Notes on The Art of Seduction I

The Siren, the Rake & the Ideal Lover

Acknowledgement: This short writing is comprised of notes and observations on The Art of Seduction as we discuss it in a book club with AngieSpeaks on her private discord, and it is of course Angie who is mainly driving the conversation. This and successive documents are mainly comprised of my own thoughts, but it is a document that I’ll continue to revise with observations from the collective, including Angie’s. At no point do I take credit for Angie’s or other club members’ insights that may be contained here. Do consider subscribing to and following Angie’s content on Patreon, YouTube, Soundcloud and Twitter, she is recording these sessions and may release them at some point publicly or privately.

So far I think that Greene’s work is an interesting delve into various ways in which humans manipulate each other. That this book has exploded in popularity has interesting implications, as I do not believe this is some sort of self-help book. I think it is a fascinating look at sexual and social psychology using a philosophy that heavily references history, art and iconic celebrity. The archetypes he constructs here feel very Jungian, describing primal forces and associated behaviors that direct and influence even the strongest of human minds. Sadly, I have no doubt that a non-zero number of people are using this book as a sort of guide, rather than the warning that I believe it really is. This manipulation is perilous and fraught with malevolent aspects, as many of the first archetype have found…

The Siren

Raw sexual energy, naked and unashamed. Aphrodite. Eve. The female on display as a treasure to be coveted and possessed. A creature of seemingly endless sensuality — the seduced will do anything, pay any price, to keep and hold on to her. Almost entirely an archetype of female seductress → male target, preying upon the male psyche and exploiting male libido in particular.

Here Greene makes in interesting insight that speaks very well to the current state of modern life in the global West:

…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 institution, and offered him the variety and the chase that he craved. Without any outlets, his drives turn inward and gnaw at him, becoming all the more volatile for being repressed.

In world where everything is curated, sanitized and safe, the Siren enters to provide that sensual, aloof, mysterious object that repressed male animal energy is urged to pursue. It is the fulfillment of male fantasy, easily packaged and sold to suit the target audience, the coomers and stans and incels of the burgeoning terminally online population. Social media is perfect for this. Even if pornography is restricted, the Siren is able to project a sexual presence, however artificial, and a mystery that cannot be touched with or without pushing against nudity taboos. The makeup, the voice, the artful presentation of feminine physicality, all crafted to enslave and profit.

A dangerous business, harnessing volatile and potentially aggressive tendencies into a mechanism of control, and The Siren remains in danger today, with parasocial stalkers prowling around to catch a glimpse or gain the attention of this sexual caricature at any and all costs to themselves and others. Being the Siren is extremely hazardous, as many throughout history (like Greene’s examples of Cleopatra & Marilyn Monroe, etc.) can attest. She’s an object revered and worshipped and we love to see her and hear her voice, but we also hate and fear her feminine power and influence.

e.g.:

  • Social media personalities such as Kaitlyn Siragusa aka Amouranth — not to single her out really, she’s just notably and very publicly good at it right now and pulls in a metric fuckton of money.
  • Elizabeth Taylor, which made her portrayal of Cleopatra absolutely unforgettable unless you’re a lost soul who has never seen Cleopatra (I will pray for you) or an idiot.
  • Kim Kardashian comes up a lot as some sort of Siren, she may fall into more categories as her reach in media is so pervasive and her image is very very physical. We’ll see.

The Rake

A woman never quite feels desired and appreciated enough. She wants attention, but a man is too often distracted and unresponsive.

For someone living in a conservative or rigid social station, it is natural to yearn to be free to explore the forbidden. The Rake is the devoted slave to his target’s desires, makes her believe that he lives and breathes only for her — he’s the fulfillment of the desire to explore the taboo. His power is his persistence — even if the object of his seduction is dismissive, The Rake soldiers on, breaking down her barriers to speak to that repressed sexual energy, yearning to be expressed and debased.

Here Angie brings up an interesting point: women have agency, and a ravenous sexual desire all their own. Many women can ruefully point the finger at the predations of a Rake in their past (or present) lives, regretful and even ashamed at giving in to the attention and raw sexual desire the Rake fulfills. Many more look at their time with a Rake with fondness and joy, a healthy part of youthful sexual exploration. I think that sometimes, ashamed at their behavior, the seduced deny categorically that they wanted to be seduced — making victims of themselves, robbed of their purity, their orgasms obtained through the use of fraud. It’s no surprise to me to see the term “grooming” become more and more frequently used when referring to women in their 20’s being seduced or fondled by older men.

How much of the “Me Too” movement is fueled by not just shame, but regret masked as victimization? Sexual abuse exists and is horrible, we should always confront and combat these crimes, but it is not a universal male tendency and if it is not a universal male tendency it is silly to assume that every accusation is credible, worthy of public ridicule and ruination. Many men can reflect on their past and see how they themselves may have been the Rake in their quest for ejaculation. Should we damn our youthful libido? Is The Puritan to finally prevail over The Libertine? A disturbing thought.

It should be noted that in the section of The Demonic Rake, Greene specifically mentions that the archetype of the Rake

…transcends gender, except in a few key areas where each gender has its own weakness.

He goes on to (correctly) reinforce that males are vulnerable to the visual, females to language and words. The Rake’s use of language is very important in understanding him, he persuades and flatters — he is The Snake in Eden that either destroyed us or saved us all. He is the Political Rake, the one who persuades the masses, with little need to say anything of substance because he knows that it’s “…the form that matters, not the content.” It doesn’t matter if he is dishonorable, disloyal, even notorious, that just becomes part of his mystique. He lives in the moment, and brings his victims there.

The Rake is almost entirely an aristocratic figure, one eternally at odds with traditional values. The working class can only get away with his antics without fear of social, political or physical violence with great difficulty and danger. The Rake lives to break traditional taboos like adultery, promiscuity, bigamy, even incest (Why Lord Byron, why?). Working class schmoes can only get away with one of those things with any surety, and fucking anything with a pulse has its own extreme hazards. The Rake’s excesses inspire insecurity and anger in men, and only the bourgeois can safely elevate itself from attack.

e.g.:

  • Johnny Depp, and various other rich celebrities being pilloried for sexual improprieties and abuses. It’s not as easy for the aristocratic Rake to get away openly with his shit these days, for good or ill. These people’s predicaments are not those of regular everyday people out there working and living their lives.
  • Hip hop culture is pervasive with Rake archetypes and uses the Rake aesthetic as part of its mass marketed culture. It’s a very powerful and popular part of its appeal which is not a little bit scary to think about.
  • The Rake is most every young gay man I’ve ever met. Bless them all in their efforts to wreck as many dicks as possible and to revel in their promiscuity. That’s not sarcasm either, they’re just being young males and males have a very aggressive sexuality. The male hunts.

The Ideal Lover

The Ideal Lover is the one that excels in providing what the victim is missing in their everyday humdrum life. The Ideal Lover is a master at marketing.

Most people have dreams in their youth that get shattered or worn down with age. They find themselves disappointed by people, events, reality, which cannot match their youthful ideals. Ideal Lovers thrive on people’s broken dreams, which become lifelong fantasies.

Adventure, fantasy, exploration, fulfillment, art, the Ideal Lover studies his targets and like a chameleon becomes what they need until he must inevitably, and memorably, depart.

Taken to the more abstract, The Ideal Lover as marketer can use very deep subconscious desires, especially in mass marketing. Phallic symbols abound — Freud is more relevant than people want to admit. This is enormously effective, as evidenced by successful marketing campaigns of all types, economic and political. The Ideal Lover doesn’t need to connect to our Freudian subconscious though, he can be more brazen than that and do just fine.

People have an aversion to who they are when they wake up and look in the mirror in the morning, they have a deep need to feel special and almost universally believe that they are more than they appear to be. They will project this in all manner of hilarious ways, claiming they are psychics, alien abductees (or aliens themselves), undiscovered artists/thinkers, prophets, [insert random arcane identity here], the list goes on and on. If you appeal to these secret ideals and hidden vanities with careful attention, you hold the key to someone’s heart and mind. This isn’t even sexual, it’s much deeper and more cynical than that. It manipulates more than base desires, targeting more sensitive narcissistic tendencies.

e.g.:

  • It is difficult to pinpoint any one person outside the literary for this archetype, which relies on shifting itself to fit whatever the object of seduction desires, however unconsciously. I point back to the Ideal Lover as being a master of marketing, and marketing is something that everyone does to one degree or another. It’s the scary side of marketing that The Ideal Lover warns us about: the marketing that is done in consultation with social psychologists.
  • People like Edward Bernais understood this manipulation very well. His life and work as presented in The Century of Self by Adam Curtis does a fine job in breaking down his methods.
  • There are many many examples and semi-mythical accounts of The Ideal Lover but my first thought was Val Kilmer in The Saint. The way he seduces the lady scientist uses the Casanova model exactly, he studies her, puts on some act, they hang out and she buys his act, he has an accident, she rushes to him, they get in bed, he steals her secrets and disappears leaving her with a memory of their beatific romance. If you haven’t seen The Saint you should, it’s Val Kilmer when he was still young and beautiful which is something all good people enjoy.

The sky is thin as paper here — Bringing my notes out of the margins