Another old article of mine. A book review on The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.
— The Art of Seduction (Robert Greene and Joost Elffers)
Reading this book reminded me of these questions I had when I was much younger because of watching Jullie Yap-Daza on TV. Questions like: why do some married men have mistresses? What the hell are they looking for when they already have beautiful and accomplished wives? Why does this “other woman” let herself be involved with a man who is already committed? These women seem intelligent, conservative, and independent they can get a man they can call their own but why do they get attracted to married men? I can imagine admiring a married man or woman from afar because of their good looks or their accomplishments. But to really cross the line and commit an act that an intelligent person knows is wrong, there must be a problem. This book provided me the answer.
“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 endlessly distracted mate… 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.”
Further in the book, it said: “Society and culture are based on limits – this kind of behavior is acceptable, that is not. The limits are fluid and change with time, but there are always limits. The alternative is anarchy, the lawlessness of nature, which we dread. But we are strange animals: the moment any kind of limit is imposed, physically or psychologically, we are instantly curious. A part of us wants to go beyond that limit, to explore what is forbidden. The moment people feel that something is prohibited, a part of them will want it. That is what makes a married man or woman such a delicious target – the more someone is prohibited, the greater the desire.”
That sounds scary. Temptations, indeed, are not outside of us. They’re right inside us. It is just unfortunate that when a man or a woman commits infidelity, it is the woman who gets the most heavy punishment. If a man has been accused of concubinage, a proof must be shown first before the court believes in the accusation. But if a woman has been accused of adultery, even without proof, society has already judged the woman, condemning her of persecution. If a woman met somebody else and files for permanent separation from her husband because she can no longer bear staying in an abusive marriage, the church and our law will do all it can to keep the marriage intact. And this is by putting the couple to a long process (takes years) of recalling what their life has been since they got married. In this way, maybe it can bring back the possibility of rekindling the romance they lost. I often heard it. It’s called annulment. No wonder some couples would rather live-in together. They dread signing a piece of paper that would only cost them a huge amount of money and time should their union does not work out. Sometimes, not being married is the key why some relationships last for a lifetime. This is the kind of society we live in. Especially in this predominantly Catholic country where infidelity by married men is allowed by the church. I don’t normally say this but IT SUCKS!
This book is entitled ‘The Art of Seduction” and what is nice about this is that it did not only show me the ways or the art to be an effective seducer (including its danger), it also showed me historical examples to better understand what is written. That what I’m reading did not just appear out of thin air, or because they are the beliefs of this bestselling author. It amazes me how somebody like Robert Greene could painstakingly collect and analyze the male and female seducers in our history and put what he had studied in writing for us, readers, to learn from in the form of a book. A book that contains shocking but interesting and yet at the same time enlightening declarations and conclusions about the art of seduction. I can’t help but compare this to a Bible. Like the Bible, this book contains stories of violence, love, lust, confusion, betrayal, and heartbreak. But at the end of the day, there are valuable lessons that we can apply to our daily life.
“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 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.
“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.
“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.”
Because of the author’s tremendous effort to come up with this book, as a reader, I found myself being seduced by his output, by everything he had shared, no questions asked. I experienced no doubts. My experience was a mix of pleasure and pain. Pleasure because of some interesting stuff I learned that validated some of my theories and observations and knowing things that I did not know before, such as learning about the type of seductive character I am and also, what type of victim I am when it comes to seduction. Pain because this book is so thick it really was a test of patience, I couldn’t wait to get to the ending.
Because of this book, I got a glimpse of the love life of my favorite writer Friedrich Nietzsche. He had never been married but he sure did fall in love and suffered a heartbreak because of this girl named Lou Andreas-Salome. He even wrote a book in memory of her. It is entitled “Thus Spake Zarathustra.’ I also learned about the “Only You” strategy that a wealthy Aly Khan employed to seduce Rita Hayworth, a Hollywood actress, married but separated, and during her time considered by many as the most beautiful woman in the world. Nope, it wasn’t money that made her fall in love with Aly. Also, I learned about Josephine’s strategy to make Napoleon Bonaparte fall into her spell. And how Victor Hugo’s relationship with his mother affected his relationship with other women, resulting to scandalous affairs. Funny, but there were moments when I would feel kilig hearing about those “seduction” stories. Some did it naturally, because it was already part of their nature so it was effortless. While some had to exert effort, be more creative, and to plan it out all the way to the end.
“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.
“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 worth. Leaving things to chance is a recipe for disaster, and reveals that we do not take love and romance very seriously. 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.”
BUT HEED THE AUTHOR’S WARNING: “The more obviously you pursue a person, the more likely you are to chase them away. Too much attention can be interesting for a while, but it soon grows cloying and finally becomes claustrophobic and frightening. It signals weakness and neediness, an unseductive combination. How often we make this mistake, thinking our persistent presence will reassure.”
Furthermore, the author said: “We think that by being persistent, by overwhelming our targets with romantic attention, we are convincing them of our affection. Instead we are convincing them of our impatience and insecurity. Aggressive attention is not flattering because it is not personalized. It is unbridled libido at work; the target sees through it.”
Of course, this book is not just about how to get the boy or the girl, the man or the woman to fall in love with you, and at the same time understanding why other people can’t love you back. There are psychological explanations. This book is not just about erotic desires and sex and increasing your scores with your target. This book is also about helping a reader understand some latent qualities that he or she tries hard to suppress because of culture and tradition, because of the norm that everyone is required to follow. In one way or another, what you hide has to be released. By releasing them can we truly know who we are, what we can do, what we are capable of, or how far can we go to rechannel it. This book will also give the reader awareness about what the other person is doing or might be up to. The chapter about the Anti-Seducer, I like that. We all have anti-seducer qualities that can turn off our targets and convince them to avoid us. However, there are moments when this natural anti-seducer qualities that we have can be useful especially if we want to extinguish unwanted suitors. Sometimes we can adopt a particular annoying trait that is not our own just for the sake of anti-seduction. If this unwanted suitor wants someone who is quiet, then turn into a nagger, something like that. Also, I like the fact that seduction can also be applied in our work, in negotiations, in achieving success.
“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. 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.”
I wish married people would get to read this book, especially if they want to protect their marriage from falling apart. Yes, prayer does help in preserving marriage. But praying is useless without action.
“Seduction must never stop. Otherwise boredom will creep in. And the best way to keep the process going is often to inject intermittent drama. This can be painful – opening old wounds, stirring up jealousy, withdrawing a little. (Do not confuse this behavior with nagging or carping criticism – this pain is strategic, designed to break up rigid patterns.) On the other hand it can also be pleasant: think about proving yourself all over again, paying attention to nice little details, creating new temptations. In fact you should mix the two aspects, for too much pain or pleasure will not prove seductive. You are not repeating the first seduction, for the target has already surrendered. You are simply supplying little jolts, little wake-up calls that show two things: you have not stopped trying, and they cannot take you for granted. The little jolt will stir up the old poison, stoke the embers, bring you temporarily back to the beginning, when your involvement had a most pleasant freshness and tension.
“Remember: comfort and security are the death of seduction. A shared journey with a little bit of hardship will do more to create a deep bond than will expensive gifts and luxuries. The young are right to not care about comfort in matters of love, and when you return to that sentiment, a youthful spark will reignite.”
By the way, if I have to pick one favorite passage from the book, it would be this:
“Words are important in seduction, and have a great deal of power to confuse, distract, and boost the vanity of the target. But what is most seductive in the long run is what you do not say, what you communicate indirectly. Words come easily, and people distrust them. Anyone can say the right words; and once they are said, nothing is binding, and they may even be forgotten altogether. The gesture, the thoughtful gift, the little details seem much more real and substantial. They are also much more charming than lofty words about love, precisely because they speak for themselves and let the seduced read into them more than is there. Never tell someone what you are feeling; let them guess it in your looks and gestures. That is the more convincing language.”
Joost Elffers is the publisher of this book.