The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

Rating: 8/10

Read More on AmazonGet My Searchable Collection of 200+ Book Notes

High-Level Thoughts

Jeez I took a lot of notes on this one. It’s much more than about sexual seduction, it’s about how to seduce anyone, politically, socially, and yes, sexually. Extremely interesting analogs from history, highly recommend it.

Summary Notes

“Seduction is a game of psychology, not beauty, and it is within the grasp of any person to become a master at the game. All that is required is that you look at the world differently, through the eyes of a seducer.”

“What will seduce a person is the effort we expend on their behalf, showing how much we care, how much they are worth.”

“Seducers take pleasure in performing and are not weighed down by their identity, or by some need to be themselves, or to be natural.”

“Every seduction has two elements that you must analyze and understand: first, yourself and what is seductive about you; and second, your target and the actions that will penetrate their defenses and create surrender.”

The Seductive Character

Successful seduction starts with who you are and the type of seductive energy you express. It requires creating yourself, or refining yourself, in one of the seducer categories.

  • Sirens have an abundance of sexual energy and know how to use it.
  • They lure in their targets, like the sirens of Odysseus, through their image and teases. Crafting the perfect seductive pose for their target.
  • Rakes insatiably adore the opposite sex, and their desire is infectious.
  • Unlike the normal, cautious male, the Rake is delightfully unrestrained, a slave to his love of women. There is the added lure of his reputation: so many women have succumbed to him, there has to be a reason.
  • Remember: it is the form that matters, not the content. The less your targets focus on what you say, and the more on how it makes them feel, the more seductive your effect. Give your words a lofty, spiritual, literary flavor the better to insinuate desire in your unwitting victims.
  • To play the Rake, the most obvious requirement is the ability to let yourself go, to draw a woman into the kind of purely sensual moment in which past and future lose meaning. You must be able to abandon yourself to the moment.
  • If no obstacles face you, you must create them. Seduction requires obstacle.
  • Ideal Lovers have an aesthetic sensibility that they apply to romance.
  • Casanova was perhaps the most successful seducer in history; few women could resist him. His method was simple: on meeting a woman, he would study her, go along with her moods, find out what was missing in her life, and provide it. He made himself the Ideal Lover.
  • But appeal to their better selves, to a higher standard of beauty, and they will hardly notice that they have been seduced. Make them feel elevated, lofty, spiritual, and your power over them will be limitless.
  • Talleyrand simply held up a mirror to Napoleon and let him glimpse that possibility. People are always vulnerable to insinuations like this, which stroke their vanity almost everyone’s weak spot. Hint at something for them to aspire to, reveal your faith in some untapped potential you see in them, and you will soon have them eating out of your hand.
  • Dandies like to play with their image, creating a striking and androgynous allure.
  • Most of us feel trapped within the limited roles that the world expects us to play. We are instantly attracted to those who are more fluid, more ambiguous, than we are— those who create their own persona. Dandies excite us because they cannot be categorized, and hint at a freedom we want for ourselves.
  • Dandies seduce socially as well as sexually; groups form around them, their style is wildly imitated, an entire court or crowd will fall in love with them. In adapting the Dandy character for your own purposes, remember that the Dandy is by nature a rare and beautiful flower. Be different in ways that are both striking and aesthetic, never vulgar; poke fun at current trends and styles, go in a novel direction, and be supremely uninterested in what anyone else is doing. Most people are insecure; they will wonder what you are up to, and slowly they will come to admire and imitate you, because you express yourself with total confidence.
  • Naturals are spontaneous and open.
  • Coquettes are self-sufficient, with a fascinating cool at their core.
  • Coquettes seem totally self-sufficient: they do not need you, they seem to say, and their narcissism proves devilishly attractive.
  • People are inherently perverse. An easy conquest has a lower value than a difficult one; we are only really excited by what is denied us, by what we cannot possess in full. Your greatest power in seduction is your ability to turn away, to make others come after you, delaying their satisfaction.
  • To understand the peculiar power of the Coquette, you must first understand a critical property of love and desire: the more obviously you pursue a person, the more likely you are to chase them away.
  • Self-esteem is critical in seduction. (Your attitude toward yourself is read by the other person in subtle and unconscious ways.) Low self-esteem repels, confidence and self-sufficiency attract. The less you seem to need other people, the more likely others will be drawn to you.
  • Charmers want and know how to please— they are social creatures.
  • Charmers do not argue or fight, complain, or pester— what could be more seductive?
  • First, they don’t talk much about themselves, which heightens their mystery and disguises their limitations. Second, they seem to be interested in us, and their interest is so delightfully focused that we relax and open up to them. Finally Charmers are pleasant to be around. They have none of most people’s ugly qualities— nagging, complaining, self-assertion.
  • Charismatics have an unusual confidence in themselves.
  • Learn to create the charismatic illusion by radiating intensity while remaining detached.
  • Creating the air of charisma:
  • Purpose. If people believe you have a plan, that you know where you are going, they will follow you instinctively The direction does not matter: pick a cause, an ideal, a vision and show that you will not sway from your goal.Mystery. Mystery lies at charisma’s heart, but it is a particular kind of mystery— a mystery expressed by contradiction, by having conflicting traits.Saintliness. Most of us must compromise constantly to survive; saints do not. They must live out their ideals without caring about the consequences. The saintly effect bestows charisma.Eloquence. A Charismatic relies on the power of words.Theatricality. A Charismatic is larger than life, has extra presence.Uninhibitedness. Most people are repressed, and have little access to their unconscious— a problem that creates opportunities for the Charismatic, who can become a kind of screen on which others project their secret fantasies and longings.Fervency. You need to believe in something, and to believe in it strongly enough for it to animate all your gestures and make your eyes light up.Vulnerability. Charismatics display a need for love and affection.Adventurousness. Charismatics are unconventional.Magnetism. If any physical attribute is crucial in seduction, it is the eyes. They reveal excitement, tension, detachment, without a word being spoken.
  • People do not want to hear that your power comes from years of effort or discipline. They prefer to think that it comes from your personality, your character, something you were born with.
  • Stars are ethereal and envelop themselves in mystery.
  • People are hopelessly susceptible to myth, so make yourself the hero of a great drama. And keep your distance— let people identify with you without being able to touch you. They can only watch and dream.
  • First, you must have such a large presence that you can fill your target’s mind the way a close-up fills the screen.
  • Second, cultivate a blank, mysterious face, the center that radiates Starness.
  • The Anti-Seducer: those who repel
  • Anti-Seducers come in many shapes and kinds, but almost all of them share a single attribute, the source of their repellence: insecurity.
  • It is critical to recognize anti-seductive qualities not only in others but also in ourselves. Almost all of us have one or two of the Anti-Seducer’s qualities latent in our character, and to the extent that we can consciously root them out, we become more seductive.
  • The Brute: Who has no patience, who wants to skip the seduction, who offends with egotism.
  • The Suffocator: Those who cling incessantly to you, love you before you know who they are, or who make themselves a doormat to you in their obsession.
  • The Moralizer: Who wants you to bend to their standard.
  • The Tightwad: Cheapness displays more insecurity beyond money.
  • The Bumbler: The awkward speaker, who makes others feel awkward too.
  • The Windbag: Who won’t shut up.
  • The Reactor: Who is terrified to have their ego damaged.
  • The Vulgarian: Who ignores the rules of the game, presents a garrish image, does not play the game and yet expects to win.
  • It is rather because wordless communication (through clothes, gestures, actions) is the most pleasurable, exciting, and seductive form of language.

The 18 Types of Seducer Victims

Never try to seduce your own type.

People are constantly giving out signals of what they lack, you have to tune in to these signals and interpret their type based on them.

  1. The Reformed Rake or Siren: They desperately long to escape whatever corralled them in, what is preventing them from being their normal freely sexual self.
  2. The Disappointed Dreamer: They long for adventure, but are stuck in a boring lifestyle.
  3. The Pampered Royal: The long to be swept off their feet by a prince charming and let them live out their fantasy of being pampered and treated like royalty.
  4. The New Prude: excessively concerned with their outward appearance, underneath they want to release, but they fear judgement. They must feel like they’re sharing some secret with you…
  5. The Crushed Star: No longer the center of attention, they long to have that sense of being adored back.
  6. The Novive: They want to at least feel that you’re somewhat “young” too, but are also excited by the possibility of being introduced to a new, darker world…
  7. The Conquerer: You must give them an obstacle to overcome, a mission, a goal.
  8. The Exotic Fetishist: They want novelty, new experiences, things on the edge, you must position yourself as something exotic.
  9. The Drama Queen: They long for drama in their lives, so you’ll need to help create it in order to keep them rapt.
  10. The Professor: They analyze and think deeply about everything, but long to be overwhelmed by a more free spirit who can help them release their mental barrier.
  11. The Beauty: Used to being appreciated, you must focus on the less complimented features like her intellect or wit.
  12. The Aging Baby: Still immature and wanting a supportive parent, you must enable their childish desires while still occasionally reeling them in.
  13. The Rescuer: They long to feel like they’re saving someone from themselves, you must make them feel that they can “save” you from something and they will become obsessed. Let her be your maternal protector.
  14. The Roué: Experienced in life, they desire to educate someone more naive.
  15. The Idol Worshipper: You must become their object of worship that provides the meaning in life that they seek.
  16. The Sensualist: Driven by their senses, you must overwhelm their site, smell, and touch, to fully draw them in.
  17. The Lonely Leader: Act as their equal or superior, the kind of relationship they rarely have.
  18. The Floating Gender: Float with them.

Seduction Phase 1: Separation, Stiring Interest and Desire

  1. Choosing the right victim
  2. The right victims are those for whom you can fill a void, who see in you something exotic.
  3. To leave people who are inaccessible to you alone is a wise path; you cannot seduce everyone.
  4. Never rush into the waiting arms of the first person who seems to like you. That is not seduction but insecurity.
  5. People who are outwardly distant or shy are often better targets than extroverts. They are dying to be drawn out, and still waters run deep.
  6. On the other hand, you should generally avoid people who are preoccupied with business or work— seduction demands attention, and busy people have too little space in their minds for you to occupy.
  7. Creating a False Sense of Security, Approach Indirectly
  8. Once you have chosen the right victim, you must get his or her attention and stir desire. To move from friendship to love can win success without calling attention to itself as a maneuver.
  9. First, your friendly conversations with your targets will bring you valuable information about their characters, their tastes, their weaknesses, the childhood yearnings that govern their adult behavior.
  10. Second, by spending time with your targets you can make them comfortable with you.
  11. Then, surprise their expectations with an errant touch or suggestion, make them now interested.
  12. There is nothing more effective in seduction than making the seduced think that they are the ones doing the seducing.
  13. The first move to master is simple: once you have chosen the right person, you must make the target come to you.
  14. Too much attention early on will actually just suggest insecurity, and raise doubts as to your motives. Worst of all, it gives your targets no room for imagination. Take a step back; let the thoughts you are provoking come to them as if they were their own.
  15. In all arenas of life, you should never give the impression that you are angling for something— that will raise a resistance that you will never lower. Learn to approach people from the side.
  16. Send Mixed Signals
  17. What is obvious and striking may attract their attention at first, but that attention is often short-lived; in the long run, ambiguity is much more potent. Most of us are much too obvious —instead, be hard to figure out.
  18. To deepen their interest, you must hint at a complexity that cannot be grasped in a week or two.
  19. If you have a sweet face and an innocent air, let out hints of something dark, even vaguely cruel in your character.
  20. Appear to Be an Object of Desire: Create Triangles
  21. You see a man alone, whom nobody talks to for any length of time, and who is wandering around without company; isn’t there a kind of self-fulfilling isolation about him? Why is he alone, why is he avoided? There has to be a reason.
  22. When people’s vanity is at risk, you can make them do whatever you want. According to Stendhal, if there is a woman you are interested in, pay attention to her sister. That will stir a triangular desire.
  23. Men who believe that a rakish reputation will make women fear or distrust them, and should be played down, are quite wrong. On the contrary, it makes them more attractive.
  24. Create a need, stir anxiety and discontent
  25. People are always susceptible to being seduced, because in fact everyone lacks a sense of completeness, feels something missing deep inside. Bring their doubts and anxieties to the surface and they can be led and lured to follow you.
  26. Make people anxious about the future, make them depressed, make them question their identity, make them sense the boredom that gnaws at their life. The ground is prepared. The seeds of seduction can be sown.
  27. Master the Art of Insinutation
  28. There is no known defense, however, against insinuation— the art of planting ideas in people’s minds by dropping elusive hints that take root days later, even appearing to them as their own idea. Make everything suggestive.
  29. Enter Their Spirit
  30. Play by their rules, enjoy what they enjoy, adapt yourself to their moods. In doing so you will stroke their deep-rooted narcissism and lower their defenses.
  31. Create Temptation
  32. As the serpent tempted Eve with the promise of forbidden knowledge, you must awaken a desire in your targets that they cannot control. Find that weakness of theirs, that fantasy that has yet to be realized, and hint that you can lead them toward it.
  33. Find that childhood insecurity, that lack in their life, and you hold the key to tempting them. Their weakness may be greed, vanity, boredom, some deeply repressed desire, a hunger for forbidden fruit. They signal it in little details that elude their conscious control: their style of clothing, an offhand comment.

Phase 2: Lead Astray — Creating Pleasure and Confusion

  1. Keep Them In Suspense, what comes next?
  2. Behave in a way that leaves them wondering, What are you up to? Doing something they do not expect from you will give them a delightful sense of spontaneity— they will not be able to foresee what comes next.
  3. There are all kinds of calculated surprises you can spring on your victims— sending a letter from out of the blue, showing up unexpectedly, taking them to a place they have never been. But best of all are surprises that reveal something new about your character.
  4. Reliability is fine for drawing people in, but stay reliable and you stay a bore. Dogs are reliable, a seducer is not.
  5. Use the Demonic Power of Words to Sow Confusion
  6. Inflame people’s emotions with loaded phrases, flatter them, comfort their insecurities, envelop them in fantasies, sweet words, and promises, and not only will they listen to you, they will lose their Will to resist you.
  7. A woman was beautiful, yet lacked confidence in her own wit and intelligence? He made sure to say that he was bewitched not by her beauty but by her mind.
  8. Pay Attention to Detail
  9. Poeticize Your Presence
  10. You can be dangerous, naughty, even somewhat vulgar, depending on the tastes of your victim. But never be ordinary or limited. In poetry (as opposed to reality), anything is possible.
  11. The only thing that cannot be idealized is mediocrity, but there is nothing seductive about mediocrity. There is no possible way to seduce without creating some kind of fantasy and poeticization.
  12. Disarm Through Strategic Weakness and Vulnerability
  13. The best way to cover your tracks is to make the other person feel superior and stronger. If you seem to be weak, vulnerable, enthralled by the other person, and unable to control yourself, you will make your actions look more natural, less calculated.
  14. Remember: what is natural to your character is inherently seductive. A person’s vulnerability, what they seem to be unable to control, is often what is most seductive about them.
  15. A woman, for instance, may be attracted by a man’s strength and self-confidence, but too much of it can create fear, seeming unnatural, even ugly.
  16. Confuse Desire and Reality— The Perfect Illusion
  17. Your task as a seducer is to bring some flesh and blood into someone’s fantasy life by embodying a fantasy figure, or creating a scenario resembling that person’s dreams.
  18. Isolate the Victim
  19. Separate them from their environment physically, emotionally, and mentally, so they can become further engrossed with you.

Phase 3: The Precipice, deepening the effect through extreme measures

  1. Prove Yourself
  2. Do not worry about looking foolish or making a mistake— any kind of deed that is self-sacrificing and for your targets’ sake will so overwhelm their emotions, they won’t notice anything else.
  3. Cleverly lead your victim into a crisis, a moment of danger, or indirectly put them in an uncomfortable position, and you can play the rescuer, the gallant knight.
  4. Effect a Regression
  5. Stir Up the Transgressive and Taboo
  6. Making your targets feel that you are leading them past either kind of limit is immensely seductive. People yearn to explore their dark side.
  7. But we are strange animals: the moment any kind of limit is imposed, physically or psychologically, we are instantly curious. A part of us wants to go beyond that limit, to explore what is forbidden.
  8. The most blatant way to do this is to engage in behavior that gives you a dark and forbidden aura. Theoretically you are someone to avoid; in fact you are too seductive to resist.
  9. Use Spiritual Lures
  10. Everyone has doubts and insecurities —about their body, their self-worth, their sexuality. If your seduction appeals exclusively to the physical, you will stir up these doubts and make your targets self-conscious. Instead, lure them out of their insecurities by making them focus on something sublime and spiritual: a religious experience, a lofty work of art, the occult.
  11. Mix Pleasure with Pain
  12. Lure them in with focused attention, then change direction, appearing suddenly uninterested. Make them feel guilty and insecure. Even instigate a breakup, subjecting them to an emptiness and pain that will give you room to maneuver
  13. Your seduction should never follow a simple course upward toward pleasure and harmony. The climax will come too soon, and the pleasure will be weak. What makes us intensely appreciate something is previous suffering.
  14. Without tension, without anxiety and suspense, there can be no feeling of release, of true pleasure and joy. It is your task to create that tension in the target, to stimulate feelings of anxiety, to lead them to and fro, so that the culmination of the seduction has real weight and intensity. So rid yourself of your nasty habit of avoiding conflict, which is in any case unnatural. You are most often nice not out of your own inner goodness but out of fear of displeasing, out of insecurity.

Phase 4: Move in for the kill

  1. Give Them Space to Fall— The Pursuer Is Pursued
  2. Stir the pot by seeming interested in someone else. Make none of this explicit; let them only sense it and their imagination will do the rest, creating the doubt you desire.
  3. Understand: a person’s willpower is directly linked to their libido, their erotic desire. When your victims are passively waiting for you, their erotic level is low. When they turn pursuer, getting involved in the process, brimming with tension and anxiety, the temperature is raised.
  4. Use Physical Lures
  5. While your cool, nonchalant air is calming their minds and lowering their inhibitions, your glances, voice, and bearing— oozing sex and desire— are getting under their skin, agitating their senses and raising their temperature.
  6. Second, be alert to the signs of physical excitation. Blushing, trembling of the voice, tears, unusually forceful laughter, relaxing movements of the body (any kind of involuntary mirroring, their gestures imitating yours), a revealing slip of the tongue— these are signs that the victim is slipping into the moment and pressure is to be applied.
  7. Master the Art of the Bold Move
  8. One person must go on the offensive, and it is you.
  9. Beware the Aftereffects
  10. Stir the pot, even if that means a return to inflicting pain and pulling back. Never rely on your physical charms; even beauty loses its appeal with repeated exposure. Only strategy and effort will fight off inertia
  11. Maintain your mystery and lightness
  12. Avoid the slow burnout, Once you feel disenchanted and know it is over, end it quickly, without apology. Once you are truly disenchanted, there is no going back, so don’t hang on out of false pity. It is more compassionate to make a clean break. If that seems inappropriate or too ugly, then deliberately disenchant the victim with anti-seductive behavior.

Did You Enjoy This?

Then consider signing up for my Monday Medley newsletter. It's a collection of fascinating finds from my week, usually about psychology, technology, health, philosophy, and whatever else catches my interest. I also include new articles, book notes, and podcast episodes.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.