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Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. One of the greatest books of all time. Though Atlas Shrugged is, by far, the better book (considered the second-most influential book after the Bible), it's all relative. The Fountainhead is, in my opinion, required reading before taking on Atlas Shrugged. Without reading The Fountainhead first, you miss important concepts in Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged is a highly complex book to read and is deep in philosophical tenets. Reading The Fountainhead first will help you enjoy and experience Atlas Shrugged so much more.

But putting aside these benefits, there are other reasons to read The Fountainhead, not the least of which is the sex. (Atlas Shrugged will also whet your sexual appetite.) Granted, most don't associate Ayn Rand with eroticism. However, one of the reasons Ayn Rand is so successful at effectively communicating her philosophy, which later came to be known as Objectivism, is because she mixes philosophical proselytizing with drama. And, after all, what's drama without sex?

Of course, neither The Fountainhead nor Atlas Shrugged compare to the eroticism and violent sexual images found in books such as Pauline Reage's The Story of O or Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. But The Fountainhead attacks a sexual topic most wouldn't consider very controversial: rape. Though arguably starting earlier (call it foreplay), pages 215-218 in The Fountainhead paperback represent the infamous "rape" scene.

What is rape? Rape, also referred to as sexual assault, is an assault by a person involving sexual intercourse with or without sexual penetration of another person without that person's consent. I've had many conversations over the years about this scene, especially with those who I would consider "surface-readers" - those who read without the curiosity to explore the implications. Was it rape or wasn't it? The answer boils down to whether or not Dominique Francon gave her consent to Howard Roark.

I think Dominique did consent to the sex, wanted it, and even encouraged it through her actions. Within the scene, there are multiple facts to support my contentions. (There are even more if you include other passages surrounding the scene and overall character development.) For example, Ayn Rand writes, "She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help." (bottom of p. 216). She goes on: "He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him - and she would have remained cold, untouched by the things done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted." Later, when Dominique wants to take a bath, she writes: "She turned the light on in the bathroom. She saw herself in a tall mirror. She saw the purple bruises left on her body by his mouth. She heard a moan muffled in her throat, not very loud. It was not the sight, but the sudden flash of knowledge. She knew she would not take a bath. She knew that she wanted to keep the feeling of his body, the traces of his body on hers, knowing also what such a desire implied."

In fact, after Roark leaves, Ayn Rand writes (middle of p. 219): "She could accept, thought Dominique, and come to forget in time everything that had happened to her, save one memory: that she had found pleasure in the thing which had happened, that he had known it, and more: that he had known it before he came to her and that he would not have come but for that knowledge. She had not given him the one answer that would have saved her: an answer of simple revulsion - she had found joy in her revulsion, in her terror and in his strength. That was the degradation she had wanted and she hated him for it." When Dominique is reading a letter from Alvah Scarret: "She read it and smiled. She thought, if they knew... those people... the old life and that awed reverence before her person. I've been raped... I've been raped by some red-headed hoodlum from a stone quarry... I, Dominique Francon... Through the fierce sense of humiliation, the words gave her the same kind of pleasure she had felt in his arms." Additionally, when Dominique goes to the quarry looking for Howard Roark and doesn't find him (bottom of p. 220), Ayn Rand writes: "She walked away. She would not ask for his name. It was her last chance of freedom." Finally, she had multiple scenes where Dominique would consider something a "win" (i.e., against Roark) and would then proceed to dominate him by being the more sexually forceful.

...have you ever had sex where you've felt owned and/or you surrendered?

Ayn Rand was very big on the concept of one individual "surrendering" to another (in her books, it is always depicted as the woman surrendering to the man, as Ayn Rand typically depicts men as superior - feminists be damned). Ergo, I believe it was consensual, even though it is called rape. (Rand herself even referred to the scene as "if it was rape, it was rape by engraved invitation.") I do not deny and, rather, assert that anytime someone does something to another with force that they don't want, it is a crime against the victim. However, clearly, that cannot be considered the case here. Ayn Rand put the rape on a pedestal, esteeming the ownership and associated "surrender" with high self-esteem. Dominique wanted the sex, she wanted the sex violent, and she wanted the sexual fantasy exactly the way Roark delivered it.

Over the years, I've heard many false claims about the implications of this scene (and her books in general). "Rand has a cavalier attitude toward love." "Rand's conception of love would make love impossible." "Rand is unfeeling." "Rand minimizes rape." To understand her philosophy better, it helps to get to the base motivations of each character's thoughts and actions. So, in this case, why is it that Dominique surrendered? What was her motivation? What did she learn as a result of the experience? What were her subsequent actions? If you can figure that out, you will learn the moral implications and philosophical tenets of love, feelings, and sex.

Ayn Rand was anything but cavalier toward love. Unlike what many believe, her concept of love is logical and rational. In fact, I'd suggest that one of the reasons so many relationships typically seem to end poorly is because we have forgotten (or, more likely, never learned) that all successful relationships are based on an exchange of value-for-value. Additionally, she, in no way, discounted feelings, which is obvious with even a cursory look at character development. I'm actually struck that I am so flushed with emotion (and sexual desire) every time I re-read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Feelings can be controlled, and they are controlled by the mind. Feelings are also rational (as they are part of human nature). I think Rand's point is that using feelings instead of (or as a higher priority than) thought is always likely to lead to poor decisions and, thus, improper/irrational actions.

Let me conclude with a somewhat provocative question: if you'll excuse my crudeness and brashness, have you ever had sex where you've felt "owned" and/or you "surrendered?" If not, maybe you shouldn't knock it until you've tried it? Granted, it's not for those with a weak mind or a weak heart. But, then again, I'm not looking for those with either.

UPDATE:

I recommend Ayn Rand's books to many. I recommended The Fountainhead to a friend of mine who lives in Spain and we discovered a travesty. This rape scene was completely removed from the Spanish version of the book. You can verify this for yourself by comparing the Spanish version of The Fountainhead to the English version of The Fountainhead.

The Spanish version reads as follows (middle of p. 313):

Entró él. Llevaba su ropa de trabajo; la camisa, sucia, con las mangas arrolladas, los pantalones sucios con el polvo de la piedra. Se quedó mirándola. En su rostro no había una sonrisa de entendimiento. Parecía fundido, austero de crueldad, ascético de pasión, con las mejillas hundidas y los labios abatidos, apretados. Ella se puso en pie, se quedó así con los brazos echados para atrás y los dedos separados. Él permaneció inmóvil. Ella vio una vena de su cuello que se hinchaba, latía y se encogía otra vez.

Después se acercó a ella.

Roark se despertó por la mañana y pensó que la no-che anterior era como un punto alcanzado, como un alto en la agitación de su vida. Iba hacia delante a causa de tales pausas, como en los instantes que marchaba hacia la casa de Heller, cuando estaba en construcción; así era la noche pasada. La noche anterior había sido lo que el edificio: una reacción que le daba conciencia de su vida.

This translates as:

He came in. He wore his work clothes, the dirty shirt with rolled sleeves, the trousers smeared with stone dust. He stood looking at her. There was no laughing understanding in his face. His face was drawn, austere in cruelty, ascetic in passion, the cheeks sunken, the lips pulled down, set tight. She jumped to her feet, she stood, her arms thrown back, her fingers spread apart. He did not move. She saw a vein of his neck rise, beating, and fall down again.

Then he walked to her.

Roark awakened in the morning and thought that last night had been like a point reached, like a stop in the movement of his life. He was moving forward for the sake of such stops; like the moments when he had walked through the half-finished Heller house; like last night. In some unstated way, last night had been what building was to him; in some quality of reaction within him, in what it gave to his consciousness of existence.

In the English version, you will find the following text (starting at p. 186 of the e-book):

He came in. He wore his work clothes, the dirty shirt with rolled sleeves, the trousers smeared with stone dust. He stood looking at her. There was no laughing understanding in his face. His face was drawn, austere in cruelty, ascetic in passion, the cheeks sunken, the lips pulled down, set tight. She jumped to her feet, she stood, her arms thrown back, her fingers spread apart. He did not move. She saw a vein of his neck rise, beating, and fall down again.

Then he walked to her. He held her as if his flesh had cut through hers and she felt the bones of his arms on the bones of her ribs, her legs jerked tight against his, his mouth on hers.

She did not know whether the jolt of terror shook her first and she thrust her elbows at his throat, twisting her body to escape, or whether she lay still in his arms, in the first instant, in the shock of feeling his skin against hers, the thing she had thought about, had expected, had never known to be like this, could not have known, because this was not part of living, but a thing one could not bear longer than a second.

She tried to tear herself away from him. The effort broke against his arms that had not felt it. Her fists beat against his shoulders, against his face. He moved one hand, took her two wrists, pinned them behind her, under his arm, wrenching her shoulder blades. She twisted her head back. She felt his lips on her breast. She tore herself free.

She fell back against the dressing table, she stood crouching, her hands clasping the edge behind her, her eyes wide, colorless, shapeless in terror. He was laughing. There was the movement of laughter on his face, but no sound. Perhaps he had released her intentionally. He stood, his legs apart, his arms hanging at his sides, letting her be more sharply aware of his body across the space between them than she had been in his arms. She looked at the door behind him, he saw the first hint of movement, no more than a thought of leaping toward that door. He extended his arm, not touching her, and fell back. Her shoulders moved faintly, rising. He took a step forward and her shoulders fell. She huddled lower, closer to the table. He let her wait. Then he approached. He lifted her without effort. She let her teeth sink into his hand and felt blood on the tip of her tongue. He pulled her head back and he forced her mouth open against his.

She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help. She heard the echoes of her blows in a gasp of his breath, and she knew that it was a gasp of pleasure. She reached for the lamp on the dressing table. He knocked the lamp out of her hand. The crystal burst to pieces in the darkness.

He had thrown her down on the bed and she felt the blood beating in her throat, in her eyes, the hatred, the helpless terror in her blood. She felt the hatred and his hands; his hands moving over her body, the hands that broke granite. She fought in a last convulsion. Then the sudden pain shot up, through her body, to her throat, and she screamed. Then she lay still.

It was an act that could be performed in tenderness, as a seal of love, or in contempt, as a symbol of humiliation and conquest. It could be the act of a lover or the act of a soldier violating an enemy woman. He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him--and she would have remained cold, untouched by the thing done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted. Then she felt him shaking with the agony of a pleasure unbearable even to him, she knew that she had given that to him, that it came from her, from her body, and she bit her lips and she knew what he had wanted her to know.

He lay still across the bed, away from her, his head hanging back over the edge. She heard the slow, ending gasps of his breath. She lay on her back, as he had left her, not moving, her mouth open. She felt empty, light and flat.

She saw him get up. She saw his silhouette against the window. He went out, without a word or a glance at her. She noticed that, but it did not matter. She listened blankly to the sound of his steps moving away in the garden.

She lay still for a long time. Then she moved her tongue in her open mouth. She heard a sound that came from somewhere within her, and it was the dry, short, sickening sound of a sob, but she was not crying, her eyes were held paralyzed, dry and open. The sound became motion, a jolt running down her throat to her stomach. It flung her up, she stood awkwardly, bent over, her forearms pressed to her stomach. She heard the small table by the bed rattling in the darkness, and she looked at it, in empty astonishment that a table should move without reason. Then she understood that she was shaking. She was not frightened; it seemed foolish to shake like that, in short, separate jerks, like soundless hiccoughs. She thought she must take a bath. The need was unbearable, as if she had felt it for a long time. Nothing mattered, if only she would take a bath. She dragged her feet slowly to the door of her bathroom.

She turned the light on in the bathroom. She saw herself in a tall mirror. She saw the purple bruises left on her body by his mouth. She heard a moan muffled in her throat, not very loud. It was not the sight, but the sudden flash of knowledge. She knew that she would not take a bath. She knew that she wanted to keep the feeling of his body, the traces of his body on hers, knowing also what such a desire implied. She fell on her knees, clasping the edge of the bathtub. She could not make herself crawl over that edge. Her hands slipped, she lay still on the floor. The tiles were hard and cold under her body. She lay there till morning.

Roark awakened in the morning and thought that last night had been like a point reached, like a stop in the movement of his life. He was moving forward for the sake of such stops; like the moments when he had walked through the half-finished Heller house; like last night. In some unstated way, last night had been what building was to him; in some quality of reaction within him, in what it gave to his consciousness of existence.

They had been united in an understanding beyond the violence, beyond the deliberate obscenity of his action; had she meant less to him, he would not have taken her as he did; had he meant less to her, she would not have fought so desperately. The unrepeatable exultation was in knowing that they both understood this.

He went to the quarry and he worked that day as usual. She did not come to the quarry and he did not expect her to come. But the thought of her remained. He watched it with curiosity. It was strange to be conscious of another person’s existence, to feel it as a close, urgent necessity; a necessity without qualifications, neither pleasant nor painful, merely final like an ultimatum. It was important to know that she existed in the world; it was important to think of her, of how she had awakened this morning, of how she moved, with her body still his, now his forever, of what she thought.

I was quite surprised that the Estate of Ayn Rand allowed a censored version to be published. However, according to a representative from the Estate of Ayn Rand:

I had heard about this recently, but am glad to get this information which confirms it is an old translation which has been out of print for many years. We knew that the translation published in Franco Spain was heavily censored. The current publisher prepared new translations.

However, Ayn Rand did not attempt to police or sanction the accuracy of any translations of her books. We do not generally have the ability to do that either.

Ayn Rand was a fierce opponent of censorship (see also her analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court's upholding of anti-pornography laws). Clearly, the book that my friend checked out from her library did not have any pages missing and is identical to the e-book version. Additionally, the Ayn Rand Institute's website indicates that "Under certain circumstances, the Estate of Ayn Rand grants rights to publish Ms. Rand’s work in foreign language editions. However, the Estate has no power to choose the translators or to evaluate the quality of their work. We cannot, therefore, be held responsible for poor or inaccurate translations."

I am very interested to learn if there are any other translations that have been censored. Please do let me know and I will update this article.


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Of course, neither The Fountainhead nor Atlas Shrugged compare to the eroticism and violent sexual images found in books such as Pauline Reage's The Story of O or Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom

Marquis De Sade wrote about some incredibly sick stuff. Not for the faint of heart. "Violent sexual images?" More like a violent, upset stomach after reading. There's a movie about him called Quills. It doesn't come remotely close to describing how disturbed his writing was. Use caution when reading. Rand's rape scene (and it was rape) is like kids playing doctor compared to what De Sade presents.

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