Everyone wears a mask in society; we pretend to be more sure of ourselves than we are. We do not want other people to glimpse that doubting self within us. In truth, our egos and personalities are much more fragile than they appear to be; they cover up feelings of confusion and emptiness. As a seducer, you must never mistake a person’s appearance for the reality. People are always susceptible to being seduced, because in fact everyone lacks a sense of completeness, feels something missing deep inside. Bring their doubts and anxieties to the surface and they can be led and lured to follow you. No one can see you as someone to follow or fall in love with unless they first reflect on themselves somehow, and on what they are missing. Before the seduction proceeds, you must place a mirror in front of them in which they glimpse that inner emptiness. Made aware of a lack, they now can focus on you as the person who can fill that empty space.
Remember: most of us are lazy. To relieve our feelings of boredom or inadequacy on our own takes too much effort; letting someone else do the job is both easier and more exciting. The desire to have someone fill up our emptiness is the weakness on which all seducers prey. Make people anxious about the future, make them depressed, make them question their identity, make them sense the boredom that gnaws at their life.
The ground is prepared. The seeds of seduction can be sown. Cleopatra got Julius Caesar to sleep with her the first night he met her, but the real seduction, the one that made him her slave, began later. In their ensuing conversations she talked repeatedly of Alexander the Great, the hero from whom she was supposedly descended. No one could compare to him. By implication, Caesar was made to feel inferior. Understanding that beneath his bravado Caesar was insecure, Cleopatra awakened in him an anxiety, a hunger to prove his greatness. Once he felt this way he was easily further seduced. Doubts about his masculinity was his tender spot.
When Caesar was assassinated, Cleopatra turned her sights on Mark Antony, one of Caesar’s successors in the leadership of Rome. Antony loved pleasure and spectacle, and his tastes were crude. She appeared to him first on her royal barge, then wined and dined and banqueted him. Everything was geared to suggest to him the superiority of the Egyptian way of life over the Roman, at least when it came to pleasure. The Romans were boring and unsophisticated by comparison. And once Antony was made to feel how much he was missing in spending his time with his dull soldiers and his matronly Roman wife, he could be made to see Cleopatra as the incarnation of all that was exciting. He became her slave.
This is the lure of the exotic. In your role of seducer, try to position yourself as coming from outside, as a stranger of sorts. You represent change, difference, a breakup of routines. Make your victims feel that by comparison their lives are boring and their friends less interesting than they had thought. Lawrence made his targets feel personally inadequate; if you find it hard to be so brutal, concentrate on their friends, their circumstances, the externals of their lives. There are many legends of Don Juan, but they often describe him seducing a village girl by making her feel that her life is horribly provincial. He, meanwhile, wears glittering clothes and has a noble bearing. Strange and exotic, he is always from somewhere else. First she feels the boredom of her life, then she sees him as her salvation. Remember: people prefer to feel that if their life is uninteresting, it not because of themselves but because of their circumstances, the dull people they know, the town into which they were born. Once you make them feel the lure of the exotic, seduction is easy.
Another devilishly seductive area to aim at is the victim’s past. To grow old is to renounce or compromise youthful ideals, to become less spontaneous, less alive in a way. This knowledge lies dormant in all of us. As a seducer you must bring it to the surface, make it clear how far people have strayed from their past goals and ideals. You, in turn, present yourself as representing that ideal, as offering a chance to recapture lost youth through adventure—through seduction. In her later years, Queen Elizabeth I of England was known as a rather stern and demanding ruler. She made it a point not to let her courtiers see anything soft or weak in her. But then Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, came to court. Much younger than the queen, the dashing Essex would often chastize her for her sourness. The queen would forgive him—he was so exuberant and spontaneous, he could not control himself. But his comments got under her skin; in the presence of Essex she came to remember all the youthful ideals—spiritedness, feminine charm—that had since vanished from her life. She also felt a little of that girlish spirit return when she was around him. He quickly became her favorite, and soon she was in love with him. Old age is constantly seduced by youth, but first the young people must make it clear what the older ones are missing, how they have lost their ideals. Only then will they feel that the presence of the young will let them recapture that spark, the rebellious spirit that age and society have conspired to repress.
This concept has infinite applications. Corporations and politicians know that they cannot seduce their public into buying what they want them to buy, or doing what they want them to do, unless they first awaken a sense of need and discontent. Make the masses uncertain about their identity and you can help define it for them. It is as true of groups or nations as it is of individuals: they cannot be seduced without being made to feel some lack. Part of John F. Kennedy’s election strategy in 1960 was to make Americans unhappy about the 1950s, and how far the country had strayed from its ideals. In talking about the 1950s, he did not mention the nation’s economic stability or its emergence as a superpower. Instead, he implied that the period was marked by conformity, a lack of risk and adventure, a loss of our frontier values. To vote for Kennedy was to embark on a collective adventure, to go back to ideals we had given up. But before anyone joined his crusade they had to be made aware of how much they had lost, what was missing. A group, like an individual, can get mired in routine, losing track of its original goals. Too much prosperity saps it of strength.
You can seduce an entire nation by aiming at its collective insecurity, that latent sense that not everything is what it seems. Stirring dissatisfaction with the present and reminding people about the glorious past can unsettle their sense of identity. Then you can be the one to redefine it—a grand seduction.