Modern Love Advice From History's Great Seductresses

  • The dating game is no walk in the park for women these days. As if the babe competition isn't tough enough and Mr. Right more elusive than ever, there are few operating instructions. Women, according to a recent Loveawake dating site study, are seeking "love without guidance" -- or the wrong guidance -- except retro how-tos and a sleazy Victoria's Secret model of seduction. What love advice, if any, can we get from the seductresses of the past?

    A lot, it turns out. History's greatest enchantresses, women who ravished and captured quality men, knew a long-forgotten secret of fascination. From Cleopatra to the present, they practiced an almost identical love craft that's powerful, smart, and based on a timeless system of erotic artistry. And it's full of surprises.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise is the relative unimportance of looks. Though beauty may jump-start male interest, it doesn't fire the jets. To inspire real desire you need what the seductresses had: character, swank, and love smarts. The incomparable Josephine Baker, for example, couldn't have been plainer (buckteeth and a boyish build), but she understood passion.


    Love is imaginative drama: life and selfhood revved up. When seductresses described themselves, they boldfaced idiosyncrasies -- defects and all -- and strutted their stuff: "I've got sagging breasts and a low-slung ass," said one, "but I [have] a very high opinion of myself." And they didn't wait by the phone; they put it out there. Remember, "Venus favors the bold."

    But how did they make sparks fly? To a woman, they all used the same erotic modus operandi. Chemistry, they knew, had less to do with appearance than mental magic. Which is not to say that they neglected sensuous turn-on's. On the love path, they deployed physical lures for maximum impact. They punched up fashion, body language, settings and the music of their voices.

    Cerebral charms, though, are where the action is. Every seductress worth her stag line put the big money on mind spells, the most important branch of the traditional love arts. When a fascinator like Pauline Viardot worked the voodoo of her personality on men, no one could resist this "very ugly" nineteenth-century opera diva, including Ivan Turgenev, the literary Brad Pitt of his day.

    She sparkled with warmth and life, massaged egos, dispensed TLC, released inhibitions, threw delicious parties, and talked "like a princess." As an aphrodisiac, nothing beats the sorcery of conversation, especially spiked with wit. After all, Aphrodite is the "laughter loving goddess."

    If the mind is the supreme erogenous zone, the key to love madness is emotion-in-motion. This means that after the first flare of attraction, the flames have to dance. Seductresses stoked desire into a passion through a continuous interplay of elate and sedate, delight and difficulty, intimacy and mystery. From day one, they kept it bubblin', as the rappers say. They spun men's imaginations like a top, traded in surprise and difficulty, and weren't afraid of the "no" word. Men don't want another over-easy pleaser, they want to labor for love. They want a one-in-a-million somebody who keeps them entranced, interested, and on their toes.

    This translates into a green light for today's women -- permission to junk pretty power propaganda and dial up the clout within. The seductresses and their timeless arts provide the roadmap. It's the oldest -- and still the best -- route to romantic conquest. It's just a matter of copping some courage and love wisdom, peeling out, and plucking the best man or men: ladies' choice.