Seduction

"As wolves love lambs so lovers love their loves."

(Plato Phaedrus [Great Books Edition] p. 122)


A jealous man is jealous indeed; there is nothing he does not find food for umbrage in, nothing that is not a subject for self-torment. He knows a woman false from the first, from the mere fact that she lives and breathes. He fears those workings of the inward life, those varied impulses of the flesh and spirit which make the woman a creature apart and distinct from himself, a creature independent, instinctive, ambiguous, and at times inconceivable. He suffers because she blossoms forth, of her own sweet nature, like a beautiful flower, without the possibility of any love, no matter how masterful, capturing and holding all the perfume she sheds in that stirring moment that is youth and life. At heart, the one reproach he has against her is that,--she is. She is alive, she is beautiful, she dreams dreams. What mortal disquietude in the thought! He wants her, wants her whole body, wants it in more consummate fullness and perfection than Nature has permitted; he wants her, body and soul!"  (Anatole France, The Gardens of Epicurus, p. 23).

*   *   *

In a story by Andrew DeWitt entitled "Snake Eyes", a 14-year-old suburban boy named Peter must approach Lula, the neighborhood's "real wild slut"—a crassly philosophical girl who might be pregnant with the child of god—because he throws the lowest possible combination on a pair of dice in his friend's basement. The story goes on to describe this boy's inauguration into the adult world of male sexuality, its physical rewards, as well as the morbid closeness to death it brings to the protagonist's consciousness. His innocence is lost to the dicethrow—to what seems could be no more random of an event, but which actually becomes, through a ritualistic adherence to an external system governing the rules of play (in this case, Peter's decision to play by his friends' rules), just another cause and effect relationship set up in advance: an if-then masking itself as what-if. The if-then is always seductive because of the "then," which is so often followed by sex or something like it, something distracting enough to alter the protagonist's course, to disengage him from the if-then he was wrapped up in fulfilling before.

Peter throws the dice in the story, creating the "fatal combination" that ends one form of play and begins another. Interestingly, despite the self-similarity of the double-outcome of the game that begins the narrative (each dice itself producing a singularity--"snake eyes"), the events that result from the winning combination involve a series of encounters between two individuals vying to "become one" through the sex act, which of course, contains in its logic the possibility of an impending third party that, in the case of this story, might be present as, simultaneously, a supernatural impossibility (the child of god), a most obvious possibility (a child whose father is unknown) or as, finally, the absolutely necessary product of a fiction—both within the story and without—a physical nonentity, a prop, a lie. Of course, the reader will never know for sure.

The references to Christian mythology in the story enable the narrator to propose a possible interpretation on the random events that have taken place—beginning with the initial seduction of the older more experienced girl by the naïve would-be initiate (whereupon he arrives on her doorstep with a few physical compliments and a drugstore rose, a seduction motivated not by the girl's charm and grace but by the outcomes of a dicethrow and the protagonist's adherence to his friends' rules—i.e.: male codes of sexual conduct). Naturally, his attempts get him nowhere and he is forced to reveal the secret from the beginning: "'My friends put me up to this, they all think you're the prettiest girl on the block and I said I had balls enough to come and ask you out, but they didn't believe me so I bet them fifty dollars that I could get you to go out with me. They're actually a bunch of pricks and I'd really like to show them up, just once" (DeWitt). In response to Peter's "honesty," Lula agrees to play the game, but "For half the winnings" (DeWitt). This agreement leads to a reversal of the seductive process, whereupon Lula unknowingly takes the lead, forcing Peter into a financial loss that he cannot reveal. In other words, she wins the game simply by agreeing to play it. She also reverses the roles in the process, shifting from seduced to seducer, guiding Peter through the suburban landscape to the secluded "Shitting Tree", urinating in front of him, and thus exposing him to his first "little peep of pussy." This reversal leads to a physical working through of the seductive process—an ongoing make-out session that takes place by the befouled tree which serves to sexually initiate the protagonist in a ritual exchange involving cigarettes, interrupted attempts at coitus, pornography, and a discussion of the burden of virgin conception—all firsts for Peter, all actions initiated by Lula herself. Finally, the encounter is ended by an invitation. Lula says, "'You can come over to my house tomorrow while my parents are gone. But just to hang out. I don't want you coming over with a hard on expecting something'" (DeWitt)—an interruption that functions as a promise disguised as a deferral of the sex act. When Peter arrives the next day to collect on her promise, he finds her in her bedroom bloodying herself with a broken mirror in an attempt to abort the "child of god" with whom she'd been allegedly infected. As the boy watches the blood combining with a spilt glass of water, running down her legs and onto a porno mag on the floor, he is struck with both horror and disgust: "I felt like a holiday was lost" (DeWitt). Abandoning the object of his lust and the game which initiated the encounter, Peter backs out of Lula's bedroom. At the moment the seductive play is haltedhalted by the girl's power to repel the protagonist with the certainty of death, as opposed to luring him with playfulness and life—the boy is free at last to once again engage his external world at random. Liberated from his task as seducer and all of its seductive components, he leaves the house, taking note of the soggy Eucharist left untouched by bird and man alike sitting outside in the pot of water. The image of the bread, a gift of life, distracts him from the images of violence that lay so close at hand, surreptitiously diverting the reader from the nonreligious implications of those actions that have been represented. The last image of the untouched feast rests on in the word "rotting," images of life turned to death coagulating in the limply hanging offerings that have been and continue to be passed over.

What is of interest here, is the manner in which seduction is associated with games of chance that have at their very core, matters of life and death as their stakes.

* * *


As Baudrillard points out in Seduction, the word seduce--"(se-ducere: "to take aside, to divert from one's path" (22). It also means "to win by charm or attractiveness" (OED)-- the "stroke of wit" (Baudrillard ___) to which Baudrillard refers. Both definitions imply a connection with the ends pursued by gambling: that of winning and that of diversion. The two concepts are inextricably linked.

Seduction supposes a ritual order" (21)The law of seduction takes the form of an uninterrupted ritual exchange where seducer and seduced constantly raise the stakes in a game that never ends. And cannot end since the dividing line that defines the victory of the one and the defeat of the other, is illegible. And because there is no limit to the challenge to love more than one is loved, or to be always more seduce—if not death. (Baudrillard 21-22).

Baudrillard refers to seduction as "open[ing] the path to desire" (Baudrillard 43) or as a challenge or a duel,

that figure of anti-seduction par excellence, power. . . power seduces by virtue of the reversibility that haunts it, and on which a minor cycle is instituted. . . . At bottom, power does not exist. The unilateral character of the relation of forces on which the "structure" and "reality" of power and its perpetual movement are supposedly instituted, does not exist. This is the dream of power imposed by reason, not its reality. Everything seeks its own death, including power. Or rather, everything demands to be exchanged, reversed, and abolished within a cycle . . . This alone is profoundly seductive. Power (45) seduces only when it becomes a challenge to itself; otherwise it is just an exercise, and satisfies only the hegemonic logic of reason" (Baudrillard 45-46).

"seduction flows beneath the obscenity of speech. It is the opposite of communication, and yet it can be shared. The secret maintains its power only at the price of remaining unspoken, just as seduction operates only because never spoken nor intended" (79) Seduction is sovereign—the only ritual that eclipses all others—but its sovereignty is cruel, and carries a heavy price" (86) "For seduction, desire is not an end but a hypothetical prize" (87) "For seduction, desire is a myth" (87). "And her [the seductress] ultimate trap is to ask: "Tell me who I am"—when she is indifferent to what she is, when she is a blank, with neither age nor history. Her power likes in the irony and elusiveness of her presence" (87). Seductress seduces with "the eclipse of a presence" (85). "Seduction oscillates between two poles, a pole of strategy and a pole of animality . . . But doesn't this division mask a single form, an undivided seduction?" (88) "For nothing exists naturally, things exist because challenged, and because summoned to respond to that challenge." (91). "Doesn't the seducer end up losing himself in his strategy, as in an emotional labyrinth? Doesn't he invent that strategy in order to lose himself in it? And he who believes himself the game's master, isn't he the first victim of strategy's tragic myth?” (98) Seduction begins with the natural beauty of the "woman," a natural beauty that—by not being enjoyed by the seducer—appears dangerous and godlike. The seducer's obsession is "with an inviolate, still asexual state, a charmed state of grace" (98) "because she is naturally endowed with all seduction, she becomes the object of a savage challenge and must be destroyed" (99) "The seducer's calling is the extermination of the girl's natural power by an artificial power of his own . . . The last word cannot be left to nature: this, fundamentally, is what is at issue. Her exceptional, innate grace . . . must be sacrificed by the seducer, who will seek with all his skill to lead her to the point of erotic abandon, the point at which she will cease to be a seductive, that is, dangerous power . . . The calculated seduction mirrors the natural seduction, drawing from the latter as from its source, but all the better to eliminate it . . . This is also why he does not leave anything to chance . . . Everything has already taken place; the seduction simply rights a natural imbalance by taking up the pre-existing challenge constituted by the girl's natural beauty and grace . . . Seduction now changes its meaning. Instead of being an immoral and libertine exercise, a cynical deception for sexual ends (and thus without great interest), it becomes mythical and acquires the dimensions of a sacrifice" (99). The seducer cannot claim to be the hero of an erotic master plan; he is only the agent of a process that goes far beyond him" (100).

KEY: STRUCTURE AS GUIDE:

There is something impersonal in every process of seduction, as in every crime, something ritualistic, something suprasubjective and supra-sensual, the lived experience, being only its unconscious reflection. Dramaturgy without a subject. The ritual execution of a form that consumes its subjects. This is why the piece takes on both the aesthetic form of a work of art and the ritual form of a crime." (Baudrillard 100) "Sexuality might be reexamined in this light, as the economic residue of seduction's sacrificial process, not unlike the residual portion that in ancient sacrifices was left to circulate within the (100) economy" (100-101) "In any case, something has been given to women that must be exorcized by a deliberate campaign to dispossess her of her powers. And from this 'sacrificial' perspective, there is no difference between feminine seduction and the seducer's strategy: they both involve the other's death and mental spoliation, the other's abduction and the abduction of his or her power. It is always the story of a murder, or better of an aesthetic and sacrificial immolation since, as Kierkegaard suggests, it always occurs at a spiritual level" (101) "The emotions born of desire can never equal the exuberant, secret joy one experiences when playing with desire itself." (103) "A game without end, in which the signs participate spontaneously, as if from a continuous sense of irony. Perhaps the signs want to be seduced, perhaps they desire, more profoundly than men, to seduce and be seduced” (103) “Seduction pushes the terms towards each other, and unites them at a point of maximum energy and charm; it does not blur them together in a state of minimum intensity” (104) seduction is “a duel and agonistic relation” (105)

KEY CONNECTION BETWEEN GAMES AND SEDUCTION:

TEMPORALLY SEDUCTION IS LIKE GAMBLING:

"Now the giddiness of seduction, as of every passion, lies above all with is predestination. The latter alone provides that fatal quality at the basis of all pleasure—that stroke of wit, as it were, which ties, as if in advance, a movement of the soul to its destiny and its death. Here lies the seducer's triumph" (Baudrillard Seduction 111).

THE GAME:

“-a form of duel or war, an agonal form. It never takes the form of violence or a relation of force, but of a war game. In it one discovers the two simultaneous movements of seduction, as found in every strategy” (113).

THE EFFECT OF SEDUCTION LIKE THE EFFECT OF FLÂNERIE OR GAMING:

“[the seducer’s strategy] is a part of that aesthetics of irony which seeks to transform a vulgar, physical eroticism into a passion, and stroke of wit” (115).

SEDUCTION (in its irony) AS THRESHOLD EXPERIENCE A LA BAUDRILLARD:

“Irony always prevents the mortal emotion demonstrations that anticipate the game’s end and threaten to cut short the untried possibilities held by each of the players. Seduction alone can deploy the latter, but only by keeping things in suspense, by an ironic clinamen, and by that disillusion which leaves the field of aesthetics open” (116). “Seduction, being on the side of the appearances and the Devil, is aesthetically possessive” (116). “Only what is interesting about the interesting has seduction’s aesthetic force” (117) “Seduction lies in the transformation of things into pure appearances” (117)

THE EFFECT ON THE SEDUCED:

"She was not exactly deceived or dispossessed, but spiritually diverted by a game whose rules she was not aware of. She was played with, as though under a spell" (118). "Death remains the ultimate risk in every symbolic pact, be it that supposed by a challenge, a secret, a seduction or a perversion" (124) "The seducer's behavior is determined by his fear of being seduced, and of having to face the risk of a challenge to his own truth. This is what leads him to his first sexual conquest, and then to the countless conquests where he can fetishize his (127) strategy” (127-182)




In The Arcades Project, Benjamin further advances the connection between the two pastimes by repeatedly comparing, first by coupling the term “Gambling” with “Prostitution” in the heading of Convolute ______ and throughout his discussion of the activity:

ȁGamblers are types to whom it is not given to satisfy the woman. Isn’t Don Juan a gambler?” (AP 513)

“Between the evening gambler and the morning gambler the same difference exists as between the nonchalant husband and the ecstatic lover waiting under his mistress’s window” (AP 514-515),

At the deepest level, the game of chance is love's will to be extorted by an unconscious masochistic design. This is why the gambler always loses in the long run.’” Edmund Bergler, ‘Zur Psychologie des Hasardspielers,’ Imago, 22, no. 4 (1936), p. 440.” (AP 510)

ȁ’The insatiable greed that finds no rest within an unending vicious circle, where loss becomes gain and gain becomes loss, is said to arise form the narcissistic compul- (AP 510) sion to fertilize and give birth to oneself in an anal birth fantasy, surpassing and replacing one’s own father and mother in an endlessly escalating process. ‘Thus in the last analysis, the passion for gambling satisfies the claim of the bisexual ideal, which the narcissist discovers in himself; at stake is the formation of a compromise between masculine and feminine, active and passive, sadistic and masochistic; and in the end it is the unresolved decision between genital and anal libido that confronts the gambler in the well-known symbolic colors of red and black. The passion for gambling thus serves an autoerotic satisfaction, wherein betting is foreplay, winning is orgasm, and losing is ejaculation, defecation, and castration.’” Edmund Bergler, ‘Zur Psychologie des Hasardspielers,’ Imago, 22, no. 4 (1936), pp. 409-410.” (AP 510)


HUNTING/KILLING [connected with ZERO insofar as ZERO is death]:

“The spontaneity common to the student, to the gambler, to the flâneur is perhaps that of the hunter—which is to say, that of the oldest type of work, which may be intertwined closest of all with idleness” (AP 806):

Here Benjamin's collection brings to the surface a relationship between gambling and killing. It is a relationship that mirrors the seduction motif put forth by Baudrillard in Seduction in that, like Baudrillard's seducer, the aim of the gambler and the flâneur (which shall be addressed later) involves the pursuit of prey. It is a pursuit which requires the reading of nonverbal signs, traces, and tracks, as well as the unmediated reflex-like response of the gambler. It is also a pursuit that ends only in death (as a source of life) or resignation (as the refusal to play). [comparable, in ways, to the apprehension of the flâneur's immediate experience in narrative—who says that naming/writing about something is a form of murder—is that Baudrillard as well?] Like the game and the journey, the hunt is a threshold in itself marked by the dual nature of its conclusion. Like Baudrillard's version of seduction, the hunt—and its gambling- and flânerie-related permutations—has as its primary aim the destruction of its object. Indeed, it is this death that ends the hunt that functions as Deleuze's "fatal number which necessarily reunites all the fragments and brings back the dicethrow" (Deleuze ______), that affirms the necessity of the hunt and thus proscribes its reinstantiation.

In order to understand the nature of the gambler, one must understand both his game and his mode of operation—his strategy. Baudrillard's seduction as strategy. . . externally imposed system of order that requires negotiation--navigation--and therefore, must be responded to. The question is, can rules seduce? Is the human desire to establish meaning in their own experience the way that RULES seduce and control them?


Set up Baudrillard’s Seduction: Along side Sophie Calle's Suite venitienne. Jean Baudrillard. Please Follow Me. Following (getting back to the idea of “the guide” in the chapter "The Thing"—the idea of itineracy) becomes seduction. To LEAD—read Mann’s “Death in Venice”. To follow is to be seduced, to play the part of the CAT.

REFLEX à SEDUCTION: Lead in to SEDUCTION: involuntary response to unnameable, though powerful forces: the force of life and death, creation destruction, the biggest forces around.

From Baudrillard’s Seduction:

"Doesn't the seducer end up losing himself in his strategy, as in an emotional labyrinth? Doesn't he invent that strategy in order to lose himself in it? And he who believes himself the game's master, isn't he the first victim of strategy's tragic myth?" (98)


Which one holds the mystery—who is the reader and who is being read.

Following RULES: the guide.


"'And so this is what I said to myself . . . : "O Idleness, Idleness! You are the life breath of innocence and inspiration. The blessed breathe you, and the blessed is he who has you and cherishes you, you holy jewel, you sole fragment of godlikeness come down to us from Paradise!'" Schlegel, Lucinde p. 29 ('Idulle über den Müsiggang')." (AP 379)

It is the idleness that enables play-for-the-sake-of-play association with the exterior world—different from the purposeful life.


Here, introduce the violence of seduction and Baudrillard? The Minotaur which is the other? Or maybe Nin's Seduction of the Minotaur?

Baudrillard’s Seduction

Sophie Calle Double Game (strip tease section: also, read Baudrillard’s inclusion in her Suite Venetienne)--zero clothing?

The Seduction of the Minotaur—this can connect seduction to flâneur figure.

Tender Buttons (Seduction of language—through teasing and play…connect to gambling? Nah….)

"We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows" ("The Secret Sits" Frost 362.)
Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth

Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--

Assorted characters of death and blight

Mixed ready to begin the morning right,

Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--

A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,

And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,

The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?

What brought the kindred spider to that height,

Then steered the white moth thither in the night?

What but design of darkness to appall?--

If design govern in a thing so small.

(Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost, The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged, p.302)





In Robert Frost's "Design," a moth is seduced by the unnaturally white petals of a heal-all. It is the promise of the pharmakon that allures us. (See Derrida's Dissemination). A salve for the violence of solitude and autonomy. Yet as the drug is both healer and poison, the intoxicating encounter with a seductive other is both enlivening and deadening.


Lacan's discussion of "The Purloined Letter" and the concept of seduction.

From Phaedrus--the seduction is made possible by the setting--far from the town, next to a river in the heat of late afternoon, a place with a history of seduction.

The Arcades Project Project is part of Heather Marcelle Crickenberger's doctoral dissertation entitled "The Structure of Awakening": Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media which was defended and passed on June 27, 2007 at the University of South Carolina. The committe members are as follows: John Muckelbauer, Ph.D, Judith James, Ph.D., Dan Smith, Ph.D, Brad Collins, Ph. D., and Anthony Jarrells, Ph.D. Copyright 2007 by Heather Marcelle Crickenberger. All rights reserved. lems concerning what you find here, feel free to contact me at marcelle@thelemming.com. You are also invited to leave a message for me and other visitors HERE. The Arcades Project Project or The Rhetoric of Hypertext