THE ART OF SEDUCTION by Robert Greene (Profile Books, 2001)

seductionThis is not overtly presented as a self-help book but it will mostly be consulted as one.

Although it contains some bleak truths about the human condition, American author Robert Greene takes to the cultural high ground in an attempt to make the salacious details more palatable.

He draws examples from literature, notably  Les Liasons Dangereuses by Laclos, and from the amorous exploits of historical figures like Casanova and Don Juan who have all been immortalised in novels, plays, operas or movies.

Psychological mind games are ruthlessly advocated on the dubious basis that the ends justify the means. The object of one’s lust or desire is frequently described either as a “target” or as a “victim” with the ultimate goal being to lure, ensnare and manipulate.

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The original bodice ripper – cover of the 1796 edition of Les Liasons Dangereuses

“A seducer cannot be timid or merciful”, Greene coolly argues and typical advice is to “lull the target into feeling secure then strike”. Furthermore, we are assured that if you “train her to be more active you will have an excellent victim”. In this way, seducers are routinely depicted as ruthless hunters in pursuit of their game.

One key strategy is to locate and exploit the victim’s weaknesses by the use of flattery and false sincerity. Deliberately tempting ‘targets’ away from their comfort zone is cited as a tried and proven method.

When pursuing beautiful women, Greene suggests showing appreciation of her intelligence, skills and character ; valuing a side of her personality that is otherwise underestimated or ignored.

Lies and deception are casually recommended. Given that the aim of seductive language is a kind of hypnosis, Greene maintains that: “its purpose is not to express a truth or a real feeling, but only to create an effect on the recipient”. The effect of this dedicated flattery is to lower the target’s defenses and make her vulnerable to suggestion.

With sexual domination and/or exploitation being the main objectiver, love and affection are conspicuous by their absence. Applied patience and slow cunning serve to lull victims into a false sense of security so that they will not anticipate the moment when you move in for the kill: “Your charm has prevented them from foreseeing this or growing suspicious. A whole revolution can be enacted without a single act of violence, simply by waiting for the apple to ripen and fall”.

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Hunter and game – Casanova played by Donald Sutherland as imagined by Federico Fellini.

In so many ways, all this quickly begins to resemble working methods of slick salesmen or unscrupulous politicians.

Indeed, Donald Trump’s recent strategy of claiming climate change to be nothing but a Chinese conspiracy won over many voters in the ‘sunshine state’ of Florida since, as Greene argues, “few have the power to see through an illusion they desperately want to believe in”.

And make no mistake, political correctness is very low on the agenda with this book. It will appeal most to control freaks and dedicated lechers who are single-minded in their pursuit of power in both the boardroom and the bedroom.

Since ethical standards are so low, there is much here to offend the common reader but the sobering truth is that you can understand quite well how these techniques work in practice.

Even if you do not plan to manipulate consent in any of the ways laid out by Greene, it is nevertheless worth studying the tricks of the squalid trade in order to avoid becoming an unsuspecting victim.

In the game of life and love, it always pays to know your enemy.

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