Tuesday, March 30, 2010


by Katherine Wang

Jean Baudrillard’s 1979 text Seduction defines seduction not as a form of sexuality, but as a play of signs. The French sociologist and post-modern theorist writes

“It is a power of attraction, of absorption and fascination, a power that cause the collapse of not just sex, but the real in general - a power of defiance.” (p.81)

Seduction is an evergoing cycle of seducing and being seduced. One cannot seduce others, if one has not oneself been seduced. Because it is psychological, it has no boundaries and no limits as it plays with the neverending imagination using fantasies. If the secret to seduction were to be solved, the solution would be sex. However, the difference between seduction and sexuality is biological reality and femininity as a principle of uncertainty.

“If femininity is a principle of uncertainty, it is where it is itself uncertain that this uncertainty will be greatest: in the play of femininity.” (p.12)

Transvestism likes to play with the indistinctness of the sexes. As they are not legitimized by their gender, transvestites become more obsessed and spend more time integrating seductive signs into their lives to please themselves, and possibly others. For example, by taking femininity to the extreme, drag queens are able to draw fascination from a crowd by showing off their ability to simulate superficial sexual signs. The passion that comes with transvestism and being able to seduce does not come from substance but purely from the pride in being able to trick and play with people’s minds.

The transvestite Lady Bunny shows the exaggerated play with gendered fashion codes that heterosexuals take more seriously.

Baudrillard also defines seduction as a challenge in which one must appear weak and render the opponent weak. It is unavoidable and inevitable because it is essentially playing with vulnerability. Unlike production, which has it’s limits, seduction does not accumulate. It is about perfecting an absence, which seduces presence, and making it desirable.

“The seductress turn desire itself into an illusion or trap...Love itself, or the sex act, can become moments in a seduction if given the ecliptic form of appearance/disappearance” (p.85-86)

Cabaret is the performance of seduction

While seducing, the seductress may show flashes of intimacy and amorous or sexual affection as long as it does not become a relationship. In order to continue being the superior subject of desire, one must be able to handle a certain mental cruelty towards herself as well as others. To be the superior character in a game of seduction, the objective is to provoke and deceive desire. The subject must be led to think that he is the object of desire without getting caught in the trap. However, since desire is only a hypothetical prize, it is disappointment of being caught that ends seduction.

The seductress does not attach any meaning to what she does, nor suffer the weight of desire...Her power lies in the irony and elusiveness of her presence.” (p.87)

Animal seduction is the most purest form since it is seemingly based solely on instinct. It is also ritualistic and the most naive form. Lacking in complicity and perfection, animalistic seduction is actually quite primitive compared to that of humans. The more simpler societies may also be seen as being underdeveloped in the game seduction.

Animal prints express the primal desire, Cavalli for H&M

Highly developed societies look to incorporate chance into their games and do not tend to have as strict of an obedience to ritual. Having no functional objective, mastering seduction is simply mastering a cycle of meaningless signs.

The presence of the seductress is immortal. As desire can go on and on, she continues to tease the mind. Every woman and man has the power to seduce and either uses it or not. There are numerous ways to master the game of seduction depending on who their subject is.

Scarlet Johansson for Dolce & Gabbana, 2009

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