Sunday, September 16, 2007

Anais v. Ayn - who gets the asshole license?

In my essay The Asshole License, I mentioned that the AL is almost never granted to women, but that Ayn Rand had one. An article in today's NYTimes confirms this:
Rand had a reputation for living for her own interest. She is said to have seduced her most serious reader, Nathaniel Branden, when he was 24 or 25 and she was at least 50. Each was married to someone else. In fact, Mr. Britting confirmed, they called their spouses to a meeting at which the pair announced their intention to make the mentor-protégé relationship a sexual one.

“She wasn’t a nice person, ” said Darla Moore, vice president of the private investment firm Rainwater Inc. “But what a gift she’s given us.”
The sexual dalliances of Great Men of the Arts are commonplace. Pretty much ALL of them end up having sex with their young admirers. If the Great Man is heterosexual, this fact will inevitably be mentioned, with thinly veiled admiration, in a Great Man of the Arts profile in the New Yorker.

The few acknowledged great women of the arts are not allowed such license, generally speaking, even in the liberal New Yorker. I once read a profile of Anais Nin in the New Yorker where the profile's author admitted to feeling pity for Nin for having dalliances with much younger men. I can't find that profile, but you can get a sense of the tut-tut-tutting over Nin that you NEVER get over misbehaving males in this review of a biography of Nin in the NYTimes.

Ayn Rand is granted an asshole license, I think, for several reasons. Foremost, because her area of accomplishment involved that most traditionally manly of enterprises, economics. Her beliefs were also distinctly right-wing. Libertarian, to be exact, but really, libertarians are conservatives who like sex. And she certainly never dreamed of challenging the Patriarchy in her work, and the hero of her most popular book, The Fountainhead, rapes the heroine.

Anais Nin is best known for her diaries and her erotica and her affairs. You can't get much more feminine realm than that.

So that is why the male establishment, which still runs everything including the New Yorker and the New York Times - and the females who mindlessly accept the values of the male establishment, refuse to grant Nin an asshole license, but do grant one to Ayn Rand - virtually the only asshole license issued to a woman.