Why We Need to Redefine (& Practice) Flirtation and Seduction
Think about this example:
In the book, The Scent of Desire, the author tells of a research study where subjects were placed in a room that was infused with an unusual scent, yet the subjects were not told that it was being scented. When asked, the subjects denied that there was any odor in the room. Not being able to name the scent - even though it was noticeable after the researcher named it - actually diminished or removed the subjects' ability to even tell that there was one.
In other words, they couldn't smell something that was there because they didn't have the words for it.
"Words can manipulate what it is that we smell and, when no words are available, we may not smell a real scent." [The Scent of Desire, Rachel Herz]
The powers of language play an extremely large role in determining how you think and thus, how you view reality. That, of course, determines how you act and what you create in the world.
Last week, I brought up my new favorite (and frightening) concepts of "seduction" and "flirtation". I did not, however, venture into defining them. It's time to do so. How you understand the language of seduction or flirtation defines how you will practice or reject such behaviors in your own life.
There is such power inherent within the practices of seduction and flirtation that can help you feel more self-aware, confident, and connected with others. My aim over the next few minutes is to get you thinking about these words in such ways that you understand how they can be valuable to explore and practice on a path to feeling more ALIVE in your everyday life.
Curious how that might be? Read on.
Be honest here.
Raise your hand if you associate "seduction" and "flirtation" with sex - or, at the very least, with trying to initiate a relationship (that will lead to sex).
If so, you aren't alone. (And you can put your hand down.)
Americans typically have a cultural shame around sex and sexuality. Any behaviors that include or allude to sex are often seen as dirty or distasteful. (Even though I'm super passionate about it, we'll put aside for now the essential need for everyone to overcome their fear and humiliation around sexuality.) It's no wonder, then, that seduction and flirtation have gained equally shameful connotations.
But there is hidden power in these practices that extend far beyond sex.
There is a power within the acts of flirting and seducing that can make anyone playing along feel seen for who they are, accepted without judgment, desired, and alive.
Who doesn't want to feel that way?
We simply need to take back these words from the negativity they've collected over the years and reclaim the potential of the practices.
As we will define them from here on out,
Here is what these practices are NOT:
Seduction and flirtation are NOT stepping stones towards sex. (They are not stepping stone practices for anything, actually.)
Neither practice is solely for the purpose of creating sexual arousal (though that can be a result).
Seduction and flirtation are NOT about being more sexually attractive nor about attracting a member of the opposite or same sex in order to make them like you more. These aren't games of ego-stroking or control. Speaking of...
Seduction and flirtation are NOT manipulative. Like any game, they can be practiced as such, but when they are, they are no longer the original practices. (For example, when sex is manipulative, coercive, or forced, it is rape - not sex.)
These practices are NOT limited to someone who is physically attractive, or a size 2, or a vivacious character. Anyone can (and should) practice and benefit from them.
Seduction and flirtation are NOT dependent on having a partner. Indeed, some of the best practices can be done with one's SELF. (see more below)
So what are these powerful practices?
Think of seduction and flirtation as a living art. They are:
The ability to fully see another person and enticing them to see themselves
Experiencing one's own mundane life in enlivening and arousing ways ("arousing" not necessarily being sexual; rather - uplifting; energetic; inspiring. "Flirting" with the possibilities of each day, for example.)
The enjoyment of teasing out those parts of someone else that they wouldn’t otherwise show in a nonjudgmental and enjoyable (for both parties) manner
The opportunity to explore being vulnerable in a rewarding context
The playfulness of engaging in conversation and behaviors with the purpose of feeling attractive (alone or with another) and of making another person see and feel their own attractiveness
The energies that are created when new perspectives are considered and explored
The flirtation with ideas of “what if….” (not the follow through. Flirtation is simply the exploration and curiosity, not the fulfillment. Fulfillment is whatever the act is – sex, an adventurous trip, etc.)
Through flirtation and seduction, you are creating an authentic connection with someone (yourself or another person), and enticing them to see you, themselves, and perhaps the world in a new and exciting way.
Flirtation: Establishing A Connection
Ester Perel, a leading therapist, author and expert on intimacy, sex and marriage wrote: "The word “flirt” comes from the French word “fleuret” — in English translation means “foil” — one of the three swords used in fencing. When using a foil, points can only be won using the tip of the weapon. To flirt is to play with the tip of the sword. To tease. To gently touch. To tantalize. It’s about playing with possibility, not going in for the kill.” [source]
Playing with possibility.
Establishing a connecting, and then toying with ideas of "what if....".
Flirting is such a fun and enlivening game. It introduces both parties to more ideas and opportunities than had previously been considered.
Many people look down upon flirting as teasing, as leading someone on with no intent of following through. This would only be the case, however, if flirting were inseparably tied to a goal (specifically that of sex). Without that association, flirting becomes a practice, a dance.
(No one would tell a child that their playtime is bad because it doesn't lead to some end goal. Play exists for the purpose of discovery, creativity, and is a worthwhile practice of its own. Same with flirtation.)
Seduction : Enticement Into New Perspectives
If flirtation is establishing a connection and playing with, "what if's...", then seduction is the game of "follow me".
As you might recognize, seduction is a bit more of a dangerous territory. There is a trust that the one being seduced imparts onto the seducer, a vulnerability that is exposed and given over.
The seduced must display his or her ignorance, being willing to say, "I don't know and I will allow you to show me."
Obviously, the seducer must take great responsibility for this power. This is why it is important, when practicing the art of seduction, to know one's self well and to have positive intentions before attempting to persuade or guide another. Otherwise, the seduction may lead both parties to harmful places, even despite good intentions.
Proof in point: consider the etymology of the word "seduce". In the 1520's, it meant "to persuade a vassal, etc., to desert his allegiance or service," from Latin seducere "lead away, lead astray," from se- "aside, away" + ducere "to lead," (The sexual sense is attested from 1550s and apparently was not in Latin. Originally "entice (a woman) to a surrender of chastity.") [source]
Now re-frame this, removing the negative connotation.
If we honor the root of the word, the positive power of seduction comes from the idea of "leading away from".
A seductress today might lead you away from ideas that are no longer helpful for your well-being. She might call you away from ideas of "shoulds" or feelings of unworthiness.
She might seduce you into seeing the world as she sees it - beautiful, mysterious, a playground of curiosities.
She will use her powers of seduction to transform you into the person you already were, but had been blocked from seeing / being.
Seducing someone can give them a life-changing perspective on the stories they've been telling themselves. The hard part? Ensuring that you are always working for the benefit of the receiver, not for your own ego.
Being seduced can be transformative and even fun. The hard part? Being vulnerable enough to share your stories that you want changed and strong enough to believe that they can be.
How To Flirt and Seduce
Just kidding. I'm not going to tell you how.
Seriously, if you Google these two terms, "how" is almost all you will find. Tips and videos and books and entire series on how to woo and wile your way into someone's heart (or bed).
We aren't focusing on that though...right?
What you are practicing doing is:
making connections by asking questions with authentic curiosity
exploring possibilities and different perspectives
introducing and possibly guiding another (or yourself) into playing in the world in a different way.
I encourage you to continue thinking of these two terms as you go about your mundane day. And, if you are so daring, to practice a bit of flirtation and seduction.
A few final considerations:
Vulnerability is a non-negotiable rule in these practices. It is a difficult, yet worthwhile state of being. If you struggle with this, I recommend reading some of Brene Brown's thoughts on the matter. (including this Ted Talk or her book, Daring Greatly)
Positive intent is also a non-negotiable rule for authentic flirting and seduction. Being coercive or manipulative is not flirtation and seduction. It is being coercive and manipulative.
Life can be boring when it is one routine after another. What of possibilities? They are endless. Re-awaken yourself to them through flirtation - exciting yourself, and maybe even someone else, in the process.
In a way, all of life is seduction. You have a way of being in, and understanding the world. You want others to like, understand, and agree with those ways. Through your words & actions, you unconsciously or consciously attempt to seduce them into doing so. Take a deep breath - you've got this. Now that you understand what is going on, you just get the opportunity to choose how you are doing it - and to do it in such a way that it benefits another as much as you.
Keeping all of this in mind, what are some ways that you could flirt and seduce your way through a typical day?
What sort of change could you introduce into your relationship by flirting with your partner this evening? How would you playfully re-establish a connection to her / him, and what ideas of possibility could you bring up in conversation? (Again, these could be sexual or non-sexual) What excites you that you could seduce that person into thinking / performing?
What would it look like to flirt with a stranger? If it alleviates some anxiety, remember that this is about connection and exploring possibilities - not about sex.
Perhaps most intriguing of all: What would it look like for you to flirt with and seduce yourself?