Seductresses: Book Summary & Review

seductresses cover

“Seductresses” (2004) is a dating book for women which presents and analyzes notable and very different women who had nonetheless one thing in common: they had their way with men.
Prioleau, the author, says that many seductresses were successful in spite they lacked youth or beauty, and they all proved that it’s a myth and a lie that women must be demure and feminine to win at life -including with men-.
In this book, Prioleau chronicles the seductresses’ exploits while examining what is it that made them successful.

About the Author

Betsy Prioleau holds a Ph.D. in literature from Duke University, was an associate professor at Manhattan College, and taught cultural history at New York University.
She is also the author of “Swoon“, the equivalent of “Seductresses”, but for male seducers.


Seductress: A Definition

Prioleau defines “seductress” as:

A powerful fascinator able to get and keep the men of her choice, men who are good for her. Rarely discarded or two-timed, she successfully combines erotic supremacy with personal and vocational achievement.

Later on, she says, “seductresses are in fact the liberated woman incarnate” and “futuristic women of female entitlement: independent operators, pleasure claimers, terroristas of traditional femininity, and big, classy divas”.

That definition, says the author, removes some famous but fake seductresses such as the “eaten and colonized” Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Harriman, and “gofers to male genius” such as Alma Mahler.

My Note:

I’m not necessarily convinced Monroe should be left out.
As much as she seemed indeed lost and dependent, she also achieved much in her life and certainly populated many men’s dreams.
The author seems to favor a definition of “seductress” that is “independent” along with the feminist style and preference, which sometimes means more “masculine” in its expression.
That’s cool, seduction can also include those women. But it shouldn’t exclude women who don’t fit that mold.

Seduction is about men wanting more a woman.
Whether the woman also seeks, craves, or simply also wants an emotional and/or stable connection with those men does not cancel out the seductive charge she might possess.

From more on the specific case of Monroe also see:

12 Seductress “Weapons”

Prioleau divides the tools of seduction into “physical” and “psychological”:

Physical Arts

The physical alone can’t hold a man under eternal spell and the psychological side is also needed.
However, the two aren’t pitched one against another, and the physical is also important.

  • Dress / ornament

Seductresses dressed for parade, with look-at-me excess and over-the-top opulence.

  • Cosmetics / Hygiene

Except for a possible impact of pheromones, body odor didn’t usually do too well in seduction.

The goddess’s votaries steeped themselves in costly spices, gums, and aromatic woods and burned incense to their deity.

  • Setting

Seductresses arranged their spaces to awe, delight, and fascinate.

To take advantage of the connection between the pleasure of food and the pleasure of sex, some seductresses laid excellent tables and served the choicest, most aphrodisiacal cuisine.
My personal advice is to have fruits, which tend to last longer and have a stronger link to sex.
Also jars of refined butters are good and of course, good wines.

Some of them also had pets including gazelles, monkeys, squadrons of cats, and, in one case, a grizzly bear.

My Note: Watch out for pet smells!
If you have cats, watch out for the smell! Cat owners get used to it, but some houses with cats stink to the high heavens.
I did have a girl with a beautiful Persian cat though and the place always smelled good, so it’s possible to do it.

Flowers are also great.

  • Music / Dance / Body Language

Women in the business of fascination learn how to hold the floor, to move with grace, style, rhythm, and slam dunk sensuality.

  • Sexpertise

Many of the world’s seductresses were “raunchy sexperts”, says the author.
Also, it seems to me, they owned their sexuality rather than being scared or embarrassed by it.

Psychological Arts

Sex originates in the mind, says the author.

  • Obstruction, Difficulty, Anxiety

Anxiety is the “food of love”; pain, its spice.

  • Maternal Nurture, Intimacy

At the same time that anxiety and pain stoke love, men also require “the primal gratifications of the great goddess”. “Mother love underpins all desire”, says the author.

However, there is a caveat: it cannot be too much, as men also fear engulfment and annihilation from, I suppose, an overbearing female figure.

So the seductresses played the mother role through a balancing act: intimacy, TLC, but also accompanied with non-maternal sizzle.

  • Ego Enhancement

Everyone seeks an ego boost, and seductresses deliver it.

However, there is an important caveat here:

The lover must be a winner, which explains why the praises of toadies and errand girls never work as their mothers promised. Only the applause of valued people carries any value.

This was a very smart observation by Prioleau, and something you need to keep in mind.
The same applies to judge power dynamics, and to leadership, by the way.

  • Conversation, Comedy

It’s a myth that men only love women who laugh at their jokes.
Men also love women who can liven the mood, and be great conversational (sparring) partners.

Renaissance courtesans studied bel parlare (seductive speech) as assiduously as lute playing and bedcraft and reviled “dumb of mouth” whores.

  • Festivity, Nonrepression

Men long for the release of social constraint, of being able to let go in ecstatic abandon.

Seductresses were mistresses of misrule, carnival queens who cast off repressive shackles and declared a public holiday.

  • Vitality, Plentitude, Androgyny

The “joie de vivre” is the goddess’ “yes energy” that gives birth to life -and to heaven and earth-.

And how about androgyny?
Says the author:

the primordial sex deity personified life energy and totality, including the union of both sexes, seductresses played up their ultravitality, inner plentitude, and androgyny. The lure of gender synthesis, with its “superabundance of erotic possibilities,” exerts a potent fascination on the libido.

There are indeed some interesting quotes in the book of men who felt alive with the seductress.
For example, Alexandre Manceau says that “I have laughed more, cried more, lived more than in all the thirty-three preceding them. . . . What a joy!”.

  • Impact, Drama

Whatever her main tool for seduction was, the seductress “souped it up”.

Says Prioleau:

The grandes amoureuses were doyennes of dazzle, showboaters, and scene stealers.

Even love that lasts needs wake-up calls to stave off satiety and boredom.

My Note: More of the seductive qualities

In my opinion, what I’ve noticed across most of the successful seductresses and that the author did not include in her list:

  • Excess
  • Skills
  • Talent
  • Drive / ambition
  • Narcissism / self-absorption / Dark Triad / power-hungry

Some of these women were more rather masculine in their attitudes.

You can see that both in a positive or negative way.

Some were driven, confident, and focused on their life, passion, or goals of personal achievements.

Many of them weren’t “family women”, but were extraordinary, in one way or another.
It’s that something exceptional that made them transcend the canonical traits that women are evaluated on, including beauty, age, and “nurturing qualities”.

Some of these women had sky-high self-esteem, with a strong belief in themselves and in their capability.
Sometimes, it was a belief that was objectively nonsense, which is a trait that some psychopaths share (Kiehl, 2014).
For example, describing Jane Digby:

Throughout old age Jane lost none of her thrill fever and magisterial swerve. After watching a Bedouin sword dance, she said, “If I chose, I could surpass them all in fire and agility.”

Some of these women were braggart and dominant.
Germaine de Staël said:

“Monsieur I understand everything that deserves to be understood and what I do not understand is nothing.”

That type of bravado is something that only cocksure, dominant men would say. And men who are probably a bit emotionally insecure of course, but that’s also typical of men: women are far more comfortable with the vulnerability of “not knowing”, which again tells me this woman was rather masculine in her attitude.
Germaine also bragged of her “body count”, which again is a very male thing -and a rather cheap one at that, let alone for women-.
And Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin said that what drove her to write was sexual conquest.

Many of these women weren’t just alpha females, but were specular equivalents of alpha men, and sometimes even very masculine in their lifestyle and general attitude. They craved success, fame, and recognition.

Louis Salome’ might have been among the notable exceptions here, as her exceptional quality was to give exceptional attention to men (such as Nietzche).
These men weren’t used to anyone listening, and caring about their work as deeply as Salome’ did, and that made them hooked to Salome’.

And there is one last element:

  • Move within upper society

Many top seductresses were “socialites”, which basically means partying, hobnobbing, traveling, and dating the rich and famous.
You can’t be a top seductress and getting the most out of life if you’re seducing bums and nine to fivers.

And when they were prostitutes, they weren’t prostitutes, but “courtesans”, catering to the wealthy and powerful.

You don’t need them all

You don’t need every single item in the above list.

Says Prioleau:

Lou Andreas-Salomé, for instance, hated music and cosmetics, Eva Perón lacked a sense of humor, and Martha Gellhorn and Grace Hartigan refused to mother men. Seduction is an art, not a science, requiring different mixes for different men and a fingertip feel for mood, timing, and hidden tastes.

6 Seductresses Archetypes: Busting All Conventions

Some seductresses were beautiful, but some bust all conventions and seduced as older women, adventurers, and with average or even below average looks.

Some of the traits they shared also go against the wisdom of what’s attractive, including androgyny, and noncomformity.
And what made them special were supravitality and self-actualization.

The author divides “Seductresses” into 6 chapters with several examples of women that “busted” those myths.
They are:

  1. Nonbeauties: plenty of seductresses were plain, and yet seduced effectively. They knew that seduction and love is an illusionist game of imagination, and went big into all other physical appeals such as dance, gesture, music, voice, settings, and hot sex. A plain or unattractive body might even be an advantage as it shocks the senses while the seductress wins the heart
  2. Seniors: “age didn’t deter seductresses from reeling in the most desired men of their times”. To their advantage, they have a fully developed character, confidence, an enriched mind, sexual freedom and experience, maternal mana, status, money, and a what-the-hell closing time joie de vivre. Senior seductresses have faced backlash both from men -who resent their post-reproductive freedom to fornicate like men-, and from women, who see them as a threat to their hegemony -and reproductive needs-
  3. Intellectuals: “feminists as diverse as Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer agree that you can’t get a man with a brain. Yet the real manslayers were smart cookies with big mouths”. They did not submerge themselves into a “Great Man”, but pursued their own agenda (note: I only partially agree with this one, some of those women also supported great men while doing their own things, and seldom I felt like they reached the same heights of the best men of their times). Relationships were more among equals, and they were always ready to move on
  4. Artists (not muses): “rather than decorative, passive, compliant muses, they wrote their own books and lit their own creative fires”. “With typical reciprocity, they delivered as much inspiration as they received”. They were artists and lived in excesses, sometimes trampling many social values such as home, motherhood, honesty, and modesty.

And two “commanda types”:

  1. Governmental leaders: The Machtweiber -(German for “vamp-politicas”- demolish the satanic boss lady stereotypes, winning men and governing with equal proficiency.
    There are three types:
    1. Absolute monarchs
    2. Divine ordainers who support male ruling
    3. Revolutionary activists
  2. Adventurers: rakish adventures that most male fear, but that many other men fall for. These are the type of women most likely to desert their homes and neglect their children but, the author says, men fall hard for the women on the loose.

My Note: leaders and adventurers least successful
of the group and based on the proposed examples, the leaders and adventurers seemed the relatively least successful of the group.
Possibly, it was also because they were also the least interested in seducing, and more focusing on living their own lives.

… Seductresses Follow the Same Erotic Strategies

Says the author:

Just as strikingly, they followed similar erotic strategies. These, I discovered, mirrored the historic ars amatoria.

In truth, my opinion on what they did and which worked differ from the author.
This review will be a mix of the author’s point of view, and mine.

If old seductresses looked at today’s women, says the author, they would marvel at how many rights they have.
But they’d be disappointed at women’s courage today, and their approach to seduction. She says:

Seduction demands spunk and “daimonic assertion.” “Venus favors the bold!” Next they’d urge us to boost our self-esteem and get high, mighty, and magnificent. And, of course, to discover our genitals (…) Finally they’d advise us to tune out the pretty-power propaganda and dial up the neglected psychological arts. They’d direct us to libraries instead of (or along with) gyms, to acting classes, to metacharm schools—whatever it takes to invade men’s heads again

Notable Seductresses: Examples

There are many historical examples in the book.

I will pick here some of the most significant, giving preference to the ones who:

  • Have a picture
  • Have a more reliable biography to cross-check the veracity of the claims

Isabella Stewart Gardner

Yet this homely woman with a sad-sack, lusterless face had a serious “way with men.” Not only did she hook Boston’s prize catch, Jack Gardner, who idolized her throughout their long marriage, but she attracted a permanent Praetorian guard of strapping bluebloods and prominent artists.

Her secret weapon, says the author, was her vitality.

The rich, stunning Jack Gardner had never met anyone as plain as Belle when his sister introduced them in Paris. But he underestimated her “glorious vitality.” Before he knew it, she’d bewitched him with her quick movements and bright conversation and made him roar with laughter. Defying his family, he dropped out of Harvard and married her on the sly

Indeed, she is not beautiful.
But Wikipedia confirms her husband was an art patron, likely wealthy, and one Boston’s most eligible bachelor.
Her husband stayed with her until his death even when the doctor told her she couldn’t have children, and even while she was sick and depressed. So it wasn’t just vitality that bewitched Mr. Gardner. I suspect their common love for art helped.

Prioleau says that her husband remained smitten and supportive even amidst her “flirtatious romps”.
The author lists Francis Marion Crawford among her liasons, a handsome man 13 years younger than her whom she ensnared with intellect and mother love.
Wikipedia lists Crawford as one of her “friends”.

There is still a museum to her name to this day, build in the style of the Renaissance palaces in Venice, one of her favorite destinations.

Wallis Simpson, 1895-1986

Wallis Simpson in 1936
Wallis Simpson in 1936 by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Kazi, on Flickr

Wallis picked the wrong first husband, and after her divorce she “man-shopped, seducing a succession of Washington diplomats, as well as living in China in a ménage à trois with Herman Rogers, who thought her “the great love of his life.”

She left her second husband to marry the future king of England, a relationship that caused many headaches to the royal family.
Wikipedia, referencing her husband’s biography, confirms the author’s claim:

The King’s desire to marry a woman who had two living ex-husbands threatened to cause a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and ultimately led to his abdication in December 1936 to marry “the woman I love”

And it seems true that prince Edwards had fallen head over heels for her.
Quoting again Wikipedia:

By the end of 1934, Edward was irretrievably besotted with Wallis, finding her domineering manner and abrasive irreverence toward his position appealing; in the words of his official biographer, he became “slavishly dependent” on her.

Prioleau says that the prince was a lost soul in a prince body, and that he never felt free and alive in his life.
That’s what Wallis gave him: a taste of freedom, irreverence, and life.
She says:

Her frank country bluntness dissolved pretense, her relaxed style dispelled inhibitions, and her risqué jokes and parodies of the royal family made him laugh out loud.
Sexually he was reborn. Underendowed and prey to obscure dysfunctions and perversions, he’d never been fully satisfied until Wallis came along with her Fang-Chung Shu and Taoist Kegels.

Prioleau says that started very early, and shook the prince out of his torpor:

The moment he met her, she cut through the ceremony and protocol and answered his polite inquiry about British heating with a sharp wisecrack: “Every American woman who comes to your country is always asked the same question. I’d hoped for something more original from the Prince of Wales.”

That was delivered with a mix of motherly love, something that the prince probably also lacked, and that Prioleaus says was the main ingredient of his ongoing dependence on her:

But her chief fascination for David was her maternal allure. Famished for parental affection, he basked in her motherly ministrations and affections. On his visits to her London flat she treated him like a favorite son: She plumped his cushions, concocted special highballs, and led him to the kitchen for home-cooked midnight treats. Later she micromanaged his health with the solicitude of a supernanny, bundling him up against the cold

A picture of the two together:

Apparently, the relationship came with the usual showering of gifts, jewels, and all-paid holidays.
Prioleau says the prince remained devoted and supportive even amidst her affairs.

Edith Piaf, 1915-1963

On stage, she sang of broken hearts and men hurting her.
But it was all a ruse.

Among Piaf’s secret weapons was her mothering and support of men.
For example, with actor Eddie Constantine:

During their two-year affair she gave Eddie a total makeover, from gold cuff links to voice training. “She made me believe I was somebody,” he later reflected, “so that I’d become somebody”; “she had a kind of genius for bringing out and strengthening a personality.”

Pauline Viardot, 1821-1910

Viardot’s voice was like a drug for Ivan Turgenev, a Russian nobleman who remained by her side in a lifelong affair.

Mae West, 1893-1980

Mae started relatively late in Hollywood:

Mae was nearly forty before she began her Hollywood career as a sexpot, four years older than the age-phobic Marilyn Monroe when she killed herself.

Mae had a mother who did everything for her, and allowed to quit school in third grade to pursue a stage career.

Prioleau lists Mae West as one of her examples of “silver foxes”:

On the verge of seventy she chose a chorus boy from her Vegas “muscleman act” and found “ultimately what every woman wants,” a senior erotic dream. Thirty-three, blue-eyed, and abulge in all the right places, Chester Ribonsky changed his name to Paul Novak to please her and believed God had put him “on this earth to take care of Miss West.”

Wikipedia, listing West’s biography and two newspapers, largely confirms that.
Except that West was 61, not “on the verge of 70”. when they met.

West herself credited her sexual and seductive appeal to status and money, and Prioleau says that “alpha sex appeal” works for women as well.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, 1861-1937

A great example that mind-control level of seduction and looks don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

Says Prioleau:

She was a stout, fiftyish matron who wore no makeup and looked so much older than her age that she’d been mistaken for her lover’s mother.


was one of the leading femmes fatales of her time and all times. More than one man committed or threatened suicide on her account, and Freud’s circle went into an electron spin the moment she set foot in his lecture hall.

Salome’ was a “late sexual bloomer”, and with some of her early relationships she demanded and maintained a “no sex policy”.
That changed with time though, and she grew sexual and wrote about sex and sexual dynamics.

Prioleau says that on her last years, half bald and sallow with renal disease, “she enamored a young acolyte who nursed her and devoted his life to sorting her papers”.
I couldn’t find confirmation for that online, but the author lists a biography of Salome’ in her sources, plus a couple of sources that indirectly mention Salome’ via Sigmund Freud.

Her secret weapons seemed to be:

  • Intelligence: more about sounding erudite than actually being effective in furthering knowledge -or any practical application of knowledge-. Her methodology was very much speculation and theory-based (for example, she said through intercourse men and women recovered their “inner bisexuality”, and blamed the Madonna-whore dichotomy on men’s envy of women sexual superiority)
  • Intellectual curiosity: probably even more important than her actual IQ, which by itself does little
  • Active, driven intellectual pursuits: curiosity is rare and highly appreciated by men. But this other side of the coin made Salome’ unique. She wasn’t just curious, but an active sparring partner as well. She was an active sounding board, providing feedback and criticism, and helping driven men improve their own work
    • Helping men do better work
  • Judge role: both from an intellectual point of view, challenging men’s ideas, and from a personal point of view, holding them to higher standards as men (including when they fell for her)
  • Bonding and connecting: through her deep, active listening and, I suppose, with her deep conversation that showed how
    • Making men feel understood: a consequence of active listening, interest, and bonding

From the moment he met her, Friedrich felt he’d found the one woman who “understood him as no one else.”

I suppose that Salome’s deep interest also made men feel cared for, and valued -an aspect of the judge’s role as well-.

Also some dynamics that made her so sought after include:

  • Favorable sexual market dynamics: she was one of the exceedingly rare and few women, and that pushed her relative SMV through the roof
  • Triangulation: she never gave herself to one man, which led to different men pursuing her at the same time, vying for her attention


Could you imagine a list of seductresses without Cleopatra?

Me neither.

Cleopatra was also a smart politician and strategist, and she started early in cut-throat political Machiavellianism.
When she was only 10 her older sister Berenice dethroned their father, and Cleopatra fled with him to Rome where they lobbied, bribed, and groveled for three years until they could secure Roman funds and backing to re-take Egypt. And execute Berenice.

Years later, when she first met Marc Anthony, she “saturated the Near East” with her publicity.
I supposed that pre-framed her as a goddess, so that her staged entrance would have an even stronger effect.
Playing to Antony’s hedonism, she introduced him to world-ruler luxurious lifestyle. Every night, eight dinners were prepared for them, just to make sure the food was perfectly done.

Cleopatra was a master of self image.
Writes Prioleau:

Her turnout was pure goddess abbondanza. An expert in cosmetics (she wrote a treatise on the subject), she made up her plain face with hieratic glamour and wore see-through Sidonian silks adorned with Red Sea pearl earrings and artfully chased gold brooches. Heady perfumes suffused the palace—a monument to sybaritic enjoyment with vaulted gold and ebony ceilings and soft, embroidered couches.

However, I’d like to stress, she wasn’t just smoke and mirrors and social exchange manipulation.
Marc Antony wasn’t stupid.
Cleopatra commanded an empire, and was also able to negotiate by providing some real value for what Antony cared about: winning wars. And Cleopatra assisted him with 200 ships to fight the Parthian empire.

Cleopatra also made Antony madly ambitious and, Prioleau’s says, feeding Antony with visions of a Roman-Egyptian dynasty.

La Belle Otero

Caroline Otero said to a friend:

A man becomes yours not the moment you spread your legs, but the moment you twist his wrist.

Otero was a demonic dancer.
Says Prioleau:

Her pulse ran high. After work she downed massive mounds of corn and chorizo, stripped to her chemise, and danced until dawn with “perspiration running down her thighs.”

And she had the saucy “mediterreanen” character set at very extra saucy:

A fire-breathing sensationalist, she was a notorious troublemonger and short fuse. She sued everybody who miffed her, flung urine at an impudent waiter, slugged a tiresome woman in a hotel lobby,

Also it’s worth noticing here that the author lists an example of mate guarding as a sexually attractive behavior, and I believe that, if done right, she’s right:

and stomped out of the opera when an escort looked at another woman. “When one has the honor of being with La Belle Otero,” she exploded, “no one else exists.”

More Notable Seductresses

Get the book to learn more about:

  • Tullia d’Aragona, 1505-1556

Beauties of the idolized variety—petite, bosomy Botticelli blondes—crowded her chosen métier, the sex trade. But she outstripped them all. Nearly every important figure of the cinquecento fell in love with her, poets lauded her, and the populace treated her like a celebrity.
With shrewd perspicacity, she niche marketed herself as the “intellectual courtesan” and reached the top of the profession within four years.

  • Diane de Poitiers, 1499-1566 – she wielded much power via her influence on the king. The younger and more attractive king’s wife was jealous, but unable to unsettle her as long as the king lived
  • Veronica Franco, 1546-1591 – smart networker, poet and writer, and defended and won her own case against the inquisition which accused her of witchcraft. She was the century’s leading feminist, but in truth shunned other women all her life (a common thing among seductresses: they might be feminists, but don’t really go along with other women)
  • Elizabeth I, 1553-1603 – “Early on she learned the survival skills of a Machiavella: caution, circumspection, self-possession, deceit, patience, and the art of “answerless answers.”
  • Françoise de Maintenon, 1635-1719 – at 50YO she secretly married the “Sun King” by appealing to the king’s religious ardor and to his idealization of pious, religious women. Prioleau says that “she lost her groove to a Madonna game”. But she nevertheless pulled off one of the most stunning seductions by an older woman in Western history.
  • Catherine Sedley, 1657-1717
  • Minette Helvétius, 1719-1800 -one of the “silver foxes”, owner of an influential salon in Paris
  • Catherine the Great, 1729-1796 – Prioleau says she had lots of lovers, the last one a 23 YO man to her 61 YO”.
    She was also adept at politics, seemingly with a feminine approach. An ego massager, she praised loud and scolded in a whisper. Courted consent with erotic ploys: ornate dress, flash on the dance floor, gourmet banquets, amateur theatricals, and liberal doses of laughter and relaxed banter. Rather than direct confrontation and domination, she believed in making “men believe that they want to do what I tell them to do.”
  • Thérèse Lachmann, 1819-1884

Also known as “La Paiva”, This one sounded like a true Machiavellian sociopath:

On her first night in London she landed Lord Stanley in the next box at Covent Garden. He led to bigger game—namely, a Portuguese marquis, Albino Paiva, who fell “madly in love with her” and married her. His wedding night, though, held a diabolic surprise. Spreading her hawk wings, Thérèse told him she’d attained the position she wanted whereas he’d acquired a prostitute. “You go back to Portugal,” she commanded. “I shall stay here with your name and remain a whore.”

Not verbatim with those words, but Wikipedia, using the “The Memoirs of Count Horace de Viel-Castel” as a source, confirms the story.

  • Cora Pearl, 1835-1886 – she cured her appearances as well as she could, but meanwhile she also remained at heart the tomboy she was as a kid. “A coarse vulgarian with a “sewer of a mouth,” she released men from their devil’s bargain with the angel of the house. Men enjoyed the ecstasy of “barriers broken down,” “organic relief,” and “the ease of existence!”.
    Cora Pearl ascribed to the belief of “men want to chase” more than they want to kill, and gave them plenty of obstacles to make that chase exciting.
  • Violet Gordon Woodhouse, 1871-1948 – she got the type of husband that driven men sometimes get: supportive, and devoted. And he agreed to all her requests: free money spending, liberty to pursue her career, and.. No sex. Two men later joined their house, all three orbiting around Violet.
    Prioleau says she worked hard to keep them all, making time for each, giving them gifts, writing love letters, and even feigning illnesses and emergencies.
  • Josephine Baker, 1906-1975 – dance was her seductive tool of choice. She saw herself as a creature of myth, but it eventually went over her head, she overdid it, and drowned in debt.
  • Martha Gellhorn, 1908-1998 – her upbringing was perfect to mold a future seductress: the only daughter, received lavished praise and positive reinforcement, and within a household that valued freedom, knowledge, and nonconformity. And when her private women-only school tried to turn her into a proper “lady”, her parents transferred her. When she married Hemingway she refused to take his name and stay home, and eventually divorced him
  • Eva Perón, 1919-1952 – she began as a prostitue, and her break arrived when she was finally cast in a soap opera that gave her entrance to the circles of power. Prioleau says that she first ensnared Juan sidling up to him and murmuring “Thank you for existing; I will never leave your side.”
    And she was indeed instrumental to his success.
    With the help of communication experts and imagistas, she re-created herself as an iconic glamour goddess. She said that “the poor liked to see her beautiful”.
  • Gloria Steinem, 1934 – ,” she writes at the end of “Doing Sixty”: I pray for the courage To walk naked At any age, To wear red and purple, To be unladylike, Inappropriate, Scandalous and incorrect To the very end.

Do Men Still Have More Power Today?

The author thought believes that, when it comes to men and women as groups, men still have more power.

She says:

Despite equal opportunity sex and babe feminism, guys still hold the whip hand: They have numbers on their side (48 percent women to 43 percent men nationwide); they age better and cling like crotch crabs to their historic prerogatives of the initiative, double standard, promiscuity, mate trade-ins, domination, and domestic copouts.

Goddesses of The Future: A Game Plan

  • Physical arts: we live in an era of sensory overload, and since seduction is about “one in a million impact”, the modern seductress must find a way to stand out from the pack
    • Befriend inner savage
    • Learn the rules before breaking them: “letting it all hang out” is not a strategy, and neither is rejecting all knowledge. To find your own way, the seductress first trains seriously, and only then cop her own moves
    • Eat luxuriously, but in moderation: “season it up with surprise-me flare and dine again for seduction rather than satiety or displaced lust”
    • Dress your unique way: all advertisement sells uniqueness, but it’s a masquerade for cookie-cutting mass production. You must find your truly own way
  • Psychological Arts: modern culture lies that “knowledge is power, and the lack of it is feminine” The seductress knows the opposite is true, and by Prioleau’s description, the seductress is especially power-aware
    • Learn “how to be festive”
    • Learn the “art of drama”: after festivity comes pain. Passion needs “vital tension and tourbillion to survive: difficulty, challenge, nips of pain, and a journey through the deity’s whorled and tortuous erotic maze.”
    • Learn how to soothe and (emotionally) massage: after the maze come advocacy, support, and encouragement. Seductresses “intuited their lovers’ needs and wounds and salved them with ego strokes and TLC. They had Ph.D.’s in people skills—another lost twenty-first-century art.”
    • Inner fulfillment: “Ultimately, the biggest draw on the market will be strong, self-complete supremas. With the spread of conformity and image-driven superficiality, the allure of an individuated woman in full possession of herself and her powers will prove irresistible.”

The Challenges Ahead

Men are one of the roadbloacks.


Because “seduction riles and dismantles patriarchal domination”, says Prioleau.

America has been particularly hard-hit, and bruised and battered by the gender revolution, men are clinging to “pseudo-Darwinian defenses of male sexual superiority, and a slew of defensive shenanigans”.

And of course, much flack is to be expected by other women as well.

Still, the modern seductress will soldier on, breeze past obstacles, and achieve whatever she wants.


  • Men gain with seductresses

Albeit the author sometimes seems to take a stance of “women conquering men”, which in turn sometimes seems to suggest a “VS” frame, rather than a more win-win approach, she also says that men do gain with seductresses.

Says Prioleau:

Unless unrequited passion leads them off a tenth-floor ledge, they achieve their fondest dreams in the arms of a seductress, a goddess to venerate who keeps them interested and ignites their inner hero. She leads them to their best self and restores them to true masculinity


Her most serious conquest, the ninety-year-old Enlightenment celebrity Bernard de Fontenelle saw her seminude at her toilette by accident and sighed, “Ah Madame, if only I were eighty years old.”

About Madame Helvetius:

She died of a chest cold in 1800, her longtime companion and backyard “philosopher” Cabanis beside her. At her deathbed he sobbed, “My dear mother!” To which she replied, “Yes, I am. I always will be.” Cabanis, like others, instinctively invested her with mythic dimensions.

On Mae West and Marilyn Monroe:

Mae was nearly forty before she began her Hollywood career as a sexpot, four years older than the age-phobic Marilyn Monroe when she killed herself.

About Germaine:

In classic oedipal fashion, she competed with and detested her mother, courting her father.
“Of all the men in the world,” she wrote in her adolescent diary, “it is he I would have wished for a lover.”

On Grace Hartigan:

She made one of the faux escapes so common to seductresses. At seventeen she married the first boy who read poetry to her and fled with him to California.

About Rachel Felix:

she was a passion artist and man lover with a craving for novelty, rapture, and independence. “I am free,” she insisted, “and mean to remain free. I will have renters, but not owners.”

On enjoying food without exceeding;

Nor did they indulge to excess. Contrary to Messalina-at-the-orgy stereotypes, the grandes amoureuses ate and drank (if at all) in moderation. Cruise and resort advertisements promote a pigout version of romantic dining, Neronian portions and entire bottles of champagne, more designed for Pickwickian syndrome than a hot tussle on a hotel floor.

On perfume beating “body hodor”:

In scent, though, we’ve finally got it right. After a brief infatuation with body odors, we’re back to goddess basics.

About “La Belle Otero” parents:

a lovely Gypsy mother and Greek aristocratic father, who died in a duel defending his wife’s honor. Honor in fact was her mother’s least virtue.

Ehehe should serve as an important lesson for men not to provide and white-knight for the wrong girl :).


Seductress is a bomb of a book.
It opened a new world for me and made me realize that “alpha female” seducing strategy can work.

Also, I criticize great books far more than average ones.

So keep that in mind as you read these cons.

1. Confuses myth with science, and myth with effective strategies

The historical success stories aren’t backed with data and science, but by links to some old mythological figures.

She says:

Seductresses, I theorize, pack such an erotic wallop because they plug into this ancient archetype embedded in the inherited unconscious of the race.

To me as a critical thinker, that makes little sense.
There is no correlation, causation, or valid explanation that links a seduction strategy’s success, with the pagan folklore of some small, pre-historic tribe.

The author seemed to believe that old myth of some isolated and random tribe found a way to change all of human nature:

Memory traces of this ancient female cult could well be scored deep in the male libido.

I guess she meant “sTored”.

Their superiority in love, their absolute sway over men, is hardwired into the human DNA.

How exactly does myth become “hardwired”.
Well, the author first quotes “historians” who “speculate” that the cult of goddesses lasted 25.000 years, much longer than “patriarchy”-backed male gods.

And, based on that long cult of goddesses -which is actually not long at all in evolutionary temrs-, it got “embedded” into the male psyche.

How does that work?
She says:

Inconceivable as this may sound, it makes perfect sense to mythologists. Archetypes, they say, never vanish from a culture but work stealthily and subversively beneath the surface, especially on the libido.

Yeah, “mythologists”.
Mythologists maybe know squat about how evolution actually works.
And this is not how species -minds included- evolve.

Furthermore, even if, even if minds evolved that way, I’m pretty sure that there were as many different myths of either male or female goddesses as there were tripes.

2. Rejects solid evolutionary psychology principles without providing any valid criticism

Says the author talking about the “Madonna-whore complex“:

(…) the Madonna-whore fiction. This old chestnut won’t go away. Biobehaviorist Richard Wright still warns darkly that the dichotomy between the domestic angel and the quick-trick Jezebel is “rooted firmly in the male mind”.

But you can’t simply say the Madonna-whore doesn’t exist and ignore all the bountiful evidence, including real-world observation of common male experience, that it does exist.
Maybe you can say that some men are exceptions to the general rule, and with that, I’d totally agree.
But as a general tendency, the Madonna-whore dichotomy is very real, and the author only loses in credibility when she flatly denies it without real arguments.

3. Sometimes passes rumors for facts

The author writes of La Paive that “when she died of a stroke at sixty-five, Guido was so devastated that he bottled her body and stashed it in his closet, where his second wife discovered it bobbing around in a vat of alcohol.”

However, Wikipedia marks that story as “according to legend”.

4. Sometimes exaggerates -lies / mistakes ?- about facts or ages

The author says that Mae West was “on the verge of 70” when she became involved with an athletic dancer on her show.
But Wikipedia says Mae was 61. Still quite something considering he was 30 years her junior, but… Why lying about age? It makes people distrust the author as a reliable source.

One source was also, in my opinion, misquoted.
The author says that evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey F. Miller” believes men have always preferred magnificas over mere lookers with low waist-to-hip ratios”.
I’ve read quite a bit from Miller, and the above quote sounded like twisting Miller’s theses. Miller merely said that minds matter, a lot, and that seduction is a way of parading a functioning mind.
But he never said or implied that waist-to-hip ratio doesn’t matter, and he never made any rank of what matters most.

5. Sometimes exaggerates or romanticizes about some women’s achievements

Take this one as an example:

Although most of Émilie’s work has been lost, she wrote the definitive book on Newton during this time and a three-volume study of Leibniz that earned her an international reputation as one of the leading minds of her time.

The way I see, you don’t become a leading mind of anything if all you’re writing is about other people’s lives and discoveries.
Leading minds advance into new territory, and do not waste time on other people’s biographies.

I felt the same way several times when the authors discussed these women’s achievements in philosophy.
I did agree with her that many of these women were pursuing their own interests and agenda, but I disagree that they achieved the same heights as the best men of their era.

6. Unscientific approach, conjectures, or random opinion from science writers passed as proven facts

Write Prioleau:

As recent studies demonstrate, our female ancestors showed no innate preference for home, stasis, and monogamy but were “promiscuous appetitive roving diplomats,” avidly carousing and glutting their inordinate orgasmic demands.
Through comparison shopping and plural partners, they gained tangible benefits: more and better sperm, social leverage, and increased resources. With time, dominant males usurped this female advantage.

I couldn’t find any recent study that “demonstrate” that women were promiscuous and then somehow turned monogamous -or that they were more so than men-.
I did find though an article using the author’s exact keywords published in a newspaper by a “science writer”.

Unluckily, the above quote shows a lack of understanding of not just evolutionary psychology, but of basic power dynamics that are the natural consequence of innate biological differences.
Anisogamy and the different levels of parental investment for men and women aren’t up to debate, and they tell us that women, on average, have far less to gain in carousing and sleeping around as compared to men.

In another passage talking about some old statuette, the author says that “none of them approached the Darwinian 0.7 hip to waste ratio”.

But how does she know that those old relics represented human-wide standards of beauty? For as far as she knows, they might have been examples of unattractive women. Or simply the preference of a single man.
And she adds:

Prehistoric humankind never set any value on the dumb beautiful female ideal. Zombie babes wouldn’t have excited them either.

That’s baseless speculation.

7. Feminist agenda of female “superiority” tarnish the author’s credibility

Besides the old folklore that the author expects to have changed human nature, it also feels like the author’s feminist agenda of female superiority might get in the way of the dispassionate analysis that I prefer.

For example, says the author:

To patriarchal dismay, women’s sexual plumbing wasn’t designed for monogamy and single-family dwellings. Sexier by a mile, they outorgasm, outlast, and outpleasure men and, left to their own devices, gallivant like their nearest cousins the bonobos, stud shopping and sating their eternal-climax machine.

This feels like a nonsense feminist drivel.
Humans are not fully monogamists, we know that.
But the gender that has the highest parental investment gains more from monogamy -and, in humans, that is the female-.

8. Sometimes animosity towards certain men perspires

For example:

So when we swallow looksist propaganda and sink all our resources into beautification, we’re accommodating nervous half men who want to divert us from sexual empowerment.

I understand that it can be unnerving that men -or women, for that matter- might generally prefer certain features over others. And that judging disempowers the receiver. But lashing out against the judge is not the most effective answer.

9. Empowered… Or Failure?

We might argue that some of these examples of female empowerment actually failed at life.

Cleopatra for example was presented as the genius mastermind that controlled much of the ancient world.
Yet, she committed suicide in her 30’s, leaving her children at the mercy of her enemies.

Also read:

10. Empowered or… Mentally Unstable?

Of Germaine:

A disciple of the roiling boil school of love maintenance, she subjected this handsome lady-killer to a perpetual crisis of death threats, panegyrics, recriminations, and fourth-act scenes.

And when her husband left:

She bombarded him with tragic letters, while simultaneously cultivating two other suitors who’d “fallen madly in love with her.”

That doesn’t seem to me like the type of woman that a mentally healthy, driven and high-quality man would keep around for long.

11. Empowered or… Childish Narcissist?

Some of these women seemed entitled narcissists, and in a rather childish way.

Take Rachel Felix for example:

Rachel, a flagrant self-adorer, emblazoned an R on every surface, and stenciled RACHEL on the wall of a gold and white salon surmounted by panels of the nine muses.

I think the author would consider “Mama Gena”, author of “Pussy: A Reclamation” a contemporary seductress.
To me, she seemed a lunatic narcissist. I would never consider a woman like that for a role in my life. BUT, that being said, that’s not to say some men wouldn’t. And Regena also did find a rich man who was willing to marry her and support her.

12. Empowered or… Creepy?

Check out this seduction:

Her stepson, Bertrand de Jouvenel, was so awed by the author of Chéri (the story of an older woman’s seduction of a young man) that he trembled uncontrollably at their first meeting. Now, on the beach in Brittany, he trembled again as Colette sidled over and placed a practiced hand on his wet back. Later she cornered him in a stairwell and deflowered him, beginning an affair that lasted five years (…) he was 16

I’m going to admit it first:

If the individual taking action was a man, I wouldn’t think it was that creepy.
BUT it’s a fallacy to expect men and women should be held at the same standard. And the above would be creepy for a man… And it’s even creepier for a woman.

14. Empowered or… Abusive, with pussies of husbands?

One of the issues I see with some of these seductresses is with the men they end up.

Just to be sure, not all of them were low-value or poor-quality men.
But some seemed to be.
Some were power-clueless men, who accepted abusive behavior from their women.
For example:

Once the lovers jumped from a carriage on the way back from the theater and let Ephraim ride home alone; another time they bolted for a two-week “honeymoon” in Paris and abandoned him in a Liverpool jail to serve out Frank’s unpaid debt.

“Ephraim” was Frank Leslie’s husband, and he endured that as she brought her lover in the house.
I’m not a big fan of alpha male / beta male categories, but that sounds a lot like hyper-submissive, beta-male-type behavior.
Or, at the very least, with a near-zero power quotient and extremely clueless about power dynamics.

  • Blames (lack of) female orgasms on civilization

The author says that orgasm was never a problem before civilization, the proof being in women’s “souped-up” sexual anatomy.
I think that’s an oversimplification.


Groundbreaking approach to female seduction.


“Seductresses” is a little gem of seduction and power dynamics.

There many items under the “criticism” list.

And they’re there because I believe they’re valid points.
But if you know this website, you also konw that I usually have more criticism for the great books, than for the average ones.
And that’s becuase great books and resources are like a golden cave. However, sometimes you need to filter and break the rocks to get the full gold.

This book might be that gold cave.


Because “Seductresses” analyzes some of the most and systematically overlooked “exceptions” to successful female seduction.
Women who weren’t beautiful, young, or feminine, and still had men chase them and do their bidding.

I agree with the author that these high-powered female exceptions are sometimes reviled, scoffed at, and generally downplayed and overlooked because of the sexual power dynamics at play.

What are the power dynamics at play?

Well, often, both men and women have a manipulative interest in ignoring or downplaying the “alpha” female strategy of seduction.
Namely, women resent the high-powered competition they cannot match, and most men resent the inability to match and pair up with the alpha female. Plus, most men generally gain when women are generally meeker and unassuming.
Also, generally, as a culture, society, and even species, people generally gain when the woman is a good stay-at-home mother. Something that the seductresses often were not.

However, the “alpha seductress” strategy does indeed offer a valid alternative for some women who have the skills, talents, and attitudes to pursue it.

How well and with whom it works was not explored in the book.
For that, check out Seduction University.

Also see:

Or get the book on Amazon.

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