My Critique and Review of The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

Seduction is a skillset that is surprisingly legal. I had the unfortunate pleasure of being seduced for the first time in my life by someone a month ago called Finn. While my infatuation with him took two weeks and a lot of journalling to get over, he still lives rent-free in my mind. I set out to read The Art of Seduction because I wanted to avoid ever being in a similar situation again – one where I’ve lost complete control over my thoughts and desires. So below, I’ll first summarize the book, and then I’ll give my review of it (spoiler: it’s not positive).

The Art of Seduction has two parts, broadly speaking. In the first, he describes the eight different seductive archetypes. In the second, he describes the 24 steps of the seductive process. When reading through seductive process, I noticed that there was a lot of repetition between chapters.

The Seductive Process:

  1. The first step is to choose the right victim! Find someone who is susceptible to your seductions – just as in sales, you find people who want to buy. A successful victim is unlikely to be super busy (for they have no time for eros) or completely content (for they have no use for eros). They usually are unhappy or lonely or isolated in some manner. Watch as well how they make you feel. Good victims stir something within you as well – perhaps it’s a character trait that you want, or maybe you look up to them. I think Finn seduced me so well because I have a very theatrical imagination which gives intense opportunity to anyone who can captivate it by presenting themselves as a fantasy. I am also new to the city, so I don’t have very many friends here yet. I guess my isolation made me more susceptible to him.
  2. Approach them indirectly to undo their human suspicion. Generally, it’s better to haunt the periphery of their vision and imagination first than it is to go directly up to them and flirt. The goal here is to lower their guard and trust you. A stranger who walks right up to you and starts flirting is off-putting and suspicious, but someone who you see at the same parties, or someone who dresses spectacularly, or someone who has just rescued a damsel in distress, or someone who is a friend who is attentive and who listens, is someone who has broken down the initial wall of mistrust that applies to all strangers. From here, merely suggest, very subtly, that your relationship could become more sexual. For example, brush your hand against theirs, make a slightly suggestive comment. This will get them thinking of all the possibilities between you two. Finn had no real need to do this because he was at my party because a friend of a friend brought him. Parties already have the pretext of being places to pick people up, and I wanted to be a good host, so my initial hesitation was already lowered.
  3. Draw them in with intrigue and mystery. People are attracted to the mystery and depth in your character. If they feel that they can figure you out within a week, then they won’t be as interested. Being simple and straightforward isn’t seductive (it might be good, but it’s not seductive). Instead, the most seductive people have a contrast or paradox within their personality. Perhaps someone with boyish charms and looks has a cruel streak underneath that slightly peaks out. Oscar Wilde dressed and acted slightly feminine, but when people spoke with him, they realized that he was quite masculine. This contrast drew people in. Another one that works is being warm and affectionate physically, but cold and distanced in your voice. Perhaps if you’re analytic, you could dress and appear as if you are wild and unpredictable. And if you’re principled and charismatic, you should hint that you have impulses that test you – otherwise people suspect you’re a hypocrite and too good to be true. I kind of screwed myself over here with Finn because I had already decided that we would never work out together within ~30 minutes of being around him. He was too left leaning and way out of my league – so I thought that I should keep my hopes down. That’s why his flirting was so effective – it completely reversed my thoughts of him.
  4. Let them know that you’re in demand and special. Someone with a beautiful face is attractive, but good looks don’t make you nearly as attractive as having other people finding you attractive. To do this, try to get multiple people (or even just one) to pursue you at the same time so that you broadcast to the one you truly want that you’re desired by many. Anything becomes more valuable than when everyone wants it. If you don’t/can’t do this, you can create a reputation for being attractive that proceeds you, or you can hint at other people’s past conquests of you. To seem more special, you can also anchor them. If you strength is your humour, get them talking with the most boring person in the room, and then crack jokes with them right after. If you’re super attractive, visit them with your ugliest friends right beside you. The contrast will heighten your perceived virtues. I might’ve screwed myself over here with Finn. Our mutual friend told me something very personal about him that he had seen, something that’s very uncommon but which is very alluring.
  5. Be the solution to their insecurities, which you remind them of. People who are satisfied can’t be seduced, so you’ve got to remind them of their insecurities and of what’s missing in their life. For example, Julius Cesar was insecure about his greatness, so Cleopatra spent a lot of time telling him about how she was a descendant of Alexander the Great. This provoked his insecurities. This is, of course, pretty psychopathic, and it reminds me of the mate guarding which David Buss mentions in his book, Why Men Behave Badly. Males who know they’re not very valuable but who get with a great women will often use violence and words to bring down her self-esteem so that she doesn’t remember that she can do better than him. So if you want to avoid using the tactic of a weak and insecure person here, don’t go for their insecurities. Just go for the things they’re missing in their life. Perhaps they’re missing some adventure in their life; you could point out how great adventure novels are. You could also be charming at this stage to addict them to your compliments, which Disraeli did. Lastly, you could also bring up insecurities by going straight for it and being very direct with your issues with them, but this is very unlikely to work. Depends on the person. I realize now that I was doing half of the work for Finn because I was already insecure about my looks – looking at him, someone super attractive, was making me insecure. As a result, every compliment that he sent my way soothed and solved my insecurities. What’s important then is to be aware of what you are insecure about so that you know who you’ll feel insecure around, and thus pay extra attention to how they make you feel about it.
  6. Speak between the lines. Here, you’re planting seeds in their minds that you have something else on your mind, other than whatever you’re talking about. Be suggestive. This’ll plant seeds in their minds about the two of you.
  7. Make them feel special now by focusing all of your attention on them. It’s flattering. You can also “mirror” their ideals and interests, but only for a short time.
  8. Tempt them. Ask yourself what it is that you can dangle in front of them, but never give them, to create the most intense longing possible. Everyone has an inner child that wants something but can’t have it. Tempt them by letting them know that you can give it to them. It might also be something they’re repressing, or something they’re fleeing from. Make yourself a prize to be won. I’ll admit that I fell for Finn because I everyone wants to sleep with someone who’s super hot and quite out of their league. And I also wanted to know about the personal thing that our mutual friend had mentioned. These temptations I think were a desire to know him – and a desire that most guys on grindr know well – how big is he? The curiosity is enough to drive you crazy.
  9. Surprise them. The initial flattery and seduction starts to wear off. Surprising them, with flowers, or a little “spontaneous” journey, or a small gift, or save a damsel in distress, and you’ll rejuvenate things and capture them even more.
  10. Flatter them to manipulate them. When you speak, don’t think about what’s true or genuine. Think instead about what will cause the most delight and pleasure, what can give the most validation. And speak of great emotions as well to make them believe in something bigger and grand.
  11. Pay attention to details – details about their outfit, about their place, about everything. The more you focus on the smaller things, the slower things go, the more attentive you seem, and the more their senses get attuned to the finer delights.
  12. Stir a bit of doubt in their mind after your initial interest to let them know strongly that you’re scarce. And don’t overexpose yourself! Let their fantasies run wild, and don’t show them how ordinary or boring you are. Finn didn’t share much about himself, and I ended up projecting my fantasies onto him, notwithstanding all of the red flags that I had seen in him.
  13. Disarm them through weakness and vulnerability. Kind of seems like a repeat of step two, but deeper on in the process. If you reveal your emotions around them, if you’re honest or confess some of your darker sides, then they trust you more, feel more secure, and also feel superior (which judging you does). “A person’s vulnerability, what they seem to be unable to control, is often what is most seductive about them.” But don’t overdo it! Be subtle. Reveal a weakness to hide your other manipulations.
  14. Role play with them, push them into a fantasy, like a journey, where they live out their deepest yearnings. To make this easier, pick people who have fantasies that they haven’t lived out yet.
  15. Isolate the victim. Do this physically, in that you take them to places which they’re not familiar with but that you are. And do this psychologically, in that you should lure them away from family and friends – people who care for them and aren’t swayed by your seduction. And isolate them from their past lovers too, so that you become incomparable to all of the other ones. To do this, hold their attention and focus, and perhaps even poke at old wounds to compare yourself with.
  16. Prove yourself. Skin in the game. Go out of your way to take spontaneous action to impress them. Be dramatic. Expose the pain and effort an action you’re taking has. Be the gallant night. Prickly behaviour can often be a test to see how much they want you. Take risks here to prove your love. People often use cynicism to cover up insecurity. If they start doubting and suspecting you, then you need to pivot and make a grand gesture of trustworthiness to make it up to them. It’s also part of the male desire to prove himself. And keep what your victim finds impressive in the front of your mind – otherwise they might just see you as showing off.
  17. The erotic regression. Get them to feel like they’re a child again – dependent, emotional, and protected – and they’ll transfer the emotions of love that they had for their parents onto you. To do this, talk about your childhood. If you can find what your target didn’t get from childhood, you have a potent seduction on your hands. There are four types of regressions. What they have in common is that they give you what you really want.
  18. Stir up the transgressive and taboo. Taboos make you insatiably curious. You always want to go to the place you’re not allowed to. Go there with your lover. Break taboos with them. Shared guilt and complicity creates a powerful bond.
  19. Bring things up to the spiritual level. Make it seem as if they’re partaking in something grand, bigger, and timeless.
  20. Mix pleasure with pain. After a while, kindness and flattery gets boring. Mix it up by getting painful, maybe poke at their insecurities or the things that make them uncomfortable. Flatter, poke, flatter, poke, on and on.
  21. Now, let them pursue you! After they’ve overcome their doubts about you, you can pull back to let them come after you. Only do this once you’re confident that they’re falling. They might even know that you’re pulling back because you want them to pursue you, but they’ll still go along with it anyways, because they’re enjoying the ride. If you successfully pull back, they’ll start questioning what they did to cause it, and then will try hard to think about how they can change their behaviour to get you back again.
  22. Use physical lures. Ooze sex. And use your body to communicate that you want them – don’t use your words.
  23. Master the art of the bold move.
  24. Cut things off quickly.

My Critique of the Book:

There are five big issues with the book. The first and most impactful is that it’s written by a voyeur. This leads to two other issues: it’s unclear, and it reads as if written for a psychopath. The last two issues are that it’s quite repetitive, and that it’s written for heterosexuals.

When I say that the book was written by a voyeur, I mean that it was written by someone who is not a practitioner. He doesn’t mention his own experiences seducing people, or those of seducers he knows who are still alive. Instead, he reads old novels, auto-biographies, and history tomes to extrapolate the behaviours of seducers. Then he puts down the patterns that he sees on paper. Books written by practitioners are infinitely better because they will share how they did something, instead of how something is done. What would have been better was if he explained how you could develop a seductive personality, just like Marilyn Monroe. How do you learn what type of seducer you are, for example? How do you develop a style of fashion that causes intrigue and contrast? Next, half of the examples that he use are fictional! He’s pulling from old French romances. He should have instead analyzed more contemporary examples of seduction, like James Bond or movies more generally. And the third issue with books written by voyeurs is that they can only be put into practice by psychopaths.

To a voyeur, seductive people appear to be carefully controlled and calibrated characters who are intentional and instrumental with every single word and action that they utter. But such self control and direction is something accomplished only by a psychopath. Greene’s way to describe seducers reflects this. For example, he says that they “create a personality/vision/appearance….” rather than that they have a personality/vision/appearance.” And with regards to the charge of psychopathy, he refers to the seduced as your “victim.” He also says that “the key is to see words as a tool not for communicating true thoughts and feelings but for confusing, delighting, and intoxicating.” (pg. 270). This book was either written for psychopaths, or just by someone who sees seduction as intrinsically psychopathic.

The voyeurism also leads to a lack of clarity in the steps. For example, take step 8. The goal says that you should tempt someone, and that you can do this by finding out what they’re fleeing from, or what they secretly repress or long for. But once you suspect you know what this is, then what?! What is the connection between someone’s deep desire and what you should do with it? This is a book thick with strategy but sorely missing some logistics. And as the saying goes, amateurs talk strategy, and professionals talk logistics. Voyeurs don’t know how to do stuff, only what to do (if at all).

Next, the book is quite repetitive. He uses the same examples and people over and over again. For example, he mentions Napoleon and John F. Kennedy in Chapters . If he was planning on focusing on only a few people, then he should’ve made the book a case study of how they seduced people. From a more abstract level, the steps are quite repetitive too! It’s actually more apt to describe them as tools to use depending on your relationship with your target. Greene uses a combination of “find what they wanted most in childhood,” “create contrast in your character, your words, and your actions,” “be subtle with everything!” over and over again to describe how to 1) move towards the right person 2) get them interested, and 3) get them hooked. Worst of all, these steps should be different for the different archetypes – I’ve noticed that different steps pull from different archetypes, something which was quite frustrating to read. It would have been better if he wrote down unique steps for each archetype! This all gave me the impression that it was a poorly written book. Now I’m wondering how he could possibly know that Cleopatra talked with Julius Cesar about Alexander the Great while they were in bed together, or how he knows that that she purposefully went and greeted Marc Antony with a lavish boat because she wanted to make him feel insecure about his lack of sophistication. It’s a low quality, poorly written book.

The last issue is that it’s written for straight men. This is a forgivable issue – after all, I’d bet that 95% of the people who read through this book are straight men, and that niching down lets you write a book that people will actually buy. But it would have been nice if he had provided a bibliography for “further reading” of books about seductresses, and about gay men and lesbians who were seductive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *