Friday, May 15, 2009

Advanced Lessons in Seduction

It isn't every day that you get a chance to watch a master seducer at work.

Since seduction means different things to different people, here is how I am defining it.

A seducer is a man who uses a woman for his own pleasure while inducing her to think that this is what she really, really wants. He makes her feel weak and needy and then tricks her into thinking that her desperation is really her desire. And better, that she can overcome her despair by acting on her desire, which amounts to acceding to his wishes.

Absent the sexual content the same tactic can also be used in business and friendly relationships.

For now, examine the example offered by the excellent New York Times advice column, Social Q's, written by Philip Galanes. Link here.

A woman named D.T. wrote to Galanes to explain her situation. She had made a dinner date with a "nice guy" who seemed interested in her.

She went to the restaurant at the agreed-upon time. He did not. He never showed up and never called to explain himself. She sat alone in the restaurant feeling like a "sad loser."

The "nice guy" did not call later to apologize; he did not send flowers to compensate; he did not initiate any communication.

When D.T. happened to run into him on another occasion, he did apologize. Apparently without very much contrition or remorse.

He seemed to sense her vulnerability and sought to take advantage of the situation. He invited her to dinner again. As you might expect, she turned him down.

He was undeterred. Unwilling to take No for an answer he devised an ingenious ploy: he announced that he was going to make a new reservation at the same restaurant. He added that he was going to be there at the appointed hour and would wait for her. Perhaps she would change her mind.

She is tempted to go and wrote to the Times to ask what she should do.

Galanes responds by observing that it is "taxing" to deal with someone who vacillates between extreme rudeness and extreme gallantry.

The man has already shown what he is about, and a life with him would be a constant drama of slights and roses. Or better, of abuse and apologies; of degradation and celebration.

Galanes adds that she should not expect the nice guy to change. Sometimes a first impression is all you need to know. She should feel that she has been warned.

Strangely, Galanes then suggests that if she wants to see him again, there is no real harm done. He recommends that she not meet him at the restaurant, but allow him to pick her up at her apartment.

This will diminish the chance for another bout of public humiliation.

Galanes always offers good advice, because he is always working to find a way to split the difference. He does not want her to go along; he does not want her to accede to his terms; but he is willing to let her make up her own mind.

(This assumes that her mind is still her own. The basis of seduction is making people think that their minds are not really theirs!)

And if he does not explicitly tell her not to go, he may well be thinking that if he does, she might react by going. Often young people reject advice because taking it seems to involve sacrificing independence and autonomy.

But note the seducer's ploy. He has succeeded in humiliating this woman, and now he seems to have her where he wants her-- vulnerable and diminished. And now he offers himself as someone who can heal the pain that he himself has caused.

I mean no irony when I say that I consider the man's move to be brilliant. I can almost guarantee that he has tried it before and has seen it work like a charm.

By pretending to make himself vulnerable he is also pretending to empower her. And he is doing it while appealing to her empathy. He is giving her the chance to do unto him what he did unto her.

If he had slapped her around and had offered, as a recompense, to allow her to slap him around, would she want to accept the challenge?

Of course, it will take great strength of character for her to become the direct cause of an excruciating pain she has experienced herself.

But how can you counter the effects of misplaced empathy? Perhaps by further analyzing the situation.

First, he is offering to take her to a restaurant where she previously suffered humiliation. This does not normally count as a romantic gesture.

Second, how does she know that he will show up the second time, or to pick her up at her apartment?

If he fails to pick her up, the humiliation will not be as public, but it will open an old wound. If she makes a date she will have to spend time and effort getting ready. If he does not show up, how will she feel?

Third, why should she feel responsible for not showing up to an appointment she did not consent to? Did we all notice that the seducer's ploy involves ignoring her wishes and her word?

Fourth, if he does go to the restaurant, he will probably protect himself by waiting at the bar to see if she shows up. If she does not, he will surely express his deepest hurt feelings to the cute blond sitting at the end of the bar. Then he will offer her the chance to salve his wounds by joining him for dinner. She would not want a good reservation to go to waste, would she?

If this nice guy is as good a seducer and manipulator as I think he is, he will see D.T.'s absence as an opportunity to be exploited.

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