November 2006: Is seduction an outdated art?
Perhaps the most telling indicators of how dramatically the art of seduction has suffered over the years, are the results I encountered when I Googled the word. Here’s what I encountered—
The first site that came up was a semi-porn site, which promised ‘100% free dating tips, sex tips and seduction secrets’. It also featured the promising article ‘How to seduce your ex’s friend’.
Following this promising start was a site on ‘Speed Seduction’ (registered and all huh!), a theory created by one Ross Jeffries.
Third in line was a site that would teach me to use ‘hypnotic tricks, phone techniques, kinesthetics, power rules, foreplay, along with a host of tricks to seduce any woman’.
This search also yielded a porn shop and a lingerie brand called Seduction. The word also showed up in a variety of porn sites…
Here’s what I didn’t know—old-fashioned seduction is truly outdated. It took a Google search to teach me this hard fact of life—years spent waiting around for my knight in shining armour didn’t get this fact into my thick skull!
This painful realisation made me think long and hard about why the art of seduction is dead—or dying at any rate. (Oh, by the way, I came across a site detailing the ‘science’ of seduction as well—reminded me a little of that chick-flick… can’t remember what it was called… where this girl equates men with cows or something and relates mating behaviours.) From a sociological perspective, the reasons seem to be different for Western countries and for India.
Sociologically, seduction, when applied to sexual behaviour, refers to persuading a person to do something that s/he may later regret and/or would normally not want to do. Seduction is the stage before sex: the many-fold and complicated steps involved in convincing a person of your charms and desirability.
In the West, where arranged marriages haven't been the norm for a while, seduction became a huge part of sexual and social consciousness during the period between extreme prudery and absolute sexual liberty. It was during this time that a man (it was usually a man) had to use his charms and powers of persuasion to convince a woman to go to bed with him. However, the advent of the sexual liberty of the '60s reduced the need for elaborate seduction… going by the traditional definition, women didn’t need much convincing to go to bed, as it was neither something they ‘wouldn’t normally do’, nor something they’d ‘regret later’! The final fall for this dying art form came with the advent of the internet and the impersonal and brazen sexual norms it brought about—my profile on Skype, which is neither inviting nor too interesting, gets me several offers of ‘friendship’ and more every day!
We, in India, have got the short end of the stick where it comes to our exposure to this fine art. With our arranged marriages, seduction on a purely sexual level was rare and restricted, particularly after the British came to India and left us with their unhealthy Victorian morality (that the RSS has promptly adopted as being part of authentic Indian parampara). Literature and myth in India have several accounts of sexual seduction, and describe a number of gods and their sexual prowess. Lord Krishna and his gopis, the Kamasutra and Khajuraho are all a part of our culture.
Anyway, when dating and sexual liberty finally became mainstream in the '90s, the internet-porn generation emerged simultaneously (or perhaps the emergence of dating and sexual liberty has something to do with the emergence of the internet and free porn—it’s not really a question of what came first: all social movements are interdependent and feed off each other). There was never a chance for subtle physical seduction—we went straight from the eyes staring meekly from under the ghoonghat to them staring wide-eyed at the wonders the internet presented. We now have new and improved virtual ways of meeting, flirting and planning/having sexual liaisons. Unfortunately, the era of seduction has, by and large, passed us by.
Such is the pity. Where are the old-fashioned men who wined and dined a woman, who picked us up at the door and escorted us back home? My friend, lets just call her ‘S’, gets drunk fairly frequently—and does so with a group in which more than one guy is seriously interested in her. However, the guys (and she) think it perfectly all right to deposit her, almost passed out, in a cab to get her home. I mean, come on! Forget chivalry, think safety maybe?
But hey, I understand that everything comes as a package deal. If I were with an old-fashioned guy, who did all the right, romantic things, he’d perhaps also be conventional enough to be intimidated by my sexuality, would probably keep me from writing brazen articles and want to do it missionary style all the time! On the other hand, an unconventional man will probably not do all the chaste and romantic things Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty had done to them. But he’ll accept me, as I am, and I will not be judged for having sexual impulses and making moves as and when the feeling seizes me.
But then, we’ve all grown up reading happily-ever-afters. (Now completely rubbished in our cynical feminist heads—why did Sleeping Beauty need to be rescued by a man? Her ‘happily ever after’ probably consisted of placid domesticity. And why couldn’t Cinderella just run away and become a big-time Bollywood actress if she was so beautiful?) But really, we really want the best of both worlds. We want the seduction and the romance, the flirting and the flowers—not for too many intelligent women are the internet ‘friendships’ and the cold hook-ups (at least not more than once in a while). We all want the best of both worlds—I want the man who treats me like a Princess, but doesn’t expect me to do nothing but sit on a throne! I want a Prince without old-fashioned gender definitions.
My knight in shining armour? The old romantic legend, slightly modified and updated, infused with a liberal dose of feminism and modernism—and of course, schooled in the art of seduction. All the chivalry and none of the chauvinism!
An edited version of this article appeared in Man’s World in November 2006.
And so much has changed—for me and in the world, in general—since I wrote it! Tinder coexists with shaadi.com, living in is par for the course, feminism is in wave five. And that knight in shining armour I was dreaming of? I found him! :)