Another personal post. Those of you reading this for substantive commentary, avert your eyes.
So, personal issue: I’m having a hard time thinking my way through seduction. Defining it, in particular, has recently become problematic.
I’ve always- at least, I thought so till recently- taken rather a broad view of what constitutes seductive behavior. In my very wide circle of acquaintance are people, male and female, who are beautifully, dangerously charming- who can reduce anyone to whom they speak, man or woman, gay or straight, to a pliant and biddable mass of goodwill within minutes or hours of meeting him or her. These are the people I think of as being seductive.
The essential quality of seductiveness, as I think of it, is not specific to sexual interaction (though I’ve seen seducers who use just a hint of it in nonsexual contexts), but is broader in base and far more potent. Is is the ability purposefully to lure, to entice, to sway to an end. To any end.
Needless to say, this is a view which contrasts with the essentially political quality which characterizes most people’s thoughts on manipulation of their fellow beings. Nonetheless, I still believe it to be true that most suasion which takes place via the deliberate circumvention of facts or logic is essentially seductive- a deliberate beguilement away from reasoned choice- especially on a person-to person basis.
When one reaches the romantic arena, my thoughts on seduction, and seductiveness, don’t really change. The ability to charm and convince- the ability to pull another person down a path that edges around their sense of reason and their powers of assessment- to make a person desire what you desire and believe what you believe without weighing either the desire or the belief- these are the acts of seduction. Whether or not the end desire or belief is sexual does not change the path of approach to it.
In contrast to this kind of calculatedly intense magnetism, I’ve always viewed true friendship as an open and honest spark of connection between two people- mutually arrived at and achieved without any purposeful attempt to sway the person- aside from the (nearly) universal human tendency to “put your best foot forward” upon first meeting. If this sort of behavior is seductive in nature, than all human beings are seducers- which, to me, is an untruth. Seduction is studied and intentional; seduction takes skill.
This is- again, in my view- as true in the realm of romance as it is in any other. Therefore, I have never defined open and honest behavior- in other words, behavior which does not involve deliberate manipulation or unnecessary obscurity- as seductive in the romantic realm.
I was told recently, in the context of a conversation on this subject, that this is a very “traditionally feminine view” of seduction.
Now, for many reasons both personal and ideological the phrase “traditionally feminine” makes my hackles rise. I try not to act upon knee-jerk reactions, and I succeeded in not doing so on this occasion, but the statement gave me pause to such an extent that I’ve been pondering the subject for several days now.
For anyone who doesn’t know a great deal about me (though I can’t imagine that many of you who are reading this don’t), I was raised in the South, and am of Indian heritage. Furthermore, most of my close female friends were raised in the South as well. Despite this, and by reason of upbringing as well as character (“stubborn”, I have been told, is a large understatement), I am very often the odd duck amongst them.
This has never really been a problem for me- or for them. For the most part I wind up being friends with people who are comfortable in their own skin, and though I’ve had female friends try (sometimes at my request, and always unsuccessfully, unless you consider being so bad at it that it becomes funny success) to teach me how to flirt, none of them have ever tried to get me to change my views of or behavior in regard to romantic attachments. My personal preference, therefore, if I’m around a man I find attractive, and I want him to know that (please note that these are two very separate conditions), is to tell him so. That’s tell as in, “I find you attractive.”
To me, this sort of (arguably charmless) bluntness is the antithesis of seductive behavior: it’s an open, not to say bald, statement of fact based on the belief that the other person is capable of taking my attraction to him, looking it over, kicking the tires, and deciding whether or not he wants to do anything with it. In other words, it’s an offer of reasoned choice, equal to equal, to the person with whom I’m interacting.
The person with whom I was speaking- who, as best I can interpret, thinks that seductiveness (again, not necessarily sexual in nature)- consists of the essential choice of which qualities to put forward in an interaction; so the view is of this basic act as yet another form of manipulation and, thus, of seduction. My friend also contended that statements of truth (the assumption being that the statement was true) could be used to seduce. Since, to me, any offer of choice and reason precludes seduction, I disagreed.
For other reasons, the conversation ended soon after that, and here am I weeks later, baffled and consternated by the idea that my view of seduction is “traditionally feminine”, and also chagrined to think there is an[other] area of human interaction in which I’ve been unnecessarily and unbecomingly naïve.
So, here are my three questions for you, fearless reader:
1) Does the choice of which qualities you present to a person with whom you desire to be friends constitute manipulation on your part?
2) Does saying “I’m attracted to you” constitute seduction in a romantic sense if it’s said to a person who finds that attractive?
3) In a larger sense, can seduction of any kind be an interaction between equals?
I really and truly wish to hear what others think on this subject. Please do let me know.