Madame Recamier

The idea that two distinct women; the contrast between reserve and seduction, and between the most devoted tenderness

Interpretation. Madame Recamier's list of conquests became only more and a sensuality that is impressive as she grew older: there was Prince Metternich, the Duke of ruthlessly demanding— Wellington, the writers Constant and Chateaubriand. For all of these men

consuming men as if they she was an obsession, which only increased in intensity when they were were alien beings.

away from her. The source of her power was twofold. First, she had an angelic face, which drew men to her. It appealed to paternal instincts, charm-his childhood, translated ing with its innocence. But then there was a second quality peeking through, in the flirtatious looks, the wild dancing, the sudden gaiety—all these caught men off guard. Clearly there was more to her than they had thought, an intriguing complexity. When alone, they would find them-wvere fot and fiabby; his selves pondering these contradictions, as if a poison were coursing through handshake lacked grip, and their blood. Madame Recamier was an enigma, a problem that had to be

at a first encounter one solved. Whatever it was that you wanted, whether a coquettish she-devil or recoiled from its plushy

limpness, but this aversion an unattainable goddess, she could seem to be. She surely encouraged this was soon overcome when illusion by keeping her men at a certain distance, so they could never figure he began to talk, for his her out. And she was the queen of the calculated effect, like her surprise

genuine kindliness and entrance at the Château de Coppet, which made her the center of atten-

desire to please made one forget what was unpleasant tion, if only for a few seconds.


by alan tyson

[Oscar Wilde's] hands

The seductive process involves filling someone's mind with your image. Your innocence, or your beauty, or your flirtatiousness can attract their attention but not their obsession; they will soon move on to the next striking image. To deepen their interest, you must hint at a complexity that cannot be grasped in a week or two. You are an elusive mystery, an irresistible lure, promising great pleasure if only it can be possessed. Once they begin to fantasize about you, they are on the brink of the slippery slope of seduction, and will not be able to stop themselves from sliding down.

Artificial and Natural

The big Broadway hit of 1881 was Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Patience, a satire on the bohemian world of aesthetes and dandies that had become so fashionable in London. To cash in on this vogue, the operetta's promoters decided to invite one of England's most infamous aesthetes to America for a lecture tour: Oscar Wilde. Only twenty-seven at the time, Wilde was more famous for his public persona than for his small body of work. The American promoters were confident that their public would be fascinated by this man, whom they imagined as always walking around with a flower in his hand, but they did not expect it to last; he would do a few lectures, then the novelty would wear off, and they would ship him home. The money was good and Wilde accepted. On his arrival in New York, a customs man asked him whether he had anything to declare: "I have nothing to declare," he replied, "except my genius."

The invitations poured in—New York society was curious to meet this oddity. Women found Wilde enchanting, but the newspapers were less kind; The New York Times called him an "aesthetic sham." Then, a week after his arrival, he gave his first lecture. The hall was packed; more than a thousand people came, many of them just to see what he looked like. They were not disappointed. Wilde did not carry a flower, and was taller than they had expected, but he had long flowing hair and wore a green velvet suit and cravat, as well as knee breeches and silk stockings. Many in the audience were put off; as they looked up at him from their seats, the combination of his large size and pretty attire were rather repulsive. Some people openly laughed, others could not hide their unease. They expected to hate the man. Then he began to speak.

The subject was the "English Renaissance," the "art for art's sake" movement in late-nineteenth-century England. Wilde's voice proved hypnotic; he spoke in a kind of meter, mannered and artificial, and few really understood what he was saying, but the speech was so witty, and it flowed. His appearance was certainly strange, but overall, no New Yorker had ever seen or heard such an intriguing man, and the lecture was a huge success. Even the newspapers warmed up to it. In Boston a few weeks later, some sixty Harvard boys had prepared an ambush: they would make fun of this effeminate poet by dressing in knee breeches, carrying flowers, and ap-

in his physical appearance and contact, gave charm to his manners, and grace to his precision of speech. The first sight of him affected people in various ways. Some could hardly restrain their laughter, others felt hostile, a few were afflicted with the "creeps" many were conscious of being uneasy, but except for a small minority who could never recover from the first sensation of distaste and so kept out of his way, both sexes found him irresistible, and to the young men of his time, says W. B. Yeats, he was like a triumphant and audacious figure from another age.

— hesketh pearson, OSCAR WILDE: HIS LIFE AND WIT

once upon a time there was a magnet, and in its close neighborhood lived some steel filings. one day two or three little filings felt a sudden desire to go and visit the magnet, and they began to talk of what a pleasant thing it would be to do. other filings nearby overheard their conversation, and they, too, became infected with the same desire. Still others joined them, till at last all the filings began to discuss the matter, and more and more their vague desire grew into an impulse.

"Why not go today?" said one of them; but others were of opinion that it would be better to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, without their having noticed it, they had been involuntarily moving nearer to the magnet, which lay there quite still, apparently taking no heed of them. And so they went on discussing, all the time insensibly drawing nearer plauding far too loudly at his entrance. Wilde was not the least bit flustered. to their neighbor; and the The audience laughed hysterically at his improvised comments, and when more they talked, the more they feh the impulse the boys heckled him he kept his dignity, betraying no anger at all. Once growing stronger, till the again, the contrast between his manner and his physical appearance made

more impatient ones him seem rather extraordinary. Many were deeply impressed, and Wilde declared that they would go was well on his way to becoming a sensation.

that day, whatever the rest did. Some were heard to The short lecture tour turned into a cross-country affair. In San Fran-say that it was their duty cisco, this visiting lecturer on art and aesthetics proved able to drink every-

to visit the magnet, and one under the table and play poker, which made him the hit of the season.

they ought to have gone hng ago. And, wMe they On his way back from the West Coast, Wilde was to make stops in Colo-

taiked, they moved always rado, and was warned that if the pretty-boy poet dared to show up in the

nearer and nearer, without mining town of Leadville, he would be hung from the highest tree. It was realizing that they had

moved. Then, at last, the an invitation Wilde could not refuse. Arriving in Leadville, he ignored the impatient ones prevailed, hecklers and nasty looks; he toured the mines, drank and played cards, then

and, with one irresistible lectured on Botticelli and Cellini in the saloons. Like everyone else, the impulse, the whole body miners fell under his spell, even naming a mine after him. One cowboy was cried out, "There is no use waiting. We will go today. heard to say, "That fellow is some art guy, but he can drink any of us under We w111 go now. We w111 the table and afterwards carry us home two at a time."

go at once." And then in one unanimous mass they swept along, and in another moment were Interpretation. In a fable he improvised at dinner once, Oscar Wilde talked

clinging fast to the magnet about some steel filings that had a sudden desire to visit a nearby magnet.

on every side. Then the

As they talked to each other about this, they found themselves moving magnet smiled—tor the J 'J ©

steel filings had no doubt closer to the magnet without realizing how or why. Finally they were swept at a11 but that they were in one mass to the magnet's side. "Then the magnet smiled—for the steel

paying that visit of their filings had no doubt at all but that they were paying that visit of their own free will.

own free will" Such was the effect that Wilde himself had on everyone around him.

— oscar wilde, as quoted by richard le gallienne in

hesketh pearson, oscar Wilde's attractiveness was more than just a by-product of his character,

WILDE: HIS LIFE AND WIT ., ., , , , . a . r . . , , . . .

it was quite calculated. An adorer of paradox, he consciously played up his own weirdness and ambiguity, the contrast between his mannered appear-

Now that the bohort

[impromptujoust] was over ance and his ^^ effortless performance. Naturally warm and sponta-and the knights were neous, he constructed an image that ran counter to his nature. People were dispersing and each making repelled, confused, intrigued, and finally drawn to this man who seemed his way to where his impossible to figure out.

thoughts inclined him, it chanced that Rivalin was Paradox is seductive because it plays with meaning. We are secretly op-heading for where lovely pressed by the rationality in our lives, where everything is meant to mean

Blancheflor was sitting. ,t. . i i , , ,1 . i . i . i something; seduction, by contrast, thrives on ambiguity, on mixed signals,

Seeing this, he galloped up

to her and looking her in on anything that eludes interpretation. Most people are painfully obvious. the eyes saluted her most If their character is showy, we may be momentarily attracted, but the at-pleasantly. • God save traction wears off; there is no depth, no contrary motion, to pull us in. The you, lovely woman!" •

"Thank you," said the key to both attracting and holding attention is to radiate mystery. And no girl, and continued very one is naturally mysterious, at least not for long; mystery is something you bashfully, "may God have to work at, a ploy on your part, and something that must be used early on in the seduction. Let one part of your character show, so everyone no-

Almighty, who makes all hearts glad, gladden your heart and mind! And my tices it. (In the example of Wilde, this was the mannered affectation con veyed by his clothes and poses.) But also send out a mixed signal—some sign that you are not what you seem, a paradox. Do not worry if this underquality is a negative one, like danger, cruelty, or amorality; people will be drawn to the enigma anyway, and pure goodness is rarely seductive.

Paradox with him was only truth standing on its head to attract attention.


Keys to Seduction

Nothing can proceed in seduction unless you can attract and hold your victim's attention, your physical presence becoming a haunting mental presence. It is actually quite easy to create that first stir—an alluring style of dress, a suggestive glance, something extreme about you. But what happens next? Our minds are barraged with images—not just from media but from the disorder of daily life. And many of these images are quite striking. You become just one more thing screaming for attention; your attractiveness will pass unless you spark the more enduring kind of spell that makes people think of you in your absence. That means engaging their imaginations, making them think there is more to you than what they see. Once they start embellishing your image with their fantasies, they are hooked.

This must, however, be done early on, before your targets know too much and their impressions of you are set. It should occur the moment they lay eyes on you. By sending mixed signals in that first encounter, you create a little surprise, a little tension: you seem to be one thing (innocent, brash, intellectual, witty), but you also throw them a glimpse of something else (devilish, shy, spontaneous, sad). Keep things subtle: if the second quality is too strong, you will seem schizophrenic. But make them wonder why you might be shy or sad underneath your brash intellectual wit, and you will have their attention. Give them an ambiguity that lets them see what they want to see, capture their imagination with little voyeuristic glimpses into your dark soul.

The Greek philosopher Socrates was one of history's greatest seducers; the young men who followed him as students were not just fascinated by his ideas, they fell in love with him. One such youth was Alcibiades, the notorious playboy who became a powerful political figure near the end of the fifth century B.C. In Plato's Symposium, Alcibiades describes Socrates's seductive powers by comparing him to the little figures of Silenus that were made back then. In Greek myth, Silenus was quite ugly, but also a wise prophet. Accordingly the statues of Silenus were hollow, and when you took them apart, you would find little figures of gods inside them—the inner truth and beauty under the unappealing exterior. And so, for Alci-biades, it was the same with Socrates, who was so ugly as to be repellent but whose face radiated inner beauty and contentment. The effect was confus-

grateful thanks to you!— yet notforgetting a bone I have to pick with you." • "Ah, sweet woman, what have I done?" was courteous Rivalin's reply. • "You have annoyed me through a friend of mine, the best I ever had. " • "Good heavens," thought he, "what does this mean? What have I done to displease her? What does she say I have done?" and he imagined that unwittingly he must have injured a kinsman of hers some time at their knightly sports and that was why she was vexed with him. But no, the friend she referred to was her heart, in which he made her suffer: that was the friend she spoke of But he knew nothing of that. • "Lovely woman," he said with all his accustomed charm, "I do not want you to be angry with me or bear me any ill will. So, if what you tell me is true, pronounce sentence on me yourself: I will do whatever you command." • "I do not hate you overmuch for what has happened," was the sweet girl's answer, "nor do I love you for it. But to see what amends you will make for the wrong you have done me, I shall test you another time." • And so he bowed as if to go, and she, lovely girl, sighed at him most secretly and said with tender feeling: • "Ah, dear friend, God bless you!" From this time on the thoughts of each ran on the other. • Rivalin turned away, pondering many things. He pondered from many sides why Blancheflor should be vexed, and what lay behind it all. He considered her greeting, her words; he examined her ing and attractive. Antiquity's other great seducer, Cleopatra, also sent out sigh minutely herfareweli mixed signals: by all accounts physically alluring, in voice, face, body, and he whole behavior. . . But

since he was uncertain of manner, she also had a brilliantly active mind, which for many writers of her motive—whether she the time made her seem somewhat masculine in spirit. These contrary had actedfrom enmity or qualities gave her complexity, and complexity gave her power.

love—he wavered in

To capture and hold attention, you need to show attributes that go perplexity. He wavered in his thoughts now here, against your physical appearance, creating depth and mystery. If you have a

now there. At one moment sweet face and an innocent air, let out hints of something dark, even he was off in one direction, vaguely cruel in your character. It is not advertised in your words, but in then suddenly in another, mi he had so ensnared your manner. The actor Errol Flynn had a boyishly angelic face and a slight himself in the toils of his air of sadness. Beneath this outward appearance, however, women could

own desire that he was sense an underlying cruelty, a criminal streak, an exciting kind of danger-

His entanglement had ousness. This play of contrary qualities attracted obsessive interest. The placed him in a quandary, female equivalent is the type epitomized by Marilyn Monroe; she had

for he did not know the face and voice of a little girl, but something sexual and naughty em-

weU or rn- he could not anated powerfully from her as well. Madame Recamier did it all with her make out whether she eyes—the gaze of an angel, suddenly interrupted by something sensual and loved or hated him. No flirtatious comider 'vhtbdi'¡¡id not Playing with gender roles is a kind of intriguing paradox that has a long forbid him either to advance history in seduction. The greatest Don Juans have had a touch of prettiness

or retreat—hope and and femininity, and the most attractive courtesans have had a masculine

despair led him to andfro streak. The strategy, though, is only powerful when the underquality is in unresolved dissension.

Hope spoke to him of love, merely hinted at; if the mix is too obvious or striking it will seem bizarre or despair of hatred. Because even threatening. The great seventeenth-century French courtesan Ninon

of this discord he could de l'Enclos was decidedly feminine in appearance, yet everyone who met yield his firm belief neither

to hatred nor yet to love. her was struck by a touch of aggressiveness and independence in her—but

Thus his feelings drifted in just a touch. The late nineteenth-century Italian novelist Gabriele d'An-

an unsure haven—hope nunzio was certainly masculine in his approaches, but there was a gentle-bore him on, despair away. . , , . , . r . . r, rp, jj c , . . ness, a consideration, mixed in, and an interest in feminine finery 1 he

He found no constancy in either; they agreed neither combinations can be juggled every which way: Oscar Wilde was quite one way or another. when feminine in appearance and manner, but the underlying suggestion that he despair came and told him was actually quite masculine drew both men and women to him.

that his Blancheflor was his enemy he faltered and A potent variation on this theme is the blending of physical heat and

sought to escape: but at emotional coldness. Dandies like Beau Brummel and Andy Warhol com-

once came hope, bringing bine striking physical appearances with a kind of coldness of manner, a dis-

him her love, and a fond

aspiration, and so perforce tance from everything and everyone. They are both enticing and elusive, he remained. In the face of and people spend lifetimes chasing after such men, trying to shatter their such discord he did not unattainability. (The power of apparently unattainable people is devilishly know where to turn: no- . . . . . . . , ^ .

where couid he go forward.seductive; we want to be the one to break them down.) They also wrap The more he strove to flee, themselves in ambiguity and mystery, either talking very little or talking the more firmly love forced only of surface matters, hinting at a depth of character you can never reach.

him back. The harder he When Marlene Dietrich entered a room, or arrived at a party, all eyes in-

struggled to escape, love drew him back more firmly. evitably turned to her. First there were her startling clothes, chosen to make heads turn. Then there was her air of nonchalant indifference. Men, and

— gottfried von strassburg, '

TRISTAN, translated by a.t. women too, became obsessed with her, thinking of her long after other hatto memories of the evening had faded. Remember: that first impression, that entrance, is critical. To show too much desire for attention is to signal insecurity, and will often drive people away; play it too cold and disinterested, on the other hand, and no one will bother coming near. The trick is to combine the two attitudes at the same moment. It is the essence of coquetry.

Perhaps you have a reputation for a particular quality, which immediately comes to mind when people see you. You will better hold their attention by suggesting that behind this reputation some other quality lies lurking. No one had a darker, more sinful reputation than Lord Byron. What drove women wild was that behind his somewhat cold and disdainful exterior, they could sense that he was actually quite romantic, even spiritual. Byron played this up with his melancholic airs and occasional kind deed. Transfixed and confused, many women thought that they could be the one to lead him back to goodness, to make him a faithful lover. once a woman entertained such a thought, she was completely under his spell. It is not difficult to create such a seductive effect. Should you be known as eminently rational, say, hint at something irrational. Johannes, the narrator in Kierkegaard's The Seducer's Diary, first treats the young Cordelia with businesslike politeness, as his reputation would lead her to expect. Yet she very soon overhears him making remarks that hint at a wild, poetic streak in his character; and she is excited and intrigued.

These principles have applications far beyond sexual seduction. To hold the attention of a broad public, to seduce them into thinking about you, you need to mix your signals. Display too much of one quality—even if it is a noble one, like knowledge or efficiency—and people will feel that you lack humanity. We are all complex and ambiguous, full of contradictory impulses; if you show only one side, even if it is your good side, you will wear on people's nerves. They will suspect you are a hypocrite. Mahatma Gandhi, a saintly figure, openly confessed to feelings of anger and venge-fulness. John F. Kennedy, the most seductive American public figure of modern times, was a walking paradox: an East Coast aristocrat with a love of the common man, an obviously masculine man—a war hero—with a vulnerability you could sense underneath, an intellectual who loved popular culture. People were drawn to Kennedy like the steel filings in Wilde's fable. A bright surface may have a decorative charm, but what draws your eye into a painting is a depth of field, an inexpressible ambiguity, a surreal complexity.

Symbol: The Theater Curtain. Onstage, the curtain s heavy deep-red folds attract your eye with their hypnotic surface. But what really fascinates and draws you in is what you think might be happening behind the curtain—the light peeking through, the suggestion of a secret, something about to happen. You feel the thrill of a voyeur about to watch a performance.


The complexity you signal to other people will only affect them properly if they have the capacity to enjoy a mystery. Some people like things simple, and lack the patience to pursue a person who confuses them. They prefer to be dazzled and overwhelmed. The great Belle Epoque courtesan known as La Belle otero would work a complex magic on artists and political figures who fell for her, but in dealing with the more uncomplicated, sensual male she would astound them with spectacle and beauty. When meeting a woman for the first time, Casanova might dress in the most fantastic outfit, with jewels and brilliant colors to dazzle the eye; he would use the target's reaction to gauge whether or not she would demand a more complicated seduction. Some of his victims, particularly young girls, needed no more than the glittering and spellbinding appearance, which was really what they wanted, and the seduction would stay on that level.

Everything depends on your target: do not bother creating depth for people who are insensitive to it, or who may even be put off or disturbed by it. You can recognize such types by their preference for the simpler pleasures in life, their lack of patience for a more nuanced story. With them, keep it simple.

Appear to Be an Object of Desire —Create Triangles

Few are drawn to the person whom others avoid or neglect; people gather around those who have already attracted interest. We want what other people want. To draw your victims closer and make them hungry to possess you, you must create an aura of desirability—of being wanted and courted by many. It will become a point of vanity for them to be the preferred object of your attention, to win you awayfrom a crowd of admirers. Manufacture the illusion of popularity by surrounding yourself with members of the opposite sex—friends, former lovers, present suitors. Create triangles that stimulate rivalry and raise your value.

Build a reputation that precedes you: if many have succumbed to your charms, there must be a reason.

Creating Triangles

One evening in 1882, the thirty-two-year-old Prussian philosopher Paul Rée, living in Rome at the time, visited the house of an older woman who ran a salon for writers and artists. Rée noticed a newcomer there, a twenty-one-year-old Russian girl named Lou von Salomé, who had come to Rome on holiday with her mother. Rée introduced himself and they began a conversation that lasted well into the night. Her ideas iet me tel¡ you about a

about God and morality were like his own; she talked with such intensity, gentleman I once knew yet at the same time her eyes seemed to flirt with him. Over the next few ^f^J^^

days Rée and Salomé took long walks through the city. Intrigued by her modest tehZÍTlndllso a mind yet confused by the emotions she aroused, he wanted to spend more very capable warrior, was time with her. Then, one day, she startled him with a proposition: she not so outstanding as

knew he was a close friend of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, then ^¡¿es ^a^er^mre also visiting Italy. The three of them, she said, should travel together -no, not to be found many who actually live together, in a kind of philosophers' menage a trois. A fierce were his equal and even

critic of Christian morals, Rée found this idea delightful. He wrote to his better. However, as luck

would have it, a certain friend about Salomé, describing how desperate she was to meet him. After lady fell very deeply in love a few such letters, Nietzsche hurried to Rome. with him She saw that he

Rée had made this invitation to please Salomé, and to impress her; he felt the same way, and as

her love grew day by day, also wanted to see if Nietzsche shared his enthusiasm for the young girl's there not be¡ng any wayfor

ideas. But as soon as Nietzsche arrived, something unpleasant happened: them to sPeak to each

the great philosopher, who had always been a loner, was obviously smitten other, she revealed her

sentiments to another lady, with Salomé. Instead of the three of them sharing intellectual conversa- who she hoped would be of

tions together, Nietzsche seemed to be conspiring to get the girl alone. service to her in this affair.

When Rée caught glimpses of Nietzsche and Salomé talking without in- Now this lady neither in

rank nor beauty was a whit cluding him, he felt shivers of jealousy. Forget about some philosophers ^^ o the iirst. and it

menage a trois: Salomé was his, he had discovered her, and he would not came about that when she share her, even with his good friend. Somehow he had to get her alone. heard the young man

r-. , ill 1.1 (whom she had never seen)

Only then could he woo and win her.

J spoken of so affectionately,

Madame Salomé had planned to escort her daughter back to Russia, and came to realize that but Salomé wanted to stay in Europe. Rée intervened, offering to travel the other woman, whom

with the Salomés to Germany and introduce them to his own mother, slhe knew was extremely

J discreet and intelligent, who, he promised, would look after the girl and act as a chaperone. (Rée ooved him beyond w0rds, knew that his mother would be a lax guardian at best.) Madame Salomé she straight away began to

agreed to this proposal, but Nietzsche was harder to shake: he decided to imagine that he must be

the most handsome, the join them on their northward journey to Rées home in Prussia. At one wiset the most discwet of point in the trip, Nietzsche and Salomé took a walk by themselves, and men, and, in short, the man most worthy of her when they came back, Rée had the feeling that something physical had

íovfíin a¡ithe w°ñd S°, happened between them. His blood boiled; Salomé was slipping from his never having set eyes on him, she fell in love with grasp.

him so passionately that Finally the group split up, the mother returning to Russia, Nietzsche to

she set out to win him not his summer place in Tautenburg, Rée and Salomé staying behind at Rée's

, „ . .. ... , home. But Salomé did not stay long: she accepted an invitation of Nietz-

herself And in this she

succeeded with little fort, sche's to visit him, unchaperoned, in Tautenburg. In her absence Rée was

for indeed she was a consumed with doubts and anger. He wanted her more than ever, and was

woman more to be wooed prepared to redouble his efforts. When she finally came back, Rée vented than to do the wooing.

And now isten to the his bitterness, railing against Nietzsche, criticizing his philosophy, and ques-

splendid sequel: not long tioning his motives toward the girl. But Salomé took Nietzsche's side. Rée

afterward ft* was in despair; he felt he had lost her for good. Yet a few days later she sur-

written to her lover fell into prised him again: she had decided she wanted to live with him, and with the hands of another him alone.

woman ofcomparable At last Rée had what he had wanted, or so he thought. The couple set-

mnk cfiitrm and„ beauty, ^d in Berlin, where they rented an apartment together. But now, to Rée's and since she, like most J 1 °

women, was curious and dismay, the old pattern repeated. They lived together but Salomé was

eager to learn secrets, she courted on all sides by young men. The darling of Berlin's intellectuals, opened the letter and read who admired her independent spirit, her refusal to compromise, she was it. Realizing that it was mitten from the depths of constantly surrounded by a harem of men, who referred to her as "Her Expassion, in the most loving cellency." Once again Rée found himself competing for her attention. and ardent ter-^ she was Driven to despair, he left her a few years later, and eventually committed at first moved with suicide compassion, for she knew very well from whom the In 1911, Sigmund Freud met Salomé (now known as Lou Andreasletter came and to whom it Salomé) at a conference in Germany. She wanted to devote herself to the was addressed, then, psychoanalytical movement, she said, and Freud found her enchanting, al-

however, such was the power of the words she though, like everyone else, he knew the story of her infamous affair with

read, turning them over in Nietzsche (see page 46, "The Dandy"). Salomé had no background in psy-

her mind and considering choanalysis or in therapy of any kind, but Freud admitted her into the in-

what kind of man it must be who had been able to ner circle of followers who attended his private lectures. Soon after she

arouse such great love she joined the circle, one of Freud's most promising and brilliant students, Dr.

at once began tom in love Victor Tausk, sixteen years younger than Salomé, fell in love with her. Sa-

with him herself: and the ,

letter was without doubt far lomé's relationship with Freud had been platonic, but he had grown exmore effective than if the tremely fond of her. He was depressed when she missed a lecture, and

young man had himself would send her notes and flowers. Her involvement in a love affair with written it to her. Andjust ~

as It sometimes happens Tausk made him intensely jealous, and he began to compete for her atten-

that the poison prepared for tion. Tausk had been like a son to him, but the son was threatening to steal

a prince kills the one who the father's platonic lover. Soon, however, Salomé left Tausk. Now her tastes his food, so that poor friendship with Freud was stronger than ever, and so it lasted until her woman, in her greediness, drank the love potion death, in 1937.

prepared for another. What more is there to say? The affair was no secret, and thingü so developed that Interpretation. Men did not just fall in love with Lou Andreas-Salomé;

many other women besides, they were overwhelmed with the desire to possess her, to wrest her away

partly to spite the others from others, to be the proud owner of her body and spirit. They rarely saw and partly to follow their her alone; she always in some way surrounded herself with other men.

When she saw that Rée was interested in her, she mentioned her desire to meet Nietzsche. This inflamed Rée, and made him want to marry her and to keep him for himself, but she insisted on meeting his friend. His letters to Nietzsche betrayed his desire for this woman, and this in turn kindled Nietzsche's own desire for her, even before he had met her. Every time one of the two men was alone with her, the other was in the background. Then, later on, most of the men who met her knew of the infamous Nietzsche affair, and this only increased their desire to possess her, to compete with Nietzsche's memory. Freud's affection for her, similarly, turned into potent desire when he had to vie with Tausk for her attention. Salomé was intelligent and attractive enough on her own account; but her constant strategy of imposing a triangle of relationships on her suitors made her desirability intense. And while they fought over her, she had the power, being desired by all and subject to none.

Our desire for another person almost always involves social considerations: we are attracted to those who are attractive to other people. We want to possess them and steal them away. You can believe all the sentimental nonsense you want to about desire, but in the end, much of it has to do with vanity and greed. Do not whine and moralize about people's selfishness, but simply use it to your advantage. The illusion that you are desired by others will make you more attractive to your victims than your beautiful face or your perfect body. And the most effective way to create that illusion is to create a triangle: impose another person between you and your victim, and subtly make your victim aware of how much this other person wants you. The third point on the triangle does not have to be just one person: surround yourself with admirers, reveal your past conquests—in other words, envelop yourself in an aura of desirability. Make your targets compete with your past and your present. They will long to possess you all to themselves, giving you great power for as long as you elude their grasp. Fail to make yourself an object of desire right from the start, and you will end up the sorry slave to the whims of your lovers—they will abandon you the moment they lose interest.

[A person] will desire any object so long as he is convinced that it is desired by another person whom he admires.

Keys to Seduction

We are social creatures, and are immensely influenced by the tastes and desires of other people. Imagine a large social gathering. You see a man alone, whom nobody talks to for any length of time, and who is wandering around without company; isn't there a kind of self-fulfilling isolation about him? Why is he alone, why is he avoided? There has to be a reason. Until someone takes pity on this man and starts up a conversation example, put every care and effort into winning this man's love, squabbling over it for a while as boys do for cherries.

—baldassare castiglione, the book ofthe courtier, translated by george bull

Most of the time we prefer one thing to another because that is what our friends already prefer or because that object has marked social significance. Adults, when they are hungry, are just like children in that they seek out the foods that others take. In their love affairs, they seek out the man or woman whom others find attractive and abandon those who are not sought after. When we say of a man or woman that he or she is desirable, what we really mean is that others desire them. It is not that they have some particular quality, but because they conform to some currently modish model.

— serge moscovici, the age of the crowd:a historical treatise on mass psychology, translatedby j. c. whitehouse

It will be greatly to your advantage to entertain the lady you would win with an account of the number of women who are in love with you, and of the decided advances which they have made to you; for this will not only prove that you are a great favorite with the ladies, and a man of true honor, but it will convince her that she may have the honor of being enrolled in the same list, and of being praised in the hints to gentlemen on the art of fascinating

[René] Girard's mimetic desire occurs when an same way, in the presence with him, he will look unwanted and unwantable. But over there, in an-ofyour otherfemale other corner, is a woman surrounded by people. They laugh at her remarks, friends. This will greatly , 111 i . . i 11. . 1

and as they laugh, others join the group, attracted by its gaiety. When she delight her, and you need not be surprised if she moves around, people follow. Her face is glowing with attention. There has testifies her admiration of to be a reason.

your character by throwing In both cases, of course, there doesn't actually have to be a reason at her arms around your neck on the spot. all. The neglected man may have quite charming qualities, supposing you

_LOLA MONTEZ nEMns ever talk to him; but most likely you won't. Desirability is a social illu-

and secrets of beauty, with sion. Its source is less what you say or do, or any kind of boasting or self-advertisement, than the sense that other people desire you. To turn your targets' interest into something deeper, into desire, you must make them see you as a person whom others cherish and covet. Desire is both imitative (we like what others like) and competitive (we want to take away from others what they have). As children, we wanted to monopolize the attention of individual subject desires a parent, to draw it away from other siblings. This sense of rivalry pervades

an object because it is human desire, repeating throughout our lives. Make people compete for desired by another subject, your attention, make them see you as sought after by everyone else. The here designated as the rival: desire is modeled on aura of desirability will envelop you.

the wishes or actions of Your admirers can be friends or even suitors. Call it the harem effect.

another. Philippe Lacoue- ni-n ^ ri\T 1 -ji i - ' ui

Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, raised her value in men's eyes by al-

Labarthe says that "the

basic hypothesis upon ways having a group of worshipful men around her at balls and parties. If which rests Girard's famous she went for a walk, it was never with one man, always with two or three. analysis [k that] every perhaps these men were simply friends, or even just props and hangers-on;

desire is the desire of the other (and not imme^iateiy the sight of them was enough to suggest that she was prized and desired, a desire of an object), every woman worth fighting over. Andy Warhol, too, surrounded himself with the most glamorous, interesting people he could find. To be part of his inner circle meant that you were desirable as well. By placing himself in the model—whose desire desire middle but keeping himself aloof from it all, he made everyone compete imitates), every desire is for his attention. He stirred people's desire to possess him by holding back.

thus from its inception Practices like these not only stimulate competitive desires, they take aim tapped by hatred and r^ivalry; in short, the origin at people's prime weakness: their vanity and self-esteem. We can endure

of desire is mimesis— feeling that another person has more talent, or more money, but the sense

mimeticism—and no that a rival is more desirable than we are—that is unbearable. In the early desire is ever forged which

does not desireforthwith eighteenth century, the Duke de Richelieu, a great rake, managed to sethe death or disappearance duce a young woman who was rather religious but whose husband, a dolt,

of the model or exemplary was often away. He then proceeded to seduce her upstairs neighbor, a character which gave rise young widow. When the two women discovered that he was going from one to the other in the same night, they confronted him. A lesser man would have fled, but not the duke; he understood the dynamic of vanity and desire. Neither woman wanted to feel that he preferred the other. And so he managed to arrange a little menage a trois, knowing that now they would struggle between themselves to be the favorite. When people's vanity is at risk, you can make them do whatever you want. According to Stendhal, if there is a woman you are interested in, pay attention to her sister. That will stir a triangular desire.

Your reputation—your illustrious past as a seducer—is an effective way structure of desire is triangular (including the other—mediator or to it.

—james mandrell, don juan and the point of honor of creating an aura of desirability. Women threw themselves at Errol Flynn's feet, not because of his handsome face, and certainly not because of his acting skills, but because of his reputation. They knew that other women had found him irresistible. Once he had established that reputation, he did not have to chase women anymore; they came to him. Men who believe that a rakish reputation will make women fear or distrust them, and should be played down, are quite wrong. On the contrary, it makes them more attractive. The virtuous Duchess de Montpensier, the Grande Mademoiselle of seventeenth-century France, began by enjoying a friendship with the rake Lauzun, but a troubling thought soon occurred to her: if a man with Lauzun's past did not see her as a possible lover, something had to be wrong with her. This anxiety eventually pushed her into his arms. To be part of a great seducer's club of conquests can be a matter of vanity and pride. We are happy to be in such company, to have our name broadcast as this man or woman's lover. Your own reputation may not be so alluring, but you must find a way to suggest to your victim that others, many others, have found you desirable. It is reassuring. There is nothing like a restaurant full of empty tables to persuade you not to go in.

A variation on the triangle strategy is the use of contrasts: careful exploitation of people who are dull or unattractive may enhance your desirability by comparison. At a social affair, for instance, make sure that your target has to chat with the most boring person available. Come to the rescue and your target will be delighted to see you. In The Seducer's Diary, by Soren Kierkegaard, Johannes has designs on the innocent young Cordelia. Knowing that his friend Edward is hopelessly shy and dull, he encourages this man to court her; a few weeks of Edward's attentions will make her eyes wander in search of someone else, anyone else, and Johannes will make sure that they settle on him. Johannes chose to strategize and maneuver, but almost any social environment will contain contrasts you can make use of almost naturally. The seventeenth-century English actress Nell Gwyn became the main mistress of King Charles II because her humor and unaffect-edness made her that much more desirable among the many stiff and pretentious ladies of Charles's court. When the Shanghai actress Jiang Qing met Mao Zedong, in 1937, she did not have to do much to seduce him; the other women in his mountain camp in Yenan dressed like men, and were decidedly unfeminine. The sight alone of Jiang was enough to seduce Mao, who soon left his wife for her. To make use of contrasts, either develop and display those attractive attributes (humor, vivacity, and so on) that are the scarcest in your own social group, or choose a group in which your natural qualities are rare, and will shine.

The use of contrasts has vast political ramifications, for a political figure must also seduce and seem desirable. Learn to play up the qualities that your rivals lack. Peter II, czar in eighteenth-century Russia, was arrogant and irresponsible, so his wife, Catherine the Great, did all she could to seem modest and dependable. When Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in 1917 after Czar Nicholas II had been deposed, he made a show of decisiveness

It's annoying that our new acquaintance likes the boy. But aren't the best things in life free to all? The sun shines on everyone. The moon, accompanied by countless stars, leads even the beasts to pasture. What can you think of lovelier than water? But it flows for the whole world. Is love alone then something furtive rather than something to be gloried in? Exactly, that's just it—I don't want any of the good things of life unless people are envious of them.

— petronius, THE SATYRICON, translated by j. p. sullivan and discipline—precisely what no other leader had at the time. In the American presidential race of 1980, the irresoluteness of Jimmy Carter made the single-mindedness of Ronald Reagan look desirable. Contrasts are eminently seductive because they do not depend on your own words or self-advertisements. The public reads them unconsciously, and sees what it wants to see.

Finally, appearing to be desired by others will raise your value, but often how you carry yourself can influence this as well. Do not let your targets see you so often; keep your distance, seem unattainable, out of their reach. An object that is rare and hard to obtain is generally more prized.

Symbol: The Trophy. What makes you want to win the trophy, and to see it as something worth having, is the sight of the other competitors. Some, out of a spirit of kindness, may want to reward everyonefor trying, but the Trophy then loses its value. It must represent not only your victory but everyone else's defeat.


There is no reversal. It is essential to appear desirable in the eyes of others.

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