Redefining Seduction Reviewed

February 26, 2007

I don’t remember how I came across the website Redefining Seduction — all I knew was that, as a an avid student of human mating behavior and researcher of all the latest dating and mating theories, I had to read the book of the same name.

The draw was obvious. This book, co-written by writers and activists Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell, promises to produce “The Joyous New Women’s Movement that Men will Love Too!”

Knowing from personal experience how difficult it is to write anything that pleases both men and women, I was interested from this angle — and also because the book promised to, among other quotes from the website:

Picking up from Darwin’s theory of Sexual Selection, Redefining Seduction is an audacious and evocative look at male and female sexuality and the mating game. The premise of women as being in the evolutionary driver’s seat will undoubtedly have huge implications for generations to come.

The premise of women being in the driver’s seat, eh? Well, obviously I can agree with that idea, to a point: I do believe women happen to be the “choosers” of their sexual partners, in one way or another, although this generalization often has limits.

But I was very curious what others had to say, especially others who billed themselves as “evolutionary behaviorists” who had plowed 5 years of research into this book.

Redefining Seduction as Scholarship
I sprung for the $10 e-book version and read it in a few days. It is a small book, at barely 100 pages (including the epilogue), and honestly, I was a bit surprised at how little new information was presented in it.

The authors claim to have spent 5 years researching the book, but honestly, I did not see evidence of 5 years’ worth of original research. The “notes” section that supports their in-text assertion has barely 20 citations.

Obviously, this depth of research did not convince me. I myself have written 100+ page research papers in under three weeks with works cited sections stretching to over 100 citations.

So how does this book stand up as a scholarly work? Not very well.

As a Seduction Manual for Women
Some of the highest praise I can give the authors of Redefining Seduction is that, in their Notes section, they say of the perennial female-seduction guide The Rules: “prolongs the myth that women can beat up on men emotionally and expect to get away with it.”

As great as that is, and as much as this book wants to break paradigms of female behavior, the only real support it offers for the efficacy of its new methods is the success of the two author’s relationships: the book opens with the story of how Donna Sheehan “seduced” Paul Reffell, and returns repeatedly to their relationship over the course of the 100-page book.

Women take great pleasure and comfort in social rapport with other women, and the feeling of solidarity that comes from reading another woman’s story — but if a woman doesn’t identify instantly and closely with Doona (who seems to be the primary and only author, despite Paul’s name being on the cover), she’s sunk.

The book doesn’t even feature the multitude of compared women’s stories that books such as He’s Just Not That Into You do.

As practical guides go, the book does suggest some really basic moves (such as “make him comfortable” and “say positive things” and “touch him lightly”) but does not present a comprehensive “system” or method that is very different or new at all.

In fact, the farthest it goes is saying “keep your eyes open for men, and start chatting them up wherever you see them, take the initiative.” That’s it. That’s pretty much Redefining Seduction in a nutshell.

So, as a seduction manual, I would say this book falls pretty short as well.

It may remind a few women that they are living in the 21st century and there is more leeway for them to take some initiative, but beyond that it really doesn’t advance knowledge or open any new doors.

Devilish Details
Even more shocking, I found this book flat-out got it wrong in key places.

It says men will share the “minutiae” of their relationship lives at the first provocation: which seems a clear case of projection (women do this often, but I haven’t met a single man who does).

In the “Sex” section, it says that “so-called vaginal orgasms result from the stimulation of the clitoris.”

Wrong.

It also says “the clitoris is the center of the climax.”

Wrong again.

Then it goes on to compare orgasm to winning the lottery, and attributing a woman who has an orgasm on first intercourse with a new partner as “lucky”.

What a blatant perpetuation of not only feminist tropes, but plain old downright bad anatomy!

At one point, it leaps to the hasty generalization that “men with dogs have given up on finding a woman.” Uh, actually, the majority of single men I know who have dogs have them because they know that dogs give them opportunities to meet women.

At another point in the Sex chapter, they cite a study that says fully 37% of women wanted men to wait between one and three months before trying to initiate sex.

I couldn’t help thinking, are these women over 65 years old, or what? I don’t know ANY population of women in the U.S., except maybe evangelical Christian virgins, who would want a man to wait that long to try to initiate sex.

The book further mis-characterizes men as indiscriminate breeders — “seed sprayers” — who are incapable of empathy, kindness, or making a good decision on who to sleep or partner with. This is one of the book’s greatest weaknesses, since it is not only sexist and shortsighted, but also misandrist.

Getting It Right
The book does have a few high points, where it gets the analysis of women and men right.

It says at one point that all men “want a woman who is attractive to him and others in some way, a woman who ‘resonates’.”

It DOES warn against blaming men for their actions, which is good, to a point — but on the other hand, it applies this standard of blamelessness to men in other odd situations, such as after a date (“It’s not his fault if he doesn’t call you back.”) Applying this logic to women is what leads to frustrating flakey hate-inspiring modern women, so while I am grateful to see a woman applying these same moral standards to men, I am still concerned that they exist at all — personal responsibility is a good thing.

And finally, it does advocate women be more outgoing and friendly, and not so fearful (of the ever-present threat of “rape”, right?), saying, in a great passage:

Our personal fortress in which most women, especially urbanites, hide in fear of strangers…it’s the closest a woman can come to feeling how it is for most men at all times when they are in public. These defenses are all products of…..[a]….mindset that has created the suspicious and fearful atmosphere that tyrants thrive on.

And, to it’s credit, the book does advocate safe sex.

Save your Money
At $10, I figured I couldn’t possibly waste money on this book, but I was very nearly proved wrong. The authors seem to think they can effect global change with this 100-page polemic against helpless “masked” males: here’s a snippet from the blog that accompanies the book:

Men are designed for focusing on the job at hand, creating stuff, destroying stuff and spraying seed wherever they can. Women are designed for seeing the whole picture, creating connections and creating life from raw seed. Men are not designed to choose their mates. This according to Charles Darwin and his Sexual Selection theory (read the book!).

Actually, Darwin never said men are hapless seed-sprayers incapable of choosing a mate. That’s an extrapolation that the authors have used to put words in his mouth.

Men are designed to display their best traits. Women are designed to select their mates. So, guys, that’s why so many of you have been rejected so many times when you made the first move.

No, guys get rejected because they don’t understand how to approach women in the right way, a way that will appeal to the woman.

And it’s partly why so many marriages end in divorce. Male-initiated marriages are more likely to end in divorce than female-initiated marriages. Google it sometime.

This is because women, when they initiate marriages, initiate marriages with limp-wristed Beta males who are already whipped prior to the “proposal” and are essentially the woman’s domestic and economic servant for the rest of their naturally born days.

Men don’t divorce the woman who proposed to them because the woman won’t give them permission to.

But wait, they’re just getting warmed up:

Now it’s time for women to use their biological seductive power to reclaim their true role as the civilizers of men. Women are the drivers of evolution, through their mate choices, their child-rearing, their ability to understand the bigger picture and thereby the consequences of their, and their mates’, actions. Women are the only hope for steering men away from their path to certain destruction.

Not only is this again returning to the misandristic sexist trope of “men aren’t as mentally capable as women” but it’s saying tha, in effect, women are superior, and would make better political leaders, and can single-handedly bring about a ‘taming’ of the violence of human (whoops, male) nature and save the day.

Well, let’s look at some female political leaders. Janet Reno (remember Elian Gonzales?) Condoleeza Rice. Need I say Margaret Thatcher? Right, I think women make swell political leaders.

Sorry, I don’t buy this sexist trope, and neither should you: humanity suffers because of humanity, not because of men — there are good men as well as bad, and good women as well as bad. Setting it up as a battle between evil men and good, nurturing women is completely counterproductive, given that in reality it is a battle between GOOD men and GOOD women against EVIL men and EVIL women.

And thus concludes my book review. I can’t write another word about this thing: and I cannot recommend this slim manual (I won’t call it a “book”) to anyone.

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