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Is Homosexuality Moral?

Is Homosexuality Moral?

4 Mins
June 29, 2001

Question: Is it moral to be homosexual? and what is Objectivism's view of homosexuality?

Answer : While Ayn Rand did consider homosexuality to be immoral, this was only her personal view. The morality of homosexuality is not a philosophical issue per se, but one can use Objectivist principles to evaluate the morality of homosexuality in any given situation. The essence of the Objectivist position is this: Homosexuality can be a moral issue only to the extent that it is a matter of choice. Scientific evidence shows that, in many cases, people don't choose their sexual orientations—it is in their natures to prefer sexual relations with members of the same sex, members of the opposite sex, or both. On the other hand, people can choose whether to act in accordance with their natures, and since sex is essential to man's life and happiness, this is a moral issue. It is morally right for people to act in accordance with their natures, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or anything in-between.

Objectivism holds that sex is morally important, but not for the traditionally cited reasons. While some believe that sex should be practiced only in order to procreate or only in accordance with the mandates of their religions, Objectivism holds that sex is morally important because it can promote one's life and happiness. Sex is not merely a hedonic process that produces immediate sensory pleasure. Sex, "[t]o a rational man…is an expression of self-esteem—a celebration of himself and of existence" ( Ayn Rand , "Of Living Death," The Objectivist, Oct. 1968, 2). And for this man (or woman, mutatis mutandis), sex is properly a physical expression of romantic love, "his response to his own highest values in the person of another—an integrated response of mind and body, of love and sexual desire" (ibid., 2). Celebration of one's own life and of existence is essential to promoting one's happiness; thus, it is moral to make choices that allow oneself this celebration and immoral to deny or negate it.

So according to Objectivism , sex is potentially moral, but what about homosexuality? The few times Ayn Rand spoke publicly about homosexuality, her remarks were disparaging. She said that homosexuality is a manifestation of psychological "flaws, corruptions, errors, [and] unfortunate premises" and that it is both "immoral" and "disgusting" ("The Moratorium on Brains," Ford Hall Forum Lecture [Boston, 1971]). Apparently, she thought that heterosexuality was a universal fact of human nature. "The essence of femininity," she wrote, "is hero worship" ( Ayn Rand , "About a Woman President," in The Voice of Reason, ed. Leonard Peikoff [New York: Penguin, 1989], 268), the worship of men as producers. It is human nature, she believed, for a woman of self-esteem to want to be ruled, in sexual matters, by a man worthy of ruling her, and for a man of self-esteem to want to rule, in sexual matters, a woman worthy of being ruled. To Rand, the "unfortunate premises" that lead to homosexuality are, presumably, premises that contradict this view of sex roles. (For further discussion and debate on Rand's views on sex, see Mimi Gladstein and Chris Sciabarra, eds., Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand [University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999].)

Current psychobiological research indicates that Rand's conception of sex roles is, in part, mistaken. Biological factors such as genetics and prenatal development play substantial roles in determining sexual orientation. While the developmental mechanisms are not yet fully understood, it is known that many, if not most, homosexuals are attracted to members of the same sex by no choice of their own. Moreover, to the extent that homosexuality is not a product of choice, it is not a moral issue. As Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged (New York: Penguin, 1957), "a sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality" (938).

While sexual orientations may not be chosen, in many cases, what behaviors people exhibit in response to their orientations are chosen, and such behaviors can be evaluated morally. A person who by nature, rather than by choice, is more attracted to members of the same sex than the opposite sex still has the choice to recognize and act in accordance with this fact or to repress or act against it. If a person wishes to achieve happiness and promote his life, then he must, in a realm as morally important as sex, act in accordance with his nature. For example, it is morally right for a woman whose nature it is to be sexually attracted to women rather than men to become romantically involved with a woman she loves and desires. In contrast, it is morally wrong for a man whose nature it is to be sexually attracted to women rather than men to become romantically involved with a man rather than seeking out a woman. So there are contexts in which homosexual behavior is immoral (just as there are contexts in which heterosexual behavior is immoral), but there is nothing immoral about homosexuality per se.

However, this moral fact has no political implications. While many conservatives believe that homosexuality should be outlawed and many liberals believe that homosexuals should be given special rights, Objectivism holds that as long as no force is involved, people have the right to do as they please in sexual matters, whether or not their behavior is considered by others to be or is in fact moral. And since individual rights are grounded in the nature of human beings as human beings, homosexuals do not deserve any more or less rights than heterosexuals.

D. Moskovitz
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D. Moskovitz
Love and Sex