Having followed the discussion of the supposed value of virginity on NoodleFood from last year, Ergo of Leitmotif took note of — and even transcribed — the following question and answer from Ayn Rand’s Ford Hall Forum lecture on “Of Living Death.” (Good man! Notably, he sent me this many moons ago. I delayed it — for far too long — because I wanted to check the transcription, but I never got around to it. Ah well, I have no time to do so now.) It’s quite fascinating.
Question: If romantic love includes more than one person, what does this do to the institution of monogamy?:
Ayn Rand’s answer: To begin with, if you want to ask it in principle, I’m fine. But I resent the nonsense of saying that Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged was promiscuous. She had three men in her life, not simultaneously. Where have you been all your life? It is not only permissible, it is virtuous and moral. I have never said that marriage is the only proper form of romantic love. There is nothing wrong with a romantic affair, if there are reasons why a couple cannot be married or if they are too young to marry; and that is not promiscuity, provided it is a serious feeling based on serious values.
Now, as to more than one love, now remember men have free will. It is the Catholic Church that advocates indissoluble marriage. I don’t. And a reason one cannot is because man is not omniscient. He can make a mistake in his choice of partner or the partner may change through the years and therefore a man may fall out of love, or as so can a woman, if the partner he or she has chosen no longer lives up to the proper values. In Atlas Shrugged, the better example of it to cite is Hank when he had met his wife Lillian. He was romantically in love with her at first because he thought she was a certain type of woman and she deliberately faked the kind of image she thought he would want and he got disappointed. Now, he was very wrong in carrying out a secret affair with Dagny, but what was wrong with it was not sex, but secrecy–the lie.
An open relationship with as many men as you can meet if you are unlucky–but not several at a time–is appropriate, except that of course, one cannot be as unlucky that often, one would have to then check one’s standard if one makes constant mistakes. But as a principle of romantic love, one cannot say that only a single life-long romance can appropriately be called romantic. That is the ideal. If a couple achieves that, they are extremely lucky and they must have extremely good premises, but one can’t make that the norm. Sometimes it is an exclusive single love for all time; sometimes not. The issue to judge here–the moral principle–is the seriousness of their feeling and one gauges that by what kind of values is it based on. What is it that the person is attracted to in a man or a woman, and why. That is the standard of romantic love.
I agree with all of that.