Professor at Northwestern. Feminist who criticizes the excesses of feminism and the follies of masculinity. Author of “Men” and “Unwanted Advances,” both of which I devoured in days. I love me some Laura Kipnis. She’s a clear thinker, a sharp wit and she pulls no punches when pointing out the various hypocrises in the gender wars.
Which is why I was so delighted to see that she wrote a piece for New York Magazine called “Should There Be a Future for Seduction?”
Well, if you’ve read the news (or this blog) regularly, you’re well-aware that this is a particularly fraught time for sexual relationships. Women are on guard against aggressive men. Men are fearful of their reputations getting ruined by misguided aggression with the wrong woman. And one of the things that gets lost in this process, Kipnis argues, is the art of seduction.
“Even when things went well, seduction had its perils. To be seduced meant opening yourself up to something you hadn’t anticipated — allowing your will to be penetrated by the will of another, your boundaries to be ignored, if not trampled.”
Classically, seducers have been male and the holdouts female, since women have historically been the sexual gatekeepers, for reasons we can debate for all of eternity…“I can’t, I’m your boss” or “I mustn’t, I’m your professor” could provide seduction prospects galore for the sexually intrepid of any gender. A “no” to overcome is the seducer’s raison d’être.
A seduction is a joint project between two people collaborating in the weakening of one’s defenses, watching them melt like chocolate in a double boiler.
It does, however, bear saying that even in the classic gender arrangement, the seduced wasn’t a passive bystander: Her resistance was critical. Yielding too soon dooms the whole enterprise (as does not yielding at all). From this point of a view, a seduction is a joint project between two people collaborating in the weakening of one’s defenses, watching them melt like chocolate in a double boiler. The structural necessity for demurral is why the wedded or betrothed have always provided such excellent seduction possibilities; think courtly love. To the dedicated seducer, “I can’t, I’m married” is the beginning of a negotiation. So what if it takes a while. Delay is an aphrodisiac, and besides, you’re worth the wait.”
Kipnis then segues into musings on the Aziz Ansari story, in which the disconnect in their mutual expectations was the very cause of the fallout. She wanted to feel special. He treated her like a groupie. The rest is internet history.
On a personal note, I’ve always liked the art of seduction. Not coercion. But the part of dating that sizzles with sexual tension. Going into a night unsure of what’s going to happen, and waiting, with bated breath, for the moment where you’re going to make a move and see where it leads. I’m sure this still happens, by the way, but I can only imagine that “affirmative consent” has changed how younger men are encouraged to court women.
Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.