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Authors: Betsy Prioleau

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BOOK: Seductress
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Just as important, we first need to junk the old myths and prejudices, then gun out. Seduction isn’t what it’s been cracked up to be by the media. What’s left of the revered art has fallen into the wrong hands—beauty shills, love coaches, and idiot how-tos—and alienated intelligent women. The art of love, though, is consistent with the highest principles of feminism. It promotes self-development, autonomy, and liberation and expands our options. Instead of pushing back the clock, love mastery
the future. It frees women from the naive no games, total candor ethos of the 1960s (one of the cleverest shell games in sexual politics) and maps a path to erotic preeminence. From sex object to sex subject.
Although the
ars amatoria
doesn’t read like a cookbook with step-by-step recipes, it provides the ingredients and techniques, and encourages us to concoct our own love spells according to personal taste. This is a potent cocktail. But power in love doesn’t have to be malign, destructive, or manipulative; it can preserve and improve a good thing.
The practice of seduction, though, takes moxie. “Venus favors the bold.” At present women seem to have wimped out. Pollsters find epidemic demoralization and “an undercurrent of fear” in our sexual dealings. We’ve let the playground bullies spook us. We’re afraid of being sidelined, trashed, dumped, name called, and punished if we aspire too high and break too many hearts. We’re afraid of self-loss, humiliation, and a thousand bedroom no-no’s.
The dashing seductresses, with their imperial command of men and eros, save us from this sorry plight. They juice up our sexual pride and nerve and show us what’s possible with a little love savvy. They recoup our ancient prerogatives of sexual supremacy and recover the power base. They blow all the false seductress myths out of the water. They prove we can have our cake and eat it, romantic
professional power, without any of the fabled sacrifices.
Wowing men coexists with and enhances worldly success. Georg Simmel observed more than a century ago that the most seductive women were also the most “domineering.” His feminist contemporary Ellen Key argued further that they had the strongest identities and best shot at happiness, a finding confirmed by a recent sex survey that linked “happiness with partnered sex” with “happiness in life.” Of course, even seductresses took some knocks. But their triumphs outnumbered the losses, and their reverses left them intact and at the top of their form.
Complex pinwheel personalities, enchantresses had supersized egos and a don’t-give-a damn bravado. They bucked the tide, invented their own characters, and lived outside the pale of convention with divine amorality. They were unzipped originals, bellwether belles who blazed new feminist territory, reclaiming women’s native domain. We belong in seduction country in command of the whole power turf—love, work, and our own destinies.
Glamorous heroines of this stripe should lead us to tomorrow. The feminist pantheon is only half full; the standard role models—the Eleanor Roosevelts, St. Teresas, Virginia Woolfs, and Hillary Clintons—have served us well, but we need new blood, women who can take us, tangoing their hips, through the postmodern sexual minefield and tell us we can have it all. Activists say that the problem of “how to be a woman in this culture and be sexual too” ranks as the number one issue today. Seductresses solve it with panache; they take back the boudoir and reinstate women as victors, both in the battle of the sexes and in life.
Freud, then, should have asked not what women but what men want. The traditional answers, it turns out, are false. Men have been blowing smoke at us. The women who light their fires and keep them lit are supremas of clout and charm. That they were irresistible makes sense. We’re naturally magnetized by powerful personalities with superior individuation, wholeness, and “unconflicted psyches.” But men have deeper reasons to adore queens of the hill. Their libidos were engineered at the beginning of time to swoon over sexy magnificas, to quake in their presence, and glorify, honor, and serve them. Pushovers, bubble brains, and penthouse pets therefore disappoint them at a primal, biochemical level.
The following seductresses—the mythic archetypes of the first chapter and the stereotype smashers of the next six—rewrite the book of love for women. They turn control of the plot over to us, give us the best lines, the starring role, and a happy ending: wonderful men and all the homage we can handle. The action and dialogue aren’t pre-scripted, but we have a master plan to follow.
Many women of course couldn’t care less. They’re perfectly content with career rewards, social status, community service, motherhood, and apple pie. “This dance,” as rapper group Salt ‘n’ Pepa say, “isn’t for everyone. Just the sexy people.” But the sexy people are starting to mass, cropping up everywhere, like rocker Liz Phair and Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former CEO Charlotte Beers, who “wants to seduce” and “is a woman, a woman, a woman.”
Robert Graves believed that goddess worship was the “repressed desire” of patriarchal civilization, destined for a comeback in the future. The future is now. With the seductresses to guide us and teach us the steps, let the dance begin. Ladies’ choice.
The Seductress Archetype
Thou, goddess, thou alone rul’st over everything.
Studied alive, myth . . . is not an explanation in satisfaction of a scientific interest, but a narrative resurrection of a primeval reality.
Every historical man and woman carries on, within themselves, a great deal of prehistorical humanity. . . . The mind uses images to grasp the ultimate reality of things.
Do as the goddesses did.
f the seductress hadn’t existed, she would have been imagined. Since the Ice Age men and women have envisioned goddesses of sexuality and worshiped them. These were no bloodless Madonnas with eyes cast heavenward, but creatures of flesh and appetite, adored for their erotic power. Their sacred insignia was the pubic triangle, like the cross in Christianity. Charity, fidelity, modesty, and selfless domestic service had nothing to do with their appeal. Female sexuality alone—in all its majesty and mystery—inspired these early cults.
The goddess religions, historians speculate, lasted for twenty-five thousand years, much longer than the reign of male belief systems. With the ascent of patriarchy, the female deities were demoted to supporting roles and specialized functions, and their powers co-opted by gods. The strongest were demonized. But the first sex goddesses still exert a strong pull on our psyches. They established the archetype of desirable womanhood that continues, with subterranean tenacity, to govern passion today. They defined the seductress persona.
Throughout history the women who’ve enchanted men resemble these ancient deities to an uncanny extent. Inconceivable as this may sound, it makes perfect sense to mythologists. Archetypes, they say, never vanish from a culture but work stealthily and subversively beneath the surface, especially on the libido. They “take hold of the human personality as a whole, arouse it and fascinate it,” despite every precaution.
The early goddesses have usually been seen as simple Great Mothers whose birth-giving powers struck awe and terror in the primitive mind. But woman in toto was the true
objet de culte,
the almighty Lady of Everything: cosmic totality, death and rebirth, and the sex energy of existence. Women who echo these archaic images of desirability, however faintly, are the ones who send men over the moon. The déjà vu sentiments in love may be only memory traces of the first prepotent goddess and all she incarnates.
Her archetype reveals not only the anatomy of the seductress but also the infrastructure of sexuality. The core themes of sexual desire evolved through goddess mythology. Out of those primordial beliefs and rituals arose the construction of the erotic—who and what excite us and why we mate as we do. It’s the paradigmatic Seductive Way, incised in the human collective unconscious and resistant to change, despite fluctuations in sexual tastes and mores.
The Prehistoric Goddess
From the Pyrenees to Siberia archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of mysterious Stone Age (30,000-10,000 B.C.) female statuettes and carvings. Without any male ones to speak of—except diminutive stick figures—these Venus images have generated a storm of speculation. Some scholars contend they were fertility fetishes; some, porn toys; others, sacred relics of an aeons-old matriarchal religion. In the absence of written records, we’ll never know for sure. But no one denies the sexual content of these busty, hippy figurines with their high-profile vulvas or discounts the possibility of their cultic significance. Historian Richard Rudgley, one of the most impartial investigators, thinks the female body almost certainly held for early man a mythological and “metaphorical” meaning suggestive of a primitive cosmology.
Through myth, the explanatory stories and dreams of the race, we can imagine the general drift of such a prehistoric cult. Most mythologic systems mention an earlier protomyth inherited from deep history, in which a creatrix formed the earth and heavens and ruled the cosmos. Given woman’s miraculous sexual biology—her menses in rhythm with the moon, her inordinate orgasmic capacity, her ability to give birth and sustenance—it makes perfect symbolic sense.
This ur-divinity, by tradition, embodied the life force, contained opposites—male and female, change and changelessness—and regenerated the dead in the “great round of her being.” The first peoples envisioned her as the moon, a dynamis in motion, cycling constantly through growth, decay, and rebirth. Female sexual power drove the wheels of the universe.
The Venus carvings, etched with strange signs and scattered throughout Eurasia, clue us to her multiple meanings for early man. Although they come in every shape and size, from rail thin to Rubenesque, none even approached the neo-Darwinists’ gold standard of feminine sex appeal, the 0.70 waist-to-hip ratio. Yet they were sex incarnate. The famous Venus of Willendorf is swallowed up in mountains of femaleness. Her double D breasts flop on a monumental belly, and her saddlebag hips hold her prize feature in parenthesis, “the most carefully and exquisitely carved realistic vulva in the entire European Upper Paleolithic.” To our ancestors the vulva was the holy of holies, carved on every surface as chevrons, triangles, and semicircles and symbolic not just of sexual desire but of maternity and divine creative energy.
Another queen-size goddess, the imperial Venus of Laussel, points with one hand to her vulva and holds in her other the allegorical equivalent of the “child at the breast of the Virgin,” a bison’s horn, curved like the new moon and notched with the lunar months. This proclaims her the “Perfect Mind,” the cosmic mistress of intelligence. To the Ice Age nomads on those dark, frozen continental wastes, the moon (from the Indo-European
mind) conveyed a sense of time, measurement, and order. Prehistoric humankind never set any value on the dumb beautiful female ideal.
Zombie babes wouldn’t have excited them either. The earliest-known female figurine, Fanny the Dancing Venus of 31,000 B.C., depicts a woman with motion in her ocean. She stands like a flamenco dancer poised for takeoff: left leg cocked, hand on hip, right arm raised high over her head, with one lush breast caught mid-swing. The goddess personified action, movement, the propulsive, ever-cycling, whizzing energy of existence. With her, “there [was] no stagnation.”
Nor was there gender division. A figurine found in the Grimaldi cave has full breasts, a plump love cushion, and an erect penis. A later statuette from a Neolithic temple in Malta pays tribute to an equally important source of the deity’s prestige—women’s magical, seemingly inexhaustible orgasmic capacity. The bosomy lady this time is portrayed deep in the throes of masturbation: legs splayed, toes turned up, and hand sunk into her swollen labia.
The discovery of this X-rated figurine in a temple is no coincidence. Unlike the Flintstones, prehistoric people didn’t live in caves but used them as shrines for elaborate magico-religious rites. Though better known for their animal paintings, these caves were filled with female sexual symbolism, hundreds of vulva designs and enough statuettes (footless to be staked in the earth like crosses) to persuade Joseph Campbell of a widespread goddess cult. If the Venus images suggest the contours of the mythic Perfect Woman—the seductress archetype—the earliest ceremonies structured desire as we know it.
From the scenarios re-created by archaeologists, the rites began with an arduous trek into the bowels of the cave, perceived as a “vulvar /vaginal/womb” pilgrimage. To reach the innermost shrines, celebrants had to endure a treacherous assault course more than a half mile long, clambering through a labyrinthine maze of blind passages, sudden drops, thin ledges, and long narrow, coffinlike tunnels. The deity’s path was perilous, designed to instill awe, terror, and the
mysterium tremendum
of the almighty. This is the template for the love journey.
BOOK: Seductress
9.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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