Redefining Seduction: Women Initiating Courtship, Partnership, and Peace.
By Donna Oehm Sheehan & Paul Reffell
BOOK REVIEW BY WILLIAM A. SPRIGGS
December 31, 2007
Why is it that the smallest and simplest of books tend to be the most powerful?
Is it because they present to the reader ideas, concepts, theories, or proposals that are already implanted in the back of people's minds that make enormous sense? Or is it because the ideas represent the kinetic power that has been hidden away for centuries and appear unstoppable once the science of truth unleashes them?
Redefining Seduction is such a book because it leaps to the forefront of a new movement in science and feminism that gives young women (and old) permission to return to the wisdom of their ancestral sisters and make them aware that their gender most likely was responsible for how our species was formed, and, more importantly, to decide the direction our species will be heading in the future; it shouts out, that, without this power, our species most likely will be doomed to extinction because of economic and environmental greed.
Another reason that makes this a powerful book is that represents the trickling down from of the academic world of evolutionary biology and turns it into simple, understandable language in the form of a "how to" book for women seeking life-long partnerships with men for the purpose of continuing our species in a world free of violence. Think of it has a modern day dating book based on common sense biology.
This powerful force is the re-emergence of Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Instead of giving you my interpretation, let me quote from the book:
"While best known for his theory of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin subsequently studied animal behavior and the preening and posturing males do around females and each other. He realized that most of the variations in plumage, coloring, sexual organs, and behavior of males of all species were created through the selection of those attribute by females.
"In particular, Darwin wondered about seemingly useless qualities and traits in animal species, such as extravagant plumage and mating displays, and why they existed at the expense of the energy and the safety of the males. His theory of Sexual Selection proposed that the traits displayed by the males existed only because generations of females desired them during the mating process. In short, females' mating choices had determined the evolution of their species.
"Darwin then applied the hypothesis to humans, writing The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Far from being heralded as the revolutionary work it was, the theory was dismissed by the male scientific establishment of the time, because it was so ridiculous to think that females of any species, especially women, could have any such powers of discernment and taste, or could choose which males were to be their mates. So it was that the theory faded away for a hundred years or so…In our somewhat more enlightened times, Sexual Selection has been subjected to rigorous examination and sure enough, Darwin was right: females choose their mates from the males who display the traits and qualities they prefer.
"So, the male peacock's tail and the man's fast car are open displays of their desirable masculinity, even though both the tail and the car pose survival risks: the tail being cumbersome enough to prevent escape from a predator and the car proving that most men do not have the skills of a professional racer, let alone the foresight to know the car's cumulative effects on the planet! Females of their respective species must choose whether or not the gaudy show of their suitors is proof of genetic superiority worth to be passed onto their offspring.
"This is a brave new idea for women - that you [women] can be the instigators of relationships, and you can do it without blaming men for their biologically driven actions, which are only displays designed to attract us [women]. (When you start to think of men's actions that way, it can seem incredible at times that they are supposed to be attractive. There's the proof of how far away we have strayed from our biological roles that formed our species over hundreds of millennia!)
"Of course, that's not the way we've been conditioned. In Western society, willingly or not, men have taken on the awesome burden of initiating and trying to control relationship[s] while women have been trained to succumb without question. From ancient times, marriages arranged by men became the instruments for business or power-brokering needs and the all-male priesthood created the rituals and rules of contact, all of which contributed to the loss of faith in the feminine and the undervaluing of women." pp. 7 - 9.
Whether Darwin himself was part of this scientific male "conspiracy" to degrade women is beside the point, the result was still the same: Natural selection flourished as the main explanation behind evolution; the tooth and claw theory of a male meritocracy fitted nicely into the male dominated ego-centric world in the late 1850s to early 1900s. And Darwin's other theory -- sexual selection -- floundered for over a hundred years. It wasn't until the 1980s that the sexual selection theory has seen a revision, but even today it is considered a "secret renaissance, hidden from most areas of psychology and the humanities, and largely unrecognized by the general public."
That quote is from page 15 of Geoffrey Miller's exciting book, The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature. In fact, Miller's book, because it explains many gaps within the natural selection theories, has returned the sexual selection theory to its proper place in the explanation of how human nature evolved so quickly. As a result of this reawakening, Redefining Seduction has followed in the common sense flow of this renaissance. Basically, the female of our species, picking certain traits over others in males, forced the very nature of evolution to take a different path; no longer was fighting skill or brute force overcoming certain survival challenges favored - but language, wit, humor, and perhaps, maybe even art or wooing skills. Sheehan and Reffell waste no time in defining this new world for women:
"It's men's responsibility to display their traits so women can choose from among them. But since human males don't have the extravagant plumage or brightly-colored body parts that other species have developed for courting, they display the qualities that they think women want to see in a mate. These could be machismo or sensitivity, wealth or asceticism, physical prowess or mental creativity, stoicism or excitability."
"So how much of this display is real and how much only for show? This can only be judged through the weeding process, which includes the use of seduction by a woman to make a man comfortable enough to lower his guard and show the woman his real self. Seduction is an essential tool for every woman that desires a lasting relationship and every woman has what it takes to be a seductress!" P. 10.
From this point on the book essentially becomes an anti-The Rules book that flips the concept of "playing hard to get" so that the male grovels at the feet of women at the mere whiff of sexual access, to "offering him a grocery store taste sample of what could be a great thing" if plays his cards right. As a male in his sixties, I can only mentally ruminate, "Damn, where were you ladies when I was 25?"
It is, in the simplest of terms, Redefining Seduction is a modern day dating book for young, single women in the process of seeking a partnership with a man for the purpose of a life-long commitment and for the continuance of our species; what makes it different is the guiding direction based Darwin's theory of sexual selection.
Redefining Seduction is a total rejection of "The Rules," mentality where women are taught to "get as much as you can out of a man" and to "lead him around by a leash until he is trained" to do their bidding. It understands that the male is really more scared of the mating process and the power of the feminine - it's just that "institutions" of thought have forced him to be cold and callous and dictate that he appear to be brave and tough.
The book is divided into two parts: Part One: Understanding the Basics includes the first two chapters that I have discussed, with the Second Part: Getting Started, with the how-to instructions of where the rubber meets the road. Here is a breakdown of all the chapters in Part One and Two:
As a male, I would like to comment on what I feel is the best chapter in the book, and that is: What You Need to Know About Men. In particular, Ms. Sheehan and Mr. Reffell make a slam-dunk of the knowledge of the tough, emotional exterior that males must wear in our American culture. Or should we expand territory to include global male fundamentalism -- be it either political or religious? Sheehan and Reffell, give us "The List" for women to understand the male outer mask which I thought very well written and as a result. I wanted to highlight with a few quotes from the book:
"The List" In Translation:
"So now you know that while that guy in the cubicle across the office may look calm and in control…all you are seeing are their Male Masks - the manifestation of a slew of unconscious instructions embedded in their psyches. These instructions are common to most men. Because this book Redefining Seduction is about educating women about men and how to seduce them. I've provided a woman's translations along with the basic list. Here it is:
Don't Show Emotions. Talking about love, saying 'I love you,' talking about being happy or afraid is wimpy. The only acceptable emotion is anger…Being manly is all about stoicism and hiding the emotions. Men are taught to show their caring by their deeds not their words."
Don't Show Weakness. Not only is it 'unmanly,' it invites bullying…the playground becomes a battleground where every boy must prove himself. Being male is all about hierarchies of various kinds…Running away is not an option, nor is reasoning. When a boy comes under physical attack, he must stand his ground and fight back. It's primitive and brutal, and it's testosterone doing its work.
Be Independent. Asking for help is a sign of weakness…real men cannot show himself to be lacking in knowledge or dependent on strangers…which is why men find it difficult to admit their mistakes…because they pose threats to the male aura of control and that makes a man unsure of his place in the pecking order.
Don't admit to needing love or relationship. It's a sign of loss of control and another symptom of dependency…and men must always appear to be in control.
Don't let a woman tie you down. Commitment leads to complications that take away a man's freedom.
Don't show pain. It is unacceptable to admit to pain, especially emotional pain. A true man grits his teeth and acts as if nothing can hurt him…The rugged hero, blazing his way through enemy lines, endlessly resourceful, skilled and strong, emerging from hand-to-hand combat unscathed but for a touch of perspiration on his brow and a scrath on this cheek. Impossible to live up to, yet so appealing to the high-testosterone male self-image, these movies have boosted military recruitment and made the sensitive and evolved man an object of derision. pp. 15 -17.
Wow! Yes, it seems that the alpha males of our world really believe all this macho mumbo jumbo crap about clawing to the top while not giving the slightest consideration or credit to anyone else for helping in that climb.
Now, I'm all in favor of men taking off their tough guy masks and living an evolved persona alongside women in equal partnership who were smart and brave enough to reverse this current malaise of females picking the most aggressive males out there to the detriment of our species’ future -- but-- A major word of caution to my creative friends: The social dominants in this world, and in this particular subject, the high-ranking females who sit comfortably surrounded by the best schools, health care, and safe neighborhoods could easily be threatened by such a redefined movement. Especially one based upon sexual freedoms that some women know is the most important secret weapon on the planet.
But, I say, you go for it girls! Your refusal to be sexually abused when your ancestors were still part of the chimpanzee tribe led you to invent a new way of selecting males based on their intelligence and not their brawn; as a result, the human species was born. Now is the time for all women to wake up to a new reality, that if women continue to select aggressive males at the rate they have in the past, it could mean our extinction.
Because of the evolutionary perspective of this "dating" book, the importance of the subject, and its simple, easy to understand writing, I am placing it in my Recommended Reading section, Level One.
Copyright, Evolution's Voyage, 1995 - 2008