Looking Through a Paradigm Darkly
Was Dominque's rape in The Fountainhead
actually rape? Why ... or why not?

Notes and References
Essay by
Wendy McElroy


These are the notes and references for —
Looking Through a Paradigm Darkly:
Was Dominque's rape in The Fountainhead
actually rape? Why ... or why not?


  1. The relevant material from Brownmiller 1976 is reprinted as Chapter 4 in Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand.
  2. In fact, Rand falls within the much neglected tradition of individualist feminism that traces its roots to the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement. See Taylor 1992 and McElroy 1996.
  3. See also Harrison 1978 and Gladstein 1978, both reprinted in this volume. These articles express typical feminist reservations about Rand's "rape" scenes.
  4. Such an interpretation is reasonable. Rand (1975, 161) states: "My purpose, first cause and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark or John Galt or Hank Rearden or Francisco d'Anconia, as an end in himself."
  5. See also Cox (1986, 20), who questions the accuracy of Rand's usage of this principle from Aristotle's Poetics.
  6. Rand repeatedly insisted that one should have sex only with one's highest ideal. As Roark holds extraordinarily high ideals and has never met Dominique before, one is reasonably led to this conclusion. It is reinforced by the fact that Rand cut from the final manuscript of The Fountainhead an episode that describes Roark's first sexual encounter with a woman named Vesta Dunning. This scene was posthumously published in Rand 1984. Rand explained that Vesta's character was "superfluous", since "her moral treason was a variant of Wynand's". See Rand 1995, 644. Rand also cut out another character, Heddy Adler, who was to be Roark's mistress. See Rand 1997, 199ff.
  7. In her first appearance Dominique is described by Rand ([1943] 1971) with such adjectives as "imperious," "elegant" (111), "cold," "vicious," "contemptuous" (112). She intimidates and contemptuously dismisses all other men. She cuts off an incredibly eligible bachelor with the words: "Don't say that I'm beautiful and exquisite and like no one you've ever met before and that you're very much afraid that you're going to fall in love with me. You'll say it eventually, but let's postpone it" (118).
  8. Rand (1975, 168) states: "As far as literary schools are concerned, I would call myself a Romantic Realist." She repeatedly insists that Romantic writers "did not record the choices man had made, but projected the choices man ought to make" (114). She attacks naturalism as "man's new enemy" because it presents a chronicle of events that sweep man along rather than events that are shaped by man's will.
  9. As mentioned before: see Rand ([1957] 1985, 240).
  10. For detailed arguments on this theme, see McElroy 1995, 1996.
  11. Susan Griffin (1979) expresses the ideological underpinning of this shift in rape theory. She argues that the true rapist is not the individual man, but the political system of patriarchy.
  12. It is not always true that the woman relinquishes control, however. In many of the scenes with Dagny and Rearden, for example, she seems clearly to be in charge, whereas he is a novice.
  13. Dominique's words to Roark embody the ideal surrender of "woman" to "man": "Howard ... willingly, completely, and always, ... without reservation, without fear of anything they can do to you or me ... in any way you wish as your wife or your mistress, secretly or openly. ... I'll remain what I am, and I'll remain with you — now and ever — in any way you want" (Rand [1943] 1971, 669).
  14. Sciabarra (1996, 517) makes a similar observation regarding Rand's political position: "She vehemently opposed the regulatory and welfare state advocated by the liberal and socialist Left: But as an avowed atheist, she rejected the religious views of traditional conservatives, and was unwavering in her support of civil liberties and abortion rights."
  15. In an unpublished poem, Norma Jean Almodovar — director of the prostitutes' rights organization COYOTE L.A. — expressed the motive behind this growing trend within the prostitute community. It begins: "I am a woman ... and if I get out of line, you call me a whore." It ends: "And what if I tell you / I don't care anymore if you call me a whore ... / What will you call me now?"


  • Brownmiller, Susan. 1976. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. New York: Bantam.
  • Cox, Stephen. 1986. "Ayn Rand: Theory vs. creative life". Journal of Libertarian Studies 8, no. 1:19-29.
  • Gladstein, Mimi Reisel. 1978. "Ayn Rand and feminism: An unlikely alliance". College English 39, no. 6:680-85.
  • Griffin, Susan. 1979. Rape: The Power of Consciousness. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Harrison, Barbara Grizzuti. 1978. "Psyching out Ayn Rand". Ms., September, 24-34.
  • Kelly, Liz. 1988. Surviving Sexual Violence. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • McElroy, Wendy. 1995. XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • ——— 1996. Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
  • Paglia, Camille. 1991. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Rand, Ayn. [1943] 1971. The Fountainhead. New York: New American Library.
  • ——— [1957] 1985. Atlas Shrugged. New York: New American Library.
  • ——— 1975. The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature. 2d rev., ed. New York: New American Library.
  • ——— 1984. The Early Ayn Rand: A Selection from Her Unpublished Fiction. Edited by Leonard Peikoff. New York: New American Library.
  • ——— 1995. Letters of Ayn Rand. Edited by Michael S. Berliner. New York: Dutton.
  • ——— 1997. Journals of Ayn Rand. Edited by David Harriman. New York: Penguin Dutton.
  • Sciabarra, Chris Matthew. 1996. "Ayn Rand". In American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, Supplement IV, Part 2 Susan Howe to Gore Vidal, edited by A. Walton Litz and Molly Wiegel. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Taylor, Joan Kennedy. 1992. Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.


© 1999 Wendy McElroy

Looking Through a Paradigm Darkly:
Was Dominque's rape in The Fountainhead
actually rape? Why ... or why not?
by Wendy McElroy

First published in —
Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand
edited by Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999

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