The Ubermensch

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter V

Although the most vivid (and creepiest) scenes depicting Ayn Rand’s views on love and sex are still to come, this chapter offers a preview, as we find out in flashback that Dagny and Francisco became lovers during their college days. The first hint of this comes on a summer day when they’re walking along the Palisades. Here’s how Francisco initiates their relationship:

He said brusquely, “Let’s see if we can see New York,” and jerked her by the arm to the edge of the cliff. She thought that he did not notice that he twisted her arm in a peculiar way, holding it down along the length of his side; it made her stand pressed against him, and she felt the warmth of the sun in the skin of his legs against hers. [p.95]

Time out! This is extremely (and unfortunately) apropos, since just this week, the issue of sexual harassment in the skeptical community boiled over with the public naming of some alleged offenders. Francisco’s treatment of Dagny here is textbook sexual assault. Rather than asking, he seizes her to force her to go where he wants and twists her arm to press her body against his. The text treats this as a sweetly innocent moment, although in reality I think most people – especially in a dangerous environment like a high cliff! – would be creeped out and terrified.

Let’s pause for a digression that will momentarily prove relevant: One of the keystones of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is her supposed belief about “initiation of force” and why it’s always wrong. You see, her argument is that real capitalists are peaceful people who trade with each other by mutual consent, whereas it’s only evil looters and socialists who use guns to compel others to do their bidding (for example, by forcing them to pay taxes). It’s supposed to be a core principle of Rand’s philosophy that violence of any kind is only permissible in self-defense, and that initiation of force is immoral, always.

OK, got that? Now let’s see what comes next.

After Francisco’s speech about the “code of competence“, Dagny says that she agrees with him but asks, “Francisco, why are you and I the only ones who seem to know it?” Francisco asks her why she cares about anyone else’s opinion, and she responds:

“Well, I’ve always been unpopular in school and it didn’t bother me, but now I’ve discovered the reason… They dislike me, not because I do things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me because I’ve always had the best grades in class. I don’t even have to study. I always get A’s. Do you suppose I should try to get D’s for a change and become the most popular girl in school?”

Francisco stopped, looked at her and slapped her face. [p.98]

This isn’t a gentle swat: Francisco hits her hard. We’re specifically told that Dagny tastes “blood in the corner of her mouth” and, even more appallingly, “braced her feet to stop the dizziness” [p.99]. How hard would you have to slap someone for them to be dizzied by the blow and almost fall down?

There’s no possible way you can invoke self-defense here. Dagny wasn’t threatening Francisco’s life or property (obviously); she made a joke that he didn’t like, about concealing her talent to better fit in with average people. And he felt that an appropriate response to this was to hit her as hard as he could. There’s no hint in the text that Rand finds anything wrong with this; Dagny isn’t even mad at him for it. In fact, she says, in an “insolently casual” tone, “I hope it swells terribly. I like it.”

Remember this scene later on, when Rand’s capitalists are giving grand defiant speeches about how they’re the moral ones, the ones who are blameless of initiating force. In contradiction to what she says elsewhere, Rand clearly does think that unprovoked violence is at least sometimes acceptable. More specifically, what she seems to think is that it’s OK to commit violence against people who don’t worship unfettered capitalism as much as she does, who believe that competition isn’t everything or that the government sometimes has a role to play. (This has come up before, and will come up again later.)

And if Francisco’s twisting of her arm is textbook sexual assault, Dagny’s self-justifying excuse for why she doesn’t tell anyone about it bears a very unfortunate resemblance to the battered wife’s rationalization of “he’s not really a bad person, you wouldn’t understand”:

When she came home, she told her mother that she had cut her lip by falling against a rock. It was the only lie she ever told. She did not do it to protect Francisco; she did it because she felt, for some reason which she could not define, that the incident was a secret too precious to share. [p.99]

Last but definitely not least, there’s a scene a few pages later where they have sex (in a clearing in the woods) for the first time. This is how it’s portrayed:

He held her, pressing the length of his body against hers with a tense, purposeful insistence, his hand moving over her breasts as if he were learning a proprietor’s intimacy with her body, a shocking intimacy that needed no consent from her, no permission.

…She knew that fear was useless, that he would do what he wished, that the decision was his, that he left nothing possible to her except the thing she wanted most – to submit. [p.105]

OK, there is such a thing as nonverbal consent, and this scene is written so that Dagny is silently thinking (although not saying) that this is what she wanted all along. Still, it avoids being rape only on that technicality. The text goes out of its way to imply that if she hadn’t consented, it wouldn’t have mattered because he would have done what he wanted anyway. It’s extremely creepy the way Rand repeatedly emphasizes that he doesn’t ask her permission and doesn’t act as if he needs to ask. And remember, again, that Francisco is one of the heroes we’re meant to emulate (you can tell because he has super-Mary Sue powers).

Although the only philosopher whom Rand acknowledged as an influence was Aristotle (all the rest of her ideas, she claimed, came from her own head without outside influence), these scenes show that this is a lie. She was strongly influenced by others: in particular, by Nietzsche and his idea of the heroic “ubermensch” who will shatter all slave moralities based on compassion and reinvent the world in his own image. Francisco is Nietzsche’s ubermensch incarnated: the man who can do whatever he wants – hit people who displease him, twist women’s arms, force them to have sex with him – because he’s a superior being who’s advanced beyond lesser men’s pitiful standards of good and evil.

The Rand-Nietzsche connection has been noticed before: Whittaker Chambers pointed it out in 1957 in National Review, and even one of Rand’s cousins teased her about it, saying that Nietzsche “beat you to all your ideas”. But regardless of where the inspiration came from, we still ought to find it disturbing. Is Francisco’s violent, possessive, entitled behavior something that should be taken as characteristic of the ideal man?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Other posts in this series:

Atlas Shrugged: Good Men Are Hard to Find
What’s Behind the Appeal of ISIS?
Atlas Shrugged: Hobo Sign
Thoughts on the Chapel Hill Shooting
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • dr_spork

    Although I agree with your characterization of Rand, I don’t think the analogy to Nietzsche is very accurate. The popular view of Nietzsche (that is, among those who haven’t read his works) is still very much tainted by his sister’s Nazi-sponsored attempt to reframe him posthumously as a champion of elitist individualism. The “ubermensch” concept is usually taken completely out of context and used to support fascist ideology. But if you really read Nietzsche for what he was–a philosopher joining in a long-standing conversation about metaphysics, not politics–you’ll get a much different picture. While Rand may very well have claimed to have been influenced by Nietzsche, I seriously doubt that Nietzsche would have agreed with Rand.

  • Gideon

    “They dislike me, not because I do things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me because I’ve always had the best grades in class. I don’t even have to study.”

    This portrayal doesn’t ring true to me. Yes, I suppose that envy is a major emotional hangup for those who see individual performance as an all-important mark of self-worth, and life as one huge competition to pinpoint the losers.

    But the majority of the time, I haven’t noticed everyone hating winners. Isn’t that the opposite of the widespread problem of hero-worship? Even on a much more minor level, someone who does well is more likely to receive affection for their dependability. Maybe other cultures are different, but I can’t recall hearing the sentiment “personal excellence is horrible” with any regularity.

    Honestly, when I’ve heard anyone complain more or less that “no one likes me because I’m too wonderful”, I’ve been struck by how inaccurate the complaint is. No, high achiever, they dislike you because you constantly treat them like obstacles to be defeated or ignored or humiliated. If you could treat your “lessers” with equal respect regardless of how amazing you think you are, then they might find you less exasperating. Your grades aren’t the problem. Your fixation on grades is.

  • Figs

    Did you read the post? Adam specifically said that Rand did not claim to have been influenced by Nietzsche. If you want to get into a discussion of whether interpretations of Nietzsche and the concept of the Ubermensch are in fact in accord with Nietzsche’s own ideas, that’s fine. But you’re rebutting a claim that wasn’t made.

  • Lagerbaer

    Indeed. If Dagny would start getting Ds, the others would not start to like her, they would just feel lots of schadenfreude.

  • Shawn

    This is a good point. It also brings up the weird paradox in Rand’s characterization – we’re told that these characters are the producers, the dynamos, that they deserve everything they can earn because even that’s not enough to reward their hard work. And then we’re also told, at every opportunity, how trivial tasks are for them, how effortlessly they master everything, and how they don’t even have to really try to constantly outperform all lesser people.

  • Jason Wexler

    I think it is very easy for people who are unpopular to find excuses which blame everyone else for that circumstance, in fact I know how easy it is, from personal experience doing it. The reality however is usually much simpler, unpopular people in most circumstances are unpleasant or disagreeable. People don’t dislike Dagney because she does well or because it comes easy for her to do so, but rather because she lords over people.

  • badgerchild

    And how exactly do they get to be the producers and the dynamos and the people with influence, if they are so unpopular they aren’t even liked in school? Honestly, the moment I grew out of Objectivism was close to, if not identical with, the moment I realized that other people really DO matter.

  • katiehippie

    Ugh, a profile of a guy on an online dating service said that he loved loved loved Atlas Shrugged. I felt like saying ‘thanks for the warning!’

  • Ash Bowie

    For the record, research shows that girls who excel academically in the US tend to less popular, i.e. more rejected by peers. The key word there is “tend”…it isn’t an absolute social death sentence for a girl to be smart and academically successful. But it does make it harder on a lot of girls, especially in the younger years. Sad, but true.

  • Science Avenger

    Rand was very much a creature of her era, as we all are, despite her dream of standing objectively above it all. Remember, we are talking about 1957 here, we hadn’t even passed the Civil Rights act yet. Rand shared Sean Connery’s attitudes…sometimes a hysterical woman needs to be slapped back to her senses. Her lack of appreciation of her own gender was no secret. Even when I was an Objectivist I considered her opinions in this area to be next to worthless.

  • Science Avenger

    This portrayal doesn’t ring true to me. Yes, I suppose that envy is a major emotional hangup for those who see individual performance as an all-important mark of self-worth, and life as one huge competition to pinpoint the losers.

    But the majority of the time, I haven’t noticed everyone hating winners.

    Haven’t you? Go look at any poll of who the most hated sports franchises are, and you’ll see nothing but winners: The Yankees, Cowboys, Celtics, Canadians, Manchester United, it doesn’t matter the sport. Sure, there are the bandwagon fans too that gravitate to the winners, but the haters are out in force.
    On an individual level, I can attest that one of the things that drew me to Objectivism was scenes like this one, because I could very much relate to it. Forgive the immodesty, but I was like Francisco, most everything came easily. Not as extreme of course, and my social cluelessness didn’t help matters (think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory plus above average athleticism and less 30 IQ points), nor did the fact that I moved around a lot as a child (3 schools in 2nd grade alone). But it wasn’t hard to spot the pattern of behavior of many kids around me, and it wasn’t all that complicated: people get tired of losing, especially kids with low self-esteem to being with. Couple that with my lack of social graces, and you get exactly what Dagny describes: people who hate you simply for being better than them, and not caring enough about their feelings (or being completely unaware of them) to avoid the situation.
    I had a classmate that suffered the same problem: athletic, well-spoken, obsessed with getting 100s in every class. And when he didn’t, and got upset about it, some other kids would make fun of him for it. And unlike me, he had social graces. It didn’t matter.

  • Science Avenger

    Amen to that. For me the big moment was realizing that science was a collective endeavor, one persons work added to the top of that produced by many others, not the endless work of any one individual.

  • Michael

    Yes, but Adam said she was influenced by Nietzsche, except she failed to acknowledge the fact. So a discussion of whether or not her ideas would actually match Nietzsche’s is relevant here.

  • Michael

    I have often noticed the contradiction in her non-aggression principle with Rand’s writings. Personally my question would be whether she formulated it before or after this. If the latter, it would clearly be a contradiction-if the latter, she could have changed her mind I suppose, though it seems doubtful.

  • Figs

    Which is what I said.

  • Michael

    Well then, I must have misread your comment. My apologies for that.

  • smrnda

    On the ‘peaceful’ capitalists and the evil violent looters – that’s a straight up lie as capitalists haven’t hesitated to use violence to seize land and resources they want or to keep workers in line. And once you own everything, you don’t need violence – everybody is automatically a trespasser so you can let the state do the violence for you.

    On people ‘hating’ smart people – I flipped through some book of essays by Rand at a used bookstore once where there was an article about people who joined MENSA because they felt that they had to dumb themselves down to be accepted socially or were loathed for being smarter than other people. First, I don’t think MENSA is really a place where you meet truly intelligent people, but besides that, people don’t resent intelligent people overall. I’ve always been both popular and a fairly high achiever – graduated high school in my early teens, went to grad school, work in the tech industry. Maybe it’s because I don’t think that anybody who doesn’t design software isn’t subhuman and I’m not insecure and trying to boost my ego at others’ expense?

    People*do* dislike individuals who are condescending and who have to turn everything into a pissing contest, where if you happen to say, drink beer instead of wine you’re now ‘common’ and all of your tastes, interests and hobbies will be examined for signs that you’re not a genius. Nothing worse than the person who has to bash everyone’s interests for being ‘stupid’ and who has to find ways to put down everybody. Admit to watching a football match and they roll their eyes, talk about movies you watched and get derided for not watching things that are high-brow enough. If the High Achiever talks about their achievements, you’re supposed to listen and if you get bored with the arcane shop-talk, it proves *you are stupid* but when the High Achiever gets bored with you, it’s because you’re not interesting.

    Objectivism just appeals to narcissism. It’s an adolescent philosophy to be outgrown. If fact, if you take what Rand’s protagonists say about how great they are, how nobody likes or understands them, it’s like a whiny teenager.

  • smrnda

    I learned this when I first wrote commercial software, and realized that any software of consequence was written by many people using many tools that others had already written.

  • smrnda

    Part of this could be a question of investment. Excelling academically requires times and resources, and becoming popular demands the same things.

  • Ash Bowie

    The research doesn’t offer cause in this case. It could be for any number of reasons. For instance, during school years, American girls tend to place a premium on group acceptance and integration, pushing out those that stand apart from the pack. In part it could be cultural conditioning, with American girls being covertly taught that being “too smart” isn’t okay. As you suggest, it could also involve resources competing between academics and socialization…but the findings hold for girls who don’t have to work as hard for better grades. Whatever the reasons, it spells bad news for girls who have the brains to excel.

  • James_Jarvis

    Rand’s attitudes towards love and sex really creep me out. In the real world Francisco would be in prison if he treated women the way he did in the book. I can almost hear him saying it wasn’t rape, she wanted it. As for him slapping Dagny that’s assault pure and simple.

  • Laughing Giraffe

    My experiences run directly counter to yours. I went through a major personality shift late in adolescence/early adulthood where I basically realized that I didn’t have to be terrified of social interaction and keep all but a handful of people at arm’s length. It is still sometimes difficult for me to cope with social expectations, but my reputation for being “scary”, “intimidating”, “bitchy”, etc., pretty much dissolved when I actually began to be friendly. I didn’t become dumber, less driven to excel, or even what I would describe as more normal.

    As for your friend, perhaps people made fun of him because it *is* stupid to obsess over getting 100% in every single subject. (This is, incidentally, coming from a teacher.) It’s self-damaging, stressful and ultimately pointless to put that kind of pressure on yourself, because once you get out of high school it more or less immediately stops mattering. A very great deal of what goes on in secondary education is, bluntly, bullshit, and the real tragedy is how much some students beat themselves up over it.

  • Anna

    I do think it reasonably plausible that people might look down on smart girls who didn’t hide their talents in 1957. But the whole “how dare you even joke, or think seriously, for that matter, about wasting your talent, that deserves a slap in the face” – really? He couldn’t have convinced her it was a lousy idea with his awesome logic? I guess if you think competency is the only standard of morality, as Francisco and Dagny were just saying, and someone talks about violating that, then they’ve proven themselves horribly immoral. I guess in Rand’s view – Rand’s ridiculous and horrible view, don’t get me wrong – it would be like busting out a racist slur, daring to insult Competence and Striving.

  • Science Avenger

    Before, for sure.

  • Michael

    Yeah, I followed Adam’s link to the Ayn Rand Lexicon and the first quote there is from Atlas Shrugged. What a hypocrite-in her own book, too.

  • Azkyroth

    As for your friend, perhaps people made fun of him because

    Stop right fucking there.

  • Azkyroth

    No, high achiever, they dislike you because you constantly treat them like obstacles to be defeated or ignored or humiliated. If you could treat your “lessers” with equal respect regardless of how amazing you think you are, then they might find you less exasperating. Your grades aren’t the problem. Your fixation on grades is.

    Yes, that’s right. Anti-intellectualism, bullying of “nerds,” and the association of using “big words” with “being a ‘faggot’” (and the idea that “being a faggot” is something to attack someone for) are something that smart kid DID TO the other kids and they totally deserve to be ostracized, threatened with violence, and actually assaulted.

    Just like women who wear short skirts!



  • Azkyroth


    What the fuck happened to this place today?

  • Azkyroth

    I do think it reasonably plausible that people might look down on smart girls who didn’t hide their talents in 1957.

    I should fucking hope so considering how I was treated in the late 1990s.

  • Azkyroth

    Define “rubbing it in everyone’s faces.”

  • Mikegalanx

    I think a simpler explanation is that Rand was just into S&M, and her writings about sex reflect that.

    Like the later Robert Heinlein; if only the Internet had been around, he could have just clicked on fetish/preggo and spared a lot of trees.

    And if Mel could have found a nice GayBDSM dungeon club, we would have been spared “The Passion” and most of “Apocalypto”.

  • Loren Petrich

    He wrote a lot of misogynist and elitist things, and what do you think are their real meanings?

    While his sister hated Jews, he didn’t, and he wasn’t even much of a German nationalist. Consider his admiration for Napoleon, for instance. He once stated that almost all of the higher hopes of his century are due to Napoleon.

    Ordinary people he called the “bungled and botched”. “The object is to attain that enormous energy of greatness which can model the man of the future by means of discipline and also by means of the annihilation of millions of the bungled and botched, and which can yet avoid going to ruin at the sight of the suffering created thereby, the like of which has never been seen before.” Bertrand Russell noted in his History of Western Philosophy that “He prophesied with a certain glee an era of great wars; one wonders whether he would have been happy if he had lived to see the fulfilment of his prophecy.”

  • JohnDonohue

    This is a disgraceful case of quoting out of context and cherry picking. Add to that this unjustified opinion:

    “The text goes out of its way to imply that if she hadn’t consented, it wouldn’t have mattered because he would have done what he wanted anyway.”

    Instead of extending the quote from the book, Adam Lee inserts his hyper-slanted claim that Francisco would have raped her and Dagny would have submitted.

    What the text REALLY shows is that Dagny fully consented to sex, and not just in thought. To wit: “She thought that she must escape; instead, it was she who pulled his head down to find his mouth again.”

    The phrase, “…he would do what he wished…” and following refers to Dagny’s observation that Francisco would not and could not be deterred from his intent. His intent. If Dagny had actually not consented Francisco would not have wanted her nor would he have raped her.

    As for cherry-picking the quotes, what can forgive the omission of the long paragraph, starting with “When she came home…” describing Dagny’s state of mind after making love for the first time. This is the most beautiful description of such a scene in literature, in my opinion. I challenge Adam Lee to post that paragraph in fairness.

    The omission of full context, and especially the quote just cited, reveals the blatant agenda of Mr. Lee in this piece: to twist the author’s words and intent in order to smear.

  • Jason Wexler

    The fantastic Vlog Brothers have a channel on YouTube called CrashCourse where they teach accelerated subjects, in their current US history course John is doing an amazing job of teaching history and destroying mythology. In this weeks lesson he destroys the myth of the libertarian individualistic American west. I felt it was appropriate to this general series on Atlas Shrugged so I thought I would share a link to it here

  • Laughing Giraffe

    If Dagny were saying, “People call me names, assault me, harass me, steal my things and generally make my life shit”, I would agree with you. However, Dagny isn’t complaining about being bullied, she’s complaining about being *disliked*. I’ve been both bullied and unpopular at some points in my life, and the two are not completely overlapping Venn circles. Moreover, Dagny is declaring that she is disliked because she is better than other people, as if they have some kind of moral obligation to admire her for her intelligence, while ignoring the fact that plenty of people are bullied or social outcasts for being perceived as stupid (see the widespread ostracization of people with mental handicaps.)

  • smrnda

    It could also be who happens to be the arbiters of popularity in schools. If it tends to be dominant males, they may fight smart girls threatening.

    All said, agreed, more research is needed.

  • Azkyroth

    …no one else here is only talking about Dagny – they’re making broad, sweeping statements. Why would you assume I was?

  • J-D

    Bullying is always wrong and never the fault of the person being bullied.

    Bullies select their targets for a variety of reasons. Sometimes good academic performance is the reason, or part of the reason, that a bully picks a particular target. But it’s not true that all (or only) students who get good grades are bullied. It’s not even true that all (or only) students who get good grades are disliked or unpopular. So when Dagny says that she’s unpopular because she gets the best grades without even studying and that she’d be popular if she got bad grades, it’s a gross distortion.

    It’s possible that somebody who says ‘I’m unpopular because I get the best grades without even studying’ is correct, or at least partly correct. But it’s also possible that somebody who says ‘I’m unpopular because I get the best grades without even studying’ is hiding from more painful personal truths. Dagny Taggart gives me the impression of being the kind of person who would tell herself that the only reason she’s disliked is because she does things so well, but who would be gravely wrong about that.

    It is still unjustifiable to bully even people like Dagny Taggart, and if she were being bullied (not that she says she is) I would be siding with her against the bullies, no matter how unpleasant she is.

  • J-D

    The way the text depicts the sexual relationship between Francisco and Dagny is indeed extremely creepy, in a way that makes me wonder whether there’s a connection with the author’s own sexuality, although of course the creepiness of the text is exactly the same regardless of the psychobiographical facts.

  • J_Enigma32

    Thought: I know her stuff is popular with a lot of atheists. I wonder how many of them are the kinds of creepy crawlies who whine and complain about confronting sexism and misogyny in the atheist community owing to the fact that they were taught, by Francisco D’Mary Sue, this is an acceptable way to treat a woman and anything less is collectivist (thus making feminism the natural enemy here, since feminism is a collect approach of multiple people, men, women, and otherwise, trying to wrest power away from these fools).
    Generalized rant: This sort of contradiction is fundamental to her “philosophy”. Capitalism, her way to extoll individuals like Francisco, is just as collectivist as communism is. Later in the book she has Francisco say “if you hear someone say money is evil, run, for that’s the sign of a looter” (or something to that effect) and then gives a great big ‘ol spiel on what money is without realizing that the only reason at all these parasites get money is because we “looters” buy their crap. The only reason that money has any value at all is because we “looters” decide a set value for it, based on a wing and a prayer. If it weren’t for the “we”, that money she worships would be useless. Individualism is all well and good, but what she’s having these characters do and believe is flat fucking stupid, and it contradicts in a very visible way with the rest of reality.

    Take capitalism. You can do anything you want to in a capitalist society, as long as you have no intentions on ensuring your continued survival. If you want to eat, have a clothes, and a roof over your head, you are going to be doing exactly what the market tells you to do so you can make that money. And who is the market? A collective of buyers and sellers; of stockholders and share owners, who have stakes of their own invested in it. You do what they – plural they – tell you to. Otherwise you starve, and if your choice is between doing what they – plural they again – tell you to do and starving to death, is it much of a choice? Furthermore, how individualistic is it when you can’t express yourself without fear of dying homeless and broke in the process?

    “Real men chose, slaves obey. Now obey.”

  • GCT

    If Dagny had actually not consented Francisco would not have wanted her nor would he have raped her.

    How convenient.

  • JohnDonohue

    You are compounding the error of Adam Lee by pulling one sentence of my refutation out of context. Be brave and refute my ENTIRE post, if you dare.

    I stand by my entire post, as well as the above single sentence.

  • JohnDonohue

    “…text depicts…”

    Do you mean the text of Atlas Shrugged or the slanted construction text of Adam Lee’s essay here?

    Did you read the paragraph starting with “When she came home…” and do you think that is creepy?

  • JohnDonohue

    Not consistant with Atlas Shrugged. Dagny does NOT lord anything over anyone.

  • Loren Petrich

    As far as I can tell, AS doesn’t exactly present Dagny and Francisco discussing what sort of roughness they’d like in their sex, or Dagny giving Francisco instructions as they went.

    Could it be that Ayn Rand was raised with a stereotype that Good Girls don’t desire or choose sex? That they must lie back and think of their homelands? So she might have thought that the only way that she could get sex is if her partner forced her into it. But she didn’t present Dagny explaining to Francisco that she needs to feel forced into it, and that they should work out how to get that feeling.

  • Science Avenger

    Usually perhaps, but with people like Dagny there are factors that demand an alternative explanation. Most prominent is that people like her tend to get along with each other, which would not be the case if criticisms such as yours were true. Ditto for “you always have to get the last word” and “you have to be the smartest person in the room”, and many other claims I heard a lot early in life. Two such people cannot coexist peacfully, yet I’ve experienced fairly large such social groups. I have no evidence other than my own personal experience, but I think such people lack some of the natural social graces due to minor cognitive abnormalities, making them savantishly unaware sometimes of just how offensive others take their comments and behavior.

  • Science Avenger

    You’d get the same effect if the arbitors are stupid girls. I’ve seen my share of that, and heard about it from said smart girls (call me wierd, that’s my preference).

  • Science Avenger

    I went througha similar transition in my early 20′s when a much older girlfriend clued me in to just what a self-absorbed asshole I could be, particularly with regard to intense arguments at social gatherings.
    While I agree with your general commentary on getting 100s, my friend was brilliant, and didn’t need to work all that hard to get 100s (he ended up with a near 4.0 at a prominent university). But what stood out to me about those that experienced schadenfreude at his expense was that it was never the kids who were right below him academically. We all mostly admired his abilities. It was always mediocre students that harrassed him, ALWAYS those who couldn’t achieve what he did if their lives depended on it. I think it is this sort of person that Dangy (Rand) is referring to.

  • Science Avenger

    Not going through all the fake-modesty rituals that society seems to demand of high achievers.

  • Science Avenger

    I think many people find Rand’s views so revolting that they are loathe to grant her a point on any subject.

  • Science Avenger

    That’s exactly it. To Rand, all the horrors in the world result from people placing (to her) trivial concerns, especially with regard to moochers and their opinions, above being the best “man qua man” one can be. And to a point, she was correct*, illustrated in her comment (I paraphrase from memory): “When you are on the operating table, your only concern is for the skill of your surgeon. You don’t care one whit whether or not he has a social life”.
    *It’s low hanging fruit, the notion that popularity is overemphasized in our culture.

  • GCT

    When you back up your assertions that the plain text is not indicative of Rand’s or Francisco’s intent. Remember that Rand has written other rape scenes into books where the woman raped was happy about it. She also seems to have had some misogynistic tendencies.

  • Science Avenger

    …the only reason at all these parasites get money is because we “looters” buy their crap. The only reason that money has any value at all is because we “looters” decide a set value for it, based on a wing and a prayer

    You make it sound like we are playing a game of monopoly. We buy their “crap” because we decide it has value to us, not just because, and the value of the money is the consequence of that. The whole point of Francisco’s speech (one of the better ones in the book IMO) is that money has value, not because people want things, but because people make things.
    “Collectivist” in Rand’s usage doesn’t mean “the sum result of many individual actions”, as you are using it, but rather “the top-down decree enforced by a group”. “The market” is certainly not a collective in Rand’s usage.
    Your last comment sounds like something Rand would have one of her vilians say: “How can we be individualistic if the collective won’t support us in doing so?”. Surely you mean something else.

  • JohnDonohue

    This scene in Atlas Shrugged is not rape.
    There are no rape scenes in her other writing, so your claim that there are more than one is rejected. Also rejected: you “seems” and “tendancies.” These are waffle words. If you want to make claims, cite and be specific.

    There is no rape in Ayn Rand’s works.

  • JohnDonohue

    Please read the tender, gentle accounts of their lovemaking following the first sex.

    Even then, Rand did not journal every moment of their sex life, so the absence of discussion or consent to levels of roughness, or not, etc. does not prove they did not have those conversations.

  • Science Avenger

    I’d have to dust off the tome, but the sex scene between Roark and Dominique sure seemed to qualify. And let’s remember that rape is sex without consent. You don’t get to claim that she really wanted it without some indicator we non-psi’s could perceive.

  • JohnDonohue

    The crime on this page is Adam Lee attempting to construct that Francisco raped Dagny. This is compounded by no one refuting my post challenging Lee.

    I have written dozens of times over 45 years how that scene in The Fountainhead contains not only consent, but that Dominique instigated and ran the sequence. I will be glad to post it again, but not until Mr. Lee or anyone indicates a legimate response to my charges against him.

    My challenge to GCT to cite and prove his scattershot insinuations stands, awaiting response.

  • J-D

    I mean the portions of text quoted here from Atlas Shrugged; and yes, I do find the paragraph you mention creepy.

  • arensb

    I suppose this isn’t really on-topic, but whatever:
    A lot of you may have noticed that Elon Musk unveiled his plans to build the Hyperloop, a train that’ll get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

    Back when the movie adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged” came out, I was a bit disappointed that it was set in the present, rather than in the 1950s, because I couldn’t see anyone investing in passenger rail in the US: the airlines would eat the railroad’s lunch.

    But here we have a millionaire capitalist with big ideas, with a track record in the space and auto industries, who wants to build trains. It’ll be interesting to see how the Hyperloop compares to Taggart Transcontinental.

  • J_Enigma32

    No. I mean exactly that. For my case in point, Nikola Tesla. There was no social network in place for him. He had brilliant ideas, but he cross the wrong man: Thomas Edison. Edison drove Tesla out of business, stole his ideas, and because Tesla had poor business sense, ended up dying poor and broke in an apartment. Had there been a social network there, Tesla might have had the capabilities to rebound, and wouldn’t have died like he did. Who knows; maybe he could’ve rebound and found someone to help him market the technologies he’d established better. Tesla would meet the same fate in Rand’s Utopia, since he was a bad business man and could never find support for his inventions.

    Tesla attempted to express his individuality through those inventions and those tools and died poor and broke in the process, since there was no collective social security net there to catch him when he fell.

    How many other people are not taking chances and doing risks because doing so is going to put at risk their very health, welfare, and safety? If I have a brilliant idea but I don’t have the education for it, and I don’t have the backing for it, and I can’t get the finances for it because I don’t have the finances, I might as well not even attempt it because if I try, I’ll fail. Almost all but guaranteed. And if I fail, I’ll lose everything. It would be a little easier to make that attempt if I didn’t think I would lose my entire life and sacrifice the safety of my family, but that’s not how it works. If I venture, and I lose, and I go broke, everyone in my house suffers. Do I want that? The answer is no, I don’t. So I won’t venture, I won’t risk, and I won’t attempt to change anything. Any individuality I might have expressed has thereby been crushed, as a direct result of my inability to insure I have a future if it blows up in my face.

    And you know what? Rand would be okay with that. But I’m not, because this sort of thinking actively hurts capitalism in the long run. How many potential ideas, how many innovations, how many new concepts, will never be expressed because of this? What this does is it concentrates all of the capacity for innovation and change in the hands of a few oligarchs who never will, since the status quo benefits them just fine, and thus, top-down control over the market. You got a new idea? You better hope there’s an oligarch out there who’s ass you can kiss to make it happen. It will happen every time, so long as people can’t be assured they won’t suffer by losing everything in failure. Society stagnates, because only a handful of middle class and even fewer poor can break through with innovative ideas to change things, the rich become more concerned with keeping track of their own property and property rights, and society begins to crack. Rand’s philosophy does nothing more than expedite this.

    Her philosophy results in the type of top-down collectivism that she fears faster than socialism will, that’s for sure. So I mean it: individualism is nothing without a collective to support you. But that collective has to be down-up, not up-down.

  • Azkyroth

    Maybe even having the temerity to treat one’s knowledge as an equally worthwhile achievement as other students’ athletic prowess?

    Yeah, sounds about right.

  • Azkyroth

    Including the Fountainhead where the protagonist explicitly refers to it as such?

  • GCT

    I’m wondering when you’re going to back up the claim that I questioned.

    Secondly, you’re ignoring the facts that Adam has brought to his post as well as ignoring all the previous discussions that have been had on this topic and Ayn Rand in this series of posts. Adam has previously pointed out her misogynistic tendencies (and no, use of this word or even “tendancy” -which I did not use – does not indicate that my argument is automatically wrong as you tried to imply). You can find these discussions in the link for “Other posts in this series:”.

    So, sorry, but I’m not going to let you pretend that you haven’t made claims that need support and shift all the burden onto me, while simultaneously ignoring all the previous discussions and pretending they don’t exist.

  • Science Avenger

    Ah, OK, you are making the point others have touched on: that there are no rugged individuals, not really, we all depend on the culture we live in, and a strong social safety net is a great help in allowing people to pursue their dreams without fear of complete ruin if they fail.
    But I’d not call it a collective, there’s nothing collective about it, just the laissez fare side effects that Rand and all libertarians pretend aren’t there.

  • Nancy McClernan

    What I think is more interesting than the S&M vibe of Rand’s sex scenes is the emptiness of Dagny and d’Anconia’s non-sexual relationship:

    She did not question him about the university. Days later she asked him only whether he liked it.
    “They’re teaching a lot of drivel nowadays,” he answered, “but there are a few courses I like.”
    “Have you made any friends there?”
    He told her nothing else.

    So basically these two young lovers tell each other almost nothing about their personal lives, ever. And we are supposed to admire them as the prime movers. I guess you have plenty of time to mine and smelt metal if you don’t spend much time socializing.

    Of course this also explains why Hank Rearden has no idea that Dagny and d’Anconia have a past history, and Dagny doesn’t know that d’Anconia knows John Galt and Ragnar Danneskjöld – d’Anconia never tells Dagny a single thing about his two friends. Ever.

    I’m working on a theory that Rand had Asperger’s Syndrome. She couldn’t make small talk, and she couldn’t write small talk and one of the attributes of AS that I’ve heard of is the inability to make small talk.

    She had plenty of other possible AS traits as well.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The entire book is about Ayn Rand more than anything else, and according to the two biographies I recently read, she did like to be dominated sexually.

    And here is her opinion of femininity in Atlas Shrugged – this is a description of Dagny, everybody’s highest value, during Rearden’s party:

    “The black dress seemed excessively revealing – because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulders were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.”

    Nothing too ambiguous about that.

  • Loren Petrich

    The Hyperloop is a non-starter. It’s a version of the vactrain idea – trains in long evacuated tubes or tunnels. Nobody has ever built a prototoype of it, as far as I know. Nothing to work out safety features, and it doesn’t seem as fail-safe as traditional rail lines typically are.

    Elon Musk is proposing to build his system on viaducts, but that would provoke a lot of NIMBY outrage. “Ugh! I can’t stand my beautiful view getting ruined by those tubes!!!” Even worse, existing high-speed-rail lines are often on viaducts, so he’d easily be undersold by someone proposing a bullet-train line on viaducts. It wouldn’t be as fast, but it would still be good.

  • Loren Petrich

    Several nations have been building high-speed lines, with some nations now having impressive lengths of trackage. However, it’s a capital-intensive affair, and the lines require long straight strips of land, which can be difficult to acquire without Eminent Domain. So it’s not like your typical Internet start-up.

    High-speed trains have been impressive competitors for short-haul airline routes, even if not for long-distance routes. What does this mean for the US? High-speed trains are useful for the closer sets of cities, even if not for transcontinental duty across thinly-populated areas. Even if NYC – LA is impractical, one can nevertheless imagine an Atlantic Axis: Boston – Providence – New Haven – NYC – Trenton – Philadelphia – Wilmington – Baltimore – Washington – Richmond – Raleigh – Greensboro – Charlotte – Atlanta – Jacksonville – Orlando – Miami. NYC could be connected to Chicago, and that city could be a hub of outward-radiating lines. On the west coast, LA – SF Bay and Portland – Seattle would both be feasible, even if not as much in between.

    Did the movies feature any bullet-train video? Any TGV’s or Shinkansen trains? I can imagine Dagny Taggart standing in front of a bullet train and saying “That’s my baby. And I won’t let the looters take it away from me!”

  • Science Avenger

    I’m not sure how relevant it is, and I’m sure Adam is too kind to mention it, but it squares with my personal experiences: Rand was, by societal norms, fairly hideous physically, short and dumpy, not at all like her heroes.

  • Science Avenger

    Interesting theory, since another side effect of Asbergers (I live with a person so afflicted) is an inability to empathize with other people’s feelings.
    However, as for Dagny’s and Francisco’s stunted conversations, I’d attribute that more to a problem with her plot than her cognitive impairment. She simply didn’t have a plausible reason for why the identity of Francisco’s friends would be kept secret from Dagny, but her whole storyline and the who-done-it aspect of the book depends on it. So she just skipped over it, like she did with so many other plot problems.

  • Science Avenger

    That would be a dream here in Texas. A Dallas-Houston-Austin-San Antonio loop would be beneficial in myriad ways…to everyone except perhaps SW Airlines.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I think it could be both – I suspect it didn’t occur to Rand that it was strange that two young lovers never share details of their lives with each other because nobody else in the book shares details of their lives – unless it serves the Great Dichotomy of Ubermensch vs. parasites. So the plot device of nobody knowing who knows who just fell into place, perfectly naturally as far as Rand was concerned.

  • Loren Petrich

    That airline killed a plan to build a high-speed-train system there, the “Texas TGV”, in the early 1990′s.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Rand’s attitudes towards love and sex really creep me out.

    And not just in this work. Fountainhead is pretty creepy about sex too.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    A lot of you may have noticed that Elon Musk unveiled his plans to build the Hyperloop,…

    Musk has made it clear that he has no plans to proceed with the project. So no, he doesn’t “want to build trains.” He is just hoping someone else will.

  • Science Avenger


    is apparently a letter Rand wrote to a fan about the subject. I can’t vouch for the source, but it does sound like the kind of response Rand might write. If its a fake, it’s a damned good one:

    “I am afraid that you have misunderstood the relationship of Roark and Dominique in a very improper way. You write as if you thought that the lesson to be derived from it is that a man should force himself on a woman, and that she would like him for that. But the fact is that Roark did not actually rape Dominique; she had asked for it, and he knew that she wanted it. A man who would force himself on a woman against her wishes would be committing a dreadful crime. What Dominique liked about Roark was the fact that he took the responsibility for their romance and for his own actions. Most men nowadays, like Peter Keating, expect to seduce a woman, or rather they let her seduce them and thus shift the responsibility to her. That is what a truly feminine woman would despise. The lesson in the Roark-Dominique romance is one of spiritual strength and self-confidence, not of physical violence.”

    So, from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

  • arensb

    What? He’s content with owning a payment company, a space travel company, a car company, and a solar power company, and doesn’t want to add a train company to his stable?!
    Clearly he’s no Randian hero in the mold of Francisco d’Anconia or Hank Rearden. And that perforce means that he’s a moocher, a looter, and a parasite.

  • JohnDonohue

    You did use the word “tendencies.”

    “She also seems to have had some misogynistic tendencies.”

    Just because Lee or others supposedly wrote about these does not mean your sweeping invocation of them “as if true” has any bearing on me. In your dreams your invocation of other essays is automatically right.
    This is further reinforced by the hideous lie that “…Rand has written other rape scenes into books where the woman raped was happy about it.”

    Retract that lie and smear, drop the reference to other essays and define what “plain text” means.

    Hopefully you will come up with something better for “plain text” than out of context snippets.

  • Alejandro

    …you mean the woman who ended up marrying her “rapist”?? I can already guess what Adams response here would be if he made a review: “Rand is obviously saying that if a man rapes a woman then the woman should end up marrying him, sort of like the old testament!!”

    BTW, if you really want to understand the scene, you can begin here:

    JohnDonohue: Dont bother. Other than Adam, it seems like nobody has actually read the book. They wont go further than taking a sentence out of context and claiming that this is what the “plain text” says. Is the same thing as watching creationist quoting evolutionist.

  • GCT

    You did use the word “tendencies.”

    I did. I did not use “tendancies” which is not a word. That you quoted me as saying something that is not a word is what I was referring to. Cut and paste is your friend, unless you were trying to undercut my argument by pretending that I misspelled something when I didn’t.

    Just because Lee or others supposedly wrote about these does not mean your sweeping invocation of them “as if true” has any bearing on me. In your dreams your invocation of other essays is automatically right.

    Or, you can look at the previous blog posts in this series and see the evidence that Adam has brought to the discussion.

    This is further reinforced by the hideous lie that “…Rand has written other rape scenes into books where the woman raped was happy about it.”

    Retract that lie and smear, drop the reference to other essays and define what “plain text” means.

    It’s not a lie. The Fountainhead scene is a rape. Period. Dress it up all you want, but it’s a rape. Secondly, where’s the smear? Are you really that desperate to salvage your hero’s ideas about why it’s nice to be an asshole?

    Lastly, are you really unaware of what the phrase “plain text” means, or are you invoking yet another variant of JAQing off? Do we have to start every single discussion from first principles? In the text, which is posted above so anyone can read it, the scene is only technically not a rape…only technically.

    Hopefully you will come up with something better for “plain text” than out of context snippets.

    How is it out of context? It’s very much in context. First Francisco grabs her suddenly, forcefully, and without her consent, then in a later scene he is said to be so intent on getting his way that her consent wouldn’t matter. If you think that this constitutes Dagny’s consent, then you are part of rape culture. Additionally, the part that I first responded to is completely absent from the text, but you decided to insert it as if your made up machinations should be accepted without question, while stuff that is actually in the text should be rejected.

  • GCT

    Where did she ask for it? Oh, she was *asking for it*, the common rape apologetic; I’m sure she was wearing something revealing too.

    This also show’s more of Rand’s misogynistic thinking. “True feminism” is submitting to men….what?

  • GCT

    In Rand’s world, women get raped and are so overcome by the awesomeness of the ubermensch that they are powerless to resist and fall in love. It’s not at all realistic and can still be rape. That she ends up marrying him does not indicate that a rape didn’t occur. In fact, even after marriage a rape can occur.

    And, continue to claim that we are taking things out of context, but fail to supply the context with anything except your need to defend Rand against all criticism no matter what. Yeah, that’ll show us.

  • Science Avenger

    Nice try, but I’ve read all the books, fiction and nonfiction, many many times. In fact, one of my purposes here is to prevent exactly this sort of response from Rand apologists. I wore that hat many years, I know how the game is played.

    Oh, and in case I need to clarify, I don’t consider Rand’s word the final one on this or any other scene, other than on what she intended. But intent does not make reality, and the scene can be a rape even if they author never intended it to be taken that way. A is A.

  • Pacal

    Rand’s supposed disapproval of violent coercion had at least one big hole. She seems to have believed in “Progress” and that sacrifices had to be made, by others, for progress to occur. She stated that the American Indians were using the land incorrectly and that it was therefore correct that others should take the land from them and use it correctly. Thus those who failed to develop industrial Capitalism were using the land incorrectly and they could be legitimately, by violence be disposed by those who would use it correctly.
    This attitude reminds me of the justifications for Stalinist terror and coercion on the basis that it supposedly the violence etc., was necessary for man to advance. Also so much for people being able to use property the way they see fit.

  • Science Avenger

    Not that they weren’t using the land correctly, but they weren’t using it at all, not from Rand’s perspective of how “man” should live. To her they were merely animals who looked like men, so it was no more evil to take the land from them than it was to take it from bears. Setting aside the glaringly obvious ways this is wrong, it’s also historically wrong. The Indians used the land appropriately even by Objectivist standards until vast swaths of their population were wiped out by European disease.

  • A Real Libertarian

    “And you know what? Rand would be okay with that. But I’m not, because this sort of thinking actively hurts
    capitalism in the long run. How many potential ideas, how many innovations, how many new concepts, will never be expressed because of this? What this does is it concentrates all of the capacity for innovation and change in the hands of a few oligarchs who never will, since the status quo benefits them just fine, and thus, top-down control over the market.”

    You’re a bit confused here, that benefits capitalism because if people were allowed to do that they’d be owning the product of their labor, and how many people would voluntarily hand over their work to a capitalist?

    Capitalism can only function when society is divided into masters and servants, the instant everyone is free, capitalism dies.

  • ikonografer

    in case you were unaware, i have heard it said (unsourced, but shit, i believe it after having read some of her ‘work’), that after a lecture she was asked about taking native lands–to which she responded along the lines of ‘they weren’t doing anything with it’, which is what “savages”, yeah, she called us savages get for not developing their ‘holdings’ of territory. if true, it seems she might even have been a bit of a racist–what a surprise.

  • Don Sakers

    Yes, Rand obviously had rape fantasies, and there’s that whole thing about women naturally wanting to be dominated by superior men. No way around it, she was a kinky person with some weird concepts of gender.

    However…once again you have to look at the time when this book was written. It was a different (and uglier) moral world. A world in which it was considered funny for Jackie Gleason to constantly threaten to hit his wife so hard she’d fly to the moon from the impact. A world in which Rhett Butler treated Scarlett O’Hara pretty much the same way Dagny’s various lovers treat her. A world in which Harold Robbins built a whole series of bestsellers on routine violence against women.

    I guess what I’m saying is the notion that “violent, possessive, entitled behavior…should be taken as characteristic of the ideal man” is more an attitude of the time rather than one unique to Rand.