Sirens Are Often Fantastically Irrational

man is often secretly oppressed by the role he has to play—by always having to be responsible, in control, and rational. The Siren is the ultimate male fantasy figure because she offers a total release from the limitations of his life. In her presence, which is always heightened and sexually charged, the male feels transported to a world of pure pleasure. She is dangerous, and in pursuing her energetically the man can lose control over himself something he yearns to do. The Siren is a mirage; she lures men by cultivating a particular appearance and manner. In a world where women are often too timid to project such an image, learn to take control of the male libido by embodying his fantasy.

The Spectacular Siren

In the year 48 B.C., Ptolemy XIV of Egypt managed to depose and exile his sister and wife, Queen Cleopatra. He secured the country's borders against her return and began to rule on his own. Later that year, Julius Caesar came to Alexandria to ensure that despite the local power struggles, Egypt would remain loyal to Rome.

One night Caesar was meeting with his generals in the Egyptian palace, discussing strategy, when a guard entered to report that a Greek merchant was at the door bearing a large and valuable gift for the Roman leader. Caesar, in the mood for a little fun, gave the merchant permission to enter. The man came in, carrying on his shoulders a large rolled-up carpet. He undid the rope around the bundle and with a snap of his wrists unfurled it—revealing the young Cleopatra, who had been hidden inside, and who rose up half clothed before Caesar and his guests, like Venus emerging from the waves.

Everyone was dazzled at the sight of the beautiful young queen (only twenty-one at the time) appearing before them suddenly as if in a dream. They were astounded at her daring and theatricality—smuggled into the harbor at night with only one man to protect her, risking everything on a bold move. No one was more enchanted than Caesar. According to the Roman writer Dio Cassius, "Cleopatra was in the prime of life. She had a delightful voice which could not fail to cast a spell over all who heard it. Such was the charm of her person and her speech that they drew the coldest and most determined misogynist into her toils. Caesar was spellbound as soon as he set eyes on her and she opened her mouth to speak." That same evening Cleopatra became Caesar s lover.

Caesar had had numerous mistresses before, to divert him from the rigors of his campaigns. But he had always disposed of them quickly to return to what really thrilled him—political intrigue, the challenges of warfare, the Roman theater. Caesar had seen women try anything to keep him under their spell. Yet nothing prepared him for Cleopatra. One night she would tell him how together they could revive the glory of Alexander the Great, and rule the world like gods. The next she would entertain him dressed as the goddess Isis, surrounded by the opulence of her court. Cleopatra initiated Caesar in the most decadent revelries, presenting herself as the incarnation of the Egyptian exotic. His life with her was a constant game, as challenging as warfare, for the moment he felt secure with her she

In the mean time ourgood ship, with that perfect wind to drive her, fast approached the Sirens' Isle. But now the breeze dropped, some power lulled the waves, and a breathless calm set in. Rising from their seats my men drew in the sail and threw it into the hold, then sat down at the oars and churned the water white with their blades of polished pine. Meanwhile I took a large round of wax, cut it up small with my sword, and kneaded the pieces with all the strength of my fingers. The wax soon yielded to my vigorous treatment and grew warm, for I had the rays of my Lord the Sun to help me. I took each of my men in turn and plugged their ears with it. They then made me a prisoner on my ship by binding me hand and foot, standing me up by the step of the mast and tying the rope's ends to the mast itself. This done, they sat down once more and struck the grey water with their oars. • We made good progress and had just come within call of the shore when the Sirens became aware that a ship was swiftly bearing to the sweet tones that flow from our lips . . ." • The lovely voices came to me

The charm of [Cleopatra's] presence was irresistible, down upon them, and would suddenly turn cold or angry and he would have to find a way to re-

broke into their liquid song. gain her favor.

Draw "ear' they sang' The weeks went by. Caesar got rid of all Cleopatra's rivals and found

"illustrious Odysseus, flower of Achaean chivalry, excuses to stay in Egypt. At one point she led him on a lavish historical ex-and bring your ship to rest pedition down the Nile. In a boat of unimaginable splendor—towering

so that you may hear our fifty-four feet out of the water, including several terraced levels and a pil-

voices. No seaman ever J cj i sailed his black ship past lared temple to the god Dionysus—Caesar became one of the few Romans this spot without listening to gaze on the pyramids. And while he stayed long in Egypt, away from his throne in Rome, all kinds of turmoil erupted throughout the Roman Empire.

across the water, and my When Caesar was murdered, in 44 B.C., he was succeeded by a triumvi-

heart was filled with such a rate of rulers including Mark Antony, a brave soldier who loved pleasure longing to listen that with

nod and frown I signed to and spectacle and fancied himself a kind of Roman Dionysus. A few years my men to set me free. later, while Antony was in Syria, Cleopatra invited him to come meet her

_homer, ue odyssey, book in the Egyptian town of Tarsus. There—once she had made him wait for xii, translatedbye v. rieu her—her appearance was as startling in its way as her first before Caesar. A

magnificent gold barge with purple sails appeared on the river Cydnus. The oarsmen rowed to the accompaniment of ethereal music; all around the boat were beautiful young girls dressed as nymphs and mythological figures.

and there was an attraction Cleopatra sat on deck, surrounded and fanned by cupids and posed as the

in her person and talk, goddess Aphrodite, whose name the crowd chanted enthusiastically.

together with a peculiar Like all of Cleopatra's victims, Antony felt mixed emotions. The exotic force of character, which pervaded her every word pleasures she offered were hard to resist. But he also wanted to tame her—to

and action, and laid all defeat this proud and illustrious woman would prove his greatness. And so

who associated with her he stayed, and, like Caesar, fell slowly under her spell. She indulged him in under its spell. It was a

delight merely to hear the all of his weaknesses—gambling, raucous parties, elaborate rituals, lavish sound of her voice, with spectacles. To get him to come back to Rome, Octavius, another member of

which, like an instrument the Roman triumvirate, offered him a wife: Octavius's own sister, Octavia, ffm^onTlanguagTto one of the most beautiful women in Rome. Known for her virtue and another. goodness, she could surely keep Antony away from the "Egyptian whore."

_plutarch, mKERS OF The ploy worked for a while, but Antony was unable to forget Cleopatra,

ROME, translated by ian and after three years he went back to her. This time it was for good: he had scott-kilvert . , . , , , , in essence become Cleopatra's slave, granting her immense powers, adopting Egyptian dress and customs, and renouncing the ways of Rome.

The immediate attraction of a song, a voice, or scent. Only one image of Cleopatra survives—a barely visible profile on a coin—

The attraction of the but we have numerous written descriptions. She had a long thin face and a panther with his perfumed somewhat pointed nose; her dominant features were her wonderfully large scent . . . According to the ancients, the panther is eyes. Her seductive power, however, did not lie in her looks—indeed many the only animal who emits among the women of Alexandria were considered more beautiful than she.

a perfumed odor. It uses What she did have above all other women was the ability to distract a man.

this scent to draw and

capture its victims. . . . In reality, Cleopatra was physically unexceptional and had no political

But what is it that seduces power, yet both Caesar and Antony, brave and clever men, saw none of

in a scent? . . . What is it this. What they saw was a woman who constantly transformed herself bein the song of the Sirens

that seduces us, or in the fore their eyes, a one-woman spectacle. Her dress and makeup changed beauty of a face, in the depths from day to day, but always gave her a heightened, goddesslike appearance.

Her voice, which all writers talk of, was lilting and intoxicating. Her words could be banal enough, but were spoken so sweetly that listeners would find themselves remembering not what she said but how she said it.

Cleopatra provided constant variety—tributes, mock battles, expeditions, costumed orgies. Everything had a touch of drama and was accomplished with great energy. By the time your head lay on the pillow beside her, your mind was spinning with images and dreams. And just when you thought you had this fluid, larger-than-life woman, she would turn distant or angry, making it clear that everything was on her terms. You never possessed Cleopatra, you worshiped her. In this way a woman who had been exiled and destined for an early death managed to turn it all around and rule Egypt for close to twenty years.

From Cleopatra we learn that it is not beauty that makes a Siren but rather a theatrical streak that allows a woman to embody a man's fantasies. A man grows bored with a woman, no matter how beautiful; he yearns for different pleasures, and for adventure. All a woman needs to turn this around is to create the illusion that she offers such variety and adventure. A man is easily deceived by appearances; he has a weakness for the visual. Create the physical presence of a Siren (heightened sexual allure mixed with a regal and theatrical manner) and he is trapped. He cannot grow bored with you yet he cannot discard you. Keep up the distractions, and never let him see who you really are. He will follow you until he drowns.

The Sex Siren

Norma Jean Mortensen, the future Marilyn Monroe, spent part of her childhood in Los Angeles orphanages. Her days were filled with chores and no play. At school, she kept to herself, smiled rarely, and dreamed a lot. One day when she was thirteen, as she was dressing for school, she noticed that the white blouse the orphanage provided for her was torn, so she had to borrow a sweater from a younger girl in the house. The sweater was several sizes too small. That day, suddenly, boys seemed to gather around her wherever she went (she was extremely well-developed for her age). She wrote in her diary, "They stared at my sweater as if it were a gold mine."

The revelation was simple but startling. Previously ignored and even ridiculed by the other students, Norma Jean now sensed a way to gain attention, maybe even power, for she was wildly ambitious. She started to smile more, wear makeup, dress differently. And soon she noticed something equally startling: without her having to say or do anything, boys fell passionately in love with her. "My admirers all said the same thing in different ways," she wrote. "It was my fault, their wanting to kiss me and hug me. Some said it was the way I looked at them—with eyes full of passion. Others said it was my voice that lured them on. Still others said I gave off vibrations that floored them."

of an abyss . . . ? Seduction lies in the annulment of signs and their meaning, in pure appearance. The eyes that seduce have no meaning, they end in the gaze, as the face with makeup ends in only pure appearance. . . . The scent of the panther is also a meaningless message—and behind the message the panther is invisible, as is the woman beneath her makeup. The Sirens too remained unseen. The enchantment lies in what is hidden.

—jean baudrillard, de la séduction

We're dazzled by feminine adornment, by the surface, \ All gold and jewels: so little of what we observe \ Is the girl herself And where (you may ask) amid such plenty \ Can our object of passion be found? The eye's deceived \ By Love's smart camouflage.

— ovid, cures for love, translated by peter green

He was herding his cattle on Mount Gargarus, the highest peak of Ida, when Hermes, accompanied by Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite delivered the golden apple and Zeus's message: "Paris, since you are as handsome as you are wise in affairs of the heart, Zeus commands you to judge which of these goddesses is the fairest. " • "So be it," sighed Paris. "But first I beg the losers not to be vexed with me. I am only a human being, liable to make the stupidest mistakes." • The A few years later Marilyn was trying to make it in the film business.

goddesses aii agreed t:o Producers would tell her the same thing: she was attractive enough in per-

ab^itdeOgh to son, but her face wasn't pretty enough for the movies. She was getting judge them as they are?" work as an extra, and when she was on-screen—even if only for a few sec-

Paris asked Hermes, "or onds—the men in the audience would go wild, and the theaters would

shZld they he naked? ' erupt in catcalls. But nobody saw any star quality in this. One day in 1949,

The rules of the contest 1 J J 1 J J

arefor you to decide," only twenty-three at the time and her career at a standstill, Monroe met

Hermes answered with a someone at a diner who told her that a producer casting a new Groucho

discreet smile. • In that Marx movie, Love Happy, was looking for an actress for the part of a blond

disrobe?" • Hermes told bombshell who could walk by Groucho in a way that would, in his words, the goddesses to do so, and "arouse my elderly libido and cause smoke to issue from my ears." Talking

politely turned his back. • her way into an audition, she improvised this walk. "It's Mae West, Theda

Aphrodite^ was soon^ "nty, Bara, and Bo Peep all rolled into one," said Groucho after watching her but Athene insisted that r °

she should remove the saunter by. "We shoot the scene tomorrow morning." And so Marilyn cre-

famous magic girdle, which ated her infamous walk, a walk that was hardly natural but offered a strange gave her an unfair r . , mix of innocence and sex.

advantage by making

everyone fail in iove Over the next few years, Marilyn taught herself through trial and er-

withthe wearer. "Very ror how to heighten the effect she had on men. Her voice had always been

well" said Aphrodite attractive—it was the voice of a little girl. But on film it had limitations un-

spitefully. "I will, on

condition that you remove til someone finally taught her to lower it, giving it the deep, breathy tones your helmet—you look that became her seductive trademark, a mix of the little girl and the vixen.

hideous without it • Before appearing on set, or even at a party, Marilyn would spend hours be-

"Now, if you please, 1

must judge you one at fore the mirror. Most people assumed this was vanity—she was in love with a time" announced her image. The truth was that image took hours to create. Marilyn spent

Paris. . . . Come here, years studying and practicing the art of makeup. The voice, the walk, the

,, iv'ne Za' ! you, face and look were all constructions, an act. At the height of her fame, she other two goddesses be good enough to leave us for a would get a thrill by going into bars in New York City without her makeup

while?" • "Examine me or glamorous clothes and passing unnoticed.

conscientiously," said Hera,

Success finally came, but with it came something deeply annoying to turning slowly around, and displaying her magnificent her: the studios would only cast her as the blond bombshell. She wanted se-

figure, "and remember that rious roles, but no one took her seriously for those parts, no matter how

ifyou judge me the fairest, hard she downplayed the siren qualities she had built up. One day, while she

1 will make you lord of all

Asia and the richest man was rehearsing a scene from The Cherry Orchard,, her acting instructor, Mi-

alive. " • "I am not to be chael Chekhov, asked her, "Were you thinking of sex while we played the

bribed my Lady . . . Very scene?" When she said no, he continued, "All through our playing of the well, thank you. Now I

have seen all that I need to scene I kept receiving sex vibrations from you. As if you were a woman in see. Come, Divine the grip of passion. ... I understand your problem with your studio now,

Athene!" • "Here 1 am," Marilyn. You are a woman who gives off sex vibrations—no matter what

said Athene, striding you are doing or thinking. The whole world has already responded to those purposefully forward.

"Listen, Purls, ifyou have vibrations. They come off the movie screens when you are on them."

enough common sense to

aw3rd me the prize, I will Marilyn Monroe loved the effect her body could have on the male libido.

make you victorious in J J

aii your batlies, as weU She tuned her physical presence like an instrument, making herself reek of as the handsomest and sex and gaining a glamorous, larger-than-life appearance. Other women

wisest man in the world knew just as many tricks for heightening their sexual appeal, but what sepa-

rated Marilyn from them was an unconscious element. Her background had deprived her of something critical: affection. Her deepest need was to feel loved and desired, which made her seem constantly vulnerable, like a little girl craving protection. She emanated this need for love before the camera; it was effortless, coming from somewhere real and deep inside. A look or gesture that she did not intend to arouse desire would do so doubly powerfully just because it was unintended—its innocence was precisely what excited a man.

The Sex Siren has a more urgent and immediate effect than the Spectacular Siren does. The incarnation of sex and desire, she does not bother to appeal to extraneous senses, or to create a theatrical buildup. Her time never seems to be taken up by work or chores; she gives the impression that she lives for pleasure and is always available. What separates the Sex Siren from the courtesan or whore is her touch of innocence and vulnerability. The mix is perversely satisfying: it gives the male the critical illusion that he is a protector, the father figure, although it is actually the Sex Siren who controls the dynamic.

A woman doesn't have to be born with the attributes of a Marilyn Monroe to fill the role of the Sex Siren. Most of the physical elements are a construction; the key is the air of schoolgirl innocence. While one part of you seems to scream sex, the other part is coy and naive, as if you were incapable of understanding the effect you are having. Your walk, your voice, your manner are delightfully ambiguous—you are both the experienced, desiring woman and the innocent gamine.

Your next encounter will be with the Sirens, who bewitch every man that approaches them. . . . For with the music of their song the Sirens cast their spell upon him, as they sit there in a meadow piled high with the moldering skeletons of men, whose withered skin still hangs upon their bones.

— CIRCE TO ODYSSEUS, the odyssey, BOOK XII

Keys to the Character

The Siren is the most ancient seductress of them all. Her prototype is the goddess Aphrodite—it is her nature to have a mythic quality about her—but do not imagine she is a thing of the past, or of legend and history: she represents a powerful male fantasy of a highly sexual, supremely confident, alluring female offering endless pleasure and a bit of danger. In today's world this fantasy can only appeal the more strongly to the male psyche, for now more than ever he lives in a world that circumscribes his aggressive instincts by making everything safe and secure, a world that offers less chance for adventure and risk than ever before. In the past, a man had some outlets for these drives—warfare, the high seas, political intrigue. In the sexual realm, courtesans and mistresses were practically a social institu-

herdsman, not a soldier," said Paris. . . . "But I promise to consider fairly your claim to the apple. Now you are at liberty to put on your clothes and helmet again. Is Aphrodite ready?" • Aphrodite sidled up to him, and Paris blushed because she came so close that they were almost touching. • "Look carefully, please, pass nothing over. . . . By the way, as soon as I saw you, I said to myself: 'Upon my word, there goes the handsomest young man in Phrygia! Why does he waste himself here in the wilderness herding stupid cattle?' Well, why do you, Paris? Why not move into a city and lead a civilized life? What have you to lose by marrying someone like Helen of Sparta, who is as beautiful as I am, and no less passionate? . . . I suggest now that you tour Greece with my son Eros as your guide. Once you reach Sparta, he and I will see that Helen falls head over heels in love with you." • "Would you swear to that?" Paris ashed excitedly. • Aphrodite uttered a solemn oath, and Paris, without a second thought, awarded her the golden apple.

—robert graves, the greek myths, volume i

To whom aw I compare tion, and offered him the variety and the chase that he craved. Without any the lovdygid, so biessed by outlets, his drives turn inward and gnaw at him, becoming all the more fortune, if not to the i.iri. 10 . ri .1111

c. . ,, . volatile for being repressed. Sometimes a powerful man will do the most ir-

Sirens, who with their or r lodestone draw the ships rational things, have an affair when it is least called for, just for a thrill, the

towards them? Thus, 1 danger of it all. The irrational can prove immensely seductive, even more imagine, did Isolde attract so for men, who must always seem so reasonable.

many thoughts and hearts that deemed themseives If it is seductive power you are after, the Siren is the most potent of all.

safe from love's She operates on a man's most basic emotions, and if she plays her role prop-

disquietude. And indeed erly, she can transform a normally strong and responsible male into a child-

these two—anchorless

ships and stray thoughts__ish slave. The Siren operates well on the rigid masculine type—the soldier provide a good comparison. or hero—just as Cleopatra overwhelmed Mark Antony and Marilyn Mon-

They are both so seldom roe Joe DiMaggio. But never imagine that these are the only types the on a straight course, lie so

often in unsure havens, Siren can affect. Julius Caesar was a writer and thinker, who had transferred pitching and tossing and his intellectual abilities onto the battlefield and into the political arena; the

heaving to and fro. Just so, playwright Arthur Miller fell as deeply under Monroe's spell as DiMaggio.

in the same way, do The intellectual is often the one most susceptible to the Siren call of pure aimless desire and random iove-ionging drift Hke an physical pleasure, because his life so lacks it. The Siren does not have to

anchorless ship. This worry about finding the right victim. Her magic works on one and all.

charmmg young princess pirst and foremost, a Siren must distinguish herself from other women.

discreet and courteous

Isolde, drew thoughts from She is by nature a rare thing, mythic, only one to a group; she is also a valu-

the hearts that enshrined able prize to be wrested away from other men. Cleopatra made herself dif-

them as a lodestone draws ferent through her sense of high drama; the Empress Josephine Bonaparte's in ships to the sound of the sirens' song. She sang device was her extreme languorousness; Marilyn Monroes was her little-

openly and secretly, in girl quality. Physicality offers the best opportunities here, since a Siren is

through ears and eyes to preeminently a sight to behold. A highly feminine and sexual presence, where many a heart was even to the point of caricature, will quickly differentiate you, since most stirred. The song which she sang openly in this and women lack the confidence to project such an image.

otherplaces was her own Once the Siren has made herself stand out from others, she must have sweet singmg an sot two other critical qualities: the ability to get the male to pursue her so sounding of strings that

echoedfor all to hear feverishly that he loses control; and a touch of the dangerous. Danger is

through the kingdom of the surprisingly seductive. To get the male to pursue you is relatively simple: a

ears deep down into the highly sexual presence will do this quite well. But you must not resemble a heart. But her secret song

was her wondrous beauty courtesan or whore, whom the male may pursue only to quickly lose inter-

that stole with its rapturous est in her. Instead, you are slightly elusive and distant, a fantasy come to life.

music hidden and unseen During the Renaissance, the great Sirens, such as Tullia d'Aragona, would

eyes into many noble act and look like Grecian goddesses—the fantasy of the day. Today you hearts and smoothed on the might model yourself on a film goddess—anything that seems larger than

magic which took thoughts life, even awe inspiring. These qualities will make a man chase you vehe-

prisoner suddenly, and, mently, and the more he chases, the more he will feel that he is acting on

taking them, fettered them with desire! his own initiative. This is an excellent way of disguising how deeply you are manipulating him.

-gottfried von strassburg, rn^M translated by The notion of danger, challenge, sometimes death, might seem out' dated, but danger is critical in seduction. It adds emotional spice and is particularly appealing to men today, who are normally so rational and repressed. Danger is present in the original myth of the Siren. In Homer's Odyssey, the hero Odysseus must sail by the rocks where the Sirens, strange female creatures, sing and beckon sailors to their destruction. They sing of the glories of the past, of a world like childhood, without responsibilities, a world of pure pleasure. Their voices are like water, liquid and inviting. Sailors would leap into the water to join them, and drown; or, distracted and entranced, they would steer their ship into the rocks. To protect his sailors from the Sirens, Odysseus has their ears filled with wax; he himself is tied to the mast, so he can both hear the Sirens and live to tell of it—a strange desire, since the thrill of the Sirens is giving in to the temptation to follow them.

Just as the ancient sailors had to row and steer, ignoring all distractions, a man today must work and follow a straight path in life. The call of something dangerous, emotional, unknown is all the more powerful because it is so forbidden. Think of the victims of the great Sirens of history: Paris causes a war for the sake of Helen of Troy, Caesar risks an empire and Antony loses his power and his life for Cleopatra, Napoleon becomes a laughingstock over Josephine, DiMaggio never gets over Marilyn, and Arthur Miller can't write for years. A man is often ruined by a Siren, yet cannot tear himself away. (Many powerful men have a masochistic streak.) An element of danger is easy to hint at, and will enhance your other Siren characteristics—the touch of madness in Marilyn, for example, that pulled men in. Sirens are often fantastically irrational, which is immensely attractive to men who are oppressed by their own reasonableness. An element of fear is also critical: keeping a man at a proper distance creates respect, so that he doesn't get close enough to see through you or notice your weaker qualities. Create such fear by suddenly changing your moods, keeping the man off balance, occasionally intimidating him with capricious behavior.

The most important element for an aspiring Siren is always the physical, the Siren's main instrument of power. Physical qualities—a scent, a heightened femininity evoked through makeup or through elaborate or seductive clothing—act all the more powerfully on men because they have no meaning. In their immediacy they bypass rational processes, having the same effect that a decoy has on an animal, or the movement of a cape on a bull. The proper Siren appearance is often confused with physical beauty, particularly the face. But a beautiful face does not a Siren make: instead it creates too much distance and coldness. (Neither Cleopatra nor Marilyn Monroe, the two greatest Sirens in history, were known for their beautiful faces.) Although a smile and an inviting look are infinitely seductive, they must never dominate your appearance. They are too obvious and direct. The Siren must stimulate a generalized desire, and the best way to do this is by creating an overall impression that is both distracting and alluring. It is not one particular trait, but a combination of qualities:

Falling in love with statues and paintings, even making love to them is an ancient fantasy, one of which the Renaissance was keenly aware. Giorgio Vasari, writing in the introductory section of the Lives about art in antiquity, tells how men violated the laws, going into the temples at night and making love with statues of Venus. In the morning, priests would enter the sanctuaries to find stains on the marble figures.

—lynne lawner, lives of the courtesans

The voice. Clearly a critical quality, as the legend indicates, the Siren's voice has an immediate animal presence with incredible suggestive power. Perhaps that power is regressive, recalling the ability of the mother's voice to calm or excite her child even before the child understood what she was saying. The Siren must have an insinuating voice that hints at the erotic, more often subliminally than overtly. Almost everyone who met Cleopatra commented on her delightful, sweet-sounding voice, which had a mesmerizing quality. The Empress Josephine, one of the great seductresses of the late eighteenth century, had a languorous voice that men found exotic, and suggestive of her Creole origins. Marilyn Monroe was born with her breathy, childlike voice, but she learned to lower to make it truly seductive. Lauren Bacall's voice is naturally low; its seductive power comes from its slow, suggestive delivery. The Siren never speaks quickly, aggressively, or at a high pitch. Her voice is calm and unhurried, as if she had never quite woken up—or left her bed.

Body and adornment. If the voice must lull, the body and its adornment must dazzle. It is with her clothes that the Siren aims to create the goddess effect that Baudelaire described in his essay "In Praise of Makeup": "Woman is well within her rights, and indeed she is accomplishing a kind of duty in striving to appear magical and supernatural. She must astonish and bewitch; an idol, she must adorn herself with gold in order to be adored. She must borrow from all of the arts in order to raise herself above nature, the better to subjugate hearts and stir souls."

A Siren who was a genius of clothes and adornment was Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon. Pauline consciously strove for a goddess effect, fashioning hair, makeup, and clothes to evoke the look and air of Venus, the goddess of love. No one in history could boast a more extensive and elaborate wardrobe. Pauline's entrance at a ball in 1798 created an astounding effect. She asked the hostess, Madame Permon, if she could dress at her house, so no one would see her clothes as she came in. When she came down the stairs, everyone stopped dead in stunned silence. She wore the headdress of a bacchante—clusters of gold grapes interlaced in her hair, which was done up in the Greek style. Her Greek tunic, with its gold-embroidered hem, showed off her goddesslike figure. Below her breasts was a girdle of burnished gold, held by a magnificent jewel. "No words can convey the loveliness of her appearance," wrote the Duchess d'Abrantes. "The very room grew brighter as she entered. The whole ensemble was so harmonious that her appearance was greeted with a buzz of admiration which continued with utter disregard of all the other women."

The key: everything must dazzle, but must also be harmonious, so that no single ornament draws attention. Your presence must be charged, larger than life, a fantasy come true. Ornament is used to cast a spell and distract. The Siren can also use clothing to hint at the sexual, at times overtly but more often by suggesting it rather than screaming it—that would make you seem manipulative. Related to this is the notion of selective disclosure, the revealing of only a part of the body—but a part that will excite and stir the imagination. In the late sixteenth century, Marguerite de Valois, the infa mous daughter of Queen Catherine de Medicis of France, was one of the first women ever to incorporate decolletage in her wardrobe, simply because she had the most beautiful breasts in the realm. For Josephine Bonaparte it was her arms, which she carefully always left bare.

Movement and demeanor. In the fifth century B.C., King Kou Chien chose the Chinese Siren Hsi Shih from among all the women of his realm to seduce and destroy his rival Fu Chai, King of Wu; for this purpose, he had the young woman instructed in the arts of seduction. Most important of these was movement—how to move gracefully and suggestively. Hsi Shih learned to give the impression of floating across the floor in her court robes. When she was finally unleashed on Fu Chai, he quickly fell under her spell. She walked and moved like no one he had ever seen. He became obsessed with her tremulous presence, her manner and nonchalant air. Fu Chai fell so deeply in love that he let his kingdom fall to pieces, allowing Kou Chien to march in and conquer it without a fight.

The Siren moves gracefully and unhurriedly. The proper gestures, movement, and demeanor for a Siren are like the proper voice: they hint at something exciting, stirring desire without being obvious. Your air must be languorous, as if you had all the time in the world for love and pleasure. Your gestures must have a certain ambiguity, suggesting something both innocent and erotic. Anything that cannot immediately be understood is supremely seductive, and all the more so if it permeates your manner.

Symbol: Water. The song of the Siren is liquid and enticing, and the Siren herself is fluid and un-graspable. Like the sea, the Siren lures you with the promise of infinite adventure and pleasure. Forgetting past and future, men follow her far out to sea, where they drown.

Dangers

No matter how enlightened the age, no woman can maintain the image of being devoted to pleasure completely comfortably. And no matter how hard she tries to distance herself from it, the taint of being easy always follows the Siren. Cleopatra was hated in Rome as the Egyptian whore. That hatred eventually lead to her downfall, as Octavius and the Roman army sought to extirpate the stain on Roman manhood that she came to represent. Even so, men are often forgiving when it comes to the Siren's reputation. But danger often lies in the envy she stirs up among other women; much of Rome's hatred for Cleopatra originated in the resentment she provoked among the city's stern matrons. By playing up her innocence, by making herself seem the victim of male desire, the Siren can somewhat blunt the effects of feminine envy. But on the whole there is little she can do—her power comes from her effect on men, and she must learn to accept, or ignore, the envy of other women.

Finally, the intense attention that the Siren attracts can prove irritating and worse. Sometimes she will pine for relief from it; sometimes, too, she will want to attract an attention that is not sexual. Also, unfortunately, physical beauty fades; although the Siren effect depends not on a beautiful face but on an overall impression, past a certain age that impression gets hard to project. Both of these factors contributed to the suicide of Marilyn Monroe. It takes a genius on the level of Madame de Pompadour, the Siren mistress of King Louis XV, to make the transition into the role of the spirited older woman who continues to seduce with her nonphysical charms. Cleopatra had such an intellect, and had she lived long enough, she would have remained a potent seductress for many years. The Siren must prepare for age by paying attention early on to the more psychological, less physical forms of coquetry that can continue to bring her power once her beauty starts to fade.

Continue reading here: The rA ake

Was this article helpful?

0 0