Is all seduction manipulation? Is there a right and a wrong way of seducing someone?

 By Nick Hayward.

Plato and Socrates were clear on love. There is common (pandemotic) love and there is heavenly (ouranian) love – carnal desire versus desire for the transcendental. The former, says the Symposium, is the kind of end to which seduction should not be directed. Seducers pursuing nothing but sex are the deceptive ones, manipulative, base and trapped in the cave. Love is not of a particular body or a particular thing, but rather it is the Idea of love that so many lovely things partake in. It is more virtuous to pursue this Idea (and forsake the pursuit of sexual gratification) or to inspire others (through seduction) to pursue the Idea in your step.


And Plato and Socrates also had some very practical advice for the seducer. In the Lysis, Socrates savages Hippothales, who does nothing but flatter his beloved with songs and poetry. Flattery only sets you up for a fall, he says. What you really need to do is humble your lover, take the wind out of their sails – bring them down a notch. Then they’re all yours. Socrates’ humbling of Lysis, the object of Hippothales’ affection, takes the form of a questioning, an elenctic examination. Socrates doesn’t just want Lysis to feel humbled, he wants him to feel like he knows nothing – he wants to start him on the path to philosophy and the pursuit of Ideas.


I argue that this advice – to humble your beloved instead of flattering them – has been twisted and taken to an extreme by the modern ‘seduction community’, the ‘pick-up artists’ who apparently live for little other than seduction and sex. One of the techniques advocated by this fraternity, called ‘negging’, is a subtle humbling intended to take a woman down a notch (‘great nails…are they real?’) The seduction community freely trades insults and one-liners of this sort, and sees their success as vindication of a cynical, misogynistic attitude towards the opposite sex. But they miss the point. It is never right to put someone down in order to satisfy your own (sexual) desires. Socrates, however, suggests that it might be right to put someone down in order to have them realize how little they know.


And there is more advice to be found in Plato. Towards the end of the Symposium, Alcibiades bursts into the dinner-party, drunk and belligerent. He tells the other symposiasts of the time he failed to seduce Socrates: his entreaties, his wining and dining, his embarrassment. Alcibiades talks about the nature of his desire to partake in Socrates’ virtue by seducing and having sex with him. We find, however, that this desire is perhaps not so genuine. Alcibiades finds it easy to revert to the apathetic mean and fall in with the masses when he cannot acquire virtue simply by gratifying a virtuous man. The lesson here is that the conflation of lust and love is misleading. The only way to become a better person or to pursue the Idea of love is to examine yourself, to commit to the path of philosophy. Sex and seduction are not and cannot be ends in themselves. Again, the seduction community misses the point.


Of course, all the contentions above can be vigorously challenged. Is it really virtuous to manipulate someone towards an end of your choosing? (Such as the pursuit of a Platonic Idea.) Can you ever escape carnal desire? Maybe all conversation is persuasion. If so, where do you draw the line between persuasion and manipulation? Just what is manipulation, and what is seduction? Socrates was perhaps a tad overmodest. How can a man who claims to know nothing know that it is right to humble others? (…for the sake of philosophy?) The seduction community began as a rarefied meat-market. Was it so bad then? Is there a problem with people enjoying the seduction game? What is the nature of the power relation between seducer and seductee?


9 responses to “Is all seduction manipulation? Is there a right and a wrong way of seducing someone?

  1. You know, it’s always struck me that the less secure the preacher the more they preach…especially when it comes to affairs of the heart. I can’t count how many young, insecure and inexperienced guys I’ve met who not only have all the answers but are also keen to let me know that they do! Maybe Socrates was one of these chaps?

    Oh, and, in case you didn’t notice it, I was (subtly?) negging you Nick. You know what comes next…

  2. Ah, but your negging ignores the possibility that I had _already_ fallen for your masculine charms. Way to read my signals…gosh

  3. What can I do? You’re so into me I’m just playing with you now.

    (To keep this post philosophically relevant) do you then disagree that humiliation is necessary for seduction?


  5. Perhaps ‘humiliation’ is not “necessary” in seduction. But based on the definition and etiology of the word “seduce” one might easily argue that “deception” certainly is a key ingredient of seduction.

    se·duce –    /sɪˈdus, -ˈdyus/ [si-doos, -dyoos]
    –verb (used with object), -duced, -duc·ing.
    1. to lead astray, as from duty, rectitude, or the like; to corrupt.
    2. to persuade or induce to have sexual intercourse.
    3. to lead or draw away, as from principles, faith, or allegiance: He was seduced by the prospect of gain.
    4. to win over; attract; entice: a supermarket seducing customers with special sales.
    Origin: 1470–80; < Latin sēdūcere to lead aside, equivalent to sē- se- + dūcere to lead; replacing earlier seduise < Middle French < Latin, as above

    —Synonyms – 1. beguile, inveigle, decoy, allure, lure, deceive. See tempt.

    And to deceive another person is to prompt intentional concealment or commit perversion of truth for the purpose of misleading that person. And, it would seem that in skillful seduction there involves the qualities of guile and craftiness in the use of deceit to attain one's ends with the pretense of sincerity and honesty, goodness, devotion, etc. An intentional pretense is an hypocrisy which seeks to derive benefit at another's expense – through falseness: And falseness is being not in accord with the facts or not in accord with the truth – and it is lying.

    Even though lying is usually harmful, it can be posited that there are reasons for lying that are more acceptable than others. Some of these reasons might include saving a life and being in a crisis in which the best choice may appear to be to lie.

    The question becomes, I believe, a question of intent. There are several reasons why people lie. Liars believe that lies give them an edge. They think they can manipulate a situation in their favor by lying, and they often believe that they will avoid consequences by lying. Can you lie to someone without using explicitly humiliating remarks or comments? – A person may not perceive a manipulative and deceitful seduction as being humiliating – perceiving it rather as sincere affection, attraction, "romance", flattery or admiration … and may even quite happily be enchanted under the spell of a soul-less seduction for quite some time. But, more often than not, like most lyers, dis-honest seducers do get caught in their web of deceptions. Trust is critical to the foundation of a relationship between two people, as is respect. Exposed lyers are rarely considered respectful, if ever. And lyers are expected to lie again.

    The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that lying was always morally wrong. He argued that all persons are born with an "intrinsic worth" that he called human dignity. This dignity derives from the fact that humans are uniquely rational agents, capable of freely making their own decisions, setting their own goals, and guiding their conduct by reason. To be human, said Kant, is to have the rational power of free choice; to be ethical, he continued, is to respect that power in oneself and others.

    Lies are morally wrong, then, for two reasons. First, lying corrupts the most important quality of my being human: my ability to make free, rational choices. Each lie I tell contradicts the part of me that gives me moral worth. Second, my lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally. When my lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, I have harmed their human dignity and autonomy. Is that a humiliation? And, as "humiliation" is defined as: A lowering in or deprivation of character or self-esteem – Read more: – certainly, then, one might defensibly equate an intentional act that harms your human dignity and autonomy as being an act of humiliation. Kant believed that to value ourselves and others as ends instead of means, ( or as "things" to be manipulated instead of "people") we have perfect duties (i.e., no exceptions) to avoid damaging, interfering with, or misusing the ability to make free decisions; in other words – no lying.

    Kids learn early that words (an truth) can be manipulated, and doing so to manipulate another person is seduction – and lying (manipulation/seduction) becomes a habit that spans into adulthood.

    Seduction is like an emotional ambush, and the consequences can be devastating. However – Seduction, seen negatively, involves temptation and enticement, often sexual in nature, to lead someone astray into a behavioural choice they would not have made if they were not in a state of sexual arousal. Seen more positively, seduction is a synonym for the act of charming someone — male or female — by an appeal to the senses, often with the goal of reducing unfounded fears and leading to their (sexual) emancipation.

    The seducing agent may even be nonhuman, such as music or food. In contemporary academic debate, therefore, the morality of seduction depends on the long-term impacts on the individuals concerned, rather than the act itself, and may not necessarily carry the negative connotations expressed in dictionary definitions.

    But, again, I go back to the question of intent – and mindfulness… behind seduction.

    Maybe some "types" of seduction could be more thought of as a demonstrative type of communication having the intention of rational argument. For example, by sending your love flowers and chocolates, serenading them from their balcony by moonlight, and so on, your intent may be that of honest and respectful communication – of trying to send the message that you really are a sensitive, romantic person who values their happiness. In that case, rather than deceiving, your intent is to display some normally non-visible inner quality.

    Is an honest respectful communication of your feelings for someone whether romantic or not – really just one type of "seduction"?

    My experience leads me to the understanding that seduction differs from honest communication in that most seductive ploys involve "promises" that are not clearly stated.

    And an important part of the seduction process is the nature of the relationship in which the seduction takes place.

    Seduction is not a marketplace transaction where the "buyer" and "seller" are equals and implicit ground rules exist of "buyer beware". In the marketplace, a shrewd trade is not considered a seduction or swindle.

    In a business transaction – swindlers are called "con" artists, because they first obtain their victim's "con"fidence and then manipulate that confidence in order to "con"trol the outcome of a deception for some gain – at the other's expense. Likewise, in any seduction there must first be an establishment of confidence or trust – in order to achieve control of the other person and "get something" from them. Seduction, is about "control", and the need for control is almost always grounded in feelings of powerlessness and fear – the fear of feeling humiliation at being rejected or your entreaties denied.

    Seduction, then, almost always involves betrayal – a power-play behind a facade of trust with intent to control another person's behavior… and humiliation, it seems, does play a significant role in seduction – the seducer's fear of humiliation – if not also the inevitable feelings of being betrayed and humiliated felt by the person who discovers or becomes aware of the seduction.

    Obviously, a person who is true to themselves and confident with themselves and their inner feelings would not feel the need to seduce another person if they simply wanted a sexual relationship with – or without love.

    Seductors, then, are focused on their own self interests but with no sense of the true value of their own self, self expression, dignity and integrity – With feelings of being unlovable – or of being "less than" in some way – and fearful of being humiliated by rejection… they seek to control others through misleading promises to gain what it is they perceive they need to feel lovable and whole. Humiliation is a thread in the web of seduction.

  6. Gran Información . Qué suerte la mía Encontré su sitio por casualidad
    ( stumbleupon ) . que he libro marcó para más tarde!

  7. I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit
    this blog on regular basis to take updated from most up-to-date reports.

  8. ¡Saludos! Muy útil consejos dentro de esta mensaje ! Son los pequeños cambios que hacen el más grande .
    Muchas gracias por compartir!

  9. Seduction is more Machiavellian, i.e. the end justifies the means. Or in the words of Malcolm X; “By whatever means necessary.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s