Conservatives of the collectivist, chaste and “celibate” persuasions, and other socialists–especially those catasterized freaks whose reading is limited to scripts–fall all over themselves at the chance to criticize Ayn Rand’s views on sex. None leap to the fore with explanations of the value of altruism, or to castigate her views on the initiation of force.
For starters, the gal was Russian, educated, and not a congregant of mystical altruist sects. She arrived in These States a Hollywood aficionada and Pola Negri fan–but also a fully functioning young woman at a time when 99 and 44/100% of such cloche-hatted creatures watched Rudolph Valentino movies with an intensity unmanifested since Argos watched Io. American women made first use of the vote to place America’s handsomest womanizer, Warren Gamaliel Harding–he of dowdy wife and three pretty mistresses–in the Executive Mansion in Washington using their 1920 election ballots.
Ayn arrived in 1926, shortly after some 10 million young men had been killed and twice as many again wounded in the Great War to forestall ratification of the Hague opium convention in the middle of an opiate glut. There was certainly no glut of eligible bachelors as Ayn Rand surveyed the pickings in Hollywood. She literally tripped herself a man while working as a ragged extra in King of Kings, and squired by Frank doubtless took in such flickering delights as “Son of The Sheik” (1926).
In The Sheik, the manly Saracen Ahmed, played by Valentino, captures a white girl (Agnes Ayres) complete with jodphurs, pith helmet and scarf. He tauntingly inquires whether his coy and flighty captive she is not “woman enough to know” why he brought her to his tent. There followed this priceless repartée:
“I am not accustomed to having my orders disobeyed!”
“And I am not accustomed to obeying orders!”
“You will learn!”
But the macho Ottoman ravisher plays the nice guy and fails to make his move–to the horror and disappointment of neglected American girls smoulderingly jealous of those anorexic, à la garçonne hussies lately boosting the troops’ morale “Over There!” That fault was corrected in Son of the Sheik, which hit the silver screen just as young Ayn Rand joined silent movie audiences. In it, a reformed Valentino wastes no time having his way with an (unwitting) honey-trap Mata Hari (Vilma Banky)–by engraved invitation–in a plot twist foreshadowing Kira Argonouva’s gaining of young Lev Kovalensky. There is even some foreshadowing left over for one of Mae West’s signature quips–about a gun.
Glittering o’er his faults, Valentino lustily redeems himself in the eyes of Russian and American womanhood, performing much like Francisco D’Anconia would thirty years later in Atlas Shrugged. Similarities may not have been entirely coincidence. Francisco’s full name was Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’Anconia. Rudolph Valentino answered to Rudolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D’Antonguolla.
Ayn Rand was no different from the millions of young American women who flocked to Valentino movies and too soon mourned his passing. Pola Negri, young Ayn’s Hollywood heroine since childhood, made a point of swooning over Valentino’s casket at every opportunity. The Fountainhead and Atlas were devoured by Robert A Heinlein, who promptly responded with another protagonist named Valentine in Stranger in a Strange Land. That very expression was first uttered by Dracula in Bram Stoker’s allegorical endorsement of Comstock Laws and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice! Robert Rimmer novels like The Harrad Experiment, the Rebellion of Yale Marratt and Proposition 31–not to mention Grace Slick’s version of Triad, made Ayn’s unopposed and muscular dalliance with her handsome young admirer seem so tame in context that Howard Roark couldn’t help but laugh.
So 62 years after the publication of Atlas Shrugged–now selling briskly in 29 languages–Republican, Democrat, Green and Communist looters mask squirming envy with feigned shock. None dare defend altruism or the initiation of force on ethical grounds, yet Dr Tara Smith of the U. of Texas Philosophy Department has produced several alternative derivations validating Rand’s ethical and political conclusions, with likewise no response from the cognoscenti and intelligentzia. Theirs is the face of looter cowardice unmasked.
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