The Amorality of Seduction Techniques

In each of us, two natures are at war—the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose—what we want most to be we are.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Do we have a responsibility to treat one another in a decidedly moral way? Or is “every man for himself” a defensible strategy from a moral point of view? How far does our moral obligation to our fellow man extend? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question recently, especially as it pertains to mating behaviors. Mating is a competition, therefore by definition some of us “win” at mating while others “lose.” This may be true in the competition to win the heart of one individual, or more generally in the sense that mating success is not equally achievable throughout the population. Acceptance of intrasexual competition in mating is demonstrated in such phrases as “All is fair in love and war.” 

In a culture that promotes casual sex, competition increasingly arises between the sexes. Men have always deceived women to get sex, and women have always deceived men to get commitment/resources. What’s changed is our attitude and even acceptance of deceptive tactics for personal gain. Now we compete for “hand” by strategizing to demonstrate that we are the least interested party – and have more leverage in the relationship as a result. It’s a “race to the bottom” in personal relationships. 

In my view, this gives rise to some complex moral questions. Can we claim the moral high road while we derive pleasure that depends on another person’s suffering? Are we morally responsible for the “wins” we accrue as a result of the traps we set for others?

Seduction, more commonly known today as Game, is often defended from criticism with the claim that it is amoral. I am intrigued by the word amoral - does this represent a sort of ethical No Man’s Land? A place that is neither good nor bad, but neutral? And if so, can we exist in that moral-less space with impunity? Let’s begin with a definition of the terms:

Morality:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas ”manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics.

The terms most commonly used to exemplify morality are empathy, compassion and self-sacrifice.

Immorality:

Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right).

Amorality:

Amorality is an absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for morality. Amorality is a feature of nature: chemistry, geology, biology do not identify morality in rocks, chemicals, or plant life.

When consciousness is present, therefore, amorality is not “neutral,” but rather a conscious rejection of that which is moral. This describes some part of the philosophy of Nietzsche, who described himself as an “immoralist” and who condemned Christianity as a “morality of pity.”

Darwin found that many animals show sympathy, affection and even altruism. Even rats are capable of altruism – studies have shown that when presented with two choices – a treat or a rat in trouble, rats come to the aid of the rat in distress rather than gratify their desire for the treat.

There is only one case where morality may be said to be absent in human beings:

Sociopathy, including cognitive and personality disorders.

Some human beings are incapable of empathy, and therefore incapable of morality. 

Robert Greene’s writings, including the 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction are bestselling self-help guides on accumulating and exercising power over others without regard to morality. Described by Amazon as  ”amoral, ruthless, clever and cunning,” The Art of Seduction has been described by Greene as being about “power and manipulation…how to make someone fall under your spell.” His focus is on what works, not what’s moral. He makes no effort to hide this – referring to seduction targets as victims. The absence of empathy or compassion is a prerequisite to successful seduction, in Greene’s view.

It is perhaps noteworthy that Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power is the most requested book in prison libraries. Greene’s writing draws heavily on the efficacy of tactics used by sociopaths throughout history. He cites Dangerous Liaisons as his favorite book. No pretense to morality here – only its absence affords the opportunity for personal gain from one’s victims.

Here are some key principles Greene’s Art of Seduction. Note how the choice of language veers into what most of us would call immoral, rather than morally neutral. 

Choose the right victim. 

They are often isolated or unhappy, or can easily be made so—for the completely contented person is almost impossible to seduce.

Create a false sense of security.

Lull the target into feeling secure, then strike.

Send mixed signals.

A mix of qualities suggests depth, which fascinates even as it confuses.

Create a need—stir anxiety and discontent.

Tension and disharmony must be instilled in your targets’ minds. Stir within them feelings of discontent, an unhappiness with their circumstances and themselves. The feeling of inadequacy that you create will give you space to insinuate yourself.

Create a sublanguage.

Bold statement followed by retraction and apology, ambiguous comments, banal talk combined with alluring glances—that enters the target’s unconscious. Stimulate a curiosity stronger than the doubts and anxieties that go with it, and they will follow you.

Turn the tables.

The only way to lead the seduced along and keep the upper hand is to create suspense, a calculated surprise… You are always one step ahead and in control. Give the victim a thrill with a sudden change of direction.

…Intrigue your targets by alternating an exciting presence with a cool distance, exuberant moments followed by calculated absences. 

…Once they are under your spell, take a step back and they will start to come after you. Hint that you are growing bored. Seem interested in someone else. Soon they will want to possess you physically, and restraint will go out the window. 

Inflame people’s emotions.

[Use] loaded phrases, flatter them, comfort their insecurities, envelop them in sweet words and promises, and not only will they listen to you, they will lose their will to resist you.

Deceive your victims.

You must learn to distract your victims with a myriad of pleasant little rituals—thoughtful gifts tailored just for them, clothes and adornments designed to please them, gestures that show the time and attention you are paying them. Mesmerized by what they see, they will not notice what you are really up to. 

Play the victim to hide your real motive.

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. Physical weakness-—tears, bashfulness, paleness—will help create the effect. Play the victim, and then transform your target’s sympathy into love.

Confuse the victim.

Aim at secret wishes that have been thwarted or repressed, stirring up uncontrollable emotions, clouding their powers of reason. Lead the seduced to a point of confusion in which they can no longer tell the difference between illusion and reality.”

Isolate the victim.

By slowly isolating your victims, you make them more vulnerable to your influence. Take them away from their normal milieu, friends, family, and home. Give them the sense of being marginalized.

Effect a regression.

The deepest-rooted and most pleasurable memories are usually those of early childhood, and are often unconsciously associated with parental figures. Bring your target back to that point by placing yourself in the oedipal triangle and positioning them as the needy child.

Use spiritual lures.

Deepen the effect of your seduction by making its sexual culmination seem like the spiritual union of two souls.

Try inflicting pain.

Make them feel guilty and insecure. Instigate a breakup—now a rapprochement, a return to your earlier kindness, will turn them weak at the knees. To heighten the erotic charge, create the excitement of fear.

Infect the victim.

Infect your target with heat, lure them into lust. Morality, judgment, and concern for the future will melt away.

Avoid kindness.

Throw aside chivalry, kindness, and coquetry and to overwhelm them with a bold move. Don’t give the victim time to consider the consequences. 

Victimize your target 24/7.

If you are to part, make the sacrifice swift and sudden. If you are to stay in a relationship, beware a flagging of energy, a creeping familiarity that will spoil the fantasy. A second seduction is required. Never let the other person take you for granted- use absence, create pain and conflict, to keep the seduced on tenterhooks.

Even infants are moral.

Until recently, it was believed that infants were “blank slates” with regard to morality. In the Atlantic article As Babies We Knew Morality Emily Esfahani Smith reveals the latest research.

Ten years ago Paul Bloom at Yale conducted research which clearly demonstrated that infants as young as three months old distinguish between immoral and moral actions.

It turns out that babies, who are too young to have learned about morality, have an innate moral sense. On top of that, they show a basic disposition to goodness. They are not the little monsters that veneer theorists thought they were. Without prodding, for instance, infants start sharing after they’re six months old. When they’re a little bit older than that, toddlers will help a stranger in need.

Bloom had 6 and 10 month old babies watch a puppet “morality” play, with one helpful puppet and one self-serving puppet. He then offered the baby both puppets, and nearly every infant chose the helpful puppet. He then added a third “neutral” puppet, and while the babies still preferred the helpful puppet, they chose the neutral puppet over the self-serving puppet.

Bloom states that these results “blew him away,” so he tried running the same experiment with babies only 12 weeks old.

But even in their slug-like state,  these young babies can control their eyes, which “really are windows into the baby’s soul,” as Bloom writes. You can tell what a baby likes by what it looks at. So the researchers showed the three-month olds the same morality play with the helping and hindering puppets and then placed the puppets in front of them afterward. Most of the babies looked toward the nice puppet.

So what happens to turn the moral infant into the amoral sociopath? Life, especially childhood. A large body of research shows that “moral disengagement has long been related to unethical decision-making.” What leads to moral disengagement? Insecure attachment. One study found that priming subjects with memories of support and acceptance actually led to more ethical decision making in the moment.  

While most sociopaths are “made” at an early age, there is a disturbing trend whereby previously morally conscious individuals embrace the amorality of seduction or power grabbing tactics for personal gain. Make no mistake – as a seducer’s “victim,” you stand in harm’s way. 

I believe that as human beings, we are obligated to honor the moral compass each of us is born with. That does not require you to show your hand early or use supplication to appeal to the opposite sex. Inner Game – the work of self-development – will always be appropriate. But it does preclude any course of action that secures your personal gain at expense of another person’s suffering. 

The best we can say about these manipulative tactics and harmful strategies is that morality is absent, as it is absent in a rock or a tree. If you believe that human beings possess the capacity and responsibility to act morally, then you must reject such tactics. Only then may you hope to experience real love for and with another human being, rather than a warlike grab for sex or money.