THE ART OF SEDUCTION
Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, has a degree in classical literature. He lives in Los Angeles. Visit his Web site: www.seductionbook.com
Joost Elffers is the producer of Viking Studio’s best-selling The Secret Language of Birthdays, The Secret Language of Relationships, as well as Play with Your Food. He lives in New York City.
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First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 2001
Published in Penguin Books 2003
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1. Sexual excitement. 2. Sex instruction. 3. Seduction. I. Title.
HQ31 .G82 2001
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Falling in Love by Francesco Alberoni, translated by Lawrence Venuti. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.
Seduction by Jean Baudrillard, translated by Brian Singer, St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Copyright © New World Perspectives, 1990. Reprinted by permission of Palgrave.
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by G. H. McWilliam (Penguin Classics 1972, second edition 1995). Copyright © G. H. McWilliam, 1972, 1995. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
Warhol by David Bourdon, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Behind the Mask: On Sexual Demons, Sacred Mothers, Transvestites, Gangsters and Other Japanese Cultural Heroes by Ian Buruma, Random House UK, 1984. Reprinted with permission.
Andreas Capellanus on Love by Andreas Capellanus, translated by P G. Walsh. Reprinted by permission of Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd.
The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione, translated by George Bull (Penguin Classics 1967, revised edition 1976). Copyright © George Bull, 1967, 1976. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
Portrait of a Seductress: The World of Natalie Barney by Jean Chalon, translated by Carol Barko, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1979. Reprinted with permission.
Lenin: The Man Behind the Mask by Ronald W Clark, Faber & Faber Ltd., 1988. Reprinted with permission.
Pursuit of the Millennium by Norman Cohn. Copyright © 1970 by Oxford University Press. Used by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.
Tales from The Thousand and One Nights, translated by N. J. Dawood (Penguin Classics, 1955, revised edition 1973). Translation copyright © N. J. Dawood, 1954, 1973. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
Emma, Lady Hamilton by Flora Fraser, Alfred A. Knopf, 1987. Copyright © 1986 by Flora Fraser. Reprinted by permission.
Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicolas Fraser and Marysa Navarro, W W Norton & Company, Inc., 1996. Reprinted by permission.
The World’s Lure: Fair Women, Their Loves, Their Poster, Their Fates by Alexander von Gleichen-Russwurm, translated by Hannah Waller, Alfred A. Knopf, 1927. Copyright 1927 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
The Greek Myths by Robert Graves. Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press Limited. The Kennedy Obsession: The American Myth of JFK by John Hellman, Columbia University Press 1997. Reprinted by permission of Columbia University Press.
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The Life of an Amorous Woman and Other Writings by Ihara Saikaku, translated by Ivan Morris. Copyright © 1963 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
“The Seducer’s Diary” from Either/Or, Part 1 by Søren Kierkegaard, translated by Howard V Hong and Edna H. Hong. Copyright © 1987 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.
Sirens: Symbols of Seduction by Meri Lao, translated by John Oliphant of Rossie, Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont, 1998. Reprinted with permission.
Lives of the Courtesans by Lynne Lawner, Rizzoli, 1987. Reprinted with permission of the author. The Theatre of Don Juan: A Collection of Plays and Views, 1630-1963 edited with a commentary by
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The Age of the Crowd by Serge Moscovici. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Edward G. Seidensticker, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. Copyright © 1976 by Edward G. Seidensticker. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
The Erotic Poems by Ovid, translated by Peter Green (Penguin Classics, 1982). Copyright © Peter Green, 1982. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
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My Sister, My Spouse: A Biography of Lou Andreas—Salomé by H. F. Peters, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1962. Reprinted with permission.
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The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims by Arthur Schopenhauer, translated by T. Bailey Saunders (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon by Sei Shonagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris, Columbia University Press, 1991. Reprinted by permission of Columbia University Press.
Liaison by Joyce Wadler, published by Bantam Books, 1993. Reprinted by permission of the author. Max Weber: Essays in Sociology by Max Weber, edited and translated by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. Copyright 1946, 1958 by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. Used by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.
The Game of Hearts: Harriette Wilson & Her Memoirs edited by Lesley Blanch. Copyright © 1955 by Lesley Blanch. Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster.
To the memory of my father
Table of Contents
Part One - the Seductive Character
the Ideal lover
Part Two - the Seductive process
Chapter 1 - Choose the Right Victim
Chapter 2 - Create a False Sense of Security—Approach Indirectly
Chapter 3 - Send Mixed Signals
Chapter 4 - Appear to Be an Object of Desire —Create Triangles
Chapter 5 - Create a Need—Stir Anxiety and Discontent
Chapter 6 - Master the Art of Insinuation
Chapter 7 - Enter Their Spirit
Chapter 8 - Create Temptation
Chapter 9 - Keep Them in Suspense—What Comes Next?
Chapter 10 - Use the Demonic Power of Words to Sow Confusion
Chapter 11 - Pay Attention to Detail
Chapter 12 - Poeticize Your Presence
Chapter 13 - Disarm Through Strategic Weakness and Vulnerability
Chapter 14 - Confuse Desire and Reality—The Perfect Illusion
Chapter 15 - Isolate the Victim
Chapter 16 - Prove Yourself
Chapter 17 - Effect a Regression
Chapter 18 - Stir Up the Transgressive and Taboo
Chapter 19 - Use Spiritual Lures
Chapter 20 - Mix Pleasure with Pain
Chapter 21 - Give Them Space to Fall—The Pursuer Is Pursued
Chapter 22 - Use Physical Lures
Chapter 23 - Master the Art of the Bold Move
Chapter 24 - Beware the Aftereffects
First, I would like to thank Anna Biller for her countless contributions to this book: the research, the many discussions, her invaluable help with the text itself, and, last but not least, her knowledge of the art of seduction, of which I have been the happy victim on numerous occasions.
I must thank my mother, Laurette, for supporting me so steadfastly throughout this project and for being my most devoted fan.
I would like to thank Catherine Léouzon, who some years ago introduced me to Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the world of Valmont.
I would like to thank David Frankel, for his deft editing and for his much-appreciated advice; Molly Stern at Viking Penguin, for overseeing the project and helping to shape it; Radha Pancham, for keeping it all organized and being so patient; and Brett Kelly, for moving things along.
With heavy heart I would like to pay tribute to my cat Boris, who for thirteen years watched over me as I wrote and whose presence is sorely missed. His successor, Brutus, has proven to be a worthy muse.
Finally, I would like to honor my father. Words cannot express how much I miss him and how much he has inspired my work.
Thousands of years ago, power was mostly gained through physical violence and maintained with brute strength. There was little need for subtlety—a king or emperor had to be merciless. Only a select few had power, but no one suffered under this scheme of things more than women. They had no way to compete, no weapon at their disposal that could make a man do what they wanted—politically, socially, or even in the home.
Of course men had one weakness: their insatiable desire for sex. A woman could always toy with this desire, but once she gave in to sex the man was back in control; and if she withheld sex, he could simply look elsewhere—or exert force. What good was a power that was so temporary and frail? Yet women had no choice but to submit to this condition. There were some, though, whose hunger for power was too great, and who, over the years, through much cleverness and creativity, invented a way of turning the dynamic around, creating a more lasting and effective form of power.
These women—among them Bathsheba, from the Old Testament; Helen of Troy; the Chinese siren Hsi Shi; and the greatest of them all, Cleopatra—invented seduction. First they would draw a man in with an alluring appearance, designing their makeup and adornment to fashion the image of a goddess come to life. By showing only glimpses of flesh, they would tease a man’s imagination, stimulating the desire not just for sex but for something greater: the chance to possess a fantasy figure. Once they had their victims’ interest, these women would lure them away from the masculine world of war and politics and get them to spend time in the feminine world—a world of luxury, spectacle, and pleasure. They might also lead them astray literally, taking them on a journey, as Cleopatra lured Julius Caesar on a trip down the Nile. Men would grow hooked on these refined, sensual pleasures—they would fall in love. But then, invariably, the women would turn cold and indifferent, confusing their victims. Just when the men wanted more, they found their pleasures withdrawn. They would be forced into pursuit, trying anything to win back the favors they once had tasted and growing weak and emotional in the process. Men who had physical force and all the social power—men like King David, the Trojan Paris, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, King Fu Chai—would find themselves becoming the slave of a woman.
In the face of violence and brutality, these women made seduction a sophisticated art, the ultimate form of power and persuasion. They learned to work on the mind first, stimulating fantasies, keeping a man wanting more, creating patterns of hope and despair—the essence of seduction. Their power was not physical but psychological, not forceful but indirect and cunning. These first great seductresses were like military generals planning the destruction of an enemy, and indeed early accounts of seduction often compare it to battle, the feminine version of warfare. For Cleopatra, it was a means of consolidating an empire. In seduction, the woman was no longer a passive sex object; she had become an active agent, a figure of power.
Oppression and scorn, thus, were and must have been generally the share of women in emerging societies; this state lasted in all its force until centuries of experience taught them to substitute skill for force. Women at last sensed that, since they were weaker, their only resource was to seduce; they understood that if they were dependent on men through force, men could become dependent on them through pleasure. More unhappy than men, they must have thought and reflected earlier than did men; they were the first to know that pleasure was always beneath the idea that one formed of it, and that the imagination went farther than nature. Once these basic truths were known, they learned first to veil their charms in order to awaken curiosity; they practiced the difficult art of refusing even as they wished to consent; from that moment on, they knew how to set men’s imagination afire, they knew how to arouse and direct desires as they pleased: thus did beauty and love come into being; now the lot of women became less harsh, not that they had managed to liberate themselves entirely from the state of oppression to which their weakness condemned them; but, in the state of perpetual war that continues to exist between women and men, one has seen them, with the help of the caresses they have been able to invent, combat ceaselessly, sometimes vanquish, and often more skillfully take advantage of the forces directed against them; sometimes, too, men have turned against women these weapons the women had forged to combat them, and their slavery has become all the harsher for it.
—CHODERLOS DE LACLOS, ON THE EDUCATION OF WOMEN, TRANSLATED BY LYDIA DAVIS, IN THE LIBERTINE READER, EDITED BY MICHAEL FEHER
With a few exceptions—the Latin poet Ovid, the medieval troubadours—men did not much concern themselves with such a frivolous art as seduction. Then, in the seventeenth century came a great change: men grew interested in seduction as a way to overcome a young woman’s resistance to sex. History’s first great male seducers—the Duke de Lauzun, the different Spaniards who inspired the Don Juan legend—began to adopt the methods traditionally employed by women. They learned to dazzle with their appearance (often androgynous in nature), to stimulate the imagination, to play the coquette. They also added a new, masculine element to the game: seductive language, for they had discovered a woman’s weakness for soft words. These two forms of seduction—the feminine use of appearances and the masculine use of language—would often cross gender lines: Casanova would dazzle a woman with his clothes; Ninon de l’Enclos would charm a man with her words.
Much more genius is needed to make love than to command armies.
—NINON DE L’ENCLOS
—HECUBA SPEAKING ABOUT HELEN OF TROY IN EURIPIDES, THE TROJAN WOMEN, TRANSLATED BY NEIL CURRY
At the same time that men were developing their version of seduction, others began to adapt the art for social purposes. As Europe’s feudal system of government faded into the past, courtiers needed to get their way in court without the use of force. They learned the power to be gained by seducing their superiors and competitors through psychological games, soft words, a little coquetry. As culture became democratized, actors, dandies, and artists came to use the tactics of seduction as a way to charm and win over their audience and social milieu. In the nineteenth century another great change occurred: politicians like Napoleon consciously saw themselves as seducers, on a grand scale. These men depended on the art of seductive oratory, but they also mastered what had once been feminine strategies: staging vast spectacles, using theatrical devices, creating a charged physical presence. All this, they learned, was the essence of charisma—and remains so today. By seducing the masses they could accumulate immense power without the use of force.
Today we have reached the ultimate point in the evolution of seduction. Now more than ever, force or brutality of any kind is discouraged. All areas of social life require the ability to persuade people in a way that does not offend or impose itself. Forms of seduction can be found everywhere, blending male and female strategies. Advertisements insinuate, the soft sell dominates. If we are to change people’s opinions—and affecting opinion is basic to seduction—we must act in subtle, subliminal ways. Today no political campaign can work without seduction. Since the era of John F. Kennedy, political figures are required to have a degree of charisma, a fascinating presence to keep their audience’s attention, which is half the battle. The film world and media create a galaxy of seductive stars and images. We are saturated in the seductive. But even if much has changed in degree and scope, the essence of seduction is constant: never be forceful or direct; instead, use pleasure as bait, playing on people’s emotions, stirring desire and confusion, inducing psychological surrender. In seduction as it is practiced today, the methods of Cleopatra still hold.
No man hath it in his power to over-rule the deceitfulness of a woman.
—MARGUERITE OF NAVARRE
—ALEXANDER VON GLEICHEN-RUSSWURM, THE WORLD’S LURE, TRANSLATED BY HANNAH WALLER
People are constantly trying to influence us, to tell us what to do, and just as often we tune them out, resisting their attempts at persuasion. There is a moment in our lives, however, when we all act differently—when we are in love. We fall under a kind of spell. Our minds are usually preoccupied with our own concerns; now they become filled with thoughts of the loved one. We grow emotional, lose the ability to think straight, act in foolish ways that we would never do otherwise. If this goes on long enough something inside us gives way: we surrender to the will of the loved one, and to our desire to possess them.
Seducers are people who understand the tremendous power contained in such moments of surrender. They analyze what happens when people are in love, study the psychological components of the process—what spurs the imagination, what casts a spell. By instinct and through practice they master the art of making people fall in love. As the first seductresses knew, it is much more effective to create love than lust. A person in love is emotional, pliable, and easily misled. (The origin of the word “seduction” is the Latin for “to lead astray.”) A person in lust is harder to control and, once satisfied, may easily leave you. Seducers take their time, create enchantment and the bonds of love, so that when sex ensues it only further enslaves the victim. Creating love and enchantment becomes the model for all seductions—sexual, social, political. A person in love will surrender.
It is pointless to try to argue against such power, to imagine that you are not interested in it, or that it is evil and ugly. The harder you try to resist the lure of seduction—as an idea, as a form of power—the more you will find yourself fascinated. The reason is simple: most of us have known the power of having someone fall in love with us. Our actions, gestures, the things we say, all have positive effects on this person; we may not completely understand what we have done right, but this feeling of power is intoxicating. It gives us confidence, which makes us more seductive. We may also experience this in a social or work setting—one day we are in an elevated mood and people seem more responsive, more charmed by us. These moments of power are fleeting, but they resonate in the memory with great intensity. We want them back. Nobody likes to feel awkward or timid or unable to reach people. The siren call of seduction is irresistible because power is irresistible, and nothing will bring you more power in the modern world than the ability to seduce. Repressing the desire to seduce is a kind of hysterical reaction, revealing your deep-down fascination with the process; you are only making your desires stronger. Some day they will come to the surface.
The first thing to get in your head is that every single Girl can be caught—and that you’ll catch her if You set your toils right. Birds will sooner fall dumb in Springtime, Cicadas in summer, or a hunting-dog Turn his back on a hare, than a lover’s bland inducements Can fail with a woman. Even one you suppose Reluctant will want it.
—OVID, THE ART OF LOVE, TRANSLATED BY PETER GREEN
—JOSÉ ORTEGA Y GASSET, ON LOVE, TRANSLATED BY TOBY TALBOT
—FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, THE ANTI-CHRIST, TRANSLATED BY R.J. HOLLINGDALE
To have such power does not require a total transformation in your character or any kind of physical improvement in your looks. Seduction is a game of psychology, not beauty, and it is within the grasp of any person to become a master at the game. All that is required is that you look at the world differently, through the eyes of a seducer.
A seducer does not turn the power off and on—every social and personal interaction is seen as a potential seduction. There is never a moment to waste. This is so for several reasons. The power seducers have over a man or woman works in social environments because they have learned how to tone down the sexual element without getting rid of it. We may think we see through them, but they are so pleasant to be around anyway that it does not matter. Trying to divide your life into moments in which you seduce and others in which you hold back will only confuse and constrain you. Erotic desire and love lurk beneath the surface of almost every human encounter; better to give free rein to your skills than to try to use them only in the bedroom. (In fact, the seducer sees the world as his or her bedroom.) This attitude creates great seductive momentum, and with each seduction you gain experience and practice. One social or sexual seduction makes the next one easier, your confidence growing and making you more alluring. People are drawn to you in greater numbers as the seducer’s aura descends upon you.
Seducers have a warrior’s outlook on life. They see each person as a kind of walled castle to which they are laying siege. Seduction is a process of penetration: initially penetrating the target’s mind, their first point of defense. Once seducers have penetrated the mind, making the target fantasize about them, it is easy to lower resistance and create physical surrender. Seducers do not improvise; they do not leave this process to chance. Like any good general, they plan and strategize, aiming at the target’s particular weaknesses.
The main obstacle to becoming a seducer is this foolish prejudice we have of seeing love and romance as some kind of sacred, magical realm where things just fall into place, if they are meant to. This might seem romantic and quaint, but it is really just a cover for our laziness. What will seduce a person is the effort we expend on their behalf, showing how much we care, how much they are worth. Leaving things to chance is a recipe for disaster, and reveals that we do not take love and romance very seriously. It was the effort Casanova expended, the artfulness he applied to each affair that made him so devilishly seductive. Falling in love is a matter not of magic but of psychology. Once you understand your target’s psychology, and strategize to suit it, you will be better able to cast a “magical” spell. A seducer sees love not as sacred but as warfare, where all is fair.
Seducers are never self-absorbed. Their gaze is directed outward, not inward. When they meet someone their first move is to get inside that person’s skin, to see the world through their eyes. The reasons for this are several. First, self-absorption is a sign of insecurity; it is anti-seductive. Everyone has insecurities, but seducers manage to ignore them, finding therapy for moments of self-doubt by being absorbed in the world. This gives them a buoyant spirit—we want to be around them. Second, getting into someone’s skin, imagining what it is like to be them, helps the seducer gather valuable information, learn what makes that person tick, what will make them lose their ability to think straight and fall into a trap. Armed with such information, they can provide focused and individualized attention—a rare commodity in a world in which most people see us only from behind the screen of their own prejudices. Getting into the targets’ skin is the first important tactical move in the war of penetration.
The disaffection, neurosis, anguish and frustration encountered by psychoanalysis comes no doubt from being unable to love or to be loved, from being unable to give or take pleasure, but the radical disenchantment comes from seduction and its failure. Only those who lie completely outside seduction are ill, even if they remain fully capable of loving and making love. Psychoanalysis believes it treats the disorder of sex and desire, but in reality it is dealing with the disorders of seduction. . . . The most serious deficiencies always concern charm and not pleasure, enchantment and not some vital or sexual satisfaction.
—JEAN BAUDRILLARD. SEDUCTION
—FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, TRANLATED BY WALTER KAUFMANN
Seducers see themselves as providers of pleasure, like bees that gather pollen from some flowers and deliver it to others. As children we mostly devoted our lives to play and pleasure. Adults often have feelings of being cut off from this paradise, of being weighed down by responsibilities. The seducer knows that people are waiting for pleasure—they never get enough of it from friends and lovers, and they cannot get it by themselves. A person who enters their lives offering adventure and romance cannot be resisted. Pleasure is a feeling of being taken past our limits, of being overwhelmed—by another person, by an experience. People are dying to be overwhelmed, to let go of their usual stubbornness. Sometimes their resistance to us is a way of saying, Please seduce me. Seducers know that the possibility of pleasure will make a person follow them, and the experience of it will make someone open up, weak to the touch. They also train themselves to be sensitive to pleasure, knowing that feeling pleasure themselves will make it that much easier for them to infect the people around them.
A seducer sees all of life as theater, everyone an actor. Most people feel they have constricted roles in life, which makes them unhappy. Seducers, on the other hand, can be anyone and can assume many roles. (The archetype here is the god Zeus, insatiable seducer of young maidens, whose main weapon was the ability to assume the form of whatever person or animal would most appeal to his victim.) Seducers take pleasure in performing and are not weighed down by their identity, or by some need to be themselves, or to be natural. This freedom of theirs, this fluidity in body and spirit, is what makes them attractive. What people lack in life is not more reality but illusion, fantasy, play. The clothes that seducers wear, the places they take you to, their words and actions, are slightly heightened—not overly theatrical but with a delightful edge of unreality, as if the two of you were living out a piece of fiction or were characters in a film. Seduction is a kind of theater in real life, the meeting of illusion and reality.
Finally, seducers are completely amoral in their approach to life. It is all a game, an arena for play. Knowing that the moralists, the crabbed repressed types who croak about the evils of the seducer, secretly envy their power, they do not concern themselves with other people’s opinions. They do not deal in moral judgments—nothing could be less seductive. Everything is pliant, fluid, like life itself. Seduction is a form of deception, but people want to be led astray, they yearn to be seduced. If they didn’t, seducers would not find so many willing victims. Get rid of any moralizing tendencies, adopt the seducer’s playful philosophy, and you will find the rest of the process easy and natural.
Should anyone here in Rome lack finesse at love-making, Let him Try me—read my book, and results are guaranteed! Technique is the secret. Charioteer, sailor, oarsman, All need it. Technique can control Love himself.
—OVID, THE ART OF LOVE, TRANSLATED BY PETER GREEN
The Art of Seduction is designed to arm you with weapons of persuasion and charm, so that those around you will slowly lose their ability to resist without knowing how or why it has happened. It is an art of war for delicate times.
Every seduction has two elements that you must analyze and understand: first, yourself and what is seductive about you; and second, your target and the actions that will penetrate their defenses and create surrender. The two sides are equally important. If you strategize without paying attention to the parts of your character that draw people to you, you will be seen as a mechanical seducer, slimy and manipulative. If you rely on your seductive personality without paying attention to the other person, you will make terrible mistakes and limit your potential.
Consequently, The Art of Seduction is divided into two parts. The first half, “The Seductive Character,” describes the nine types of seducer, plus the Anti-Seducer. Studying these types will make you aware of what is inherently seductive in your character, the basic building block of any seduction. The second half, “The Seductive Process,” includes the twenty—four maneuvers and strategies that will instruct you on how to create a spell, break down people’s resistance, give movement and force to your seduction, and induce surrender in your target. As a kind of bridge between the two parts, there is a chapter on the eighteen types of victims of a seduction—each of them missing something from their lives, each cradling an emptiness you can fill. Knowing what type you are dealing with will help you put into practice the ideas in both sections. Ignore any part of this book and you will be an incomplete seducer.
The ideas and strategies in The Art of Seduction are based on the writings and historical accounts of the most successful seducers in history. The sources include the seducers’ own memoirs (by Casanova, Errol Flynn, Natalie Barney, Marilyn Monroe); biographies (of Cleopatra, Josephine Bonaparte, John F. Kennedy, Duke Ellington); handbooks on the subject (most notably Ovid’s Art of Love); and fictional accounts of seductions (Choderlos de Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons, Søren Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary, Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji). The heroes and heroines of these literary works are generally modeled on real-life seducers. The strategies they employ reveal the intimate connection between fiction and seduction, creating illusion and leading a person along. In putting the book’s lessons into practice, you will be following in the path of the greatest masters of the art.
Finally, the spirit that will make you a consummate seducer is the spirit in which you should read this book. The French writer Denis Diderot once wrote, “I give my mind the liberty to follow the first wise or foolish idea that presents itself, just as in the avenue de Foy our dissolute youths follow close on the heels of some strumpet, then leave her to pursue another, attacking all of them and attaching themselves to none. My thoughts are my strumpets.” He meant that he let himself be seduced by ideas, following whichever one caught his fancy until a better one came along, his thoughts infused with a kind of sexual excitement. Once you enter these pages, do as Diderot advised: let yourself be lured by the stories and ideas, your mind open and your thoughts fluid. Slowly you will find yourself absorbing the poison through the skin and you will begin to see everything as a seduction, including the way you think and how you look at the world.
Most virtue is a demand for greater seduction.
the Seductive Character
We all have the power of attraction—the ability to draw people in and hold them in our thrall. Far from all of us, though, are aware of this inner potential, and we imagine attractiveness instead as a near-mystical trait that a select few are born with and the rest will never command. Yet all we need to do to realize our potential is understand what it is in a person’s character that naturally excites people and develop these latent qualities within us.
Successful seductions rarely begin with an obvious maneuver or strategic device. That is certain to arouse suspicion. Successful seductions begin with your character, your ability to radiate some quality that attracts people and stirs their emotions in a way that is beyond their control. Hypnotized by your seductive character, your victims will not notice your subsequent manipulations. It will then be child’s play to mislead and seduce them.
There are nine seducer types in the world. Each type has a particular character trait that comes from deep within and creates a seductive pull. Sirens have an abundance of sexual energy and know how to use it. Rakes insatiably adore the opposite sex, and their desire is infectious. Ideal Lovers have an aesthetic sensibility that they apply to romance. Dandies like to play with their image, creating a striking and androgynous allure. Naturals are spontaneous and open. Coquettes are self-sufficient, with a fascinating cool at their core. Charmers want and know how to please—they are social creatures. Charismatics have an unusual confidence in themselves. Stars are ethereal and envelop themselves in mystery.
The chapters in this section will take you inside each of the nine types. At least one of the chapters should strike a chord—you will recognize part of yourself. That chapter will be the key to developing your own powers of attraction. Let us say you have coquettish tendencies. The Coquette chapter will show you how to build upon your own self-sufficiency, alternating heat and coldness to ensnare your victims. It will show you how to take your natural qualities further, becoming a grand Coquette, the type we fight over. There is no point in being timid with a seductive quality. We are charmed by an unabashed Rake and excuse his excesses, but a halfhearted Rake gets no respect. Once you have cultivated your dominant character trait, adding some art to what nature has given you, you can then develop a second or third trait, adding depth and mystery to your persona. Finally the section’s tenth chapter, on the Anti-Seducer, will make you aware of the opposite potential within you—the power of repulsion. At all cost you must root out any anti-seductive tendencies you may have.
Think of the nine types as shadows, silhouettes. Only by stepping into one of them and letting it grow inside you can you begin to develop the seductive character that will bring you limitless power.
A man is often secretly oppressed by the role he has to play—by always having to be responsible, in control, and rational. The Siren is the ultimate male fantasy figure because she offers a total release from the limitations of his life. In her presence, which is always heightened and sexually charged, the male feels transported to a world of pure pleasure. She is dangerous, and in pursuing her energetically the man can lose control over himself, something he yearns to do. The Siren is a mirage; she lures men by cultivating a particular appearance and manner. In a world where women are often too timid to project such an image, learn to take control of the male libido by embodying his fantasy.
The Spectacular Siren
In the year 48 B.C., Ptolemy XIV of Egypt managed to depose and exile his sister and wife, Queen Cleopatra. He secured the country’s borders against her return and began to rule on his own. Later that year, Julius Caesar came to Alexandria to ensure that despite the local power struggles, Egypt would remain loyal to Rome.
One night Caesar was meeting with his generals in the Egyptian palace, discussing strategy, when a guard entered to report that a Greek merchant was at the door bearing a large and valuable gift for the Roman leader. Caesar, in the mood for a little fun, gave the merchant permission to enter. The man came in, carrying on his shoulders a large rolled-up carpet. He undid the rope around the bundle and with a snap of his wrists unfurled it—revealing the young Cleopatra, who had been hidden inside, and who rose up half clothed before Caesar and his guests, like Venus emerging from the waves.
Everyone was dazzled at the sight of the beautiful young queen (only twenty-one at the time) appearing before them suddenly as if in a dream. They were astounded at her daring and theatricality—smuggled into the harbor at night with only one man to protect her, risking everything on a bold move. No one was more enchanted than Caesar. According to the Roman writer Dio Cassius, “Cleopatra was in the prime of life. She had a delightful voice which could not fail to cast a spell over all who heard it. Such was the charm of her person and her speech that they drew the coldest and most determined misogynist into her toils. Caesar was spellbound as soon as he set eyes on her and she opened her mouth to speak.” That same evening Cleopatra became Caesar’s lover.
Caesar had had numerous mistresses before, to divert him from the rigors of his campaigns. But he had always disposed of them quickly to return to what really thrilled him—political intrigue, the challenges of warfare, the Roman theater. Caesar had seen women try anything to keep him under their spell. Yet nothing prepared him for Cleopatra. One night she would tell him how together they could revive the glory of Alexander the Great, and rule the world like gods. The next she would entertain him dressed as the goddess Isis, surrounded by the opulence of her court. Cleopatra initiated Caesar in the most decadent revelries, presenting herself as the incarnation of the Egyptian exotic. His life with her was a constant game, as challenging as warfare, for the moment he felt secure with her she would suddenly turn cold or angry and he would have to find a way to regain her favor.
In the mean time our good ship, with that perfect wind to drive her, fast approached the Sirens’ Isle. But now the breeze dropped, some power lulled the waves, and a breathless calm set in. Rising from their seats my men drew in the sail and threw it into the hold, then sat down at the oars and churned the water white with their blades of polished pine. Meanwhile I took a large round of wax, cut it up small with my sword, and kneaded the pieces with all the strength of my fingers. The wax soon yielded to my vigorous treatment and grew warm, for I had the rays of my Lord the Sun to help me. I took each of my men in turn and plugged their ears with it. They then made me a prisoner on my ship by binding me hand and foot, standing me up by the step of the mast and tying the rope’s ends to the mast itself. This done, they sat down once more and struck the gray water with their oars. • We made good progress and had just come within call of the shore when the Sirens became aware that a ship was swiftly bearing down upon them, and broke into their liquid song. • “Draw near,” they sang, “illustrious Odysseus, flower of Achaean chivalry, and Bring your ship to rest so that you may hear our voices. No seaman ever sailed his black ship past this spot without listening to the sweet tones that flow from our lips ... ” • The lovely voices came to me across the water, and my heart was filled with such a longing to listen that with nod and frown I signed to my men to set me free.
—HOMER, THE ODYSSEY, BOOK XII. TRANSLATED BY E.V. RIEU
—PLUTARCH, MAKERS OF ROME, TRANSLATED BY IAN SCOTT-KILVERT
—JEAN BAUDRILLARD, DI: L4 SEDUCTION
The weeks went by. Caesar got rid of all Cleopatra’s rivals and found excuses to stay in Egypt. At one point she led him on a lavish historical expedition down the Nile. In a boat of unimaginable splendor—towering fifty-four feet out of the water, including several terraced levels and a pillared temple to the god Dionysus—Caesar became one of the few Romans to gaze on the pyramids. And while he stayed long in Egypt, away from his throne in Rome, all kinds of turmoil erupted throughout the Roman Empire.
When Caesar was murdered, in 44 B.C., he was succeeded by a triumvirate of rulers including Mark Antony, a brave soldier who loved pleasure and spectacle and fancied himself a kind of Roman Dionysus. A few years later, while Antony was in Syria, Cleopatra invited him to come meet her in the Egyptian town of Tarsus. There—once she had made him wait for her—her appearance was as startling in its way as her first before Caesar. A magnificent gold barge with purple sails appeared on the river Cydnus. The oarsmen rowed to the accompaniment of ethereal music; all around the boat were beautiful young girls dressed as nymphs and mythological figures. Cleopatra sat on deck, surrounded and fanned by cupids and posed as the goddess Aphrodite, whose name the crowd chanted enthusiastically
Like all of Cleopatra’s victims, Antony felt mixed emotions. The exotic pleasures she offered were hard to resist. But he also wanted to tame her—to defeat this proud and illustrious woman would prove his greatness. And so he stayed, and, like Caesar, fell slowly under her spell. She indulged him in all of his weaknesses—gambling, raucous parties, elaborate rituals, lavish spectacles. To get him to come back to Rome, Octavius, another member of the Roman triumvirate, offered him a wife: Octavius’s own sister, Octavia, one of the most beautiful women in Rome. Known for her virtue and goodness, she could surely keep Antony away from the “Egyptian whore.” The ploy worked for a while, but Antony was unable to forget Cleopatra, and after three years he went back to her. This time it was for good: he had in essence become Cleopatra’s slave, granting her immense powers, adopting Egyptian dress and customs, and renouncing the ways of Rome.
Only one image of Cleopatra survives—a barely visible profile on a coin—but we have numerous written descriptions. She had a long thin face and a somewhat pointed nose; her dominant features were her wonderfully large eyes. Her seductive power, however, did not lie in her looks—indeed many among the women of Alexandria were considered more beautiful than she. What she did have above all other women was the ability to distract a man. In reality, Cleopatra was physically unexceptional and had no political power, yet both Caesar and Antony, brave and clever men, saw none of this. What they saw was a woman who constantly transformed herself before their eyes, a one-woman spectacle. Her dress and makeup changed from day to day, but always gave her a heightened, goddesslike appearance. Her voice, which all writers talk of, was lilting and intoxicating. Her words could be banal enough, but were spoken so sweetly that listeners would find themselves remembering not what she said but how she said it.
Cleopatra provided constant variety—tributes, mock battles, expeditions, costumed orgies. Everything had a touch of drama and was accomplished with great energy. By the time your head lay on the pillow beside her, your mind was spinning with images and dreams. And just when you thought you had this fluid, larger-than-life woman, she would turn distant or angry, making it clear that everything was on her terms. You never possessed Cleopatra, you worshiped her. In this way a woman who had been exiled and destined for an early death managed to turn it all around and rule Egypt for close to twenty years.
From Cleopatra we learn that it is not beauty that makes a Siren but rather a theatrical streak that allows a woman to embody a man’s fantasies. A man grows bored with a woman, no matter how beautiful; he yearns for different pleasures, and for adventure. All a woman needs to turn this around is to create the illusion that she offers such variety and adventure. A man is easily deceived by appearances; he has a weakness for the visual. Create the physical presence of a Siren (heightened sexual allure mixed with a regal and theatrical manner) and he is trapped. He cannot grow bored with you yet he cannot discard you. Keep up the distractions, and never let him see who you really are. He will follow you until he drowns.
We’re dazzled by feminine adornment, by the surface, All gold and jewels: so little of what we observe Is the girl herself. And where (you may ask) amid such plenty Can our object of passion be found? The eye’s deceived By Love’s smart camouflage.
—OVID, CURES FOR LOVE, TRANSLATED BY PETER GREEN
—Robert GRAVES, THE GREEK MYTHS, VOLUME
The Sex Siren
Norma Jean Mortensen, the future Marilyn Monroe, spent part of her childhood in Los Angeles orphanages. Her days were filled with chores and no play. At school, she kept to herself, smiled rarely, and dreamed a lot. One day when she was thirteen, as she was dressing for school, she noticed that the white blouse the orphanage provided for her was torn, so she had to borrow a sweater from a younger girl in the house. The sweater was several sizes too small. That day, suddenly, boys seemed to gather around her wherever she went (she was extremely well-developed for her age). She wrote in her diary, “They stared at my sweater as if it were a gold mine.”
The revelation was simple but startling. Previously ignored and even ridiculed by the other students, Norma Jean now sensed a way to gain attention, maybe even power, for she was wildly ambitious. She started to smile more, wear makeup, dress differently And soon she noticed something equally startling: without her having to say or do anything, boys fell passionately in love with her. “My admirers all said the same thing in different ways,” she wrote. “It was my fault, their wanting to kiss me and hug me. Some said it was the way I looked at them—with eyes full of passion. Others said it was my voice that lured them on. Still others said I gave off vibrations that floored them.”
A few years later Marilyn was trying to make it in the film business. Producers would tell her the same thing: she was attractive enough in person, but her face wasn’t pretty enough for the movies. She was getting work as an extra, and when she was on-screen—even if only for a few seconds—the men in the audience would go wild, and the theaters would erupt in catcalls. But nobody saw any star quality in this. One day in 1949, only twenty-three at the time and her career at a standstill, Monroe met someone at a diner who told her that a producer casting a new Groucho Marx movie, Love Happy, was looking for an actress for the part of a blond bombshell who could walk by Groucho in a way that would, in his words, “arouse my elderly libido and cause smoke to issue from my ears.” Talking her way into an audition, she improvised this walk. “It’s Mae West, Theda Bara, and Bo Peep all rolled into one,” said Groucho after watching her saunter by. “We shoot the scene tomorrow morning.” And so Marilyn created her infamous walk, a walk that was hardly natural but offered a strange mix of innocence and sex.
Over the next few years, Marilyn taught herself through trial and error how to heighten the effect she had on men. Her voice had always been attractive—it was the voice of a little girl. But on film it had limitations until someone finally taught her to lower it, giving it the deep, breathy tones that became her seductive trademark, a mix of the little girl and the vixen. Before appearing on set, or even at a party, Marilyn would spend hours before the mirror. Most people assumed this was vanity—she was in love with her image. The truth was that image took hours to create. Marilyn spent years studying and practicing the art of makeup. The voice, the walk, the face and look were all constructions, an act. At the height of her fame, she would get a thrill by going into bars in New York City without her makeup or glamorous clothes and passing unnoticed.
Success finally came, but with it came something deeply annoying to her: the studios would only cast her as the blond bombshell. She wanted serious roles, but no one took her seriously for those parts, no matter how hard she downplayed the siren qualities she had built up. One day, while she was rehearsing a scene from The Cherry Orchard, her acting instructor, Michael Chekhov, asked her, “Were you thinking of sex while we played the scene?” When she said no, he continued, “All through our playing of the scene I kept receiving sex vibrations from you. As if you were a woman in the grip of passion.... I understand your problem with your studio now, Marilyn. You are a woman who gives off sex vibrations—no matter what you are doing or thinking. The whole world has already responded to those vibrations. They come off the movie screens when you are on them.”
Marilyn Monroe loved the effect her body could have on the male libido. She tuned her physical presence like an instrument, making herself reek of sex and gaining a glamorous, larger-than-life appearance. Other women knew just as many tricks for heightening their sexual appeal, but what separated Marilyn from them was an unconscious element. Her background had deprived her of something critical: affection. Her deepest need was to feel loved and desired, which made her seem constantly vulnerable, like a little girl craving protection. She emanated this need for love before the camera; it was effortless, coming from somewhere real and deep inside. A look or gesture that she did not intend to arouse desire would do so doubly powerfully just because it was unintended—its innocence was precisely what excited a man.
The Sex Siren has a more urgent and immediate effect than the Spectacular Siren does. The incarnation of sex and desire, she does not bother to appeal to extraneous senses, or to create a theatrical buildup. Her time never seems to be taken up by work or chores; she gives the impression that she lives for pleasure and is always available. What separates the Sex Siren from the courtesan or whore is her touch of innocence and vulnerability. The mix is perversely satisfying: it gives the male the critical illusion that he is a protector, the father figure, although it is actually the Sex Siren who controls the dynamic.
A woman doesn’t have to be born with the attributes of a Marilyn Monroe to fill the role of the Sex Siren. Most of the physical elements are a construction; the key is the air of schoolgirl innocence. While one part of you seems to scream sex, the other part is coy and naive, as if you were incapable of understanding the effect you are having. Your walk, your voice, your manner are delightfully ambiguous—you are both the experienced, desiring woman and the innocent gamine.
Your next encounter will be with the Sirens, who bewitch every man that approaches them.... For with the music of their song the Sirens cast their spell upon him, as they sit there in a meadow piled high with the moldering skeletons of men, whose withered skin still hangs upon their bones.
—CIRCE TO ODYSSEUS, THE ODYSSEY BOOK XII
Keys to the Character
The Siren is the most ancient seductress of them all. Her prototype is the goddess Aphrodite—it is her nature to have a mythic quality about her—but do not imagine she is a thing of the past, or of legend and history : she represents a powerful male fantasy of a highly sexual, supremely confident, alluring female offering endless pleasure and a bit of danger. In today’s world this fantasy can only appeal the more strongly to the male psyche, for now more than ever he lives in a world that circumscribes his aggressive instincts by making everything safe and secure, a world that offers less chance for adventure and risk than ever before. In the past, a man had some outlets for these drives—warfare, the high seas, political intrigue. In the sexual realm, courtesans and mistresses were practically a social institution, and offered him the variety and the chase that he craved. Without any outlets, his drives turn inward and gnaw at him, becoming all the more volatile for being repressed. Sometimes a powerful man will do the most irrational things, have an affair when it is least called for, just for a thrill, the danger of it all. The irrational can prove immensely seductive, even more so for men, who must always seem so reasonable.
To whom can I compare the lovely girl, so blessed by fortune, if not to the Sirens, who with their lodestone draw the ships towards them? Thus, I imagine, did Isolde attract many thoughts and hearts that deemed themselves safe from love’s disquietude. And indeed these two—anchorless ships and stray thoughts— provide a good comparison. They are both so seldom on a straight course, lie so often in unsure havens, pitching and tossing and heaving to and fro. Just so, in the same way, do aimless desire and random love-longing drift like an anchorless ship. This charming young princess, discreet and courteous Isolde, drew thoughts from the hearts that enshrined them as a lodestone draws in ships to the sound of the Sirens’ song. She sang openly and secretly, in through ears and eyes to where many a heart was stirred, The song which she sang openly in this and other places was her own sweet singing and soft sounding of strings that echoed for all to hear through the kingdom of the ears deep down into the heart. But her secret song was her wondrous beauty that stole with its rapturous music hidden and unseen through the windows of the eyes into many noble hearts and smoothed on the magic which took thoughts prisoner suddenly, and, taking them, fettered them with desire!
—GOTTFRIED VON STRASSBUG. TRISTAN; TRANSLATED BY A.T. HATTO
If it is seductive power you are after, the Siren is the most potent of all. She operates on a man’s most basic emotions, and if she plays her role properly, she can transform a normally strong and responsible male into a childish slave. The Siren operates well on the rigid masculine type—the soldier or hero—just as Cleopatra overwhelmed Mark Antony and Marilyn Monroe Joe DiMaggio. But never imagine that these are the only types the Siren can affect. Julius Caesar was a writer and thinker, who had transferred his intellectual abilities onto the battlefield and into the political arena; the playwright Arthur Miller fell as deeply under Monroe’s spell as DiMaggio. The intellectual is often the one most susceptible to the Siren call of pure physical pleasure, because his life so lacks it. The Siren does not have to worry about finding the right victim. Her magic works on one and all.
First and foremost, a Siren must distinguish herself from other women. She is by nature a rare thing, mythic, only one to a group; she is also a valuable prize to be wrested away from other men. Cleopatra made herself different through her sense of high drama; the Empress Josephine Bonaparte’s device was her extreme languorousness; Marilyn Monroe’s was her little-girl quality. Physicality offers the best opportunities here, since a Siren is preeminently a sight to behold. A highly feminine and sexual presence, even to the point of caricature, will quickly differentiate you, since most women lack the confidence to project such an image.
Once the Siren has made herself stand out from others, she must have two other critical qualities: the ability to get the male to pursue her so feverishly that he loses control; and a touch of the dangerous. Danger is surprisingly seductive. To get the male to pursue you is relatively simple: a highly sexual presence will do this quite well. But you must not resemble a courtesan or whore, whom the male may pursue only to quickly lose interest in her. Instead, you are slightly elusive and distant, a fantasy come to life. During the Renaissance, the great Sirens, such as Tullia d’Aragona, would act and look like Grecian goddesses—the fantasy of the day. Today you might model yourself on a film goddess—anything that seems larger than life, even awe inspiring. These qualities will make a man chase you vehemently, and the more he chases, the more he will feel that he is acting on his own initiative. This is an excellent way of disguising how deeply you are manipulating him.
The notion of danger, challenge, sometimes death, might seem outdated, but danger is critical in seduction. It adds emotional spice and is particularly appealing to men today, who are normally so rational and repressed. Danger is present in the original myth of the Siren. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus must sail by the rocks where the Sirens, strange female creatures, sing and beckon sailors to their destruction. They sing of the glories of the past, of a world like childhood, without responsibilities, a world of pure pleasure. Their voices are like water, liquid and inviting. Sailors would leap into the water to join them, and drown; or, distracted and entranced, they would steer their ship into the rocks. To protect his sailors from the Sirens, Odysseus has their ears filled with wax; he himself is tied to the mast, so he can both hear the Sirens and live to tell of it—a strange desire, since the thrill of the Sirens is giving in to the temptation to follow them.
Falling in love with statues and paintings, even making love to them is an ancient fantasy, one of which the Renaissance was keenly aware. Giorgio Vasari, writing in the introductory section of the Lives about art in antiquity, tells how men violated the laws, going into the temples at night and making love with statues of Venus. In the morning, priests would enter the sanctuaries to find stains on the marble figures.
—LYNNE LAWNER, LIVES OF THE COURTESANS
Just as the ancient sailors had to row and steer, ignoring all distractions, a man today must work and follow a straight path in life. The call of something dangerous, emotional, unknown is all the more powerful because it is so forbidden. Think of the victims of the great Sirens of history: Paris causes a war for the sake of Helen of Troy, Caesar risks an empire and Antony loses his power and his life for Cleopatra, Napoleon becomes a laughingstock over Josephine, DiMaggio never gets over Marilyn, and Arthur Miller can’t write for years. A man is often ruined by a Siren, yet cannot tear himself away. (Many powerful men have a masochistic streak.) An element of danger is easy to hint at, and will enhance your other Siren characteristics—the touch of madness in Marilyn, for example, that pulled men in. Sirens are often fantastically irrational, which is immensely attractive to men who are oppressed by their own reasonableness. An element of fear is also critical: keeping a man at a proper distance creates respect, so that he doesn’t get close enough to see through you or notice your weaker qualities. Create such fear by suddenly changing your moods, keeping the man off balance, occasionally intimidating him with capricious behavior.
The most important element for an aspiring Siren is always the physical, the Siren’s main instrument of power. Physical qualities—a scent, a heightened femininity evoked through makeup or through elaborate or seductive clothing—act all the more powerfully on men because they have no meaning. In their immediacy they bypass rational processes, having the same effect that a decoy has on an animal, or the movement of a cape on a bull. The proper Siren appearance is often confused with physical beauty, particularly the face. But a beautiful face does not a Siren make: instead it creates too much distance and coldness. (Neither Cleopatra nor Marilyn Monroe, the two greatest Sirens in history, were known for their beautiful faces.) Although a smile and an inviting look are infinitely seductive, they must never dominate your appearance. They are too obvious and direct. The Siren must stimulate a generalized desire, and the best way to do this is by creating an overall impression that is both distracting and alluring. It is not one particular trait, but a combination of qualities:
The voice. Clearly a critical quality, as the legend indicates, the Siren’s voice has an immediate animal presence with incredible suggestive power. Perhaps that power is regressive, recalling the ability of the mother’s voice to calm or excite her child even before the child understood what she was saying. The Siren must have an insinuating voice that hints at the erotic, more often subliminally than overtly. Almost everyone who met Cleopatra commented on her delightful, sweet-sounding voice, which had a mesmerizing quality. The Empress Josephine, one of the great seductresses of the late eighteenth century, had a languorous voice that men found exotic, and suggestive of her Creole origins. Marilyn Monroe was born with her breathy, childlike voice, but she learned to lower to make it truly seductive. Lauren Bacall’s voice is naturally low; its seductive power comes from its slow, suggestive delivery. The Siren never speaks quickly, aggressively, or at a high pitch. Her voice is calm and unhurried, as if she had never quite woken up—or left her bed.
Body and adornment. If the voice must lull, the body and its adornment must dazzle. It is with her clothes that the Siren aims to create the goddess effect that Baudelaire described in his essay “In Praise of Makeup”: “Woman is well within her rights, and indeed she is accomplishing a kind of duty in striving to appear magical and supernatural. She must astonish and bewitch; an idol, she must adorn herself with gold in order to be adored. She must borrow from all of the arts in order to raise herself above nature, the better to subjugate hearts and stir souls.”
A Siren who was a genius of clothes and adornment was Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon. Pauline consciously strove for a goddess effect, fashioning hair, makeup, and clothes to evoke the look and air of Venus, the goddess of love. No one in history could boast a more extensive and elaborate wardrobe. Pauline’s entrance at a ball in 1798 created an astounding effect. She asked the hostess, Madame Permon, if she could dress at her house, so no one would see her clothes as she came in. When she came down the stairs, everyone stopped dead in stunned silence. She wore the headdress of a bacchante—clusters of gold grapes interlaced in her hair, which was done up in the Greek style. Her Greek tunic, with its gold-embroidered hem, showed off her goddesslike figure. Below her breasts was a girdle of burnished gold, held by a magnificent jewel. “No words can convey the loveliness of her appearance,” wrote the Duchess d’Abrantès. “The very room grew brighter as she entered. The whole ensemble was so harmonious that her appearance was greeted with a buzz of admiration which continued with utter disregard of all the other women.”
The key: everything must dazzle, but must also be harmonious, so that no single ornament draws attention. Your presence must be charged, larger than life, a fantasy come true. Ornament is used to cast a spell and distract. The Siren can also use clothing to hint at the sexual, at times overtly but more often by suggesting it rather than screaming it—that would make you seem manipulative. Related to this is the notion of selective disclosure, the revealing of only a part of the body—but a part that will excite and stir the imagination. In the late sixteenth century, Marguerite de Valois, the infamous daughter of Queen Catherine de Médicis of France, was one of the first women ever to incorporate décolletage in her wardrobe, simply because she had the most beautiful breasts in the realm. For Josephine Bonaparte it was her arms, which she carefully always left bare.
Movement and demeanor. In the fifth century B.C., King Kou Chien chose the Chinese Siren Hsi Shih from among all the women of his realm to seduce and destroy his rival Fu Chai, King of Wu; for this purpose, he had the young woman instructed in the arts of seduction. Most important of these was movement—how to move gracefully and suggestively Hsi Shih learned to give the impression of floating across the floor in her court robes. When she was finally unleashed on Fu Chai, he quickly fell under her spell. She walked and moved like no one he had ever seen. He became obsessed with her tremulous presence, her manner and nonchalant air. Fu Chai fell so deeply in love that he let his kingdom fall to pieces, allowing Kou Chien to march in and conquer it without a fight.
The Siren moves gracefully and unhurriedly. The proper gestures, movement, and demeanor for a Siren are like the proper voice: they hint at something exciting, stirring desire without being obvious. Your air must be languorous, as if you had all the time in the world for love and pleasure. Your gestures must have a certain ambiguity, suggesting something both innocent and erotic. Anything that cannot immediately be understood is supremely seductive, and all the more so if it permeates your manner.
The song of the Siren is liquid and enticing, and the Siren herself is fluid and ungraspable. Like the sea, the Siren lures you with the promise of infinite adventure and pleasure. Forgetting past and future, men follow her far out to sea, where they drown.
No matter how enlightened the age, no woman can maintain the image of being devoted to pleasure completely comfortably. And no matter how hard she tries to distance herself from it, the taint of being easy always follows the Siren. Cleopatra was hated in Rome as the Egyptian whore. That hatred eventually lead to her downfall, as Octavius and the Roman army sought to extirpate the stain on Roman manhood that she came to represent. Even so, men are often forgiving when it comes to the Siren’s reputation. But danger often lies in the envy she stirs up among other women; much of Rome’s hatred for Cleopatra originated in the resentment she provoked among the city’s stern matrons. By playing up her innocence, by making herself seem the victim of male desire, the Siren can somewhat blunt the effects of feminine envy But on the whole there is little she can do—her power comes from her effect on men, and she must learn to accept, or ignore, the envy of other women.
Finally, the intense attention that the Siren attracts can prove irritating and worse. Sometimes she will pine for relief from it; sometimes, too, she will want to attract an attention that is not sexual. Also, unfortunately, physical beauty fades; although the Siren effect depends not on a beautiful face but on an overall impression, past a certain age that impression gets hard to project. Both of these factors contributed to the suicide of Marilyn Monroe. It takes a genius on the level of Madame de Pompadour, the Siren mistress of King Louis XV to make the transition into the role of the spirited older woman who continues to seduce with her nonphysical charms. Cleopatra had such an intellect, and had she lived long enough, she would have remained a potent seductress for many years. The Siren must prepare for age by paying attention early on to the more psychological, less physical forms of coquetry that can continue to bring her power once her beauty starts to fade.
A woman never quite feels desired and appreciated enough. She wants attention, but a man is too often distracted and unresponsive. The Rake is a great female fantasy figure—when he desires a woman, brief though that moment may be, he will go to the ends of the earth for her. He may be disloyal, dishonest, and amoral, but that only adds to his appeal. Unlike the normal, cautious male, the Rake is delightfully unrestrained, a slave to his love of women. There is the added lure of his reputation: so many women have succumbed to him, there has to be a reason. Words are a woman’s weakness, and the Rake is a master of seductive language. Stir a woman’s repressed longings by adapting the Rake’s mix of danger and pleasure.
The Ardent Rake
For the court of Louis XIV, the king’s last years were gloomy—he was old, and had become both insufferably religious and personally unpleasant. The court was bored and desperate for novelty So in 1710, the arrival of a fifteen-year-old lad who was both devilishly handsome and charming had a particularly strong effect on the ladies. His name was Fronsac, the future Duke de Richelieu (his granduncle being the infamous Cardinal Richelieu). He was impudent and witty. The ladies would play with him like a toy, but he would kiss them on the lips in return, his hands wandering far for an inexperienced boy. When those hands strayed up the skirts of a duchess who was not so indulgent, the king was furious, and sent the youth to the Bastille to teach him a lesson. But the ladies who had found him so amusing could not endure his absence. Compared to the stiffs in court, here was someone incredibly bold, his eyes boring into you, his hands quicker than was safe. Nothing could stop him, his novelty was irresistible. The court ladies pleaded and his stay in the Bastille was cut short.
Several years later, the young Mademoiselle de Valois was walking in a Paris park with her chaperone, an older woman who never left her side. De Valois’s father, the Duke d’Orléans, was determined to protect her, his youngest daughter, from all the court seducers until she could be married off, so he had attached to her this chaperone, a woman of impeccable virtue and sourness. In the park, however, de Valois saw a young man who gave her a look that set her heart on fire. He walked on by, but the look was intense and clear. It was her chaperone who told her his name: the now infamous Duke de Richelieu, blasphemer, seducer, heartbreaker. Someone to avoid at all cost.
A few days later, the chaperone took de Valois to a different park, and lo and behold, Richelieu crossed their path again. This time he was in disguise, dressed as a beggar, but the look in his eye was unforgettable. Mademoiselle de Valois returned his gaze: at last something exciting in her drab life. Given her father’s sternness, no man had dared approach her. And now this notorious courtier was pursuing her, instead of all the other ladies at court—what a thrill! Soon he was smuggling beautifully written notes to her expressing his uncontrollable desire for her. She responded timidly, but soon the notes were all she was living for. In one of them he promised to arrange everything if she would spend the night with him; imagining it was impossible to bring such a thing to pass, she did not mind playing along and agreeing to his bold proposal.
[After an accident at sea, Don Juan finds himself washed up on a beach, where he is discovered by a young woman.] • TISBEA: Wake up, handsomest of all men, and be yourself again. • DON JUAN: If the sea gives me death, you give me life. But the sea really saved me only to be killed by you. Oh the sea tosses me from one torment to the other, for I no sooner pulled myself from the water than I met this siren—yourself. Why fill my ears with wax, since you kill me with your eyes? I was dying in the sea, but from today I shall die of love. • TISBEA: You have abundant breath for a man almost drowned. You suffered much, but who knows what suffering you are preparing for me? . . . I found you at my feet all water, and now you are all fire. If you burn when you are so wet, what will you do when you’re dry again? You promise a scorching flame; I hope to God you’re not lying. • DON JUAN : Dear girl, God should have drowned me before I could be charred by you. Perhaps love was wise to drench me before I felt your scalding touch. But your fire is such that even in water I burn. • TISBEA: So cold and yet burning? • DON JUAN: So much fire is in you. • TISBEA: How well you talk! • DON JUAN: How well you understand! • TISBEA: I hope to God you’re not lying.
—TIRSO DE MOLINA, THE PLAYBOY OF SEVILLE, TRANSLATED BY ADRIENNE M. SCHIZZANO AND OSCAR MANDEL
—THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE MARSHAL DUKE OF RICHEULIEU TRANSLATED BY F. S. FLINT
Mademoiselle de Valois had a chambermaid named Angelique, who dressed her for bed and slept in an adjoining room. One night as the chaperone was knitting, de Valois looked up from the book she was reading to see Angelique carrying her mistress’s nightclothes to her room, but for some strange reason Angelique looked back at her and smiled—it was Richelieu, expertly dressed as the maid! De Valois nearly gasped from fright, but caught herself, realizing the danger she was in: if she said anything her family would find out about the notes, and about her part in the whole affair. What could she do? She decided to go to her room and talk the young duke out of his ridiculously dangerous maneuver. She said good night to her chaperone, but once she was in her bedroom, the words she had planned were useless. When she tried to reason with Richelieu, he responded with that look in his eye, and then with his arms around her. She could not yell, but now she was unsure what to do. His impetuous words, his caresses, the danger of it all—her head was whirling, she was lost. What was virtue and her prior boredom compared to an evening with the court’s most notorious rake? So while the chaperone knitted away, the duke initiated her into the rituals of libertinage.
Months later, de Valois’s father had reason to suspect that Richelieu had broken through his lines of defense. The chaperone was fired, the precautions were doubled. D’Orléans did not realize that to Richelieu such measures were a challenge, and he lived for challenges. He bought the house next door under an assumed name and secretly tunneled a trapdoor through the wall adjoining the duke’s kitchen cupboard. In this cupboard, over the next few months—until the novelty wore off—de Valois and Richelieu enjoyed endless trysts.
Everyone in Paris knew of Richelieu’s exploits, for he made it a point to publicize them as loudly as possible. Every week a new story would circulate through the court. A husband had locked his wife in an upstairs room at night, worried the duke was after her; to reach her the duke had crawled in darkness along a thin wooden plank suspended between two upper-floor windows. Two women who lived in the same house, one a widow, the other married and quite religious, had discovered to their mutual horror that the duke was having an affair with both of them at the same time, leaving one in the middle of the night to be with the other. When they confronted him, the duke, always on the prowl for something novel, and a devilish talker, had neither apologized nor backed down, but proceeded to talk them into a ménage à trois, playing on the wounded vanity of each woman, who could not stand the thought of him preferring the other. Year after year, the stories of his remarkable seductions spread. One woman admired his audacity and bravery, another his gallantry in thwarting a husband. Women competed for his attention: if he did not want to seduce you, there had to be something wrong with you. To be the target of his attentions became a great fantasy At one point two ladies fought a pistol duel over the duke, and one of them was seriously wounded. The Duchess d’Orléans, Richelieu’s most bitter enemy once wrote, “If I believed in sorcery I should think that the Duke possessed some supernatural secret, for I have never known a woman to oppose the very least resistance to him.”
In seduction there is often a dilemma: to seduce you need planning and calculation, but if your victim suspects that you have ulterior motives, she will grow defensive. Furthermore, if you seem to be in control, you will inspire fear instead of desire. The Ardent Rake solves this dilemma in the most artful manner. Of course he must calculate and plan—he has to find a way around the jealous husband, or whatever the obstacle is. It is exhausting work. But by nature, the Ardent Rake also has the advantage of an uncontrollable libido. When he pursues a woman, he really is aglow with desire; the victim senses this and is inflamed, even despite herself. How can she imagine that he is a heartless seducer who will abandon her when he so ardently braves all dangers and obstacles to get to her? And even if she is aware of his rakish past, of his incorrigible amorality, it doesn’t matter, because she also sees his weakness. He cannot control himself; he actually is a slave to all women. As such he inspires no fear.
The Ardent Rake teaches us a simple lesson: intense desire has a distracting power on a woman, just as the Siren’s physical presence does on a man. A woman is often defensive and can sense insincerity or calculation. But if she feels consumed by your attentions, and is confident you will do anything for her, she will notice nothing else about you, or will find a way to forgive your indiscretions. This is the perfect cover for a seducer. The key is to show no hesitation, to abandon all restraint, to let yourself go, to show that you cannot control yourself and are fundamentally weak. Do not worry about inspiring mistrust; as long as you are the slave to her charms, she will not think of the aftermath.
The Demonic Rake
In the early 1880s, members of Roman high society began to talk of a young journalist who had arrived on the scene, a certain Gabriele D’Annunzio. This was strange in itself, for Italian royalty had only the deepest contempt for anyone outside their circle, and a newspaper society reporter was almost as low as you could go. Indeed well-born men paid D’Annunzio little attention. He had no money and few connections, coming from a strictly middle-class background. Besides, to them he was downright ugly—short and stocky, with a dark, splotchy complexion and bulging eyes. The men thought him so unappealing they gladly let him mingle with their wives and daughters, certain that their women would be safe with this gargoyle and happy to get this gossip hunter off their hands. No, it was not the en who talked of D’Annunzio; it was their wives.
His very successes in love, even more than the marvelous voice of this little, bald seducer with a nose like Punch, swept along in his train a whole procession of enamored women, both opulent and tormented. D’Annunzio had successfully revived the Byronic legend: as he passed by full-breasted women, standing in his way as Boldoni would paint them, strings of pearls anchoring them to life—princesses and actresses, great Russian ladies and even middle-class Bordeaux housewives—they would offer themselves up to him.
—PHILIPPE JULIAN, PRINCE OF AESTHETES: COUNT ROBERT DE MONTESQUIOT, TRANSLATED BY JOHN HAYLOCK AND FRANCIS KING
Introduced to D’Annunzio by their husbands, these duchesses and marchionesses would find themselves entertaining this strange-looking man, and when he was alone with them, his manner would suddenly change. Within minutes these ladies would be spellbound. First, he had the most magnificent voice they had ever heard—soft and low, each syllable articulated, with a flowing rhythm and inflection that was almost musical. One woman compared it to the ringing of church bells in the distance. Others said his voice had a “hypnotic” effect. The words that voice spoke were interesting as well—alliterative phrases, charming locutions, poetic images, and a way of offering praise that could melt a woman’s heart. D’Annunzio had mastered the art of flattery. He seemed to know each woman’s weakness: one he would call a goddess of nature, another an incomparable artist in the making, another a romantic figure out of a novel. A woman’s heart would flutter as he described the effect she had on him. Everything was suggestive, hinting at sex or romance. That night she would ponder his words, recalling little in particular that he had said, because he never said anything concrete, but rather the feeling it had given her. The next day she would receive from him a poem that seemed to have been written specifically for her. (In fact he wrote dozens of very similar poems, slightly tailoring each one for its intended victim.)
In short, nothing is so sweet as to triumph over the Resistance of a beautiful Person; and in that I have the Ambition of Conquerors, who fly perpetually from Victory to Victory and can never prevail with themselves to put a bound to their Wishes. Nothing can restrain the Impetuosity of my Desires; I have an Heart for the whole Earth; and like Alexander, I could wish for New Worlds wherein to extend my Amorous Conquests.
—MOLlÈRE, DON JOHN OR THE LIBERTINE, TRANSLATED BY JOHN OZELL
A few years after D’Annunzio began work as a society reporter, he married the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Gallese. Shortly thereafter, with the unshakeable support of society ladies, he began publishing novels and books of poetry. The number of his conquests was remarkable, and also the quality—not only marchionesses would fall at his feet, but great artists, such as the actress Eleanor Duse, who helped him become a respected dramatist and literary celebrity. The dancer Isadora Duncan, another who eventually fell under his spell, explained his magic: “Perhaps the most remarkable lover of our time is Gabriele D’Annunzio. And this notwithstanding that he is small, bald, and, except when his face lights up with enthusiasm, ugly. But when he speaks to a woman he likes, his face is transfigured, so that he suddenly becomes Apollo.... His effect on women is remarkable. The lady he is talking to suddenly feels that her very soul and being are lifted.”
At the outbreak of World War I, the fifty-two-year-old D’Annunzio joined the army. Although he had no military experience, he had a flair for the dramatic and a burning desire to prove his bravery. He learned to fly and led dangerous but highly effective missions. By the end of the war, he was Italy’s most decorated hero. His exploits made him a beloved national figure, and after the war, crowds would gather outside his hotel wherever in Italy he went. He would address them from a balcony, discussing politics, railing against the current Italian government. A witness of one of these speeches, the American writer Walter Starkie, was initially disappointed at the appearance of the famous D’Annunzio on a balcony in Venice; he was short, and looked grotesque. “Little by little, however, I began to sink under the fascination of the voice, which penetrated into my consciousness. , .. Never a hurried, jerky gesture.... He played upon the emotions of the crowd as a supreme violinist does upon a Stradivarius. The eyes of the thousands were fixed upon him as though hypnotized by his power.” Once again, it was the sound of the voice and the poetic connotations of the words that seduced the masses. Arguing that modern Italy should reclaim the greatness of the Roman Empire, D’Annunzio would craft slogans for the audience to repeat, or would ask emotionally loaded questions for them to answer. He flattered the crowd, made them feel they were part of some drama. Everything was vague and suggestive.
The issue of the day was the ownership of the city of Fiume, just across the border in neighboring Yugoslavia. Many Italians believed that Italy’s reward for siding with the Allies in the recent war should be the annexation of Fiume. D’Annunzio championed this cause, and because of his status as a war hero the army was ready to side with him, although the government opposed any action. In September of 1919, with soldiers rallying around him, D’Annunzio led his infamous march on Fiume. When an Italian general stopped him along the way, and threatened to shoot him, D’Annunzio opened his coat to show his medals, and said in his magnetic voice, “If you must kill me, fire first on this!” The general stood there stunned, then broke into tears. He joined up with D’Annunzio.
When D’Annunzio entered Fiume, he was greeted as a liberator. The next day he was declared leader of the Free State of Fiume. Soon he was giving daily speeches from a balcony overlooking the town’s main square, holding tens of thousands of people spellbound without benefit of loudspeakers. He initiated all kinds of celebrations and rituals harking back to the Roman Empire. The citizens of Fiume began to imitate him, particularly his sexual exploits; the city became like a giant bordello. His popularity was so high that the Italian government feared a march on Rome, which at that point, had D’Annunzio decided to do it—and he had the support of a large part of the military—might actually have succeeded; D’Annunzio could have beaten Mussolini to the punch and changed the course of history. (He was not a Fascist, but a kind of aesthetic socialist.) He decided to stay in Fiume, however, and ruled there for sixteen months before the Italian government finally bombed him out of the city.
Seduction is a psychological process that transcends gender, except in a few key areas where each gender has its own weakness. The male is traditionally vulnerable to the visual. The Siren who can concoct the right physical appearance will seduce in large numbers. For women the weakness is language and words: as was written by one of D’Annunzio’s victims, the French actress Simone, “How can one explain his conquests except by his extraordinary verbal power, and the musical timbre of his voice, put to the service of exceptional eloquence? For my sex is susceptible to words, bewitched by them, longing to be dominated by them.”
The Rake is as promiscuous with words as he is with women. He chooses words for their ability to suggest, insinuate, hypnotize, elevate, infect. The words of the Rake are the equivalent of the bodily adornment of the Siren: a powerful sensual distraction, a narcotic. The Rake’s use of language is demonic because it is designed not to communicate or convey information but to persuade, flatter, stir emotional turmoil, much as the serpent in the Garden of Eden used words to lead Eve into temptation.
Among the many modes of handling Don Juan’s effect on women, the motif of the irresistible hero is worth singling out, for it illustrates a curious change in our sensibility, Don Juan did not become irresistible to women until the Romantic age, and I am disposed to think that it is a trait of the female imagination to make him so. When the female voice began to assert itself and even, perhaps, to dominate in literature, Don Juan evolved to become the women’s rather than the man’s ideal.... Don Juan is now the woman’s dream of the perfect lover, fugitive, passionate, daring. He gives her the one unforgettable moment, the magnificent exaltation of the flesh which is too often denied her by the real husband, who thinks that men are gross and women spiritual. To be the fatal Don Juan may be the dream of a few men; but to meet him is the dream of many women.
—OSCAR MANDEL, “THE LEGEND OF DON JUAN,” THE THEATRE OF DON JUAN
The example of D’Annunzio reveals the link between the erotic Rake, who seduces women, and the political Rake, who seduces the masses. Both depend on words. Adapt the character of the Rake and you will find that the use of words as a subtle poison has infinite applications. Remember: it is the form that matters, not the content. The less your targets focus on what you say, and the more on how it makes them feel, the more seductive your effect. Give your words a lofty, spiritual, literary flavor the better to insinuate desire in your unwitting victims.
But what is this force, then, by which Don Juan seduces? It is desire, the energy of sensuous desire. He desires in every woman the whole of womanhood. The reaction to this gigantic passion beautifies and develops the one desired, who flushes in enhanced beauty by his reflection. As the enthusiast’s fire with seductive splendor illumines even those who stand in a casual relation to him, so Don Juan transfigures in a far deeper sense every girl.
—SØREN KIERKEGAARD, EITHER/OR
Keys to the Character
At first it may seem strange that a man who is clearly dishonest, disloyal, and has no interest in marriage would have any appeal to a woman. But throughout all of history, and in all cultures, this type has had a fatal effect. What the Rake offers is what society normally does not allow women: an affair of pure pleasure, an exciting brush with danger. A woman is often deeply oppressed by the role she is expected to play. She is supposed to be the tender, civilizing force in society, and to want commitment and lifelong loyalty. But often her marriages and relationships give her not romance and devotion but routine and an endlessly distracted mate. It remains an abiding female fantasy to meet a man who gives totally of himself, who lives for her, even if only for a while.
This dark, repressed side of female desire found expression in the legend of Don Juan. At first the legend was a male fantasy: the adventurous knight who could have any woman he wanted. But in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Don Juan slowly evolved from the masculine adventurer to a more feminized version: a man who lived only for women. This evolution came from women’s interest in the story, and was a result of their frustrated desires. Marriage for them was a form of indentured servitude; but Don Juan offered pleasure for its own sake, desire with no strings attached. For the time he crossed your path, you were all he thought about. His desire for you was so powerful that he gave you no time to think or to worry about the consequences. He would come in the night, give you an unforgettable moment, and then vanish. He might have conquered a thousand women before you, but that only made him more interesting; better to be abandoned than undesired by such a man.
The great seducers do not offer the mild pleasures that society condones. They touch a person’s unconscious, those repressed desires that cry out for liberation. Do not imagine that women are the tender creatures that some people would like them to be. Like men, they are deeply attracted to the forbidden, the dangerous, even the slightly evil. (Don Juan ends by going to hell, and the word “rake” comes from “rakehell,” a man who rakes the coals of hell; the devilish component, clearly, is an important part of the fantasy) Always remember: if you are to play the Rake, you must convey a sense of risk and darkness, suggesting to your victim that she is participating in something rare and thrilling—a chance to play out her own rakish desires.
To play the Rake, the most obvious requirement is the ability to let yourself go, to draw a woman into the kind of purely sensual moment in which past and future lose meaning. You must be able to abandon yourself to the moment. (When the Rake Valmont—a character modeled after the Duke de Richelieu—in Laclos’ eighteenth-century novel Dangerous Liaisons writes letters that are obviously calculated to have a certain effect on his chosen victim, Madame de Tourvel, she sees right through them; but when his letters really do burn with passion, she begins to relent.) An added benefit of this quality is that it makes you seem unable to control yourself, a display of weakness that a woman enjoys. By abandoning yourself to the seduced, you make them feel that you exist for them alone—a feeling reflecting a truth, though a temporary one. Of the hundreds of women that Pablo Picasso, consummate rake, seduced over the years, most of them had the feeling that they were the only one he truly loved.
The Rake never worries about a woman’s resistance to him, or for that matter about any other obstacle in his path—a husband, a physical barrier. Resistance is only the spur to his desire, enflaming him all the more. When Picasso was seducing Françoise Gilot, in fact, he begged her to resist; he needed resistance to add to the thrill. In any case, an obstacle in your way gives you the opportunity to prove yourself, and the creativity you bring to matters of love. In the eleventh-century Japanese novel The Tale of Genji,by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu, the Rake Prince Niou is not disturbed by the sudden disappearance of Ukifune, the woman he loves. She has fled because although she is interested in the prince, she is in love with another man; but her absence allows the prince to go to extreme lengths to track her down. His sudden appearance to whisk her away to a house deep in the woods, and the gallantry he displays in doing so, overwhelm her. Remember : if no resistances or obstacles face you, you must create them. No seduction can proceed without them.
The Rake is an extreme personality. Impudent, sarcastic, and bitingly witty, he cares nothing for what anyone thinks. Paradoxically, this only makes him more seductive. In the courtlike atmosphere of studio-era Hollywood, when most of the actors behaved like dutiful sheep, the great Rake Errol Flynn stood out in his insolence. He defied the studio chiefs, engaged in the most extreme pranks, reveled in his reputation as Hollywood’s supreme seducer—all of which enhanced his popularity. The Rake needs a backdrop of convention—a stultified court, a humdrum marriage, a conservative culture—to shine, to be appreciated for the breath of fresh air he provides. Never worry about going too far: the Rake’s essence is that he goes further than anyone else.
When the Earl of Rochester, seventeenth-century England’s most notorious Rake and poet, abducted Elizabeth Malet, one of the most sought-after young ladies of the court, he was duly punished. But lo and behold, a few years later young Elizabeth, though wooed by the most eligible bachelors in the country, chose Rochester to be her husband. In demonstrating his audacious desire, he made himself stand out from the crowd.
Related to the Rake’s extremism is the sense of danger, taboo, perhaps even the hint of cruelty about him. This was the appeal of another poet Rake, one of the greatest in history: Lord Byron. Byron disliked any kind of convention, and happily played this up. When he had an affair with his half sister, who bore a child by him, he made sure that all of England knew about it. He could be uncommonly cruel, as he was to his wife. But all of this only made him that much more desirable. Danger and taboo appeal to a repressed side in women, who are supposed to represent a civilizing, moralizing force in culture. Just as a man may fall victim to the Siren through his desire to be free of his sense of masculine responsibility, a woman may succumb to the Rake through her yearning to be free of the constraints of virtue and decency. Indeed it is often the most virtuous woman who falls most deeply in love with the Rake.
Among the Rake’s most seductive qualities is his ability to make women want to reform him. How many thought they would be the one to tame Lord Byron; how many of Picasso’s women thought they would finally be the one with whom he would spend the rest of his life. You must exploit this tendency to the fullest. When caught red-handed in rakishness, fall back on your weakness—your desire to change, and your inability to do so. With so many women at your feet, what can you do? You are the one who is the victim. You need help. Women will jump at this opportunity; they are uncommonly indulgent of the Rake, for he is such a pleasant, dashing figure. The desire to reform him disguises the true nature of their desire, the secret thrill they get from him. When President Bill Clinton was clearly caught out as a Rake, it was women who rushed to his defense, finding every possible excuse for him. The fact that the Rake is so devoted to women, in his own strange way, makes him lovable and seductive to them.
Finally, a Rake’s greatest asset is his reputation. Never downplay your bad name, or seem to apologize for it. Instead, embrace it, enhance it. It is what draws women to you. There are several things you must be known for: your irresistible attractiveness to women; your uncontrollable devotion to pleasure (this will make you seem weak, but also exciting to be around); your disdain for convention; a rebellious streak that makes you seem dangerous. This last element can be slightly hidden; on the surface, be polite and civil, while letting it be known that behind the scenes you are incorrigible. Duke de Richelieu made his conquests as public as possible, exciting other women’s competitive desire to join the club of the seduced. It was by reputation that Lord Byron attracted his willing victims. A woman may feel ambivalent about President Clinton’s reputation, but beneath that ambivalence is an underlying interest. Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life’s artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist.
The Rake burns with a desire that enflames the woman he is seducing. It is extreme, uncontrollable, and dangerous. The Rake may end in hell, but the flames surrounding him often make him seem that much more desirable to women.
Like the Siren, the Rake faces the most danger from members of his own sex, who are far less indulgent than women are of his constant skirt chasing. In the old days, a Rake was often an aristocrat, and no matter how many people he offended or even killed, in the end he would go unpunished. Today, only stars and the very wealthy can play the Rake with impunity; the rest of us need to be careful.
Elvis Presley had been a shy young man. Attaining early stardom, and seeing the power it gave him over women, he went berserk, becoming a Rake almost overnight. Like many Rakes, Elvis had a predilection for women who were already taken. He found himself cornered by an angry husband or boyfriend on numerous occasions, and came away with a few cuts and bruises. This might seem to suggest that you should step lightly around husbands and boyfriends, especially early on in your career. But the charm of the Rake is that such dangers don’t matter to them. You cannot be a Rake by being fearful and prudent; the occasional pummeling is part of the game. Later on, in any case, at the height of Elvis’s fame, no husband would dare touch him.
The greater danger for the Rake comes not from the violently offended husband but from those insecure men who feel threatened by the Don Juan figure. Although they will not admit it, they envy the Rake’s life of pleasure, and like everyone envious, they will attack in hidden ways, often masking their persecutions as morality. The Rake may find his career endangered by such men (or by the occasional woman who is equally insecure, and who feels hurt because the Rake does not want her). There is little the Rake can do to avoid envy; if everyone was as successful in seduction, society would not function.
So accept envy as a badge of honor. Don’t be naive, be aware. When attacked by a moralist persecutor, do not be taken in by their crusade; it is motivated by envy, pure and simple. You can blunt it by being less of a Rake, asking forgiveness, claiming to have reformed, but this will damage your reputation, making you seem less lovably rakish. In the end, it is better to suffer attacks with dignity and keep on seducing. Seduction is the source of your power; and you can always count on the infinite indulgence of women.
the Ideal lover
Most people have dreams in their youth that get shattered or worn down with age. They find themselves disappointed by people, events, reality, which cannot match their youthful ideals. Ideal Lovers thrive on people’s broken dreams, which become lifelong fantasies. You long for romance? Adventure? Lofty spiritual communion? The Ideal Lover reflects your fantasy. He or she is an artist in creating the illusion you require, idealizing your portrait. In a world of disenchantment and baseness, there is limitless seductive power in following the path of the Ideal Lover.
The Romantic Ideal
One evening around 1760, at the opera in the city of Cologne, a beautiful young woman sat in her box, watching the audience. Beside her was her husband, the town burgomaster—a middle-aged man and amiable enough, but dull. Through her opera glasses the young woman noticed a handsome man wearing a stunning outfit. Evidently her stare was noticed, for after the opera the man introduced himself: his name was Giovanni Giacomo Casanova.
From Library Journal
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