The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Anti-pleasure principle

The green flyers placed around the Newcomb Hall Dining Room attracted students' eyes with their bright color at first, but their message would attract controversy as well:

"Why are certain factions (the Catholic Church and feminists) engaged in an assault against things that make life pleasurable, such as: sex, romance, makeup, furs, jewelry, chocolate?"

The flyer advertised "The Neo-Puritan Assault on Sex and Pleasure" with Dr. Gary Hull as lecturer, sponsored by the Objectivist Club Thursday night in Gilmer Hall.

Objectivism is a philosophy emphasizing individual achievement, formulated by the author Ayn Rand in her 1943 book "The Fountainhead" and 1957 book "Atlas Shrugged." According to Hull, the basis of the philosophy's morality is reason.

"I would say objectivism is a philosophy of reason, egoism and capitalism," said Dan Norton, third-year College student and Objectivist Club president. "As corollaries to that we reject faith, self-sacrifice, statism and collectivism."

Hull is one of several lecturers affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute.

The Ayn Rand Institute is the main center for the advancement of objectivism in today's culture, Norton said.

The institute sponsors a high school essay contest, college clubs and a speakers bureau, and has a number of lecturers who speak around the nation, Norton said.

The club was interested in having a speaker from the Institute, and Hull was available, he said.

Hull began his lecture Thursday night with what he called "a parental advisory.

"Warning: The following material might be unsuitable for those of you who enjoy sex and pleasure," Hull said.

Hull's speech dealt with the attitudes toward sex held by certain social movements in today's society and their philosophical origins. Hull also placed his comments in the context of his Objectivist philosophy.

In his lecture, Hull claimed a movement is afoot across the ideological spectrum -- from "religionists" to feminists and environmentalists -- to curtail pleasure.

"If it brings pleasure, don't do it," he said. "We are seeing a pincer movement -- two armies are converging to suffocate an individual's enjoyment of life."

Hull noted several forms of pleasure that have been attacked. Among them, he claimed, were sports cars, jewelry, popcorn, laughter, smoking and stereos. Central to Hull's argument, however, was the role of sex in society.

"For centuries, Catholicism has been shoving misery down humanity's throat," he said.

The Catholic Church and secular groups such as feminists and environmentalists "say that sex is intrinsically evil, but most people are too weak to resist," he added.

"As wrong as the Christians were, at least they believed there was something in each person worth saving," Hull said. "Today's Neo-Puritans have taken Platonism and Christianity to their consistent, logical conclusion."

According to Hull, the Neo-Puritans use three tactics to further their goals: sexual harassment lawsuits, a "flabby, undefined concept of rape" and so-called dating codes.

Hull derided the definition of sexual harassment as any action or speech that creates "an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.

"This is so non-objective and elastic, it can be applied to any action or speech," he said. "The charge of sexual harassment is the 20th century's version of heresy."

While Hull noted that rape is "a hideous crime," he said the proper definition of rape is "sex obtained by force or credible threat of force."

On some college campuses, Hull claims, charges can be filed if the victim was "verbally coerced.

"If rape is 'verbal coercion' ... then 'I want you' is the same as 'Do me or die,'" he said.

Hull also blamed anti-pleasure attitudes on Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German philosopher who Hull said "rules the world.

"The essence of Neo-Puritanism is nihilism fused with subjectivism," he said. "Christianity is absolutely inimical, harmful, and destructive to Western Culture."

Hull's lecture attracted more than just members of the Objectivist Club.

Although Norton said most club meetings attract 30 to 35 people, Brian Salomon, third-year Engineering student and Objectivist Club vice president, said Thursday's lecture attracted about 90.

"Dr. Hull was impressed with the number of people we got," Salomon said.

He said he was pleased with Hull's lecture.

"I liked the talk a lot," he added. "I thought he did a good job."

However, not all members of the audience were sympathetic to Hull's views. Several audience members left during the question and answer period.

"I was surprised at how hostile the audience was," Salomon said.

Although he could not specifically cite an instance of Neo-Puritanism at the University, he said he believes it is present.

"I get a general feeling that there is a support for feminism and environmentalism groups," he added. "Those types of groups are very vocal."

Areshini Pather, University National Organization for Women president, attended Hull's speech and asked questions, which she said Hull dismissed as "feminist gibberish" as several audience members laughed and clapped.

"I would like to stress that it's important to see different views," Pather said. But "the violation of a woman is hardly anything someone should be laughing about."

Hull claimed that rape and sexual harassment laws were anti-pleasure and subjective, and he denigrated audience members with different views, she said.

"I was horrified," she added. "I felt it was a very tense atmosphere."

Second-year College student Elizabeth Render heard about the speech though the e-mail list for the Objectivist Club and attended Hull's lecture.

"I personally agreed with parts of what he had to say," Render said.

But Render was raised a Catholic, and she said she did not agree with his assessment of the Catholic Church.

"I just think he had a few ideas wrong, especially concerning sexuality in the Catholic faith," she added. "I agree with a lot of the philosophy of Objectivism, but it's kind of hard to go all the way with Objectivism"


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