Swoon: Summary & Review

swoon cover

Swoon (2014) is a book about seduction and history’s greatest ladies men and, in a way, an unintended, atypical, yet groundbreaking dating advice book for men.
Betsy Prioleau, the author, studied and analyzed history’s great seducers, and teased out what makes these ladies’ men so attractive and successful with women.


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 “Seductresses“, the equivalent of this book, but for female seductresses.

Types of Seducers

First of all, check this article:

It’s one of the best articles around on “seducers’ archetypes”.

Now back to the Prioleau, she first lists the “distortions” of seducers:

  • Satanic seducer: cold and calculative, hates women, and only cares about adding sexual partners (notch-counter)

The author says that men who despise women, or who seek to destroy women, aren’t real ladies’ men.

At the extreme end of the satanic seducer, the most value-taking “player” is the pathological player, the sociopath.

For more read these two articles on psychopathy and sexual success, and psychopathy and sexual strategy.

  • The PUA Player: the “pick-up artist” who reads online and then goes out to play

I love Prioleau’s description:

By Casanovan standards, the goal is modest: not to get loved (another league) but to get laid.

She has a point: many pick-up artists are bad at seducing hearts when compared to some of the “natural” lovers of women.
Betsy is more interested in the power in seduction, what makes women swoon and fall hopelessly in love -which is similar to Robert Greene’s approach in “The Art of Seduction“.

And she delivers a zinger to Neil Strauss, author of “The Game“:

Gamer convert Neil Strauss says he studied with pickup artists for two years to “become what every woman wants—not what she says she wants, but what she really wants.” But he went to the wrong school. Real-world enchanters provide a different message as well as a different grade of woman from Strauss’s sad assortment

  • The therapy heartthrob: “Mr. Wonderful” of couple’s therapy

He is the flip side of the player.

Betsy mocks him:

Instead of a tough hombre with Machiavellian schemes, this epitome of male sex appeal has been sensitized, civilized, and customized for a postfeminist generation.

He is communicative, empathic, and “housebroken”.

And the author doesn’t spare a shot to John Gottman:

At Dr. John Gottman’s “love laboratory” in Seattle, men learn to communicate, express feelings, listen, and validate. This love-coached ladies’ man also learns to be a fair fighter.

  • The Darwinian alpha male: the “Mr. Perfect” who has it all, handsome, rich, tall, fit

This one deserves its own paragraph, so keep on reading.

  • The real woman-pleaser: coming on all stripes, but more often than not, high-quality men, who love with abandon

The author says that real ladies’ men are not superheroes and sometimes not even great.
They also have their up and downs, hang-ups, and “unhinged moments”. Some of them do are crazy artists or very emotional -Casanova planned suicide at a certain point-.

But real seducers aren’t just poor artists.
A real world analysis also smashes that myth.

Aays the author:

As a group, they challenge the disease model of the seducer. Not infrequently, they belong to another category: the supernormal men of positive psychology. Most share some or all of the qualities of the actualized “healthy human specimen”—ego strength, vitality, resilience, authenticity, creativity, autonomy, nonconformity, personal growth, and the capacity to love.

What’s different for “real seducers”, is that they actually don’t hide, and play little “feigning disinterest” games.
Says the author of Aly Khan:

He came on strong. Lovers said he singled them out of the crowd at parties and made a beeline for them
Khan was always “madly, deeply” in love—however briefly—and wore his heart on his sleeve

Plus, they invest a lot, with abandon, without sparing anything.

For more, also read:

The Myth of The Darwinian Alpha Male (VS Real-World Seducers)

The author takes on the “Darwinian alpha male” early on.

And, overall, she is very skeptical of evolutionary psychology‘s portrait of the attractive man.
The author says that the “Darwinian” qualities vary among authors but, overall, almost all agree on these four:

  1. money and status
  2. stability and fidelity
  3. kindness and compatibility
  4. physical superiority

My Note: bit of an overstated case against evo psych
Personally, I haven’t noticed many evolutionary psychologists putting fidelity or “compatibility” very high on their list of attractive qualities for men, and especially not for short-term mating. So this one felt a bit like a strawman argument. The author also mocks the “provider” image of some evolutionary psychologist, but the discipline now more and more recognize the two different temporal modes of dating: short VS long term, with some men able to do attract women even while not being “strong providers”, as the author correctly says.

Prioleau mocks the stereotype of the ladies’ man, who by Darwinian standards is “tall, buff, and handsome with biceps like Smithfield hams and bulging crotches”, and says:

The Real Alpha Male Science popularizers never tire of saying that “from a biological standpoint we’re still prehistoric.” If so, ladies’ men hail from another prehistory. The kind of men who consistently enrapt women call the whole Darwinian alpha model into question.

Gabriele D’Annunzio is typical (…) Proof against evolutionary progress, he was a sad physical specimen.

And she goes on:

It takes more, much more than evolutionary psychology imagines, to enthrall women.

Well, in many ways, she is right.

But not in her criticism of evolutionary psychology, which sounds too much like a dismissal.
Both are right. All those Darwinian traits do are attractive and do help -a lot-, but the author also makes very true -and demonstrable- point by discussing successful ladies’ men who ostensibly wouldn’t score too high in Darwinian checklists.

The difference is that for those men with lots of attractive traits, attraction from women comes easily. Those who don’t have those Darwinian attractive traits need to be great in some other realms, but can also be equally -or more- successful (as well as more stereotypically ladies’ men when it comes to making women fall in love).

Real-World Ladies’ Men

The real-world ladies’ man defies stereotypes.

Says Prioleau:

He transcends easy generalizations and defeats categories—the angel/devil, wuss/he-man polarities—and personifies complexity.

However, a few traits seem to repeat, including:

1. Charisma

A woman can just feel a ladies’ man, says the author.

You don’t need all of these traits, it’s not a checklist, and a great lover can throw a few sparks of a few of them.

To make up ladies’ men charisma:

1.1. Passion, passion for life, élan

Real ladies’ men pulse with ebullience.

Nineteenth-century French Romantic poet Alfred de Musset won the hearts of half of the Parisian female population with his “delicious verve.” (…) The actress Rachel doted on him (…) His greatest coup was his conquest of literary celebrity George Sand. Deploying an élan assault, he paraded his vitality before her like a “peacock before a demure, quiet little peahen.”

1.2. Intensity

Says Prioleau:

“Emotional intensity,” exceptional personal force, is one of the hallmarks of charisma. It also defines erotic passion. Casanova credited his conquests to his sheer ardor: “I turned the heads of some hundreds of women,” he wrote, “because I was neither tender nor gallant nor pathetic. I was passionate.”

One of the men she interviewed as one of the supposed “ladies’ men”, says that he once saw a stunning blonde, U-turned, and knocked on office doors until he found her. and then said “let’s get out of here”. He loved that woman, he said, and he’d fly to LA just to have dinner with her.

1.3. Sex drive

Ladies’ men crave to possess the object of their desires.

1.4. Love of women

Ladies’ men love women, and generally enjoy their company.

I think this is a crucial trait to keep in mind since in some corner of the manosphere, including corners about pick-up and seduction, the “medicine” to become better men is to spend less time with women, and more time with “male-only spaces”.

Says the author:

Boys are raised to boycott the girls’ club and bond with each other. The “bromance” tradition is ancient and deep-dyed, a devotion to male friends that can be “wonderful, passing the love of women.” In the extreme, it tips over into misogyny.

She has a point, some of those authors who encourage “more male-only bonding” are indeed misogynists, see the red pill for example:

Instead, ladies’ men:

By contrast, ladies’ men like women inside and out and seek their companionship.

Loving and appreciating women is not something that has anything to do with being masculine, strong, or leader-like.
For example:

Casanova was never a man’s man, although he excelled in daredevil masculine pursuits like spying and dueling.

1.5. Androgyny

Counterintuitive as it seems, gender ambiguity is immensely seductive. In theory, the Darwinian he-man ought to get the valentines, but oddly enough, a man in touch with his inner femininity frequently has the romantic edge with women.

How come this is the case, while men who like more masculine women are far rarer?
Well, the author says that, based on studies (Chivers et al., 2004; Huberman and Chivers, 2015), it might be because women tend to naturally be more bisexual:

Researcher Meredith Chivers has found that women differ from men in their sexual tastes. When she attached female subjects to a photoplethysmograph while they watched erotic movies, she discovered that they shared a marked predilection for bisexuality.

Women’s sexual arousal indeed seems to be non-gender specific. To test the non-specificity of female sexuality, nonhuman sexual videos were shown, and women showed little arousal even nont non-human sex scenes (but very little compared to either human male sex scenes, and human female sex scenes, see Chivers and Bailey, 2005).

And the author goes further:

Other studies show women consistently preferring computerized images of feminized male faces and choosing more androgynous men in audio interviews.

I wish she had quoted the study, but eventually found something similar (see below).

Continues the author:

Whether subtle or pronounced, many great lovers have a distinct feminine streak.
Casanova, too, had an overt distaff side—an aesthetic sensibility, a sentimentality, and a penchant for cross-dressing. Byron’s androgyny was so apparent that the sultan Mahmud refused to believe he wasn’t “a woman dressed in man’s clothes.”

Even Gary Cooper, the icon of masculinity, was quite androgynous , says the author:

Gary Cooper, icon of tough masculinigy, was quite androgynous

1.6. Creativity

Here Prioleau quotes evolutionary psychologist Miller, who theorizes that humankind developed big brains because of (female) sexual selection.

The author says that “early womankind sought mental excellence, and creative intelligence in particular”.

But there is more than just evolutionary psychology theory, and plenty of real-life examples prove the allure of creativity:

A disproportionate number of ladykillers trade on the sexual charisma of creativity. History is chocked with poets, musicians, painters, dancers, actors, and “creatives” who prospered with women.

I agree with that.

1.7. Quicksilver, unconventional

The author restates that many women don’t fall for the provider type. , but instead are swept away but the free-souled nonconformists.

It’s not a necessity to be unconventional, and not all ladikillers are noncomforists, but it can add an edge of excitement.

1.8. Flawed manhood

Pop psychologists and coaches who tout ironclad confidence as the key to sexual charisma may need a reality check. A hairline crack in a man’s aplomb, a hint of vulnerability—either physical or psychological—can turn a woman inside out.

Interestingly enough, by “flawed” the author doesn’t only mean just “emotionally”, but also physically.

For example talking about Douglas Day:

More than his beauty and brilliance, it was his walk. He had a mysterious gimp leg, and when he limped down Cabell Hall, women dissolved.

Preioleau goes beyond the usual “chink in the armor” popular in seduction circles, and expands on that “chink” quite a bit.

And among the real-life examples:

Great lovers with a “divine defect” are surprisingly numerous. Aldous Huxley and Potemkin were nearly blind, and Charlemagne, Talleyrand, and Gary Cooper limped. Lord Byron, with his club foot and bruised sensibilities, devastated women, just as Jack London’s and Richard Burton’s tortured souls played havoc with female hearts.

On Cynthia Basinet commenting on Jack Nicholson, explaining why she could never leave Nicholson, said “I saw such a wonderful vulnerable person . . . I vowed never to hurt him.”

But weaknesses must be compensated by other attractive qualities. The author, finally seemingly aware of the “exchange nature” of the sexual marketplace, also says that “The more extreme the flaws, the greater the need for compensatory attractions”.
And later on, she talks about the weak/strong alloy, the mix, that is attractive.

In her words:

Despite the propaganda, bulletproof self-esteem and a perfect package aren’t the ticket. It’s an “enigmatic tang” of injury, a pinch of flaw in the confidence brew that fells women every time.

2. Character

You don’t need all of the following traits and, if you have none, don’t despair: many of them, you can acquire.

2.1. Morality/Virtue

Virtue and morality doesn’t mean “goody good”.
The author says that unalloyed virtue has zero allure.

And so is the opposite end of the spectrum: albeit some women fancy the reprobate for a fling, the real attraction is in the middle

The ladies’ men are fundamentally decent, but prone to bend the rules, and can be morally mixed.
They also know how to make goodness charming, says the author.

Quoting Horgan who reviews the literature on the nice guy / bad boy, she says that “women desire a combination of both—niceness commingled with deviltry, and served up seductively”.

2.2. Courage

What I’ve noticed is that often the courage is exercised during the seduction.
Being courageous far from a woman, outside of seduction in, say, war, seems to mean little.

2.3. Spiritual Cultivation

Male spirituality is attractive to women, and it’s been leveraged by so many exploiters throughout history that the author says that “the man of God is one of the dark seducer’s favorite guises”.

Religious deceit does not belong to the great seducers though, who are more straightforward and sincere about their passions.
When spiritual cultivation empowered seduction, the great seducers tended to be true believers.

Talking about pianist Franz Lizsts:

To Countess Marie d’Agoult, who left her husband and children for him, he spoke only of the “destiny of mankind” and “promises of religion.” Later, he captivated a Russian princess (who also abandoned her spouse for him) through spiritual communions in her crucifix-filled bedroom. She called him a “masterpiece of God.”

2.4. Knowledge/Intelligence

Yes, intelligence is attractive.
But it’s not IQ points or random knowledge that is attractive, it’s how that intelligence is used.

Women-charmers understand how to make intelligence seductive; they sparkle with mental energy, surprise, amuse, instruct, up the drama, and surf the whole realm of knowledge—high-, middle-, and lowbrow.

Also read “mating intellingece“.

Sometimes having erudite conversations can also be seductive, as well as helping overcome lacks in some other areas.
For example:

A number of unlikely ladies’ men used their heads to enchant women.

The diminutive eighteenth-century philosopher Voltaire (…) kept the tall, brilliant beauty Émilie du Châtelet interested for thirteen years. He challenged her to scientific competitions, staged plays and poetry readings, debated politics, and traded repartee with her over four-hour dinners.

And then there’s mathematician Bertrand Russell. Gaunt and small, with a “Mad Hatter’s” features, bad breath, and a high, fluty voice, he disheveled women, accumulating four wives and many lovers. (One was my great aunt Barry Fox, who collared him in New York and gave him “several enjoyable evenings.”)

2.5. Social IQ

What it boils down to is savoir faire: a radar for other people’s feelings, mastery of synchrony, and the practical skill to get the answer yes

For the best seducers, the social IQ helps them understand women and their hidden desires.

2.6. Pleasure

The mantra of romance heroes is “relax, gorge your senses, let me show you a good time.”

Talking about Porfirio Rubirosa:

He conquered Zsa Zsa Gabor through a different tack. For the stressed-out movie star, he delivered sabbaticals of Hungarian food, getaway weekends, and uninhibited all-night revels where Rubi drummed with the band and led musicians home for ham-and-egg feasts. “We were like two children,” recalled Gabor, “pleasure seeking, hedonistic.” “I am, and always will be,” he said, “a man of pleasure.”

2.7. Self-Realization

Complete, multifaceted personhood is the peak of character development—and seductive allure.

3. Lassoing Love Through The Senses

This is Part II, looking at the seduction approaches and behaviors.

Cerebral charms later take over and ignite the deeper passions and love. But first come the senses.

  • Appearance: Johnny Depp example who ornaments himself for maximum erotic impact
  • The Body Beautiful: if it’s there, it helps
  • Fashion and Grooming:

“Put pinstripes and a Rolex on a non-looker, and most female subjects will choose him over a male model in a fast-food uniform”, says the author referencing a popular study.

But it’s not necessarily about looking rich, says the author. A fashion sense instead should stand out, and flatter the individual’s taste and uniqueness.

3.4. Setting

Ladies’ men go for impact, a sensual skylift.

It might be plush and luxurious, but it doesn’t have to. The author says that “settings that seduce are the work of artists of ambiance—charmed sanctums designed to ravish women and raise the roof”.

3.5. Music

Music is the “most excstatic of the arts”.

Musicians and singers are some of the most sought-after men, and the author mentions Sianatra, who wasn’t an attractive man but who had hordes of women pining after him.

You don’t have to be a musician to use the seductive power of music, though.

Also see:

3.6. Kinetic Voodoo: Body Language and Dance

On dance, Prioleau says that based on research by Buss and Meston, women sometimes want to have sex with a man simply based on how he dances.

Most men, however, are not good dancers and movers, as they are trained to hide emotions, instead of letting them flow.

And Prioleau takes another hilarious stab at some of the “alpha male” dating coaches:

“Dancing with a woman,” they instruct, is “not the ultimate goal”; “the dance floor is not the natural habitat of the alpha male.” If “alpha” means king of the hill in the boys’ game, they’re right. But enswooning women is an adult art, designed for animated, poetic body-speakers and princes of the ballroom.

3.7. Sexpertise

Contrary to “The 4h Body” in which Tim Ferris shares how to get her to orgasm in the quickest way possible -15 minutes stopwatch at hand, he says-, lovers subscribe to the “slow sex movement”, where “andante” pace has the edge.

You can learn much of it, the author says that Jack Nicholson was really bad until he learned and studied.
But one of the biggest secret is to be “all in”. Says the author:

To hit the high notes in bed, a man has to be “all in”—body, soul, and sensual intuition. And it helps if you adore each other. As the Kāma Sūtra admits, no instruction or advice “will be needed by those who are properly in love.”

3.8. Gifts and Wallets

Gifts have their charm and, the author says, are “embedded in the feminine ideology of love”.

But gifts should be thoughtful, romantic, personalized, and enchanting.
Says the author:

Practicality is also a no-no in presents; hold the smoke alarms and robo-cleaners. Gifts must fulfill their primal, first function, when they were objects of magic and enchantment in the past.

And don’t go thinking that money is necessarily the opposite of love.
Wallets can also help with seduction. Quoting Julia Kristeva, the author says that:

Profligacy is the seducer’s calling card; “he spends extravagantly.”

And, says the author, “Casanova spent money on women like a drunken sailor”.

From a more Darwinian point of view, Prioleau applies Amotz Zahavi’s “handicap principle” to profligate spending as an honest signal of abundant resources.

3.9. The edible gift (food)

Eating is intrinsically sexual, says the author, and “when a ladykiller also cooks, it’s culinary courtship on high flame”.

I agree, and I’m surprised the author didn’t mention smaller delicacies and snacks that are even more associated with sex and pleasure like sweet fruits (think red and ripe strawberries) and chocolate.

And I would also add wine and drinks to the list. Yours truly also carries a picture of a selection of wines for when the conversations turn towards good food and wines.

4. Lassoing Love Through the Mind

The mind is the body’s most erogenous zone.
And (romantic) love is a takeover of the mind.

4.1. Pursuing with abandon (Royal flush)

To me, this might be the most crucial and eye-opening part of the book.

While dating coaches recommend men to invest little, feign disinterest, “make her chase”, and never admit your love, many of the great lovers do the opposite.

Again, Proileau serves a big zinger to the dating gurus and dating industry:

Seduction prophets like Mystery and his henchmen would jeer at Pollock. To nail “targets,” real men feign “lack of interest,” and let women chase them. A woman “will do almost anything for your approval,” promise pickup gurus, if you’re “cool” and keep her guessing. According to Maxim magazine, the “three treacherous syllables” are “I love you.” Only clueless losers race up to prospects and bare their souls. If so, some losers are getting lucky; hell-bent, do-or-die lovers still captivate many women, both in reality and fantasy.

Indeed, some ladies men wear their hearts on their sleeves on their successful seductions, they admit their love early on, pursue with abandon, and invest on the women they love.

Here is one example:

he recounts a story that sounds like a Hollywood set piece. At an art gallery, he chatted with a Norwegian model, forgot her name, then ran down six flights of stairs to meet her as she walked off the elevator. Taking her hand, he said, “Tell me who you are. I’ve got to be with you!” She followed him, and they were a couple for two years.

And here is what one man told a woman he liked the first time they met:

For instance, he once met a Persian woman at an LA nightclub, and at the end of the evening, turned to her and whispered in Farsi, “Esh-ghe-mani”—You touch my soul.

And then on the first date:

“I want us to be lovers; I want to make you sigh like no man has made you sigh before.”

Does this really work?
“More than you might expect”, says the author.
The reasons why it works are both power-related, psychological, and atavic. Says sexologist Meredith Chivers:

Over half of female fantasies reveal a wish to be sexually irresistible and, in some cases, “ravished.” What a woman craves is a passion so intense that it shatters constraints, fires desire, and allows her to be “all in the midbrain.” An ardent advance is also a “woman’s moment of power,” giving her the high ground of erotic choice.

From an evolutionary point of view, it might work as a sign of committment.
But whatever the reason, neurologically women seem programmed to respond to it:

Evolutionary psychologists see the male courtship offensive as a commitment ploy; persistence and passion telegraphed a “faithful nester” to our female forebears. Whatever the motive, argues neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, the fervent male suitor isn’t an outmoded stereotype; it’s built into the “brain architecture of love.”

This technique can also be used in conjunction with what I call the “baby seduction”.
An example from Warren Beatty:

Warren Beatty put his cards on the table from the start with Annette Bening, revealing his interest at the upshot and telling her later after a wrap party that he wanted her to have his child and marry him. She conceived that night.

Albeit I agree that “pursuing with abandon” and total honesty can work great, I think that sometimes the author took it too far (see the “cons”).
And that, depending on the occasion and situation, different approaches might also be better suited.

4.2. Praise

First off, Prioleau takes another zinger at dating coaches and mainstream approaches to seduction:

Hip dating instructors promote anti-flattery, “negs” that cut women down to size with zingers like “Your ex-boyfriend must have really hated that about you,” or “Is that your real hair?” And the greeting-card industry has devolved into generic schmaltz or sarcastic digs. All of which leaves the game and the girls to ladies’ men.

The author says that praise works with women even more than with men, and that women are more likely to be erotically stoked by ego boosts.

Hence, a man who can make a woman feel like the “photoshopped version of herself”, can write his own ticket.

The example is Duff Cooper, who lacked status, rank, and even looks, but who seduced her with a worshipful courtship with “barrage of letters that called her the “the brightest color, the sweetest warmth, and the one dazzling light of [his life].”

Wikipedia also confirms that Cooper wasn’t the best placed to marry Diana, an  an extremely popular social figure hailed for her beauty and eccentricities. Diana’s family were as they thought of Duff a promiscuous drinker and gambler, without title, position, or wealth.
Wikipedia says that Cooper even wrote her that “he hoped that everyone shed liked better than him will die very soon.”

The author also says that Cooper used the same technique on Susan Mary Patten, almost 30 years his junior:

Note: Cooper wasn’t a nobody though
Cooper might have indeed punched far above his weight, but he wasn’t a nobody. He was a PM, later a cabinet minister, and later ambassador to France.

4.3. Soul Meld / Intimacy

Women often complain of inadequate intimacy with men, and emotional connection is a frequent motive for sex.

This time quoting a somewhat lower-expertise source, a Cosmopolitan columnist, the author says that “men who have the “gift of intimacy,” can secure women with links of steel”.

5. Locking In Love

This chapter starts with “conversation”, wthout introduction, but I supsect that “locking in” refers to the beginning of the interaction, and stoking love and attraction right after first saying “hi”.

5.1. Conversation

Women, on average, are better conversationalists than men, and are also more sensitive to good conversations.

Louann Brizendine, author of “The Female Brain“, explains that women who connect and bond via conversation get a huge dopamine and oxytocin rush, the biggest neurological reward outside of an orgasm or a heroin hit.
And besides providing emotional rewards in the same vein as sex, conversations can also lead to sex: women are more erotically “lit” by good conversations, explains the author.

Good conversations as a positive sexual trait is also backed by evolutionary psychologists, including Darwin. In the words of the author, “men who were good talking partners had the romantic edge over the grunters and club-wielders”.

Conversations also help soothe a woman’s fear. The author says that “a woman’s sexuality is skittish and complex and easily spooked”. Getting to know a woman well and opening up with conversation is a great way of putting her at ease, which in turns allows her to start feeling sexual attraction.

Even “sweet nothing” speech can help bond, especially between lovers.
And “soothing speech is a strong elixir”, taking us back to the maternal embrace, and “the moment of the enchanted voice.”

5.2. Unspoken Eloquence: Gesture, Voice, Listening

Here the author goes into body language a bit.

The most interesting part was about body language during conversation a bit later in the book.
Speaking about “hand gesticulation”:

Expressive hands—a female favorite—were a D’Annunzian specialty as well. Actress Madame Simone found the poet’s looks repellent, but she conceded that he spellbound her as soon as he spoke, “waving his beautiful white hands in the air.”

When it comes to voices, women tend to prefer lower voices that are inflected, and musical -rather than monotone and flat-.

However, men shouldn’t focus on what they say alone, of course.
Conversations are a two-way street, and Prioleau says that “there is almost no female desire like the desire to be heard” with women in relationships longing for “men’s full attention, engagement, and empathy”.

5.3. Laughter

Making women laugh is a potent tool of ladies’ men.

But also the ability of laughing at oneslef says a lot of good things about a man.
I liked this example a lot:

“Johnny H!” she says. “He was short and unattractive by traditional standards. My god, though, he was ‘The Man.’ He was funny with that ability to laugh at himself.

5.4. Teaching Women

The author calls this “mental intercourse”, but it seems to be referring to ladies men teaching things to women.

One of the examples:

The salonnière Madame Necker reportedly was “in love with him,” (Diderot, En.) and Catherine the Great found him so delightful that she bought his library, paid him to manage it, and invited him to Russia on the condition that he talk to her each day.

5.5. The Poetry Potion

Poetry is linguistic seduction on steroids, says Prioleau.

The author mentions the movie “Before Sunrise” as an example of poetry (see the scene here).
But I alos liked this example her, of reciting poetry right before seduction:

6. Torching Up Love

Prioleau says that retaining love is more challenging than making someone fall in love.

While falling in love is quite “natural”, retaining love is somewhat less natural, turning into “quiet companionate love” at best, and boredom at worst.

However successful exceptions do exist, and scientists have documented them with fMRI scans.
However, exactly how to do it, is still uncertain.

The author says that the great lovers never stop the courtship, sometimes intensify the coursthip, and are “perpetual suitors”.

6.1. Fun/Festivity

Fun can help seduce women, by diffusing tensions and fears and displaying affinity.

But it can also help to keep love alive.
Psychologist Howard Markman found that the amount of fun in a relationship predicted its success.

The author says that Mark Anthony has been remembered wrong by history. In truth, he was a geat seducer and a lover of frolic, fun, and party. And that’s what bonded him to Cleopatra.

6.2. Novelty, Curiosity

Love and relationsihps also needs rest and peace and safety… But not too much of it, or it gets dull.

6.3. Cut and Thrust

Albeit endless peace and harmony is the reservoir of the perfect, compassionate love relationships, it might not be the breeding ground of love and renewed passion.

Says Prioleau:

Partnerships, although havens of trust and peace, need periodic shake-ups. Aggression, fear, and power struggles underlie passionate love, and skilled lovers take them head-on and transmute them.

So the great lovers don’t hide adverse emotions, but “convert them to erotic excitement through a delicate play of combat and truce, pain and pleasure”.

The author says that science backs it, as Meston and Buss say that ” anxiety and jealousy can whet female desire. And women often relish a good fight since it releases adrenaline and other stimulants that helps them emotionally connect with men before sex”.

However, too much bickering and fighting are also harmful.
So the goal is to maintain a healhty balance, and follow the hostility with reunion and repose.
Ladies’ men don’t overdo the nastiness anyway. Proileau says that they “transcend strife with love, go light on pain, and cycle back and forth between discord and concord”.

6.4. Inexhaustible Selfhood

Prioleau says that women aren’t content with resources, and won’t fall in love with “Mr. Perfect” but unremarkable.
Instead, they “seek inner assets—men who are multifaceted, convoluted, and on the stretch”.

The author then discusses the importance of continuous personal growth, with which I agree.
The power of personal growth though is not just that it’s attractive, but also that impacts an individual’s personal quality, and his/her sexual market value.
Also see:

Modern Great Seducers

In the last chapter, the author looks at the current dating climate, and what today’s women dream of.

To begin with, she says that many men today have been blindsided by women’s empowerment, and that they recoiled in fear, male-chauvinism, and anger.

The same is true fr women, though, and she says that for every misogynist, there is a “man-basher”.

Among today’s changes:

  • Women have higher expectations: solid and good men aren’t enough anymore, women want passion and excitement
  • Unions of equals: some women seek “hedonic” unions with equals, and aren’t happy with beig staying at home housewives

The New Ladies’ Man

Generally, what worked before works today as well.
Prioleau puts it too beautifully not to quote her:

“women’s needs haven’t changed one bit”; what enthralled a queen of ancient Sparta and an eighteenth-century salonnière still enthralls the banker, product manager, and college dean today

But a few possible tweaks for the modern day ladies’ man:

  • Less high-mainteanance men:

if alcoholics, overwrought, and labile men had a certain panache with women with too much time on their hands, today’s business women might be less inclined of taking care of messy and needy men.

Maybe they’d react like Cristina in the movie:

Her: both of you are completely crazy, I can’t live like this (and her attraction evaporates)

I think exceptions still apply and “Women Who Love Too Much” will always exist. But as a general tendency, Prioleau might be right.

  • Less money and status: money and status, that never were the main ingredient of love and seduction, probably have even less draw today on more independent women, and in richer societies
  • More looks: looks might fare comparatively better in today’s society as compared to the past
  • More sexual virtuosity:
  • More romantic zeal:

Laura Stepp small survey found that women “yearned for suitors like romance heroes who scoop up heroines and say, “There’s something about you I’m finding impossible to stay away from.”

And I quote:

“Falling in love,” however, is foremost a “phenomenon of attention.” Every romance hero puts the heroine in his cross-hairs and singles out her “specialness” for adoration.

  • More fun and novelty: to stand out in our culture of over-stimulation
  • More androgyny: macho was never the most appealing, and it’s even less today, and in the foreseeable future
  • More intelligence: “today’s smart, ambitious women want peers, and in polls intelligence is one of the most desired traits”
  • Better conversationalists:

Ladies’ Men Under Attack

Ladies’ men are loved by many women, but not so much by society.

Other men are envious, those in power see them as dangerous to the social order, and some circles of men try to frame them as “effeminate”.

Proileau says that “A neo–ladies’ man will have to get beyond all this—the jealousy and indoctrination—and prepare for cultural headwinds”.

Diggin Deeper on Studies

There were several interesting studies I took note of.
Some of them I will share them here:

  • On femininized faces and facial masculinity preferences

Overall, the author is not wrong, but might overstate the ase for “attractiveness of femininized faces”.

Quoting Marcinkowska et al., 2019

in many cases women’s preferences for facial masculinity are equivocal21 or less masculine-looking men are judged as more attractive than more masculine-looking men

Marcinkowska et al., 2019

However, it’s not entirely true that “women consistently prefer femininzed male faces”:

Very low and very high levels of masculinity were rated as relatively unattractive. 

(Holzleitner & Perrett, 2017)

The above study also shows that it’s not entirely true that more attractive women prefer more masculine men. More attractive women have less tolerance to lower levels of masculinity than less attractive women. Such as, they are more discriminatory, but the “curve” is shaped similarly, with just a small preference towards more masculine faces (still not preferring the most masculine face, though).

From what I’ve read, masculinity seems to be more attractive when income inequality was higher, but it’s a mixture of different factors that moves the needle, with “personal preferences” between an important one.
Interestingly indeed, it turns out from Holzleitner’s study that bisexuality levels have a major incidence.
Quoting the study:

The more women were exclusively sexually attracted to men, the more attractive they found highly masculine face.

  • Nice guys VS bad boys

The author cites Horgan’s research review on the bad boy / nice guy dichotomy to say that “women desire a combination of both—niceness commingled with deviltry, and served up seductively”.

To be more precise, Horgan hypothesizes that women prefer nice guys as long as they are above a certain level threshold of “badness”.
I quote:

Contrary to popular wisdom, then, the complex nature of female attraction can perhaps best be summarized as follows: nice guys may or may not finish last, but nice guys who also exceed a certain bad boy threshold are in fact very likely to finish first.

Horgan, 2011


Wonderful book, and if you’ve been around here fo rsome time, you know that I usually take more time in reviewing the great books, so don’t take a long list of “cons” as a negative.

That said:

  • There is no differentiation betwen “women” and “attractive women”

There is a big difference between “women” in general, “high-quality women“, and “women with a high sexual market value“.

And what’s attractive to one group is not always what’s attractive to another, and that can make a big difference for men who prefer attractive women as (sexual) partners.

But Prioleau’s analysis doesn’t differentiate much, or enough, in my opinion, among them.
For example, talking about one of the women she interviewed, she says:

What sort of erotic climate is Zoe stepping into?

Well, Zoe was 27 years old, she wasn’t exactly “stepping into” anything, she was already fully into it.
So that suggested the author wasn’t properly considering the impact of age.

Of course, this note does undermine her whole analysis.
As a matter of fact, it seems like most of the ladies men used as examples also attracted a fair share of high-quality and/or attractive women.
But it’s still something worth mentioning and keeping in mind.

  • Some examples might be exaggerated

The author says that Cooper Duff lacked status, rank, and even looks to marry her Lady Diana.
That is largely true. Yet, the two met at Oxford, which is a university for the elite.
And for his later conquests, Duff later became an MP, a minister, and then the ambassador to France.

  • Taking it too far with “pursuing with abandon”?

There are a few examples in which “wearing one’s heart on the sleeves” and “pursuing with abandon”, in my opinion, cross a very dangerous threshold of personal self-debasement.

For example:

Actress Catherine Nesbitt, another great beauty, was classic. Cooper dexterously enumerated her best performances, pronounced his passion for her, and begged to kiss her feet, which he had seen nude on the stage. She rolled down her stockings and obliged.

Cooper truly admired her, he “admired her poems, bravoed her guitar recitals, and translated her famous novella, Madame de”.
And yet, asking to kiss a woman’s feet is not something I’d recommend anyone.


Jackson Pollock’ (…) stared at her with “such intensity” and “such hunger” that she felt impaled. At her apartment afterward, she remembered, he cinched the deal by sobbing, “I want you,” “I need you,” “I’ve been looking for someone [like you] my entire life.”

Sobbing might even lead to “cinch the deal”, but I think there usually are equally valid ways of sealing the deal without having to “sob”.
Sobbing would probably take away way too much power from the man.

  • Are women really “superiorat everything the author lists?

It seemed like on a huge number of listed traits, women were somehwat “more endowed than men”.
At a certain point, I started takiing notes of them as it felt like it was becoming predictabily funny.
Here’s the list of them:

  • Their vision is keener than men’s
  • Women hear better than men and listen with their libidos
  • Women have a keener, more refined sense of hearing—a subtler ear for higher tones and auditory nuances—
  • Women have more sensitive skin than men and place touch at the forefront of their sexual fantasies.
  • Although men have the same number of tongue receptors, women are finer tasters
  • Women may be particularly susceptible to mind spells. Meredith Chivers, a leading figure in female sexual research, notes that women are more aroused by mental stimuli than men.
  • Not only is a woman more verbal and communicative than a man, but she’s also erotically “lit” by conversation.
  • A woman’s superior bullshit detector will find him out

This does not take anything away from the book or the overall message, but at a certain point it seemed like women were better than ment at everything.

  • Some studies mentioned, but not referenced

The author mentions several studies, but finding those studies was sometimes challenging.
For example, this one made me very curious:

Studies show women favor intelligence over beauty or wealth, even for one-night stands.

But there was no reference or citation, so I couldn’t double-check.

  • Do references to gods, myths, and romance heroes help us understand ladies’ men?

Supporting her claims of what makes ladies’ men attractive and magnetic, the author uses real-life examples, as well as mythology, folkore, and novels.

I don’t necessarily think mythology is wrong, since what goes into myth is probably what’s attractive in a certain culture, as well as then shaping that culture.
But obviously, it’s not very scientific, so their contribution should be more “underweighted”, in my opinion.

Romance literature and novels are probably better sources than myth, since we have women’s more direct response -and can even approximately measure it by the number of sales and followers-.
And if women love the romance, it means that the character is probably attractive.
Instead, with myth and gods, it’s often men who come up with them.

  • Cometimes confuses culture’s impact on nature

The reason why the author might spend so much time om myths and folklore is that there might be a misunderstanding of how human natural actually forms.

She says that “centuries of culturally imposed inferiority have contributed to the female yen for praise”.

No, centuries of culture don’t change human nature. When the culture changes, the old culture does not keep on having effects on future generations.
This is a very common misunderstanding among various authors and people.


  • Surprisingly well-researched

Proileau is not the type of author who links studies and brags about her citation counts.

And yet… She did read and research more than most other dating coaches who do brag about their citation counts (see here how to brag without sounding like a showoff).

Prioleau has read both the pick-up literature, quoting Mystery, Neil Strauss, the traditional manosphere literature, quoting “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover“, and the evolutionary psychology, quoting David Buss, Geoffrey Miller, and more.
The female brain neurology was also not lost on the author, who quoted Louann Brizendine more than once.
And when discussing body language, she had read Barbara and Allan Pease.

And Prioleau also correctly links research to effective real-life behavior, linking Amotz Zahavi’s “handicap principle”, to conspicuous consumption.

Big thumbs up, quite impressive.

  • The referenced studies largely add up

I looked up some of the studies she mentions, and they reflect what she states in her work.
This is something I respect, and it’s rarer than some people might think that an author does a good job in looking up the studies they themselves quote.


Swoon is different than all other dating books and manual and, similarly to “The Art of Seduction” by Robert Greene, it goes at the core of real seduction, as well as the power of seduction.

This quote says it all:

It’s no feat for a king to have mistresses; ambitious beauties will hurl themselves at any crowned head. But to have them love you is another thing.

It’s also different than most science-based books, as it goes beyond a list of “attractive Darwinian traits”, and better targets and satisfies that side of irrational love that sometimes escapes explanations.

Instead, it’s a book that focuses on the more exceptional dating strategies, and on men who are exceptional exceptions.

Overall, I loved “Swoon”.
I am going to use it and reference it a lot for “Seduction University”. And on a website with such a high threshold for quality as ThePowerMoves.com that’s the biggest compliment I could give to any author.

See the:

Or get the book on Amazon.

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