Is Seduction a Dying Art?

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.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    S.

    Is it seduction if it’s planned in advance?

  2. 2
    Emily, the original

    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. 

    For the married/partnered men out there, how do you keep that feeling alive in a marriage, when you know you’re going to get it?

    1. 2.1
      ezamuzed

      @Emily, the original

      For the married/partnered men out there, how do you keep that feeling alive in a marriage, when you know you’re going to get it?

      Dr. Robert Glover says that men need to create “Positive Emotional Tension” to keep that feeling alive.  Do a Google search for that term or watch this video.

      1. 2.1.1
        Emily, the original

        ezamused,

        Interesting video. I completely agree with it. The last thing either a man or woman should do is dance around and try to earn the attention, approval and validation of the person they like. It’s a turnoff. Maintain some standards and boundaries. It’s easy to do with people you aren’t interested in … more difficult if you are.

      2. 2.1.2
        Yet Another Guy

        “The truth is that for women drama is foreplay. ”

        That is hilarious, but so true.

  3. 3
    Tron Swanson

    “Men are fearful of their reputations getting ruined by misguided aggression with the wrong woman.”

    “reputations” and “misguided aggression”…yeah, no. I’m actually terrified of having my *entire life* destroyed because a woman misinterprets actions that are completely innocuous.

    1. 3.1
      No Name To Give

      Imagine that. Tron letting us know yet again he believes women will ruin his life. We’ve never seen you say that before Tron. I’m sure we’re all very surprised.

  4. 4
    SparklingEmerald

    General Comment about seduction and affirmative consent:

    I DO believe that “no” means “no”, but I think this business of “affirmative consent” is going to kill romance. Just learn to read body language. If you lean in for the kiss, and she tilts her head up with parted lips and kisses you back, THAT’s affirmative consent. If you go for “2nd base” and she stiffens up and takes on a protective posture, pushes your hands away, well that’s her saying “No” even if she doesn’t verbalize it. If she does verbalize it, while pushing your hands away, then SHEESH, there’s your answer. If a woman says “let’s not go any further” and pushes your hand away, than that boundary should be respected. If making out, without it leading to intercourse is too frustrating for a man, and he doesn’t want to continue making out, and stopping there, then he should end the evening, not continue grope a woman who is saying “no” and pushing him away.

    BUT, I think it is nonsense to have to ask “May I kiss you ?” “May I touch your right breast ?” “May I touch your left breast ?” etc. YUCK. I am glad I am out of the dating game and happily married. I would find it quite tedious to have to give verbal consent step by step, but I certainly can’t fault a man for asking anymore, since I guess that is what they are teaching on college campuses. (Are they really teaching that, or is that just more fake news ?)

    1. 4.1
      Emily the original

      Sparkling Emerald,

      I certainly can’t fault a man for asking anymore, since I guess that is what they are teaching on college campuses. (Are they really teaching that, or is that just more fake news ?)

      There’s a big article in The Atlantic about how young people are having less sex than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. I went back to school a year ago and I sensed it. There was no sexual energy in the room, and all these young people … According to the article, most young people felt that approaching a stranger  was creepy. A man was thought of as a creeper if he approached a woman he didn’t know. So no one approaches irl anymore. Just online. That’s what things are coming to … no pun intended.

  5. 5
    Hawley

    This is why so many of us have failed at the game.  The guy absolutely has to have consent, but he CAN’T ask for it, it has to be “given” by the woman without the man asking.  I read a comment online by a young woman who said that even the hottest guy, asking her for consent absolutely destroyed any  desire that may be building.  She said 90% of all women just want the guy they are “hot for” to figure it out,  push them up against the wall and kiss them.  But she also said there were very few men she would accept that behavior from.  The vast majority of guys were the wrong guy and were going to get slapped or kicked if they tried it, but the right guy, he was gold.  The caveat was that none of the guys are allowed to ask her for consent, she said if they did, it was over right there, no matter how attractive they might be.  It’s almost impossibly abstract.  The vast majority of guys don’t get to be that guy and on that rare occasion where they might be that guy to a certain woman, they don’t run into that situation enough to recognize it on that rare occasion where they’ve somehow fallen into it.

     

     

     

     

    1. 5.1
      Karl R

      Hawley,

      You can ask for consent, without ruining your chances, provided you ask the question correctly.

       

      Example:

      Me: We should probably go somewhere else, or we’ll end up doing something that embarrasses the millennials.

      Her: Really?  What do you have in mind?

      Me: Just that classic question … Your protection or mine?

       

      Now that line isn’t going to work for everyone.  It’s (obviously) only going to work if the woman already wants to have sex with me.  It also works because I’m playing to my target audience.  I use an over-the-top-seductive tone of voice, and use it to drop an absolutely cheesy “seductive” line.  The woman ends up giggling, because I’m blatantly satirizing seduction.

      In addition, I’ve also asked the woman a question.  A question that has two answers.  And both answers say “Yes” to sex.

       

      Obviously, a woman could say “No” at that point.  But I wasn’t presenting as an expected response.

      1. 5.1.1
        Hawley

        I agree 100% with this Karl. But I don’t think you gained consent by what you expressed. She’s already given you consent because she already wants to have sex with you. Her expression of that consent is her enthusiastic participation in the progression of your interaction. You asking or saying what you did, didn’t give you consent. Her receptive responses to your actions and prior conversation were her consent. That’s the abstraction. If a guy has to ask for consent, he doesn’t have it and won’t get it by asking. That guy needs to slow his boat. The guy who is “gold” and has consent, probably loses it by asking. He may be able to get it back again, but she again has to decide to willingly give it.

        Of course this is just my opinion. I’ve always erred on the side of caution. Likely a factor in why at 62 years old my number is just one.

        1. Karl R

          Hawley said:

          “But I don’t think you gained consent by what you expressed. She’s already given you consent because she already wants to have sex with you. Her expression of that consent is her enthusiastic participation in the progression of your interaction.”

          I think you and I have two very different ideas about the purpose of “consent.”

          A woman has already decided whether or not she wants to engage in sexual activity with me (up to and including sex).  I’m not persuading her of anything.  If I’m getting consent, I’m finding out what her decision is.

          If a decent guy gets into trouble regarding “consent,” it’s because he mistakenly believes that the woman is interested in doing more than she actually is.

           

          I agree that “enthusiastic participation” is one way of expressing consent.  But men are generally the initiators of sexual activity.

          In many jurisdictions, sexual assault includes “sexual contact with a person without the consent of that person,” where sexual contact includes “intentional touching, whether direct or through clothing, … for the purpose of sexually degrading; or for the purpose of sexually humiliating the complainant or sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant.”

          So, if a woman decides she wants to get to first base with you (but no further), and you move on to second base, you’ve just committed sexual assault.

           

          That’s an excerpt from Wisconsin law, which is also a state that requires “affirmative consent” (a/k/a “yes means yes”).

           

          Once again, your initial assertion was correct.  The example I gave above didn’t persuade the woman to consent.  It covered my ass, because I received explicit verbal consent … and it does so without sounding like I’m asking for permission.

    2. 5.2
      Emily, the original

      Hawley,

      Just out of curiosity: Has a woman never come on to you, either by saying something or making the first physical move herself?

      1. 5.2.1
        Hawley

        I guess pretty simply “No.” I had a girlfriend once 30 years ago. It ended when she got pregnant by another guy and married him. My interaction with women has kind of been like being the spare tire in the trunk of a car. I exist for my skill set. If a woman needs her car or computer fixed, I can step in and do what needs to be done. But then my job is to disappear again, like that spare tire back into the trunk of the car. Out of sight, out of mind. That guy pictured next to, “You’re going to make some woman very happy someday?” Yeah, that’s me. My place in the dating game appears to be so far down the ladder that my life isn’t better by being involved.

        Oh and “Positive Emotional Tension”? Yeah, the next baldness cure or weight loss pill. Just the latest method to squeeze money out of the guys who will always be the losers in the dating game. What did Evan say in another post, that he finds matches for his clients from the 10% of men who matter. The other 90% fall short in some way. Positive Emotional Tension might have some value to guys who are coupled, but a lot of the video seems to be geared towards the strugglers. Women who don’t want you, don’t care if you have good boundaries or not. It’s like teaching a guy who can’t hit big league pitching how to steal third. The skill is lost on him because he can’t get on base anyway. You want to create Positive Emotional Tension, be one of the guys in the top 5% on Hinge who get 48% of the likes from women. Being in demand from lots of women will create positive emotional tension. If a woman knows she can be easily “nexted” because a guy is so in demand, she will feel positive emotional tension. If you’re THAT guy you don’t have to jump through hoops and he’s never stressed about whether any one woman likes him or not and his confidence isn’t seen as delusional. If he doesn’t have the looks or the money to be that in demand guy, to quote Judge Smales, “Well . . . the world needs ditch diggers too.” In other words, accept your place. There may be someone for everyone, but that place may be lower down the ladder than that person is willing to accept.

        1. Emily, the original

          Hawley, 

          I exist for my skill set. If a woman needs her car or computer fixed, I can step in and do what needs to be done. But then my job is to disappear again

          First of all, stop doing that. Stop being that guy. Yes, there are women who will use men to do tasks for them. Don’t do them.

          Secondly, you’re stuck in your story. You’re mired in how you see your place in the world and, most importantly, how you see yourself. I’m not making light of it. I’m working on this myself, trying to clear out old ways of thinking and processing things. Mostly stuff from childhood that isn’t serving me. But you have to do the work. No one can do it for you. When you change the way you think and change the way you see yourself, your energy will change and people will respond differently. You will internally feel better and the world will respond accordingly.

        2. Yet Another Guy

          @Hawley

          I agree with ETO.  Your lack of success with women is for the most part self-inflicted.  You are doing prototypical “nice guy” things.  When women say that they want a “nice guy,” what they really mean is they want a confident, masculine guy who is protective and treats them with respect, but who also has boundaries beyond which no woman dares tread.   You are attempting to generate what Dr. Glover refers to as a covert contract when you agree to fix a woman’s computer or car.  You expect her to return the favor in the form of interest.  That is not how things work.  If you want to fix a woman’s car or computer, wait until you have generated interest and sexual desire before doing so.

  6. 6
    No Name To Give

    I guess the hookup culture is safe then.

  7. 7
    Kate

    I think getting consent and “checking in” are HOT!!!  A few weeks ago I was making out with a guy (stranger) on the dance floor at an amazing dance party and he pulled away at one point, looked me in the eyes and said something like “I just want to make sure you’re comfortable with this”.  Then he let me re-initiate the physical contact.  This is hot for several reasons:

    1.  I felt respected

    2. He showed his confidence-knowing that a guy is ok with however things turn out, as long as I am enjoying myself (he isn’t attached to a specific outcome) is way hot-because who wants to be with a guy who is going to be butt-hurt if he doesn’t “get some”?

    3. He invited me to be a co-creator, instead of him being in total aggressor mode- (which de-humanizes sexual encounters), and often women find their sexual confidence when they are allowed to “take the reins”. (Look, his interest has already been established-now let the woman meet you!)

    I think some of the men on this board are inordinately focused on the criticism of one female.  I would argue that if you lose someone’s interest by asking for consent, you are probably trying to tango with someone who is not sexually liberated (has hang-ups about sex) anyway.

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