Seductress – Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love

by Betsy Prioleau, Reviewed by Melissa Balmer
Copyright © 2005, Seduction Insider. All Rights Reserved.

Seductress – Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love
Published by:
Viking Penguin
Penguin Group U.S.A.

“Most men are all too ready for the seductress. They’re tired of copping tough guy postures and shouldering the globe like Atlas. Their sensibilities are tuned up for outsized, magisterial love goddesses…”

Think seduction is all about youthful beauty and a super flat tummy? Feeling over the hill, or just out of the game in general because your reflection in the mirror doesn’t live up to the glossy Photo-shopped images in your favorite magazine (or your husband or lover’s)? Think again. Betsy Prioleau’s frank yet artful journey into the lives of some of the most famous seductresses throughout history reminds us again that intelligence, wit and imagination can take a woman (with the will and energy to use them towards seduction) very far, very far indeed.

We have grown to fear and revile the seductress when in fact we should be celebrating her. Prioleau writes:

“We’ve been gulled by chimeras – sleazy, bogus stereotypes that need to be dismantled and replaced by the genuine article.

Real seductresses, those incandescent unditchable sirens who spellbind and keep the men of their choice, belie every popular myth. Forget beauty, youth, vacuity, servility, and shark-hearted rapacity. Seductresses are in fact the liberated woman incarnate.”

What is even more fascinating about the seductresses in Prioleau’s book, and something we modern women really need to ponder, is that most of the seductresses profiled ruled the hearts, minds and bodies of men during times when women had very few rights at all. Compare that to today, when women have more rights and privileges and success than women have ever had in history (though certainly we’re not truly equal yet) and yet very few of us are truly happy in love – or even sex.

Prioleau found herself (a college professor) hearing again and again the same tales of woe from her female students of elusive bad boys, soulless hookups, sapped confidence, wrecked pride and total mystification about how to prevail in love. From her introduction she writes:

“As I looked around, I realized my students reflected a larger crisis in society. Across the culture, women seemed to have lost the plot erotically and entered the ‘plague years.’ 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 in the U.S.); 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. The population of single women, especially middle-aged professionals and first wives, has swelled to one in four, with most wanting and failing to get married.”

So what’s happened? What have we lost? Why were women in the past, often from the wrong side of the tracks, with little formal education, living in societies completely dominated by men able to pull themselves up by their own boots straps and not only tantalize men but completely bring them to their knees? How was it that the rather strange looking Wallis Simpson was able to enchant the king of England so he gave up the thrown of one of the world’s great powers to marry her? How was Veronica Franco, grand courtesan of Venice (brought back to our attention in the film Dangerous Beauty) able to charge men simply for conversation and won her freedom when arraigned before the Inquisition for charges of witchcraft, whoredom and satanic love spells?

Fortunately for us Prioleau went on a quest into our past and has discovered what modern women have so often abandoned – the erotic knowledge and power that was our birthright from the dawn of humanity. She reminds us (or enlightens those of us who are hearing this for the first time) that for 25,000 years before there was a male deity mankind probably worshipped a goddess. The “probably” is only because we have no written records from that time, what we do have from our ancient past are the ancient figurines of swollen bellied and swollen sexed female fertility symbols to give us a key into the mind of prehistory humans. Prioleau states:

“Prehistory in fact may hold the key to the whole mystery of the mega power of the seductress and her ancient arts. The best scholarly evidence suggests that a cult of the feminine principle probably existed throughout deep history. Seductresses, I theorize, pack such an erotic wallop because they plug into this ancient archetype embedded in the inherited unconscious of the race.”

If the whole concept of “The Goddess” makes you squirm uncomfortably I ask you to sit still and give her a second chance. We are still a society very uncomfortable with female sexual power. We still fear being labeled the slut, and the whore (both by men and women alike), for opening up to our own erotic yearnings and nature and yet we grumble at our husbands and boyfriends for surfing the net for porn where they will stare with longing and abandon at the openly offered sexuality of an Internet vixen.

Isn’t it possible there’s a peace we can all live with? After all we certainly need to find a way up from where we are at present. As things stand (and Prioleau reminds us) only about 15% of women regularly climax via intercourse, and 30 to 50% of women have trouble climaxing sexually at all. Also, a majority of women rank themselves “below average” sexually. It really is time for us to take our erotic power back and let men worship us again. Prioleau goes on to hit the heart of the matter saying:

“…Men, in their libidinal depths, want a divinity to serve and adore and replay of the sexual themes that arose through goddess worship where the erotic impulse, as we know it, took root. They want to be sent to paradise – bowled over, transfigured, and re-bourn.”

In Prioleau’s enchanting and entertaining profiles of very real women who rocked men and society may you find a kindred spirit to inspire you on your own journey to erotic self- knowledge and power? Trust me, men will be very happy you did.