Atlas Shrugged: Gasland

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter VIII

After Dagny and Hank’s train rolls in triumph into Wyatt Junction, Ellis Wyatt invites the two of them to his house for a celebratory dinner. While they eat, he encourages Hank Rearden to move to Colorado (“This is the capital of the Renaissance”) and lets them in on his own future plans:

He pointed west. “The Buena Esperanza Pass. Five miles from here. Everybody’s wondering what I’m doing with it. Oil shale. How many years ago was it that they gave up trying to get oil from shale, because it was too expensive? Well, wait till you see the process I’ve developed. It will be the cheapest oil ever to splash in their faces, and an unlimited supply of it, an untapped supply that will make the biggest oil pool look like a mud puddle.” [p.233]

I had to laugh in recognition when I read this. Ellis Wyatt has discovered hydrofracking!

The technique of hydraulic fracturing is decades old, but it’s only recently become commercially viable. It entails injecting liquid into a well at high pressure to crack open impermeable rock, allowing trapped oil and gas to flow into the borehole. It’s true that fracking in rock formations like the Marcellus Shale has unlocked an enormous supply of natural gas, enough that the U.S. is becoming a net energy exporter for the first time in decades. It’s also true that much of this gas is displacing coal, a far dirtier fuel.

But fracking has its own costs, especially for the communities whose watersheds have been poisoned by a toxic mix of fracking fluids and liberated heavy metals. Energy companies have even gotten laws passed preventing towns from learning what chemicals could be going into their groundwater, claiming that it’s a trade secret.

Obviously you can’t take this analogy too far, because Rand only refers vaguely to Wyatt’s “process” without saying what it is. Maybe in Randworld, Ellis Wyatt has some magical technology that isn’t hydrofracking, that produces cheap oil and gas with no groundwater pollution. But that’s the point: in Atlas, every new technology invented by capitalists is magically perfect. Rearden Metal is lighter and cheaper and stronger than any alloy ever invented. Wyatt’s process unlocks previously unreachable reserves, is incredibly cheap and has no side effects, or at least none worth telling us about. By presenting this impossibly idealized picture of innovation, Rand makes the government look irrational and villainous for wanting to regulate it, but in reality almost every technology has downsides that have to be measured against its benefits.

Over dinner, the three of them exchange boasts about all the pipelines and railroad tracks they’re going to build, all the ways their businesses are going to transform the world. But their celebration is marred when Wyatt gives a toast and then suddenly flings a glass to smash against the wall. When Dagny asks him what’s the matter, he says wistfully, “Never mind. We’ll try to think that it will last” [p.234].

Later that night, Wyatt shows them to their rooms and goes to bed, and that means it’s time for Dagny and Hank, both still turgid with triumph over the success of their railroad, to finally have sex. Prepare yourself – you’ll surely need a cold shower after reading these romantic passages:

His mouth was taut, the lips faintly drawn inward, stressing the outline of its shape. Only his eyes were blurred, their lower lids swollen and raised, their glance intent with that which resembled hatred and pain.

It was like an act of hatred, like the cutting blow of a lash encircling her body; she felt his arms around her, she felt her legs pulled forward against him and her chest bent back under the pressure of his, his mouth on hers. [p.235]

He was not smiling, his face was tight, it was the face of an enemy, he jerked her head and caught her mouth again, as if he were inflicting a wound.

He took her wrist and threw her inside his room, making the gesture tell her that he needed no sign of consent or resistance. [p.236]

Notwithstanding that it was written by a woman, this scene is shockingly misogynistic. It uses language reminiscent of beatings and violence to describe what Hank does to Dagny, treating sex as an act of subjugation. It’s even more explicit than the earlier scene where Francisco slaps Dagny, drags her around by an arm, and treats her body like his property. And yet, Dagny herself finds nothing wrong or off-putting in being treated this way. She even seems to enjoy it.

Again, if this were just Ayn Rand’s private kinks being expressed, that would be one thing. There are plenty of sex scenes in fiction that no ethical person would act out in real life. But Atlas Shrugged, by its author’s own words, isn’t just intended to be a work of fiction. It’s supposed to be a philosophical guide to the way the world should work, a list of desires and preferences that all rational people are supposed to hold. The fictional story is just the vehicle for proselytizing the author’s opinions.

And one of those opinions, apparently, is that all men should violently dominate women, and all women should enjoy being degraded this way. It’s impossible not to wonder if there’s a psychological connection between Rand’s heartless political views, that the poor and the “losers” should all be mercilessly ground underfoot, and her equally cold and ruthless emotional views, which treat sex as a contemptuous and hateful act by which men express their ruthless domination of women.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

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

  • Ricker

    I find the romance parts of the book incredibly disturbing. I get the feeling that Rand must have been into highly submissive BDSM. It also doesn’t quite mesh in my mind that a woman as strong and comanding as Dagny is portrayed would be drawn to be utterly dominated, but that could just be borne of my own ignorance. But I completely agree with your assessment of the “sex scenes”

    On a slightly different topic, fracking: I’m not versed in the individual states laws, but I know the Obama admin has proposed a better fracking regulation than what seems to be in PA. (ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/05/us/new-fracking-rule-is-issued-by-obama-administration.html ) Of course, the rule is by no means perfect; I agree with the breakdown here of some of the flaws: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kassie-siegel/5-fatal-flaws_b_3308268.html )

    Your reference to fracking, though, provides a wonderful illustration of a real world scenario similar to the Rearden Metal safety kerfluffle. O&G companies want to loosen fracking regulations because it financially benefits them and they believe and have studies that show that fracking is harmless. (NOTE: I am NOT affirming/denying the validity of any studies; I am merely stating studies exist on each side that reach a particular conclusion) Of course, those opposed to fracking also have their own studies that show the opposite. The companies are pushing to be allowed to frack unregulated because they believe their product is perfect, but there’s pushback from watchdog groups that there may be problems. Rather than try to develop a mutually accepted testing plan and results criteria, the fracking issue is turning into a perfect illustration of Rearden Metal, I think.

  • busterggi

    I had no idea Ayn Rand was a fan of Mickey Spillane!

  • Nancy McClernan

    According to the Heller biography:

    Rand loved the fact that (Mickey) Spillane’s potboiling plots and gun-toting heroes were dedicated to separating good from evil in a black-and-white world. (“Grays don’t interest me.” she said apropos of his work.)

    Although apparently 50 Shades of Grey would have interested her.

  • skyblue

    “like an act of hatred”, “inflicting a wound”, and the real doozy: “he needed no sign of consent”

    Awwww, how romantic.

    I suppose it’s not surprising given how Rand’s heroes operate in every other aspect of life, that this is how they have sex. The only surprise is that Dagny is the one being treated like this. I could almost have imagined the scene playing out with both Hank and Dagny trying to beat each other up as they take their clothes off, etc, it’s jarring to see Dagny do this complete personality 180 when it comes to sex, when Hank does not, as they’re both held up as “ideals” by Rand.

  • fuguewriter
  • fuguewriter

    I’m not aware of any writing where Rand says that the way her heroes/heroines have sex is the one prescribed way. Bear in mind that Rand was always, always, always going for maximal drama and excitement – and she also was writing in a different time, with much subtext (and assumptions) that we have to get back to to understand her meaning. One gigantic event that must be taken into account is the sexual revolution. Pre-revolution, BDSM and D/S elements had an utterly different meaning too complex to go into now – but let’s just say that America had more of an honor/purity culture – which had both good and bad aspects. (The shallow, preposterous Cyrus-circus of our present pop-media culture sometimes makes me long for some good old-fashioned patriarchal or matriarchal oppression. I’m only partly kidding.) Think “Gone With the Wind” and most other big romances of the time. It’s interesting that the sex scene in the movie version didn’t arouse much comment for its violence.

    Anyway, her protagonists – note the word – always meet at points of maximal tension and fire, and almost always with one of them in a profound personal dilemma. So the sexual passion emerges past a very significant reserve or resistance – again, maximal excitation is what she goes for.

    As for fracking: I’m all for not having people’s water supplies being polluted, but the issue has become a moral panic on the left, with junk science (and junk anecdota) being trotted out. A helpful antidote to “Gasland” is “FrackNation” – on which I (and a whole bunch of other crwod-funders!) acted as producer: http://fracknation.com/

  • Nancy McClernan

    like this. I could almost have imagined the scene playing out with both Hank and Dagny trying to beat each other up

    They ain’t no Spike and Buffy.

  • Alex SL

    The capitalists’ inventions always being perfect is the one thing; the capitalists or CEO’s being the actual inventors is the other. One could use terms such as ‘laughable’ but let’s be charitable and say instead that this is rarely the case. But even in some of the most celebrated cases (e.g. Steve Jobs) looking closer shows how little technical expertise they actually contributed.

    There is a good reason for this: few people are polymaths, so few people can be equally excellent at say, metallurgy and managing a company. Specialization is the solution and one of the most important aspects of any complex society, but of course it works only because we trust each others expertise and individually take the role of small cogs in a greater machine. And this reality would appear to be completely anathema to Rand’s vision of an ideal society.

  • decathelite

    It’s natural for O&G companies to oppose regulations that hinder their ideal operation. But imagine a company like Halliburton facing being enforced to comply with basic industry safety standards and responding by literally burning their entire operation to the ground and cashing out (as Wyatt did), saying they would rather go out of business before even attempting to comply.

  • Elizabeth

    From what I understand, fracking used to be less harmful. Before 2005 it was done with water, steam, carbonated water or salt water. In 2005, the clean water act was amended so that pollution occurring because of fracking did not fall under it’s jurisdiction. Therefore, natural gas companies were free to use substances that were better at extracting gas but also more harmful to the water supply. It’s not fracking itself that’s bad. It’s how we have been doing it lately.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Rand was always, always, always going for maximal drama and excitement

    She failed. She had so many opportunities to make “Atlas Shrugged” exciting – actually describing one of Danneskjold’s raids or having roving bands meet up with the frozen Taggart train. And then there’s the fact that instead of immediately showing us what happened to Dagny after the plane crash in Galt’s Gulch, she could have gone for much more dramatic tension by instead switching to D’anconia out looking for her and leaving us to wonder what happened to her.

    Those are three I came up with without even trying.

    And the reason she failed was because she had to pack as much endless, repetitive harangues into the book as possible. When she was asked to cut some of her endless speeches she replied “would you cut the Bible” and so they didn’t cut them – which is why “Atlas Shrugged” is as plausible and as fun to read as the Bible.

    And the S/M sex fails to be exciting too because that’s always the way Rand’s heroes have sex. Always. Utterly predictable. And as with any kink, only interesting to those to who share the kink – to everybody else, anything from baffling to revolting.

  • Nancy McClernan

    ‘m not aware of any writing where Rand says that the way her heroes/heroines have sex is the one prescribed way.

    Everything Rand’s heroes do is what Rand believes everybody should do. Why would sex be any different? Especially since S/M sex is the only kind of sex her heroes have.

    And we know that Rand believed her heroes were ideal men:

    The motive and purpose of my writing is the projection of the ideal man.

    – The Romantic Manifesto.

    So Rand’s men are not flawed in that they have a preference for having sex with women who don’t consent – Rand’s ideal man prefers rape-y sex. Her ideal man. So the rapey sex isn’t just a random, odd character trait, it is an essential part of the ideal man’s character.

    I don’t see how Rand could have made that any clearer. And she felt that way because she liked rapey sex, and the writings of Rand are a pure reflection of her personal tastes.

  • Alex SL

    Not sure about that. The oil and gas itself could get into the groundwater, that would be bad enough even without added metals and suchlike. And then, of course, fracking makes fossil fuels available that we should best leave in the ground anyway.

    We should have started phasing out all non-regenerative energy sources in the early 1980ies, and the fracking boom shows that we are still not serious about it. It seems that we will not stop burning fossil fuels until all that we can extract is gone or until global warming has disrupted agriculture to the point that industrial civilization collapses in a worldwide hunger revolt. Whatever comes first.

  • fuguewriter

    So everyone should be a railroad VP … no, an architect … no, a physicist-engineer …

    What you’re maintaining here is what Rand called: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/intrinsic_theory_of_values.html

    And no, the positive sex scenes are not S/M but D/s – with identification of roles to gender. It’s noteworthy that the sex scenes of the negative characters are not tender or loving, but empty and passionless.

  • fuguewriter
  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    I once read someone who felt that Rand’s ideal sexual experience would be getting raped on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange. Given passages like this, and the erotic way she felt towards symbols of capitalism, that seems at least plausible.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Whether it’s true or not, it’s funny.

  • Jason Wexler

    Why the steps and not the floor?

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    I don’t know, good question-just quoting how it was written.

  • silentsanta

    It’s very important to tear apart Rand’s poisonous ideology and expose the narcissism and inhumanity that underlie it; and with her particular cult-like influence, the nature of her personal sexual fantasies probably has to inform that analysis to some extent.

    But I suggest we should take a moment and ensure our analysis works to further the humanity that is so clearly missing from her work. Pursuing a gleeful quip or sound-byte about it can draw people into looking like they’d approve of someone punitively sexually assaulting her, as a statement about the magnitude of her numerous literary and philosophical failings. In our society, we cannot afford to be anything other than crystal clear that no-one can deserve to be raped.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    Well, I hope my quoting that didn’t seem like approval for her or anyone else being raped. It was actually meant to be the opposite since her view of sex as displayed in Atlas Shrugged disturbs me to say the least. I don’t care whether someone is into BDSM or just “rough sex”-this appears to go perilously beyond that, and become sexual assault, or near enough.

  • Errant Endeavour

    Okay, look, BDSM is my kink. I’m fairly well acquainted with its aspects, and yes, there is such a thing as non-verbal consent and rape play. But this, just from that passage, is not it. Trust me, there’s a lot more discussion and mutual agreement and understanding that goes into such scenes before the action happens. Let’s try to not confuse BDSM – whose tenants include safety and consent – with non-consenting aggression, control and rape.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The quote isn’t about Rand deserving to be raped, it’s about what Rand would want. And pointing out just how bizarre the work of this hero of the Right really was – her heroes invariably have rapey sex.

    And the rape part is truer to life than the stock market part -Rand liked the stock market in theory but never participated until talked into it, long after she published Atlas Shrugged.

  • J-D

    Imagine a company like Halliburton being forced to comply with basic safety standards and responding by burning their entire operation to the ground …

    Oh yes! Yes! Please!

    No? … Oh, you tease!

  • silentsanta

    I apologize if I came across as accusatory, it certainly wasn’t meant to be, and I didn’t interpret the quotation as approval; I guess I just felt a disclaimer would be appropriate.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    That’s ok, I didn’t find you accusing, just concerned. You were right-I should have made it more clear.

  • Pacal

    The Mike Hammer character was a sociopath, who enjoyed beating, torturing and killing “scum”. In the first Mike Hammer novel I the Jury, the scene at the end in which our “Hero” murders Charlotte has to be read to be believed. It combines sick sex, sadism and socio-pathology in one gruesome bundle, and Mike’s gun is oh so phallic.
    In Vengence is Mine our he-man hero murders a Gay man with gusto and gives a most revealing revelation of Gay panic. Again Mike Hammer destroys the “scum” the deviant, the unnatural with joy. I could go on to the other novels.
    Overall I am not surprised Ayn Rand got along with a writer who made a murderous psychopath his hero.

  • GCT

    So everyone should be a railroad VP … no, an architect … no, a physicist-engineer …

    Once again, you’re being intentionally obtuse.

  • GCT

    The steps would be more uncomfortable?

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Oil shale. How many years ago was it that they gave up trying to get oil
    from shale, because it was too expensive? Well, wait till you see the
    process I’ve developed. It will be the cheapest oil ever to splash in their faces,…

    1) Fracking is not the only oil shale process. In Alberta, where they are now extracting “tar sands,” the tar is too thick to flow even with with fracking, so they have to actually extract it from the ground first.
    2) Neither tar sands extraction nor fracking are cheap compared to the traditional method of sinking a vertical well and pumping out free-flowing crude. The reason fracking has taken off is that the price of oil has risen to the point where extracting from these sources is economically feasible, not because it is cheaper than traditional methods. The technology has improved, but that also is driven by the economic feasibility linked to the price of oil.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Ayn Rand-loving CEO destroys his empire

    It wasn’t in a fit of pique at having his creations taken over by the government, it was through the incompetence of actually believing in Libertarian economics.

  • fuguewriter

    The parallel is exact: Rand nowhere decrees exactly the form a sexual relationship is to take. At most, she is heteronormative, largely by implication.

  • J-D

    Actually, you know, I would cut the Bible. I mean, if I had the chance. Was Ayn Rand saying she thought cutting the Bible would be a bad idea? But why?

  • smrnda

    Actually, you could cut a lot of the Bible and I don’t think it’d lose much. Even great writers required editors. TS Eliot was assisted in editing The Waste Lands by Ezra Pound.

  • smrnda

    The problem is she shows us no example of passionate sex that isn’t domination/submission. She also doesn’t show anything that I’d call passion or love – it’s just people delighting in power. Part of love is vulnerable people doing what they can to support each other, and that aspect of the human condition is totally absent from all her works.

    On her being restricted by the times she lived in, she wrote in the 50s. William S Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch at about the same time, and that book, as far as breaking taboos about sex, blows everything out of the water for decades later. Of course, Burroughs wasn’t doing much more than writing about his kinks which makes it more palatable – it’s not like he’s pretending to have The Answers.

  • smrnda

    Yeah, most of this pulp crap amounts to nothing but fantasies of power and domination for people who want to feel vicariously powerful.

    On ‘grey’s don’t interest me,’ pretty much what DEFINES great literature is dealing in the grey moral areas. Great authors are known for dealing with moral complexity – black and white morals isn’t serious literature. It’s too simplistic for most juvenile fiction, and too boring for about anyone who isn’t simply looking for some wish fulfillment or empty ‘guy in white hat shoots guy in black hat’ escapist fare. I find that stuff dreadfully boring.

    Show me any great work of literature where characters who are the grey aren’t the standard. Even comic books get outside of the simple ‘black and white.’

    On Spillane, I worry that the idea of the ‘tough guy detective’ ends up being a trope that’s used to justify police corruption and brutality. You see this a lot – the heroic good guy who is a cop or FBI agent or whatnot *could* get the bad guys, but there’s always this horrible *due process* standing in the way. I wonder if that type of propaganda is what got us the contemporary security state and cops that have no problem abusing their authority – the idea that the loose cannot detective IS a moral ideal, rather than a dangerous person who is eroding any concept of meaningful justice or due process.

  • smrnda

    Innovation is a highly collective enterprise where, the more complicated the task, the better you’re advised to outsource what you’re not an expert in t someone who is.

    There may have been more polymaths back when technology and science were at a more primitive level, where there was more room for One Person with One Idea to make a huge difference, and where fewer people were educated. What % of the population knew advanced mathematics when Newton was around? (What % could even read?) There are fewer Great Geniuses now just because the educated person is no longer such a rarity.

  • smrnda

    I’m glad a real BDSM practitioner got in this discussion! I’m asexual but know a few people into the scene and I really dislike how it gets misrepresented. Of all people I know, people into BDSM *get* consent so much more than most, since they have to work out really difficult scenarios.

    Something I’ve also noted is that authors who write lots of BDSM that depicts things like rape fantasies tend to spell out what they’re doing. Rand doesn’t.

  • smrnda

    It’s also the belief that people want to live as enemies, selfishly looking out for #1. Most people *do not* want to live like that, just a few sadists, and regrettably, they tend to like power, and since they see no value to human bonds based on empathy and compassion, they seek to destroy any possibility of such bonds developing.

  • smrnda

    What lack of imagination, and what lack of curiosity.

  • Nancy McClernan

    The conversation may have been specifically about the John Galt speech, but the deal that Cerf cut with Rand included “other long passages.” The deal being:

    “Nobody’s going to read that speech. You’ve said it all three or four times before… you’ve got to cut it.” Answering with a comment that became publishing legend, she said, “Would you cut the Bible?” With that, Cerf threw up his hands, but cagily asked her to forfeit seven cents in royalties per copy to pay for the additional paper it would take to print the uncut speech and other long passages… She agreed… Haydn resigned himself to being an “apprentice copy editor” who helped her search for and remove words within a paragraph that rhymed “an obsession with her.”

    http://tinyurl.com/n7mfwwh

    So Rand was willing to give up money not only to prevent John Galt’s speech from being cut but to prevent other long passages from being cut. The fact that the Random House editors were treated as “apprentice copy editors” whose only editing task was to remove words within a paragraph that rhymed is evidence that Rand didn’t want anything in “Atlas Shrugged” cut, not just John Galt’s Long-Assed Speech.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well this is just my speculation, but basically, although Rand didn’t believe in the Bible herself, she knew that the Bible was revered as a sacred text, and felt that “Atlas Shrugged” should be treated the same way.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Sure – this section from Genesis, from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah demonstrates that the Bible suffers from tedious reiteration just like “Atlas Shrugged”:

    26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

    27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

    “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

    29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

    He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

    30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

    He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

    31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

    He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

    32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

    He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

    33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2018&version=NIV

  • Nancy McClernan

    “Implication”? She flat-out called homosexuality “disgusting” according to the Heller biography.

    But in fact, considering how Rearden feels about d’Anconia, not to mention his response to seeing Danneskjold for the first time, Rand had no problem with homoeroticism – by implication.

  • Nancy McClernan

    So everyone should be a railroad VP … no, an architect … no, a physicist-engineer …

    If you want to be a Randian hero you best not be exclusively the proprietor of a five and dime.

    And no, the positive sex scenes are not S/M but D/s

    The sex scenes are expressed in terms of giving and receiving pain.

    He was not smiling, his face was tight, it was the face of an enemy, he jerked her head and caught her mouth again, as if he were inflicting a wound.

    D/s is not specifically about pain and violence. S/M is, and I don’t see why the two modes would be seen as mutually exclusive.

    It’s noteworthy that the sex scenes of the negative characters are not tender or loving, but empty and passionless.

    Of course because in every way the ugly, lazy, stupid, corrupt, incompetent parasites are the opposite of the Ubermensch. Why wouldn’t their sex lives be the opposite too?

    Tender and loving sex does not exist in Atlas Shrugged. It isn’t rough enough for Rand’s personal taste, and its too sex-positive for her to allow the parasites to indulge in it. You would no more expect a couple of Atlas Shrugged parasites to share loving and tender sex than you would a couple of orcs in the Lord of the Ring to share loving and tender sex. That’s not what dehumanized antagonists do.

  • Nancy McClernan

    To be fair, in Atlas Shrugged Rand presents her ideal society as one in which the Ubermensch living in the earthly paradise of Galt’s Gulch are not enemies but rather perfect friends in perfect agreement with each other – because Rand believed that there would be no conflicts of interest among rational men.

    It’s a completely bonkers belief of course – maybe even more than the idea that people are more productive when they are in eternal competition with others, as Eddie Lampert appears to have believed.

  • fuguewriter

    These claims about Rand’s sex scenes are anti-textual. Francisco and Dagny’s first scene, for instance: “by right of the unendurable pleasure it gave them both,” (from memory)

  • fuguewriter

    Does she decree exactly the form a sexual relationship is to take? No.

    What I said: “she is heteronormative, *largely by implication*.” Emphasis added. Note the word “largely.” Of course, to get anything outside heterosexuality we have to go to random comments in Q&As – and yes, she said in several public Q&A comments that homosexuality came from unfortunate premises and she found it personally disgusting. I know of only one evidently homosexual character in her works, and it’s a character in a play unpublished in her lifetime – “Ideal.” He’s a swishy hanger-on at an artists’s place.

    Still no decree in her works – which is what’s being discussed – for exactly the form a sexual relationship is to take.

    She explicitly denied homosexual feelings between Roark and Wynand – see her letters. Interestingly, Leonard Peikoff has said Wynand’s feelings are, in his view, homoerotic.

  • fuguewriter

    > she shows us no example of passionate sex that isn’t domination/submission

    Completely agreed. Looked at in the context of the times in which she was writing, it has a different meaning than our post-sexual-revolution sensibilities.

    > just people delighting in power.

    I disagree here. She depicts people who are connected on a subverbal level who share similar leanings. Again, in the paradigm of her time it’s different as to intentionality.

    > Part of love is vulnerable people doing what they can to support each other, and that aspect of the human condition is totally absent from all her works.

    Agreed. Happily, nowhere does she say, “I’m laying down the limits and bounds of anything humans are permitted to do, and showing positively all and only the things they can do.”

    > On her being restricted by the times she lived in, she wrote in the 50s. William S Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch at about the same time

    And it was published by Olympia, followed by Grove, due to obscenity and had a shadowed career for a time after. Incommensurable.

  • fuguewriter

    Thank goodness!

  • Errant Endeavour

    I’m glad to have been of help, Smrnda!

    And I never really thought of us who are in the lifestyle get consent more than most, but now that I think about it, that would make sense, since it’s a rather vital aspect. Things can and do go quite wrong, and so trust and consent are things we put a lot of attention into.

  • GCT

    Now, you’re not only being intentionally obtuse, but you’re also playing dumb.

  • Azkyroth

    So everyone should be [...] a physicist-engineer

    Yes.

    And no, the positive sex scenes are not S/M but D/s – with identification of roles to gender.

    The distinction you are purporting to use does not actually exist.

  • smrnda

    Ayn Rand is bad pulp. Burroughs is literature, perhaps the most influential of all the beat writers and an author who clearly had imagination, could write interesting characters, and who could actually be funny, something Rand fails to do. Naked Lunch is a huge cultural document which people with *real taste* read. Rand is an adolescent fantasy for people who are cases of arrested development. I could also add writers like JG Ballard, Kathy Acker, all people who were initially quite controversial who later developed quite a following, and they sure run circles around Rand. Just to rub it in, none of the *cool kids* read Rand. Rand didn’t influence good music (both Joy Division and the Velvet Underground and a whole lot of punk rock owed a lot to Burroughs.) Cyberpunk and slipstream literature owes a lot to the way Burroughs depicted bizarre futuristic settings. Rand? She’s got some boring white Republicans as her fan boys. SO un-hip.

    Given that Rand did not believe in grey characters, and believes that her task is the depiction of *ideal characters* any omissions should be taken to imply that what she omits is not ideal. Atlas Shrugged is a thick book. Nowhere is there anything I can recognize as ‘love’ in the sense of vulnerable people acting out of care and compassion for each other. Nowhere is there any concept that there is anything to life except the goals of Captains of Industry. She wrote enough that she could have showed some diversity. Take a writer like Georges Simenon. Most of his output were formulaic mysteries, but his Romans Durs (hard novels) dealt with a diversity of human beings from all walks of life, all written with a goal to understand people and depict them as they are. Rand has no interest in understanding anyone else – you’re either her ideal, or a caricature of ‘bad.’

    Before you try to knock real literature, Olympia press did a great job making books that were being censored by uptight morons with sticks up their collective posteriors available. Rand’s book pretty much impressed nobody, except some bland, dull people in stuffed shirts looking for ways to argue the status quo was good and business knows best. Like I said, *none of the cool kids* read Rand.

  • smrnda

    I think most people regard ‘consent’ like breathing or walking. They assume you just *know it *and don’t require any special knowledge or thought or understanding.

  • smrnda

    “There are no conflicts among rational people.”

    Well, first we have to define rational. People all have different goals, tastes and values and you’ll eventually get some friction, even if it’s just what color to paint a wall, what topping goes on a pizza, or whether the shop should be open on Monday holidays. Either there has to be some way to determine *what preferences are rational* (bullshit, as it’s like saying ‘wanting olives on pizza is not the rational choice’) or else she has to say that there exist almost no rational people.

    I’d agree that there are no (zero) rational people, because we can’t really define certain behaviors as ‘rational’ or ‘irrational.’ Any group of people united by rationality will eventually have a conflict, and then they’ll split into factions in which each faction denounces that the other has betrayed reason. Which you see with her fandom.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well Ayn Rand could tell you who was rational – Ayn Rand and everybody who agreed with her.

  • J-D

    Well, she had a lucky escape there. What if she’d come up against somebody who didn’t feel that way?

    ‘Would you cut the Bible?’

    ‘Yes, I would, actually. Why do you bring that up? Is it because you agree that your book includes as much dull repetitive pointless content as the Bible? Because that’s kind of my point.’

  • fuguewriter

    Do you seriously think she’d have selected a publisher like that? And with an enormous best-seller like “The Fountainhead” behind her, would a publisher have cut her, knowing she might well walk? Remember: they’re ruthless capitalists, and they want to sell books.She had the goods, and they knew it. (And she loved them, back then.)

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    I’m sure several people have said this already, but the “oil shale” that is being referred to in the book is almost certainly kerogen and not the “tight oil” that is currently being extracted via fracking. These are completely different things.

    The amount of tight oil out there is relatively small, though its extraction comes at a fortuitous time (depending how you look at it) given high oil prices and the peak of conventional crude. The supply of kerogen is massive (trillions of barrels equivalent worth), and Colorado contains a large fraction of the world’s supply.

    The problem is, it’s an extremely stupid form of energy. Native Americans were well aware of the “burning rocks” of the shale oil deposits, but they rarely used them. They had a much better fuel, called wood, which has higher energy density, grows all over, and can be easily moved about. Grass clippings have higher energy density than shale oil. To get useful oil out of it, you have to heat the stuff to high temperatures and cook it for a long time. That uses up most of the energy and requires a ton of water, something that Colorado doesn’t have a lot of.

    But of course this is Atlas Shrugged, so the Galtian hero effortlessly created a magical solution to an intractable problem. And, of course, environmental destruction is a conspiracy of the looters.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    …enough that the U.S. is becoming a net energy exporter for the first time in decades.

    No, we’re not. Those articles are horribly misleading and are almost invariably regurgitations of the latest oil industry talking points. Read the article carefully. We still import over 1/3rd of the oil we use. (But hey, production now exceeds imports, meaning that less than half is imported!) That’s not net exporting. It’s not even close.

    If you want to know what the EIA is actually projecting, it’s not hard to find out. They project the US will remain a net importer out to 2040, and the fraction of imports is projected to start growing after the fracking boom peaks in a few short years.

    The good news is, the EIA has consistently and wildly underestimated the growth of renewables, and more recently, the reduction in domestic oil demand.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Because the floor is reality, the steps are for deluded wannabes.

  • smrnda

    Yes, how would so many people develop callousness towards *the moochers* to an acceptable degree if that speech had been cut?

    Rand’s world reminds me of the cultural revolution. In the end, everyone calls everyone else a moocher and civilization falls apart since everyone and anyone can find justification that it’s *someone else* who is a moocher.

  • Nancy McClernan

    LOL – no accounting for taste. And I suspect that more people would have read the book if it wasn’t so long and tedious and repetitive – however that might have worked against it.

    Just as many Christians have read very little of the Bible, many right-wingers have read very little of Atlas Shrugged. And just as many people are shocked by the horrors of the Bible, once they actually sit down and read it – and many an atheist has claimed they became a non-believer after reading the Bible, so too, people are often appalled by “Atlas Shrugged” once they slog through it enough to understand how truly nutty it is.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I wasn’t talking about Roark and Wynand, I mentioned Rearden and d’Anconia and if we are going to play by implication then she had no problem with homoeroticism.

    Although it’s quite possible she had so little self-awareness that she didn’t realize it – and her sycophants were certainly not about to argue with her, knowing how she felt about homosexuality.

    I think it’s possible that since she made her Atlas Shrugged heroes desirable to her, and she had such a limited ability to view the world from outside her own point of view, it seemed natural for Rearden to pine after d’Anconia and to be distracted by Danneskjold’s beauty, and it never occurred to her that the way she described these things sounded incredibly gay.

    And she consciously made Toohey effeminate “in the manner of a woman or a nance.” I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you what she meant by “nance.”

    Rand’s notes on Laski’s lecture and her resultant description of Toohey, showcased her distaste for all things feminine. Rand was repelled by the women in the New School audience, whom she characterized as sexless, unfashionable and unfeminine. She and Frank scoffed at their dowdy lisle stockings, trading snide notes back and forth. Rand was unfuriated most by the “intellectual vulgarity” of the audience, who seemed to her half-wits unable to comprehend the evil of Laski’s socialism. What could be done about such a “horrible, horrible horrible” spectacle, besides “perhaps restricting higher education, particularly for women?” she asked in her notes on the lecture. This misogyny rubbed off on Rand’s portrait of Toohey, who was insipidly feminine, prone to gossip and maliciously catty “in the manner of a woman or a nance.” Through Toohey, Rand would code leftism as fey, effeminate and unnatural, as opposed to the rough-hewn masculinity of Roark’s individualism.

    - Goddess of the Market, Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns, p. 45.

  • Nancy McClernan

    What’s your point? That BDSM gave them pleasure? Isn’t that the point of BDSM for those who do it?

    It’s interesting that they are described as loving sex so much, considering that once d’Anconia joins up with Galt he and Dagny would then spend their young adulthoods in absolute celibacy in spite of each of them being such hotties, and d’Anconia even surrounding himself with hot women constantly. These are very strange people, these Ubermensch.

  • fuguewriter

    Your claim was: “The sex scenes are expressed in terms of giving and receiving pain.”

    Not so. The quote is one instance of the not-so’ness.

    Pain is not the main thing. D/s (which Rand saw as gender-normative) in a romantic context is. We can infer she thought it conferred the maximum excitement and pleasure.

  • fuguewriter

    Her goal wasn’t raw numbers of readers, so that’s neither here nor there. “Atlas” is one of those works of art that couldn’t be anything other than what it is. The length of the speeches and such are part of her point (and personality).

  • fuguewriter

    The greatest moochers in the book were corporate Presidents. The most loathsome character of all – James Taggart – is a worthless heir and titan of (apparent) industry.

  • fuguewriter

    I enjoy Burroughs for his razor-sharp intellect and his occasional moments of greatest clarity. I’ve hung out with a few people who knew him – I puffed the ceremonial joint – and meant to write him at the P.O. Box they gave me, but he died. I was at the party with some Beat folks when his death came over the wire.

    Rand isn’t pulp. Burroughs affected to be pulp.

    > none of the *cool kids* read Rand.
    > unhip

    Snore.

    > the depiction of *ideal characters* any omissions should be taken to imply that what she omits is not ideal.

    Her ideal characters differ. Compare Roark and Dagny. What she says is ideal is moral stature (in her system), and says it is open to everyone.

    > Nowhere is there anything I can recognize as ‘love’ in the sense of vulnerable people acting out of care and compassion for each other.

    Dagny and Cheryl. Rearden and the Wet Nurse. But romantically, aye. She was going against all soft muzzyness in humanity.

    > Nowhere is there any concept that there is anything to life except the goals of Captains of Industry.

    Foolishness. Many of said Captain were entirely corrupt – James Taggart, e.g.

    And a truck-driver is in Galt’s Gulch. And a composer. And a judge.

    > Before you try to knock real literature

    Your mind is running away with itself.

    > Olympia press did a great job making books that were being censored

    Yes. Frank Harris (even with the fake last part).

    > Rand’s book pretty much impressed nobody

    You’re too concerned with the opinions of the cool kids : )

    > except some bland, dull people in stuffed shirts

    The hate is revealed.

    > looking for ways to argue the status quo was good

    You understand her not at all. A radical, she was.

    > and business knows best.

    Like James Taggart and Orren Boyle. And Gail Wynand.

    > Like I said, *none of the cool kids* read Rand.

    Impressive argument.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I never said pain was the main thing – but Rand certainly uses violent pain-related terms to describe most of her sex scenes.

    And even this particular sex scene, which is less violent than most in AS still has that rapey vibe:

    She knew that fear was useless, that he would do what he wished, that the decision was his…

    http://tinyurl.com/mj8mkts

    Once again one of Rand’s ideal men is saved from being a full-on rapist because the heroine is secretly – not explicitly – giving consent. And as that line makes clear he would do it whether she gave consent or no.

    And the pain-talk that doesn’t appear in the actual sex scene has already been used in the foreplay:

    She felt an exultant pleasure – because every stab of pain begun in her body had to end in his, because he was being exhausted as she was – what she did to herself, she was doing it also to him – this was what he felt – it was not her pain that she felt or her body but his.

    In the moments when she saw his face, she saw that he was laughing. He was looking at her as if he understood. He was playing, not to win, but to make it harder for her – sending his shots wild to make her run – losing points to see her twist her body in an agonizing backhand.

    That’s what gets them hot and ready for the sex – the giving and receiving of pain. It’s all one big BDSM good time for Rand’s Ubermensch.

  • fuguewriter

    > uses violent pain-related terms to describe most of her sex scenes.

    Agreed. Look back at “We The Living” to the first sex scene between Kira and Leo. It ends on a fadeout on Kira baring her teeth.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Yes it’s about her personality and her preferences and has nothing to do with a useful critique of real-world socio-political systems or living human beings.

    The fact that so many people believe it does indicates that like the Bible, it’s pledged allegiance-to far more often than it is thoroughly read and understood.

  • Alex Harman

    “Would you cut the Bible?” Hell, yes! With a chainsaw.

  • Alex Harman

    If we’re going to frack at all, we ought to be using pressurized carbon dioxide; at least then we’d be putting some carbon back in the ground to replace what we’re taking out and putting in the air. There are at least a few oil fracking operations that are doing this, using CO2 captured from a coal-burning power plant’s exhaust; because it’s non-polar, the CO2 actually works better than water for separating oil from shale.

  • fuguewriter

    Rearden no more pined for D’Anconia than Rand preened on the bus over readers.

  • smrnda

    The problem with Rand is that she sees no purpose to life outside of what you do as paid employment connected to the production/consumption of goods. People are reduced to their jobs – the occasional non-captain of industry who gets a nod as being a decent person is a person who has no interest in a life outside of work. Relationships are only built around allegedly *superior people* united in their disdain for others. Her characters display immense callousness towards the rest of humanity, and her basic idea is that life contains a very small set of *acceptable goals*. Rather than expanding life, her work reduces it, and reduces the humanity of everyone. All while claiming to be *for the individual* she’s only for individuals who perfectly uphold her philosophy, which she can’t even define consistently. The truck driver is in Galt’s Gulch because he views himself as just a truck driver, and views the idea that truck drivers might have other goals aside from being better truck drivers with disdain. Rand is hostile to the idea that people are entitled to a life outside of work, or that a life outside of work can have value, or that people are perfectly in the right to say “these demands from my employer are unreasonable and interfere with my quality of life, therefore, the laws should prevent my employer from turning me into a robot.” Given that, I do hate Rand and I hate her ideas, because they would make the vast majority of people utterly miserable. According to Rand, it’s important that proles be better, more dedicated, more productive workers. However, this isn’t going to do as much for human happiness as realizing that what proles need is less work, more leisure, and more time doing what they feel like doing and with their friends and families. Yes, I hate any ideology that would effectively rob people of what *LIFE IS REALLY ABOUT* in favor of a philosophy that reduces human beings to their role in industrial production.

    Exactly what makes *you* the arbiter of literary quality? Burroughs did use some pulp tropes (example – the Hauser and O’Brien scene in Naked Lunch) but most of his writing is on par with absurd satire more comparable to Jonathan Swift. “The Coming of the Purple Better One” from Exterminator, or the scene from the Island (a fictitious British colony) would fit the bill there. Plus, Burroughs wasn’t so arrogant as to pretend he had the proper philosophy of life for everyone, but he was able to mock what’s absurd in life fairly well. “Junky” was more or less a realistic novel marketed as pulp owing to its sensational content for the time, but it’s definitely not ‘pulp’ the way the junk you site is. And if Rand and such is such great literature, why is somehow Rand absent from all literature curricula everywhere? Or is there some conspiracy?

    Rand was a radical in that she rejects all moral duties to others, but this is being ‘radical’ in a sense of being opposed to exactly what has kept humanity and civilization going. Civilization is maintained NOT be great people with great minds, but by the fact that human beings work together, care about each other, and don’t simply dismiss the welfare of others as not their concern. The reason is that self-reliance is, was and always will be a fiction. Humans cooperate. That’s how we survive. Nobody is so essential that we can’t do without that particular individual, because if that was true, if society was really maintained by “MOVERS” then the moment they collectively took a nap, society would collapse. That’s her thesis in Atlas Shrugged, but seriously, if the ‘captains of industry’ and a few people who think other people are moochers bailed, we’d all get along just fine (or possibly better) without them. She was just too dim to understand the essentially collective nature of all human endeavors.

    I stand by my critique of Randoids as bland, uninteresting people, and all said, the cool kids are fighting for a world I can stand. Rand is all about a world where my entire life is defined by what I do in terms of employment, which isn’t how I want to live, and a world in which the instinct towards altruism, which is what holds civilization together more than anything else since as individuals, we are all weak and helpless; she’s against the very foundation of civilization. She’s IS for the status quo – she’s standing for the right of *some people* (those with greater power) imposing their values on everyone else. She believes in the fiction that outside of government ‘coercion’ there exists free choice, which is false. Most people have no choice, and government becomes a tool for these people to leverage their numbers against economic power.

    //She was going against all soft muzzyness in humanity.//

    Sounds like a heartless bully to me, the type of person who wants to make fun of people for thinking babies are cute. It’s that soft muzzyness that again, builds the bonds that keep humanity together because it keeps us from reducing others to *resources to be exploited.* The soft muzzyness is really the greatest asset to our survival. If she’s against that, she might as well be for human extinction. Perhaps living a bohemian life where nobody had kids is what gave her that perspective. You can contrast that to the attitude of JG Ballard (a writer so good he could appropriate the style of scientific studies to make political satire) who said that it was having those responsibilities that made him a better writer, and the old attitude that ‘the enemy of writing is the baby in the pram’ just leads to writing being the product of a limited perspective on life.

    True, she divides between good CEOs and bad ones, but in the end, her depictions of these people have no resemblance to reality, and are therefore meaningless.

    If you want to bash the *cool kids* I have to side with the people fighting for a world that’s better for more people, rather than a world that would be worse. Randoids just don’t share any values that I can admire, and in the end, the whole philosophy is built on nonsense. Rand said “there is no conflict of interest among rational people.” I see no way this can be a true statement, or even a meaningful one. First, you’d have to define what’s ‘rational’ in every single instance, which she seemed perfectly willing to do, but I don’t ascribe to the idea that what Ayn Rand says must be true axiomatically. The other thing is, I see no reason why rational people can’t have conflicting interests. Anyone who can spout such nonsense is someone I’m not wasting my time with, except perhaps analogous to the way one treats a disease which is likely to spread.

    Rand is hostile to any system of values that believes people have inherent value, or deserve any basic level of decent treatment, therefore, she’s hostile to most of humanity. She spoke approvingly of genocide, so I can’t respect her at all. She’s just a petty, inconsistent babbler looking for any way to side with those who have power against those who don’t, who can’t even come up with consistent ways to determine who is a moocher and who isn’t because humanity simply can’t be divided into those two meaningless groups.

    All said, I have yet to meet 1 single Randoid who wasn’t dull, uninteresting, and who had bad taste.

  • smrnda

    which makes ‘rational’ totally subjective. I could just say she’s ‘inhuman’ and leave it at that.

    A similarity I see between Randoids and Fundamentalist Christians is that they have very anti-human philosophies, but they say everyone else has a philosophy of death.

  • GCT

    …or whether the shop should be open on Monday holidays.

    Rand’s heroes would never argue about that, since their stores would be open every day and they would be working every day…of course!

  • fuguewriter

    > she sees no purpose to life outside of what you do as paid employment connected to the production/consumption of goods

    This is wrong in many ways. She holds that the purpose of life is happiness – enjoyment – fulfillment. She says the two primary means to attain happiness are work – not the construct you come up with, but creative/productive work within the limits of your ability – and romantic love. (I’m not saying I agree with this picture. I’m talking about what she says.)

    > People are reduced to their jobs

    She’s completely against this. Peter Keating and Gail Wynand (and Toohey) and James Taggart and Orren Boyle et. al. all held prominent jobs and made lots of money.

    > is a person who has no interest in a life outside of work.

    She’s not portraying complete and total human lives. This is akin to finding fault with Nabokov because we don’t see any of crazy Humbert’s syllabi.

    > *superior people* united in their disdain for others.

    She would consider that second-handedness in the extreme.

    The rest is tw;dr.

  • Edwin Karat

    I have read the article carefully. It says quite clearly that we imported 7.6M barrels of oil and exported 7.7M barrels of oil. That’s the definition of net exporter right there. The only deception is that that is just for the single month of October and possibly a statistical fluke, not a sustained phenomenon.

    Perhaps you are confusing production with exports? Exports are the amount that we sell, which exceeds the amount that we buy — or at least it did for that one specific month.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    I’m not confusing exports with production. The article is confusing exports with production.

    This is the point or reading more carefully. If you get past the second sentence, you realize they’re talking about production and not exports. Or you could look up the production numbers and see for yourself.

    This is assuming you didn’t already know that it’s illegal for US producers to export crude, and that it would be totally nonsensical to export a massive 7 Mbp only to import it all right back in again.

  • Edwin Karat

    Short answer: You’re right about the ban.

    It’s not nonsensical to export one kind of oil we aren’t set up to refine and import another we are — though the merchant marine act makes it expensive to transport oil by ship to ourselves, so that and some geographical issues are partially to blame as well. We’ve been selling refined products, importing one kind to refine, and accumulating the oil we produce. (I thought we lifted the ban on selling it already, but it looks like I was mistaken in that — we had been just letting our production accumulate previously, and I thought the clamour for exporting it had been resolved already, but I guess not.)

    In short, I was wrong about the ban. The article is wrong since we don’t export oil at all. However, we have been a net petroleum-product exporter in some recent months, and by all measures, our production has skyrocketed due to shale — only we don’t yet have the infrastructure to transport it where we want and many refineries aren’t optimized for refining it.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    We do export some refined product, but this is relatively small compared to total production and imports. And it’s not really a natural resource issue; it occurs because for whatever reason some countries would rather outsource their refining to the US than build their own refineries.

    The bottom line with petroleum is that we produce half of what we consume and import the rest. A big hoopla was made when the fraction of imports went from just over 1/2 to just under it. But this is an arbitrary and meaningless number. Actually, the amount we produce or import isn’t really important, what’s important is that we’re extremely vulnerable to supply shocks. If a major oil producer has a civil war, oil prices skyrocket and our economy takes a massive hit. That’s why we spend untold billions on military affairs in the Middle East, and why we compromise our values by palling around with dictators. And this would be true no matter how much we produced domestically.

    The only way to address the issue is to increase the elasticity of demand. In other words, people need alternatives when oil prices rise, such as mass transit or electric cars. That’s what makes this whole “net exporter” crap so pernicious. It’s a fraud perpetrated by the oil industry to prevent policies that would unshackle us from oil dependency.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X